Postgame Spread
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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bruins/NHL Playoffs Talk    



Make sure Nutty's playing as you read:



I am psyched this year like I have never been before. Psyched and mortified, but mostly psyched. I have an odd feeling about this team, after having watched nearly every single game: hope.

Every time the Bruins have landed a top seed in recent years, there's always been a stench of overachievement all about them. The playoffs would arrive, the smoke and mirrors would dissipate, and an exhausted bunch of losers would fall to the Canadiens. I can't lie: this thought has crossed my mind several times once the Habs were confirmed as the Bruins' opponent.

But this time really is different. The B's have literally no weaknesses. They can win with the neutral-zone trap, and against it; they can win 1-0 over any team you can imagine; they can win in a track meet; they can overcome your clean checks, and they can overcome a Hanson Brothers-style brawl too, as they proved last week against the Habs. They have one of the NHL's best offenses, with three lines that can carry a team's scoring for the game; they have its best defenseman, in certain Norris candidate Zdeno Chara, and a front four that can absorb any offense in the league; they have its best goalie, in near-certain Vezina winner Tim Thomas, recent winner of the Jennings Trophy for fewest goals against on the season (despite Manny Fernandez's best efforts to blow it for him).

In short, there hasn't been any overachieving. It's not like their breakout players shouldn't have broken out; Phil Kessel, David Krejci, Blake Wheeler, Milan Lucic... these guys were all SUPPOSED to do exactly what they're doing. It's not as if Chuck Kobasew scored 50 goals or some bullshit like that. In fact, given that Lucic and one-time 30-goal scorer Patrice Bergeron have only been themselves the past couple weeks, I would say they underachieved. They could be rolling three lines full of 20-goal scorers, and they're not. How about that.

There's just no formula for beating this team. None. Your best bet is to a) hit them as hard as you can and HOPE that they, against their track record, don't feel like hitting back, and b) pray to Jesus Christ himself that Thomas doesn't have "it" tonight. You require goddamn divine intervention to beat the Bruins on paper. I've never been as happy with the Bruins' depth chart as I am now.

The only player bad enough to sink this team is Manny Fernandez, a goalie who figures to not play one minute between the pipes from here on out. If he does, it means Thomas is hurt, the playoff run is over anyway, and Fernandez's performance doesn't much matter anyway. Maybe Shane Hnidy is a true weak link, but he's the team's 8th defenseman now! Of course he's a weak link. But seriously, look at how far you have to go before there's a true weak spot. You're scraping the bottom of the barrel.

On top of all that, they've got a pretty nice draw as far as playoff opponents go. At reasonably full strength, the B's have only had a worrisome amount of trouble against Washington and San Jose, neither of whom will turn up until a couple rounds in. I'm not gonna say it will be a cakewalk, not when Philly is lurking, but they've set themselves up nicely for a long run.

I wouldn't be totally stunned to see them lose earlier, but I don't see it. Doesn't make sense. This is the year.

On to the predictions:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

(1) BOSTON VS. (8) MONTREAL

Last Thursday's old-time hockey exhibition was a good indicator of the sort of bush league nonsense we can expect Bob Gainey to pull over the next week and a half. But that kind of crap can distract the Habs as much as the Bruins, as their loss indicates. And although the B's went without a win against the Habs last year, and still managed to take the Habs to a seventh game, the Bruins were a disciplined, bring-the-game-to-us type of team even at their worst. Montreal is just a bunch of wandering, underachieving boobs. They're about to be thoroughly outclassed.

Prediction: Bruins in 5

(2) WASHINGTON VS. (7) NEW YORK

While I think the Rangers are a solid team, and have the potential to ride Henrik Lundquist as deep as they please, Washington is just too good at every position. Jose Theodore is merely a Flyers-caliber goaltender, but he doesn't have to be much more than that with the team in front of him. He only has to be Chris Osgood good, not Roberto Luongo good. I don't see this being much of a series, no matter what Sean Avery does.

Prediction: Caps in 5

(3) NEW JERSEY VS. (6) CAROLINA

While it's widely known that Carolina stinks on ice, that knowledge is nowhere near as wide as Martin Brodeur's ass. The Devs are struggling; the magic is over. Carolina, meanwhile, is hotter than anyone, and just as well-built as the Devils. They're a little too trendy a pick, but it's for a good reason.

Prediction: Canes in 6

(4) PITTSBURGH VS. (5) PHILADELPHIA

I really, REALLY hate to say this, but I don't see the Flyers NOT getting into the Pens' heads this year. Marc-Andre Fleury has been a mess, the defense is a sieve at best, and Sidney Crosby is like fresh fish to the scummy likes of Scott Hartnell and Mike Richards. Regardless of Philly's preposterously persistent porosity problems in the pipes, I don't see Crosby + Malkin + Nobody Else putting a dent into them. I definitely don't see Pittsburgh taking a Game 7 from them.

Prediction: Flyers in 7

WESTERN CONFERENCE

(1) SAN JOSE VS. (8) ANAHEIM

I don't get why everyone's in love with Anaheim. Jonas Hiller is going to shut down the best team in hockey, is he? Just because the Ducks have pedigree? Give me a break.

Prediction: Sharks in 4

(2) DETROIT VS. (7) COLUMBUS

Columbus is the most annoying team in hockey. They have Rick Nash, and that is literally it as far as actual scoring talent goes. What, I'm supposed to be enthralled by the offensive exploits of R.J. Umberger?!? Give me a break. All they're good enough to do is delay the inevitable for no good reason.

Prediction: Wings in 6

(3) VANCOUVER VS. (6) ST. LOUIS

The Blues are the biggest story of the NHL season. From perennial playoff team to perennial doormat and, in the absence of their best players (Paul Kariya, Erik Johnson), have made the biggest leap of anyone. Not only did they sneak into the playoffs, but they have an eminently beatable Vancouver team as their opponent! I have literally no idea how Chris Mason and the Blues did this. And despite my pro-Vancouver sympathies, I can't help but root for St. Louis to take down the weakest of the six division winners.

Prediction: Blues in 7

(4) CHICAGO VS. (5) CALGARY

I can't think of one good reason to root for a team that blew a 13-point division lead over the phoenix-like rebirth of the Chicago Blackhawks. A fun team to watch and a fun team to root for.

Prediction: Hawks in 5

SUBSEQUENT ROUNDS

EAST
BOSTON over Carolina
Because the Canes never put up much of a fight against the B's this year.

PHILLY over Washington
Because it wouldn't be the Flyers if they didn't piss you off.

BOSTON over Philly
Because by now, Biron will be tenderized and ready to eat. And because fuck the Flyers.

WEST
SAN JOSE over St. Louis
Because the dream has to end eventually.

DETROIT over Chicago
Because the Hawks aren't quite THAT good.

DETROIT over San Jose
Because the Sharks always do this eventually.

FINALS
BOSTON over Detroit

They've shown they can beat Detroit, and by a lot, too. If it were the Sharks, I don't think I'd have the same amount of faith in a Bruins victory. But a matchup with Detroit, a team craftier than it is talented, strikes me as a lot more favorable towards the Bruins.

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2 Comments:

  • Hey! This post took almost as long to read as it takes me to stop be interested in Hockey all ove---


    zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    By Blogger Alex, at 4:35 PM  

  • What are you, Mr. Unfunny Deadspin Comments now? You missed a "Shoulda been you, ______" in there.

    By Blogger Jeff, at 5:29 PM  

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