Wednesday, May 30, 2012

East -VS- West: 2012 Stanley Cup Finals Prediction!

1) So we're down to the Final 2. Not the 2 any writer/blogger we read in the fall had competing for Lord Stanley's Cup. Certainly not the top 2 teams in the NHL in the regular season (or even close to it. We have a 6th -vs- and 8th seed!  Albeit the Devils did eclipse the 100 point plateau, and for intents and purposes the Kings were preseason Cup contenders. Its just the combination of the underachieving in the Kings case and the fact that the Devils play in such a stacked division and are easily over looked (in addition to having a minuscule fan base) that this series doesn't have the luster of perhaps a Black Hawks-vs- Penguins or Rangers- vs- RedWings. 

2) All that said there is little doubt that both teams deserve to be where they are. The Kings especially earned the right to be in the Finals having dispatched the #1, 2 and 3 seeds in consecutive series (rather easily). This is NOT a typical 8th seed, nor should the term 'Cinderella' be used in their case. They have had the pieces all year to do this, but never congealed or played nearly to their potential until the coaching change.  In the Devils case we believe, as we stated in our post this past weekend, that their rise has as much to do with how well they played as  to the fortunate matchups they have received.  We have long opined that the key to winning in the spring is not only playing well, but "the match up". Had the Penguins or Flyers played the Panthers in the 1st round instead of eachother we bet one of the Pennsylvania teams would be in the Finals. As it turned out the Devils got that match up, then played the beat up Flyers and Rangers in their next 2 rounds to advance.

3)  Team by team comparison:
  • Forwards: Ironic that the two teams that vied for the services of Ilya Kovalchuk are now playing eachother. Los Angeles has two lines capable of scoring at any moment (Dustin Penner-Richards-Carter and Brown-Anze Kopitar-Justin Williams), good size and depth through the rest of the lineup. NJ counters with Alexei Ponikarovsky-Adam Henrique-Ilya Kovalchuk; Zach Parise-Travis Zajac-Dainius Zubrus as their top 2 lines.What defensive pairing for the Devils will be able to handle Brown and Kopitar? It probably won't be Zidlicky. The Kings forwards will be helped more by their defence joining the rush than the Devils. Advantage Kings

  •  Defense: L.A. has the higher-end skill. Doughty, Voynov, Martinez, they'll join the rush and even get in on the forecheck. The Devils are going to see a much different style from the defence than they've seen so far. There will be a lot of four-man rushes because that's typical of the Western Conference. Those guys won't just be joining the rush, they can actually be a threat. Zidlicky was a good pickup for the Devils and he will help against the L.A. forecheck. He moves the puck and he's quick enough to get back there and beat the forecheck. He's a right-hand shot who can set up Kovalchuk.  Advantage LA

  •  Goaltending: The Devils shouldn't have a hard time adjusting to Quick as he and Lundqvist are stylistically identical. Marty has his own unique style and flops around a bit much. The Kings will make life tough for him with all their potent offence up front. They are going to get more traffic in front of him than New York did. Some are writing that Brodeur's experience and knowing how to handle situations give him an edge. We're not so sure, and Quick has hardly been a shrinking violet in helping propel his team this far.  Advantage: Even.

  • Coaching: Some over play this facet of a series but the first couple of games in the series are huge. You have to make quick adjustments, because if you lose a couple of periods all of a sudden you've lost a game. Darryl Sutter has been here and has the advantage of a longer tenure in the NHL, while Coch Rosacia (DeBoer), who we have liked since his Fla days, has stood up to more experienced (Cup winning) coaches thus far in Tortorella and Laviolette, so we believe this won't play much of a role. Advantage: Even

  • Special teams:  Seems this is always the lynch pin to who ultimately wins.  Thus far the Kings have had a dreadful PP and great PK, while the Devils PP has been pretty good but their PK has been atrocious.  It all comes down to execution: Both teams will know what the other team's go-to play will be on the power play and they will try to take it away.Advantage: Even
4) So digesting all this mumbo-jumbo into a coherent prediction.  We believe that the Kings forwards and more talented defense will prevail.  The Kings have played only 14 games in the playoffs and they can wear anybody down with their size and speed. Goaltending we don't believe will be a factor one way or the other and neither should home ice advantage.  We don't see this as being a short easy series but ultimately the Kings will win the first Stanley Cup. Kings in 6

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Dead On!

1) We figured we'd toot our own horns about our prediction accuracy in the Conference Finals. Especially when we also gave ourselves heck for doing so poorly in the first two rounds. only did we get the winners both correct, but we got the correct number of games dead-on in both series! 

2) WE believe that our analysis as to why each team (LA and NJ) would advance was also 'dead on' The Devils took advantage of an obviously tired/beleaguered Rangers team who had to endure 2 seven game marathons before getting to the Eastern Conference Finals.  Had the Rangers coasted in one of their previous series we think they would have beaten the Devils. The Devils to their credit beat who they had to beat to get here, but were fortunate to play 3 opponents who for different reasons were 'easy(ier) pickings.
  • The Panthers simply were barely  a playoff team and posed little obstacle to a disciplined team like NJ
  • Philly had just played a very emotional series with their hated cross state rival pens and never seemed able to rekindle the intensity needed to win in the playoffs
  • The aforementioned Rangers were physically done by the time NJ saw them.
3)  Meanwhile as we wrote about the Western Conference Final, we believe we had a situation where the Coyotes over achieved all season and into their first 2 rounds were going against a team (Kings) who underachieved all season long and finally were playing to their potential once the playoffs commenced. Therefore we didn't think the Yotes would be much of a challenge for LA, since the Kings also had little trouble beating the top 2 seeds in The canucks and Blues.  The Kings appear to be peaking at the right moment.  More on the them i our Finals prediction upcoming this week, but in the mean time we're enjoying our successful 'dead-on' Conference Finals predictions!   Can we continue the streak? Stay tuned!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ovechkin Pushes Hunter Out the Door!?!

1) In a stunning development in Washington 'interim head coach Dale Hunter has "stepped down" as boss of the capitals.  GM George McPhee made the announcement this morning. Now, as always there is the "official word/press release", and there is the truth/untold story.  The official word(bullshit) is that dale was the one to step aside to be with family and his team (he owns the London Knights-now in the memorial Cup) and farm/businesses. 

2) The biggest stunner here is that Dale fundamentally changed the style and even approach the capitals took into their game. While his predecessor Bruce Boudreau attempted a more defensive style when goal scoring slowed the team was so accustomed to the 'run and gun' that few bought into it. Especially their 'captain', Alex Ovechkin.  When their personalities started to abut Boudreau's days were instantly numbered.  When Hunter first came in he was patient. He didn't instantly try to change the team into his image but slowly instituted it over time. By season's end and into the post season it appeared that some light at the end of the tunnel was apparent. However, the inevitable conflict with the team's pampered super star captain became public when Hunter severely cut down Ovechkin's playing time. It particularly irked #8 that he was playing less and the team was winning. 

3) We are told from excellent sources that Ovechkin's parents went over McPhee's head, strait to owner Ted Leonsis to voice their displeasure in how they felt their son was being marginalized by the newbie head coach.  To them they didn't see Hunter as an NHL/Capitals legend, but another coach who could/should be manipulated for their son's career advancement.  Now, as long as Hunter was winning Leonsis wasn't going to say anything, but when the Caps failed to advance past the 2nd round(again) he informed his GM of his 'preference' of the team finding a new coach.   Hunter, we're told while would have been keen on returning to finish what he started, wasn't totally disappointed to be relieved of having to 'coddle that piece of shit' as Hunter has confided with close friends when referring to the Russian (former) super star.

4) So where do the Caps go from here?  Our NHL sources tell us that with his 'coach killer' moniker firmly stamped on him Ovechkin's antics will make it difficult for George McPhee to convince any veteren coaches to come and take over.  " They'd be nuts to enter that hornets nest" is what one western conference scout told us this morning.  WE wouldn't be shocked to see their entire coaching staff dismissed and a whole new crew brought in by July.  Most likely it will be another AHL guy like a Boudreau with decent credentials but who won't have the ego of their captain.   WE at Fauxrumors are sad for Caps fans as it looks like they are destined to intermitable mediocrity. The Rock the Red slogan is getting old fast, but doesn't seem that management is ready to do what is needed; Fundimentally change the atmosphere and significantly reduce the Russian population in DC.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Round 3 Predictions

1) As we wrote earlier today we have been utterly brutal in trying to predict the 2012 edition of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. We vow to do better from here on in. LOL  Too bad we only get 3 more attempts to right the ship.  Big series to come for sure but we won't even get back to .500 even if we ace the "midterm and final".  Oh well, time to move on so here goes....

2) (1) NY Rangers-VS- (6) NJ Devils: Many are going to look towards the regular season and all the nastiness that took place as a reason to expect the same when the puck drops tomorrow night, but outside of a statement scrap or 2 we don't think this will be any more penalty filled than the past 4 series combined have been for these two teams as they vie for Eastern supremacy.  While the Blue shirts will have the home ice advantage in (probably both arenas) in this series, we feel the major issue here may be fatigue. While NJ has had almost a week to recuperate from the last series when they dispatched the pitiful Flyers in 5, the Rangers are just 2 days removed from their second consecutive 7 game marathon series victory. One that we believe will take its toll as the series proceeds.  On paper the Rangers seem to have the edge at almost every position, but we believe that the Devils will exorcise the curse of 94, and go on to compere for their 4th Cup since that tough to swallow defeat.
Devils in 6

3) (3) Phoenix Coyotes-VS- (8) LA Kings: The Yotes are Kings are BOTH riding feel good/cinerella stories. One's glass slipper will be lost while one will fit right int the Finals.  Both are improbable Final 4 participants, but the Coyotes have to be the most unexpected of all. Riding the golatending of Mike Smith. Who? Yes, the same Smith would couldn't stop a beach ball in Tampa bay for 3 years.  The Kings, although the lower seed here have arguably been playing the best hockey of any playoff team. Seemingly easily beating the top seeded canucks and then 2nd seed Blues in quick order. Why should we expect the Coyotes to put up more of a fight than the canucks or Blues?  Quick appears ready for prime time. The trade with Philly that brought Richards is paying big dividends.  Dustin Brown has been amazing. Oh and Drew Doughty is a pretty good defensemen too. LOL Al in all we'd say that the Kings will handily move on again.  No Coyote Ugly wins this series folks.
Kings in 5

WE Suck!

1) Wow, have we been way off this playoffs in our predictions!!  In past years we have done extraordinarily well in predicting not only the eventual winner, but the number of games in each series. This season, not so much.  In the 1st round we went a piss-poor 4-4 of the 8 series played. Following this in the most recent divisional semi finials we did even worse, going 1-3 in the 4 second round. Only correctly predicting the rangers advancing.

2) Now, to defend ourselves who predicted that we'd see the Coyotes playing the Kings for the Western Conference crown?  If any of you can site a writer/blogger who did we will give them this years Faux award as the smartest hockey writer of the year!!  LOL  In the East the Devils-Rangers set up is not quite as surprising although we are surprised there is no team from Pennsylvania in the 3rd round (it didn't help that they played each other in the 1st round).  We will attempt to do better in the predictions of the final 3 series going forward. Look for that post to be out shortly!!
As always, keep it here for all the latest!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Are Russians Cancers?

1) Yes, we know we're going to get quite  abit of blow back from our admittedly provocative post title, but we will back up our assertion and discuss several recent examples where we believe teams might have been better off if they didn't have players from Russia on their rosters.   Ofcourse the biggest recent example is the Alex Radulov Andrei Kostitysyn situation in Nashville.  Evidently both players decided to go out and get drunk/cavort with strumpets at local bars. Disregarding team curfew rules.  When they were caught the team correctly decided to ban them for 1 game.  It was a supremely selfish decision.  Its not the first time either has had "issues" with a lack of maturity.  Both have had run ins with their former teams, or in the case of Radulov, left despite being under contract to play in the KHL. Many thought the gifted forward had matured and would give the Predators an added offensive element to go far in the Cup playoff, if not put them over the edge to attain the ultimate goal. However it now appears that the trade for Kostitysen and addition of Radulov may have ruined team chemistry(and morale!) and hurt their chances of winning.

3) Next stop Washington DC where the Capitals are winning (a series anyway) by significantly reducing their captain's (in name only) ice time. Alex Ovechkin because he is  a HUGE defensive liability has seen little ice time when his team is ahead in games.  Thus far publicly "The Great 8" hasn't whined/complained, but privately we're told that anyone who has been to DC's "Russia House" would know that Ovechkin is pissed about his reduced role.  Ultimately it will hurt the Caps as they progress in the playoffs and will undoubtedly come to a head when they lose and Hunter is retained as head coach.  With 9 more years at 10 million per left it will be interesting to see if the team continues to coddle their (former-?) superstar.  WE have also heard that Ovie called Caps top prospect Kuznetsov and urged him that he stay away from DC that it was no longer Russian friendly like it was 3-4 years ago when they had 5 regular Russians in the lineup

4) A slightly less noticeable issue is in NJ where the devils without their highest paid player Ilya Kolvachuk went out and played arguably their best playoff game this spring in defeating the Flyers 4-1. They didn't appear to miss the over paid winger and will be interesting to see how they fare when/if he returns.  There are several other instances/issues with respect to Russian born players but these couple are enough to hilight what our point is.

5) Now there are exceptions to every rule.  Specifically folks will point to Pavel Datsyk and Sergei Fedorov as examples of Russians who did not negatively impact their team, but we can say that although both were /are highly gifted, neither were "The guy" on their team. Feds had Yzerman and Pavel has Lidstrom and Zetterburg. By and large there are far more 'Yashins' than Fedorovs!  Several NHL officials we talked with recently did not want to go on record but unanimously hinted that there is a good reason why the population of Russians playing in the NHL is so low now.  The bloom is off the rose. The allure of the admited talent is not enough to overcome the immense baggage that players like Radulov, Ovechkin, Semin,  etc bring to their respective teams
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