SPNHL, Season 36: Conference Finals Preview / Round One Recap
On June 20th, 2000, California alternative metal band Deftones released their third album “White Pony”. Only a few months into the new millennium, the airwaves were already saturated with their metal contemporaries like Limp Bizkit, Korn, Slipknot, Staind, and how could you forget Kid Rock? However, when they dropped this beast of an album, they Change (In the House of Flies)’d the metal genre with their experimentation and injection of melody.
The album has some crushing tracks on it, like the Grammy award winning “Elite” and “Korea”, as well as some more unconventional metal songs like “Digital Bath” and the aforementioned “Change (In the House of Flies)” that really showcase this band’s creative side. Two of the standout tracks feature guest vocalists, as Rodleen Getsic contributes her tormented vocals on “Knife Prty”, while Maynard James Keenan puts in a stellar vocal performance on “Passenger”. Overall, White Pony is one of the best metal albums of this millennium, and definitely worth another spin.
You often see playoff series going to 6 games, as for a team to make the playoffs, they can’t be a pushover and ready to give up four games in a row. Traditionally, teams will win at least 1 out of 3 games, or at least avoid being swept. However, in the playoffs, we know anything can happen, and in the first round of season 36’s playoffs, that was incredibly evident. Not only did we see a team get swept, but 50% of teams eliminated in the first round did so without even being able to obtain a single victory against their opponents. After making it so far in the season, and making playoffs, that has to be incredibly demoralizing.
In the Western conference, the Nashville Predators were able to pull themselves back together in the playoffs and eliminate the Minnesota Wild, ending their feel good story there. Meanwhile, the Calgary Flames were able to dispose of the Chicago Blackhawks in a series that should have been way more competitive than it was, but marred with circumstances. Over in the Eastern conference, the Boston Bruins remained dominant and defensive and dispatched of the Detroit Red Wings in a sentence with a lot of D’s, while the New Jersey Devils were able to win an incredibly competitive series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
My condolences to the Maple leafs, the Red Wings, the Blackhawks, and the Wild. However, I give them all credit for being able to make the playoffs in the midst of one of the most competitive SPNHL seasons we’ve seen in quite some time. However, we are down to the final four teams, all who are eight wins away from being crowned the Stanley Cup champions. We’ll recap those aforementioned series, and look at our conference finals matchups: the Eastern conference finals between the Boston Bruins and the New Jersey Devils, and the Western conference finals between the Nashville Predators and the Calgary Flames.
Boston Bruins (1) vs. Detroit Red Wings (4)
Series Result: Boston won 4-1.
Series MVP: Capitalsfan_08.
The Red Wings were in first place in the league at the beginning of the season, but found themselves as the fourth seed against a Bruins team that won the President’s Trophy. Detroit won the first game of the series 5-4, but their offense fell apart after that game, only scoring 5 goals for the remainder of the series. Out of the 24 goals that the Bruins scored this series, Capitalsfan_08 scored 11 of them, while DeathClxwn and iyzcniZi had 8 helpers and 11 points each as Boston came four wins closer to a Stanley Cup.
Toronto Maple Leafs (2) vs. New Jersey Devils (3)
Series Result: New Jersey won 4-1.
Series MVP: TrueLegend07.
The Devils and Leafs engaged in an incredibly competitive series that saw 3 of the 5 games go to overtime, where the Devils would go 3-0 in extra time. The Devils were able to win the first three games, and after a blowout in game 4 by the Leafs, New Jersey was able to wrap things up in overtime and move on to the next round. YOUR BOY Dirty-Dietrich holds the scoring lead for this team with 15 points including ten assists and two OT winners, but TrueLegend07 scored eight goals against Toronto, while The-Statistician contributed 7 assists and a goal from the point. New Jersey must be ready for a tough conference finals matchup.
Nashville Predators (1) vs. Minnesota Wild (4)
Series Result: Nashville won 4-0.
Series MVP: ProdigyToLegend.
The Predators had the most regular season wins in the SPNHL this past season, and they weren’t going to stop at the end of those five weeks. They carried that momentum (including an eight game winning streak) into the playoffs. Known for their stifling defense and sublime goaltending, they kept the Wild to seven goals in their first three games, while they scored an astounding 20 goals. Minnesota kept Nashville to only 3 goals in game four, but only scored 1 as their surprisingly good season came to a close. Xx_Kapanen_Xx leads the team in goals (9) and points (13), but ProdigyToLegend’s work in his own zone was masterful as he leads the team in assists (9) and is averaging 2.5 points per game from the blueline. The Predators are in great shape as they look to continue their dominance of the Western conference.
Calgary Flames (2) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (3)
Series Result: Calgary wins 4-0.
Series MVP: Whitetees41.
The offensive prowess of the Flames was something we talked about all season long, but we didn’t see them score an abnormal amount of goals against the Blackhawks. We saw them play great defense and limit the Hawks to 9 goals all series, including a 5-1 victory in game 3. Controversy plagued game 4, as two members of the Hawks were not able to continue the game into overtime, and Chicago’s season ended right there. Whitetees41 continued his outstanding offensive campaign into the postseason, leading the team in goals (7) and assists (8). Fluri37 and PBM_TroyJ reached double digits in points, with the latter averaging 5 a game, as the Flames are red hot as they prepare for a matchup against the Preds.
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
Boston Bruins (1) vs. New Jersey Devils (3)
Season Series: series split 2-2.
Playoff Record: 4-1.
Notable Playoff Stats: 24 goals for (1st), 100% penalty kill (1st).
Leading Scorer: Capitalsfan_08 (16 points).
X – Factor: DeathClxwn.
Strength: dynamic offense. You have two of the most talented playmakers in the game on that top line right now in DeathClxwn and Capitalsfan_08, and when those two play together, magic happens (as evidenced by each player averaging more than 5 points a game). With a plethora of offensive weapons to employ alongside them like iyzcniZi, Pfarrcyde23, and jamie14benn14, the Bruins don’t have to worry about their offensive performance and can confidently construct any trio to carry the puck.
Weakness: arrogance. After a resounding defeat of one of the most successful teams in the past few seasons in SP, the Bruins may get a little ahead of themselves and think they have an easy road to the finals. While DudNastyy is a fantastic defender, he has even greater expectations of himself and can get in his own head. While there are cool and experienced heads on this team like Uberpwned_6969 and Servnspike, Boston has a lot of biggies who might get toxic if things don’t go their way.
New Jersey Devils
Playoff Record: 4-1.
Notable Playoff Stats: 18 goals against (5th), 33% penalty kill (8th).
Leading Scorer: Dirty-Dietrich (15 points).
X – Factor: The-Statistician.
Strength: offense. NTyrrell14 is a solid and versatile depth option, while Kgod7 has proved his worth in the past as a good grinder. However, the five pronged offensive attack that this team possesses is one of the best and most complete left in the playoffs. Sedinpower and The-Statistician (8 points from the point) have proven themselves as fantastic two-way defenders who are getting quite familiar with each other. Their top line of bstieboydp, Dirty-Dietrich, and TrueLegend07 (who leads the team with eight goals) are still firing on all cylinders for the Devils.
Weakness: the penalty kill. This is something that has plagued the Devils all season, as they were consistently one of the worst teams on the PK throughout the regular season. This trend has continued into the playoffs, as they have only been able to successfully kill 2 out of the 6 penalties that they have faced. Fortunately, the Devils have been very disciplined thus far, but against a team that has the puck handling skills of Boston, New Jersey may be prone to drawing more penalties and have to employ that disastrous PK more often.
The Verdict: damn, this is a tough one. Offensively, I think Boston has the edge, but I think New Jersey has the better defensive structure. Chad definitely gives Boston the edge in net, but I can’t sell out my boys like that. New Jersey in 7.
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
Nashville Predators (1) vs. Calgary Flames (2)
Season Series: Nashville won 3-1.
Playoff Record: 4-0.
Notable Playoff Stats: 8 goals against (1st), 23 goals for (2nd).
Leading Scorer: Xx_Kapanen_Xx (13 points).
X – Factor: ProdigyToLegend.
Strength: offensive depth. We talked about how good this team was in their own zone last week, but we have to praise their offense after the week they just had. Xx_Kapanen_Xx scored 13 points to pace the team, while this team still has potent offensive threats like the Calder favourite in Kylo_Reli, Fear_mjolnir_22 and his 6 points a game, PistolPete7788_ on the backs of a resurgent season, and ProdigyToLegend, the latter leading all defenders in points in the first week with 10. Nashville are as good in the offensive zone as they are in their own.
Weakness: availability. The Predators only had their (arguably) best player, Kylo_Reli, out for 2 games last week, while their starting goalie in Spencer_Knight30 only played 2 games as well. While we noted their offensive depth, they don’t have the depth options that will compete with Calgary’s forward line, which will be out for 6/7 games in the series. If they have those two (and perhaps Fear_mjolnir_22 as well) out there for 5, maybe 6/7 games for this playoff series, then the Predators will have a good chance of winning.
Playoff Record: 4-0.
Notable Playoff Stats: 9 goals against (2nd), 44.4% powerplay conversion (2nd).
Leading Scorer: Whitetees41 (15 points).
X – Factor: Fluri37.
Strength: offense. This may be cheating because we spoke of this last round, but they doubled up on the Blackhawks and there wasn’t much else to talk about. Whitetees41 has continuously been on top of the scoring race this season, and there isn’t much change in the postseason as he is tied for second. Fluri37 plays opposite his wing and scored 6 goals this past round, while PBM_TroyJ scored 10 points in two games, maintaining his +4 point per game average in his career. This is the best forward line left in these playoffs, and will give the Predators hell.
Weakness: defense. While they didn’t give up a lot of lot of goals in this past round, this team still has one glaring in their lineup, and that’s left defense. Jasonw1978, Visibility12, and BROKEN9216 have all contributed at the revolving door at LD this season, but haven’t found that solid partner to sabres1414 at RD. On that end, he only played 1 game at RD this past week, with NowYoDead playing 3 games at the position. If sabres1414 and NowYoDead paired up, that might work for them, but somebody would have to play their off hand.
The Verdict: Calgary employs the best offensive line that remains in the playoffs, but they’re going up against a team that has a Norris and a Vezina candidate. Offense wins games, defense wins championships. Sorry Greg. Predators in 6.
Four teams find themselves eight wins away from crowning themselves as the Stanley Cup champions of season 36 of the SPNHL. Among these four teams, you have former Hart Trophy winners, Conn Smythe winners, Vezina trophies, and a laundry list of accomplishments in this league and others. In my honest opinion, any of these teams have a legitimate chance at winning it all, and what we see here is one of the most competitive final fours in recent memory. Don’t expect any blowouts in these series; expect these teams to take it to at least 6 games, and don’t be surprised if it goes to 7 on both sides.
Thank you to everybody who has been tuning into SPNHL: Off the Ice over the course of the past two weeks! We’ve gone through some personnel changes but have a team that is dedicated to giving you the most in-depth and entertaining coverage of all things SP related. Tune in every Saturday night (or whenever we decide to do it, sometimes shit happens!) at https://twitch.tv/thespnhlmedia where we’ll discuss Fluri and I’s fortunes in the playoffs this past week and the upcoming Stanley Cup finals!
Have a great week, good luck to all the teams left, we’ll see you on the ice!