SPNHL: Season 33: Playoff Preview.
It’s been a while, hasn’t it? How have you been? Me? Oh, I’ve been good I guess. Just working two jobs over three different locations while trying to spend some time with my long distance girlfriend as she resides here for the summer. She’s playing RDR2 on the couch while I’m jamming “Ænima” by Tool and writing this out. Man, Hooker with a Penis is a fucking banger, eh?
Regardless, this season has been two months of hard work, shit talking, controversy, and so much more. We’ve seen rookies break out and win scoring titles (congrats, Kred), we’ve seen GMs step down and pass on the bullshit of owning just to own it between the pipes (sup Sliyum?), and we’ve seen overrated players get traded from a playoff team to a basement dweller (that’s me, sorry Marv). The summer season of the SPNHL is always an exhausting one, as it is an endurance test in comparison to the usual sprint of the standard five week seasons. At the end of these two months, eight teams have withstood the pressure and find themselves one step closer to contending for the Cup.
I wanted to say thank you to Serg, Pool, and PGH for their efforts this season, as they all experienced the difficulties of being a GM of a losing team and finished out the season with their respective teams. The Caps, Bruins, and Kings will be teams to watch out for if they draft properly. Marv, I left you out because we’re coming back next season and if we don’t make the playoffs, I’m going on a road trip and ending up in jail. Be warned.
ANYWAYS… with the pleasantries towards the teams who missed the playoffs out of the way, let’s take a look at our first round matchups and see what each team brings to the table. We’re gonna be looking at their strengths and weaknesses, as well as their X-factors and what they’ll need to do to beat their opponent. This may drum up a bit of an argument, but whatever, when do these articles not?
Let’s start with the Eastern Conference! Let me get a drink first. It’s hotter than hell in my apartment.
Detroit Red Wings (1) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (4)
Team: Detroit Red Wings.
Regular Season Record: 40-10-4 (President’s Trophy).
Leading Scorer: Reapzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Strength: offense. This is a team who dismantled opponents with a five pronged offensive attack. They had their top line all crack 100 points for the first time in a season since the Four Horsemen in Dallas, and have a very talented playmaker with a natural finisher on that top line. With a pair of puck moving defenders at their disposal, they’re going to be a hard team to deal with in a seven game series.
Weakness: tough one. Maybe defensive depth? It was really hard to pick here, but I think if Smiirk and Jason aren’t playing, this team’s defensive options aren’t that strong. Izzet is a decent defender, but Betobone and Cookie aren’t the strongest options and won’t be playing forward anytime soon. Although they have to be played, the need to be played sporadically and with a strong partner.
Recipe for Success: offensive pressure. The Red Wings need to continue to do what they have all season, and apply offensive pressure. They need to take risks, exploit holes, and capitalize on the opportunities provided by mistakes Pittsburgh may make. If they do get caught, they have an award winning goalie in net to bail them out.
Team: Pittsburgh Penguins.
Regular Season Record: 30-18-6.
Leading Scorer: Iam_mrbean.
X-Factor: Serv (sorry Bean, but this guy is one of those dangerous motherfuckers who turns it on come playoff time).
Strengths: variety. When I look at that top line, I see one of the most underrated players in the league, a top-tier defensive forward, and a centre with great playmaking ability. You’ve got solid offensive options and defensive options that are just as good. This will be a tough team to beat, and with great depth options in Kopitar and Visibility, they will be competitive in each game they play.
Weaknesses: defense. So, this one was a little bit easier. Gohawks is still a great shutdown defender, but his partner has been inconsistent throughout this season. It was Pete for a few weeks, but eventually became Execution, who is having a rough season. With Lomax stepping in on his off side, this brings up even more questions and may be their downfall in a seven game series against the President’s Trophy winners.
Recipe for Success: team defense. The forwards may have to compensate for the astounding offensive pressure the Red Wings apply, and there aren’t many better than Francey and Serv to handle that pressure. If they can force turnovers and let the explosive Mrbean drive the breakout, the Penguins may surprise a lot of people and eliminate the reigning regular season champs.
Prediction: Penguins in 7.
Not much insight into this one. I just like pissing Chad off.
Carolina Hurricanes (2) vs. New York Rangers (3)
Team: Carolina Hurricanes.
Regular Season Record: 38-13-3.
Leading Scorer: Kred.
Strength: offense. While Carolina doesn’t have as many of their offensive weapons that they held at the beginning of the season, they arguably have a more well-rounded lineup that will present them with an opportunity to advance very far in these playoffs. Kred and BK are both point producing machines, but the rest of their team are no slouches and will provide offensive support to the dynamic duo of West Carolina.
Weakness: defensive depth. This is my new cop out answer. Past Uber and Jamie, this team does not boast a load of natural defenders. Sportsgeek is better suited in net than at D, while Embryo, Thomas, and Mikita are all forwards. If Uber and Jamie can play all 6, they’ll be fine. Otherwise, they’re taking a risk which, much like Detroit, they can afford in front of a world-class goalie.
Recipe for Success: breakouts. Sliyum may want to consider playing the puck a bit more, as Uber and Jamie both have the ability to make great breakout passes that will catch the Rangers’ defense sleeping, allowing Kred and BK to blow past them and make magic happen. Especially against a team with a strong forecheck like the Rangers, this will be crucial.
Team: New York Rangers.
Regular Season Record: 37-15-2.
Leading Scorer: Deathclown.
Strength: offense. It seems like this one is gonna be the battle of the dynamic duos, as last season’s Conn Smythe winner in Cohen is paired with a Hart favourite this season in Deathclown for a very dangerous LW/C tandem. With RW options in either MG or Neeposh, expect these seven games to be a shootout filled with one timers and L2 dekes. Just step up and hammer the fuckers!
Weakness: goaltending. Sorry Ciulla, but your season hasn’t been so good 🙁 The Rangers have netminders battling for the top spot in Ciulla and Shitterboyz, but history has shown the Ciulla is a solid playoff goaltender and may turn his regular season woes into postseason success. However, if the regular season play continues into the playoffs, this will be the downfall of the Rangers.
Recipe for Success: defensive structure. Many people give Death and Cohen shit for their defensive ability, but if they can shut down the zone with a Norris candidate in Shep, they’ll prevent the Hurricanes from surging in their zone and will frustrate the Carolina squad. Frustrated teams make stupid mistakes, and the Rangers will need to capitalize on those in order to take the series.
Prediction: Rangers in 7.
The Clown has toiled in playoff mediocrity for far too long. This is the season where he proves himself in the postseason. Having two former Conn Smythe winners on your team doesn’t hurt either.
Vancouver Canucks (1) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (4)
Team: Vancouver Canucks.
Regular Season Record: 37-9-7.
Leading Scorer: Diirty-Triix.
Strength: goaltending. The Canucks were blessed with solid goaltending from the getgo scoring Chad and Red in the draft, but after moving Chad, Entry stepped up to take over the backup role, and eventually moved into the starting role while Red moved up to defense. When Entry can’t play, Red will play, and the Canucks can skate confidently knowing their goalies will bail them out of sticky situations in the defensive zone.
Weakness: offensive depth. Aside from Triix and Fluri, the offensive options on this team aren’t the greatest. Beast has had a decent season, but forwards like Anzzo, Duhaime, and Frankjones don’t pack the offensive punch one would require in the playoffs. They’ll have to rely on their top line to produce if this team wants to make it out of the first round.
Recipe for Success: puck movement. Triix is excellent at driving the puck into the zone, but teams will notice this and collapse on him, often positioning two defenders on him. If he can move that puck to Fluri, a talented playmaker, they will be able to open up the lanes a bit more and engage in a dangerous cycle that more often than not will lead to a goal. Keep that going, and the series belongs to Vancouver.
Team: Vegas Golden Knights.
Regular Season Record: 28-23-3.
Leading Scorer: PremierPlayer.
Strength: defense. I still believe Fox is one of the best defenders on this game, and having a partner in Shayne isn’t a bad way to compliment a former Norris winner. Having a strong defensive centre in PP adds to the already imposing control they hold over the neutral zone, and prevent pucks from entering their zone. With teamrun as a backup option, this team will be solid in their own end for this series.
Weakness: right wing. Kinda hyper-specific, but besides Oduya (who is on IR), this team has no natural right wing. If Shayne moves up to play, there will be a hole on RD that won’t be easily filled, especially against the top seed in the conference. Freeze is a natural left wing who may not feel as comfortable on the right side, which will likely be the side that the Canucks pressure the most.
Recipe for Success: forecheck. Vegas has a core of forwards who will attack the puck carrier and, more often than not, generate an offensive opportunity out of it. If Freeze and PP can attack and make room for Prodigy to utilize his playmaking skills, then the Golden Knights will not have a hard time scoring goals and will have no problem taking this series.
Prediction: Canucks in 7.
Entry told me he would emasculate me if I predicted otherwise. That’s okay, my GF did that a long time ago. I also think the Canucks have the overall stronger team.
Chicago Blackhawks (2) vs. Nashville Predators (3)
Regular Season Record: 33-17-4.
Leading Scorer: Grammyhands.
Strength: momentum. The Blackhawks enter the playoffs on a 15 game win streak, after going 18-17-4 through their first 39 games. This is a combination of great trades, players reaching potential, and chemistry clicking at just the right time. IMO, this team is my pick to win the whole thing. I’ve won a cup with Rancher and Grammy before, and both players elevate their game when it matters most.
Weakness: expectations? IDK, I got nothing for them. The only players on the team who aren’t solid are wheelchairdevon and MooCow, but given they only need to be played a game each, they won’t have too much of an impact. A lot of people see this team coming out of the West, and the possibility of them folding under pressure is very real. It happened to Pete and Yesse before, so fuckem! Maybe it can happen again!
Recipe for Success: whatever the hell they’ve been doing for 15 games. You’ve got two solid puck moving defenders who can break the puck out to two incredibly dynamic forwards, all while you have an excellent goaltender backstopping you. This is something that you do not change, and if you don’t, not only will it take you out of this round, but also potentially to the finals.
Regular Season Record: 31-22-1.
Leading Scorer: Rich2K8.
Strength: offense. Another dynamic offensive team, Rich and Stamkos can alternate between C and RD depending how each are doing and provide great offensive support no matter what position they are in. With two high scoring wingers like Legendary and BroketheDam, this team will have no problems finding the back of the net in this series.
Weakness: goaltending. Sorry Vandoos! While Vandoos and Fivestar had respectable regular season numbers, both goalies have struggled in the playoffs in recent seasons (with the exception of Five’s season 30 SCF run). History may repeat itself as Vandoos and Fivestar may fall apart under the offensive pressure that the Blackhawks will apply.
Recipe for Success: team defense. Against an offensive juggernaut like this Chicago team, this team will need to play safe and passive and take advantage of the mistakes that Chicago may make as they try to generate offensive opportunities. They’ll need to utilize their speed and catch the Blackhawks off guard if they want to win games and move within eight wins of the Stanley Cup.
Prediction: Blackhawks in 5.
Pete paid me to say this. I also think this team is gonna win the Cup. Who knows?
I forgot how long these things take, jesus. It’s 1:30 in the morning and I’m tired but I am genuinely looking forward to this postseason. It will feel weird not playing in it but I wish nothing but the best to all teams involved and I’m looking forward to some good playoff hockey.
These next three weeks will separate the cream from the crop, the wheat from the chaff, the contenders from the pretenders, and any other separation cliche you want to use. Bust your ass, bring all you’ve got to every game, and maybe you and your team will leave with some bragging rights and a little bit of virtual hockey glory.
I wish everybody the best of luck, and might even do this again next week!