SPNHL, Season 33: Playoffs! First Round Review, Conference Finals Preview
“Better luck next time!”
Wow, 0 for 4 for predictions. I really shit the bed, didn’t I? That’s okay. My decisions were influenced by who I believed would win and also by who I didn’t want to win, so maybe there’s a bit of a bias. Fortunately, my opinions don’t matter, and the best teams in each series won, with some series being completely one-sided while others were a bit more competitive and coming down to a missed net in the dying seconds of a game 7 (Barzy missed an open net after scoring on his own, hAtE tO sEe It).
Regardless, we are set for two very competitive conference final matchups with some very intriguing storylines. Uberpwned is on the verge of being the GM of the Eastern Conference champions again, after taking Tampa Bay to the finals last year, while the Season 32 Champions, the Vegas Golden Knights, got a roster overhaul but still made it to the final four on the backs of great play from PP and Prodigy. Reap brings a loaded squad to the ECF as he tries to make the finals for the first time since Season 19 (where he won with the Flyers) and bring GodsPlan to his third final in four seasons, and At_Ezz brought the Predators back to prominence and enters the WCF with a talented forward core consisting of Stamkos, Legendary, Knees, Rich, and SLAPSHOTJOE.
Let’s take a look at how these teams made it past their opponents in the last round, and get some insight from their respective GMs on their success last round and some keys to victory for this round. I just got them to write out stuff because A.) It’s better to have some insight from players who were playing in and/or watched each game of the series, and B.) I just got too lazy to do my own research. We’ll also look at some stats from each team and MAYBE I’ll even get a prediction right!
Detroit Red Wings (1) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (4)
After dropping the first game of the series to the Penguins 5-3, the Red Wings went on a tear and outscored their opponents 18-3 over the course of the next 4 games, with LeCupdion assisting on 9 of their 21 goals in the series. Chad and Shock both played very well between the pipes, with both goalies averaging under 1.8 goals per game and a save percentage above 85%.
About his team’s first round play, Reap said: “Things we did well: we played as a team and moved the puck. We stayed out of the penalty box and killed off penalties. Also, we took it one game at a time.”
Kudos to the Penguins, but for Lomax and Pliskin, is it time to shed the Pittsburgh skin and find a new home without first round playoff woes?
Carolina Hurricanes (2) vs. New York Rangers (3)
In a series that would ultimately be decided by connection, the Hurricanes used their home ice advantage to perfection. The Canes took the first two games by a cumulative score of 18-3, taking advantage of their connection advantage. They won game three, and after New York took game 4, they finished it off at home with a 3-1 victory. Jamie and Uber did a good job of shutting down the dynamic duo of Deathclown and Cohen, while their own dynamic duo of Kred and BK went to work, scoring 21 goals over the course of 5 games.
Regarding his team’s first round success, Uber stated: “Everything went well last round. We needed to win at least 1 east game to give us a shot, and we shut down deathclown and nehxc, which was a bonus.”
After Scalz’s best finish in SP to date, a disappointing first round exit may leave him going back to the drawing board in search of a new strategy for next season.
Vancouver Canucks (1) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (4)
I had a bit of an invested interest in this series, as it was my former team going up against the reigning champions. I thought the Canucks would have it in the bag, but Vegas shocked a lot of people and upset the first seed in the Western Conference. After forfeiting game one, the Knights beat the Canucks in four straight games to take the series. Steelersfan kept the Canucks to just 5 goals, stopping 54 of their 59 shots while there was all around offensive contributions from Shayne, PP, Prodigy, and Daf.
Fivepointohh on his team’s first round victory: “We played really well defensively”. Thanks Five. Braun Strowman looking mafucka
After a strong regular season (riddled with problems and controversy by the season’s end), how will Triix and the Canucks respond? *Spoiler alert: he stepped down. RIP*
Chicago Blackhawks (2) vs. Nashville Predators (3)
What a roller coaster of a series this was! The Predators dropped the first two games of this series by a cumulative score of 7-1, Nashville proceeded to beat Chicago in their next three games. Chicago fought back from the brink of elimination to force a game seven, but Nashville held on to a 2-1 lead to take the series. Somewhat of an underdog, the Predators relied on a solid defensive structure to shut down the offensively overpowered Blackhawks. While Rich had 12 points in 6 games, he’ll need some stronger offensive support in this next series.
Ezz commented on his team’s first round: “Well last round, we started off 0-2 and found a way to pull 1 game out of 3 the first night . With stamkos returning off suspension that also helped our offense/defense to get back in rhythm to finish the series off.”
Yesse’s first season in Chicago was a successful one, and if there’s anything I know about, it’s having high expectations in your first season as a GM and falling in the first round. A few seasons later, you win a cup. Stay optimistic.
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS:
Detroit Red Wings (1) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (3)
Team: Detroit Red Wings.
Playoff Record: 4-1.
Leading Scorer: Reapzzzzzz.
Goals scored: 21 (Rank: 2).
Goals against: 8 (Rank: 2).
Powerplay Percentage: 38.1 (Rank: 1)
Penalty kill Percentage: 83.3 (Rank: 2)
We talked about X-Factors, starting lineups, strengths and weaknesses last round, so we won’t get too in depth with that shit. Let’s talk about what this team needs to do to win.
Recipe for Success: According to Reap, the Red Wings need to do the “Same thing: stick to our game style. Play defensive when needed and bring our offensive game, and for our goalies to keep playing solid in net, as they have been all season”.
He’s right. This is a battle between two high powered offensive teams, and this will turn into a Gunfight at the O.K. Corral if the defense doesn’t step up. The Red Wings have a bevy of talent on their blue line, and if deployed properly, will be able to shut the Hurricanes down. As long as they prioritize a solid team-defense, they’ll reduce the high-percentage scoring opportunities against their goalies and take the series.
Team: Carolina Hurricanes.
Playoff Record: 4-1.
Leading Scorer: Kred.
Goals scored: 27 (Rank: 1).
Goals against: 11 (Rank: 3).
Powerplay Percentage: 10 (Rank: 3)
Penalty kill Percentage: 66.7 (Rank: 4)
Recipe for Success: Uber kept his answer to this one short and sweet: “I believe we are gonna need to win 1 east game as well this series, and we need to keep playing D and shutting down the forwards.”
Kinda sounds like a broken record/hockey 101 at this point, but this is what you need to do against a very strong offensive squad, and it’s a battle of two of the best at this point. Sure, Kred and BK are leading an offensive core that is averaging more than 5 goals a game, but that can only do so much if you’re ignoring your defensive responsibilities against a team that boasted three players who scored over 100 points in the regular season. That connection will play a factor as well, so as long as Carolina can win a game on East connection, which is what Detroit will be winning, they should win their three home games prior to game seven and take the series.
The Verdict: I think that the Red Wings have more depth than the Hurricanes, that’s for sure. If anything, Carolina needs to play their backup players in the first or second game, and then let their top line ride out the series. From there, the Canes can deploy their top line on West connection and shift the momentum in their direction and never look back. In a battle of two juggernauts, the Motor City will fall.
Prediction: Hurricanes in 6.
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS:
Nashville Predators (3) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (4)
Team: Nashville Predators.
Playoff Record: 4-3.
Leading Scorer: Rich2K8.
Goals scored: 15 (Rank: 3).
Goals against: 16 (Rank: 4).
Powerplay Percentage: 0 (Rank: 4)
Penalty kill Percentage: 100 (Rank: 1)
Recipe for Success: After an exhausting series, Ezz looks forward to these next potential seven games with a confident perspective: “This round, if we continue to apply the pressure and come out striking like we did at the end of round 1 we will be the team to beat. There’s a lot of doubts about this team, looking at all the predictions, but I drafted these guys for situations like this. I have a team full of vets and Cup winners on this team that know what it takes to win, which is a plus for the Predators. Vegas has a nice core group of guys, but the Predators have depth and flexibility on our roster. I can move guys in different positions to go against any one GM or any adjustment that any GM makes against us. Trust me when I say this: we are coming full force and I promise you, if you sleep, slack or play with us, we will beat you. You have to beat us in 7 and don’t think there’s a team this season who can beat us in 7 with my depth and the vets on my roster.”
Rich and Stamkos are both former Conn Smythe winners with multiple Cups under their belt, while the rest of the Predators are no strangers to championship glory or playoffs nontheless. Vegas has a strong roster, but Ezz makes a great point about the versatility and depth of his roster. He’s got four forwards who have the potential to blow a game wide open, and will be counting on them to deliver in what looks to be a veranaly competitive series against the Knights.
Team: Vegas Golden Knights.
Playoff Record: 4-1.
Leading Scorer: PP.
Goals scored: 11 (Rank: 4).
Goals against: 6 (Rank: 1).
Powerplay Percentage: 10 (Rank: 3)
Penalty kill Percentage: 83.3 (Rank: 2)
Recipe for Success: FivepointBraun kept his analysis short and sweet: “next series we need to get pucks in the back of the net which has been an issue all season”.
Out of the remaining playoff teams, they are the lowest scoring team. However, that’s their only main concern, as their defense and goaltending have been stellar thus far. Prodigy and PremierPlayer are no offensive slouches by far, and if they can form a solid starting line while Fox and co. hold down the back end, they will have plenty of solid scoring opportunities stemming from puck movement and fast breakouts. If they can convert on those opportunities, it will be game over for the Predators and back to back finals berths for the Golden Knights.
The Verdict: this one is a tough one for me. The Knights disposed of the Canucks in such an easy fashion, but the Predators had a very difficult matchup against the Blackhawks. Vegas can be a very frustrating team to play against, but the depth and experience of the Predators will ensure that no matter how frustrated they get, they will keep their cool and keep attacking. I was gonna go with Vegas on this one, but Ezz’s passionate speech made me change my mind.
Prediction: Predators in 7.
These next two nights will set the foundation for what should be a very interesting Stanley Cup Finals matchup, no matter which two teams make it. The offensive clash of the east will breed a finalist that will be in stark contrast to the gritty Western Conference champion that will be decided. There probably won’t be any blowout victories over the course of the next two nights, just some great games of hockey. So, for the love of all that is good, somebody stream! It makes it easier to do an in-depth analysis as opposed to just hoping the numbers tell the story.
So, for the remaining four teams, I wish you the best of luck! GIve it your best, and be ready to go for at least one more week following this one. Whoever wants it more is gonna get it, so don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and get aggressive on the ice, but don’t be reckless. This is playoff hockey we’re talking about. Your team needs all hands on deck if you want to win the Stanley Cup.
Good luck everybody, we’ll see you on the ice!