SPNHL, Season 37: Playoffs, Conference Finals & Stanley Cup Preview – “Hot N’ Cold”
While the alternate title of this article may be the title of an admittedly catchy Katy Perry song, we’re breaking out the big guns for our last two album reviews of this season. For this week’s review, I’m going with one of my favourite albums, ever. Not just new/dark wave, not just albums from the 80’s, but one of my favourites, period. We’re going to put on some eyeliner and go all the way back to 1989, and take a dive into The Cure’s “Disintegration”.
A critical and commercial success, “Disintegration” was the proverbial nail in the coffin of their pop stylings, shifting to a gloomy yet grandiose sound that captured the minds of listeners. The record is almost like a concept album, following vocalist Rober Smith’s journey from an optimistic young man, evidenced by the upbeat tempo and affectionate lyrics of “Plainsong” and “Pictures of You”, to a doubtful, disheartened man, looking more grim with his somber songwriting on “Last Dance” and “Lovesong”. The album echoes his depression and relapse into drug use with the atmospheric trio of “Fascination Street”, “Prayers for Rain”, and “The Same Deep Water as You”, and the fourth “act” of the album features the incredible, retrospective title track, followed up by the last ramblings of a man who has lost his way in “Homesick” and “Untitled”. Words can’t do this album justice. Just listen to it.
And then, there were two. Two teams who were heralded as favourites throughout the entire season, even when other teams in their respective conferences posed threats to their championship runs. Two squads who possess some of the best offensive cores in recent memory, filled with players who have numerous Stanley Cups and additional accolades to their name. Two groups that bring rich narratives into the Stanley Cup finals: one going from worst to first, and the other trying to prove that the best is in the West. It’s all come down to this, the Stanley Cup finals of the thirty-seventh season of the Sony Playstation Hockey League: the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Winnipeg Jets.
These two teams didn’t have the easiest paths to the Finals, as we were fortunate enough to have a very competitive field of playoff teams this season. In the Eastern conference finals, the Tampa Bay Lightning had to contend with the Philadelphia Flyers, a team that had morphed into a seemingly unstoppable monster after a disappointing start. In the Western conference, the Winnipeg Jets had to deal with the Minnesota Wild, who scored an upset series victory in the first round and had a goaltender destined to continue his finals streak in chadkillz134. Both teams were successful in disposing of their challengers, and have set the stage for a very exciting Stanley Cup Finals.
You know the drill by now: we’re going to recap the events of the previous round, and compare the offense, defense, goaltending, and other on-ice and off-ice factors of the respective teams, and see who comes out on top. This is going to be a hard series to evaluate and make a prediction on, but I’m going to do my best. I got a few friends on both sides, so there won’t be too much bias (I don’t think, we’ll see).
CONFERENCE FINALS RECAP
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
Tampa Bay Lightning (1) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (3)
Winner: Tampa Bay Lightning in 6 games.
DD Prediction: Lightning in 7.
In what some called a potential Stanley Cup Finals preview, two of the most stacked teams in the league met in the Eastern Conference finals, and the result was a very intense and hard fought series. After being blown out 7-3 in the first game, Philadelphia got their win back in a close 3-2 game. Tampa squeaked out an OT victory (5-4) in game three, and then had their blowout returned in game four with a score of 6-1. With the series tied 2-2, a pivotal game five saw Tampa Bay win by a score of 5-3, who then proceeded to win the series in the sixth game in a thrilling 6-5 overtime victory. i9i-stamkos-i1ic was an animal in this series, playing in all 6 games and scoring 8 goals and 10 assists, averaging 3 points per game against one of the best defense/goaltending combinations in the league.
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
Winnipeg Jets (1) vs. Minnesota Wild (3)
Winner: Winnipeg Jets in 5.
DD Prediction: Jets in 6.
Minnesota were even more of an underdog than they were in their first round matchup against Edmonton, as Winnipeg had a more offensively dangerous team that would test their defense and goaltending. Things looked grim for the Wild after the first two games, giving up four goals a game and trailing 0-2 while averaging a goal per game. A glimmer of hope came when the Wild limited the Oilers to a single goal in game three, and the Wild matched their offensive output in the series up to that point to get their first victory in game three. However, the Jets returned to their high scoring ways in games four and five, winning both games by a score of 4-2 and securing their spot in the Stanley Cup Finals. Elfpha continues his campaign for his third cup and first Conn Smythe, with 3 goals and 7 assists in 4 games in the conference finals, as he continues to be one of the most overlooked players in the league.
Congratulations to the Philadelphia Flyers and the Minnesota Wild on very successful campaigns, as making it to the conference finals is not an easy feat, especially given the competition they were matched up against. They were able to defeat two very talented teams, and fell short to the best team in their respective conferences. Sportsgeek5 and PEACEKEEPER500- have nothing to be ashamed of, and should be looking to build off their success and get ready to go further next season.
STANLEY CUP FINAL
Tampa Bay Lightning (E) vs. Winnipeg Jets (W)
Tampa Bay Lightning.
Regular Season Record: 41-10-3.
Playoff Record: 8-4.
Notable Stats: 49 goals for (t-1st), 42.9% powerplay conversion (1st).
MVP: i9i-stamkos-i1ic (8 goals and 21 assists, leads all players in the latter category).
X-Factor: bluedevil631 (leads team in goals with 14, is shooting 43.75%) (sorry Petey).
Regular Season Record: 38-9-7.
Playoff Record: 8-4.
Notable Stats: 2 GAA (2nd), 83.3% penalty kill (t-2nd).
MVP: Elfpha (leads team in points with 26, looking to win his third straight Stanley Cup).
X-Factor: i_Zinczy_i_TV (leads team in goals with 14, is shooting 43.75%) (???)
Offense: we’ve talked about each of these teams’ offensive lines all season long. Winnipeg has their notorious “four-headed monster” of Elfpha, i_Zinczy_i_TV, ttommyboiii, and ProdigyToLegend, a highly decorated quartet that lives up to their hype. However, in this series, they’re up against an incredibly dangerous foursome in hypey-, i9i-stamkos-i1ic, bluedevil631, and PistolPete7788_. The differences are minimal, as evidenced by the identical statistics in the X-Factors, but the chemistry that the Lightning have developed over the course of their time playing together may be the difference maker in this category. Advantage: Tampa Bay.
Defense and Goaltending: another razor thin decision here, as both teams have a great offensive defender – defensive defender dynamic in their starting pair. PistolPete7788_ is a Norris front runner, and with old friend DodgesBlueShells as his defensive partner, the two have formed an impressive duo. On the other side of the ice, ProdigyToLegend is another great offensive defender who was snubbed of the Norris last season, and CaptCanada_ has been a fantastic partner as the starting RD for the Jets. The difference here comes in goaltending: Glachs is saving .837% of his shots against, and has a 1.6 GAA, better numbers than dophares2000 and any of the three goalies (JoshuaDuhaime, Shootersteele19, and Bufford80) on Tampa Bay. If he plays more this series, the Jets have the edge. Advantage: Winnipeg.
Everything Else: while the two teams have identical penalty kill numbers (killing off 10 of their 12 penalties), Tampa Bay has had the better powerplay and has scored on 42.9% of their chances. Winnipeg has a team that is ripe with success and accomplishments, such as individual trophies and Stanley Cup rings, but Tampa Bay is not much different in regards to championship success and trophies earned. The difference here is momentum, and Tampa has all the momentum in the world as they try to complete one of the best comeback stories in the history of the league. Advantage: Tampa Bay.
The Verdict: I don’t know what else to say, other than this is one of the most difficult predictions to make in the two years I’ve been doing this. Prediction: Tampa Bay in 7.
These next seven games will be some of the biggest in these players’ respective careers, not just in the SPNHL, but in their entire virtual careers. You have some players who have won titles at the top level in more competitive leagues, and they’ll be called upon to be mentors to others in this series. For others, they’ll be looking to leave it all on the ice in the pursuit of their first championship; they’re looking for their defining moment, whether it be as a player or a manager, a defender or a forward, a starter or a backup. It doesn’t matter what their role is, they know they are all united in one common goal: to be the Stanley Cup champions.
SPNHL: Off the Ice will be broadcasting live at 8 pm on https://twitch.tv/thespnhl_media as we look to break down the conference finals and preview the Stanley Cup Finals. Pliskin has seen thirty seven of these (although mostly from the sidelines, sorry Commish), and Fluri is coming off winning one last season, while I’ve had a handful of experience in championship games. We’ll be able to provide some insight as to what these players are going through, and maybe make a prediction or two on how the events of these seven games will unfold.
After SPNHL: Off the Ice, make sure to join our friend ItsKingLyme at https://www.twitch.tv/itskinglyme as he provides live coverage of the SPNHL Stanley Cup Finals. It’s the first time that the games are getting a live broadcast in recent memory, and it will make for some very exciting Monday and Tuesday night entertainment. I’d like to extend a big thank you for KingLyme and hope everybody tunes into his broadcast tonight.
Good luck to the Winnipeg Jets and the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight, we’ll see you on the ice!