We’re down to the final two, and Jay and Stephen drop their thoughts on the Conference finals, speculate on the series, and commiserate about seeing their respective teams bested by Boston.
Stephen: Perfect. Well I will be the first to say when it came to the Pens Bruins series I dun goofed. I was insanely confident in the offensive power of my Pens and played off important factors like defense, goal tending, and coaching. And the Bruins had far more of all and absolutely dismantled the Pens in four games. It was easily the worst series we have played under Bylsma.
Our blue chip stars were held pointless, and even when Vokoun gave us chances to win we couldn’t connect. Rask was on fire and their defense blew apart our rush heavy play. I have to hand it to the Bruins. They controlled this series from game 1 and absolutely dictated the flow of play.
Jay: Well, only the most delusional of Bruins fans can honestly say they thought Boston would sweep. I picked them in 7 because I felt their team defense was strong enough to beat Pittsburgh’s vaunted offense, but I never expected such a thorough beating. Certainly if some of those shots that clanged off posts went in for Pittsburgh, things might have been different, but there’s a reason a shot off the post doesn’t count as a shot on net. Ultimately, the Pens only scored TWO goals in four games, which is unreal when you think about the firepower on that Pittsburgh team. Rask was incredible when he had to be and the Bruins just kept getting better. Really, since game 7 vs. Toronto with about two minutes left in regulation, the Bruins have been unstoppable. And now they’re in the final. As for their opponent, we both predicted Chicago correctly, although I think you picked them in 5 whereas I picked the Hawks in 7. The Kings played tough, but tough series vs. St. Louis and San Jose left them depleted, apparently. What did you think of the West conference final?
Stephen: I think the Kings played better than the 4-1 loss shows, but they were a tired team and were still relying far too heavily on Quick being supernatural. Unfortunately the wear and tear caught up just as the Hawks were finding the footing we expected them to have all post season. Crawford meanwhile rose to the occasion, and Bickel, Toews, and even Kane played up to their assumed potentials. It’s going to be a great Cup series. The praised offense of Chicago vs. the deceptive depth of Boston. Two of the hottest postseason goalies going toe to toe. A meeting of the original six. I’m pissed it’s not my team, but bitterness aside, it’s a great series for hockey.
Jay: Yeah, we both saw our teams suffer humiliating losses to Boston this year, but them’s the breaks. This is going to be a great final. I’m a big Original Six fan, so Boston-Chicago is ideal (if my team’s not in it). First Original Six matchup in the final since 1979, when the Montreal dynasty won the last of four consecutive Cups vs. Phil Esposito and the Rangers. I don’t expect this series to be as one-sided as that one, but I’ve certainly been wrong before. Still, I think Boston takes it in 6. I think Rask is the better goalie, Boston has the better defense, and their style is the perfect antidote to Chicago’s high-flying ways. What’s your take?
Stephen: As a mathematical person, I can’t fathom that Rask can keep up his insane play. He’s got to let some in, right? But this is the playoffs, and streaks beat logic. I think Chicago is going to do a far better job of adjusting unlike the Pens, and I think they have the better chance of breaking out. But just to keep this interesting, I’m going to take Chicago in 7, riding on the amazing postseason of Bickel for the game winner.
Jay: I hope it goes 7, just because it doesn’t get any better than a game 7 in the Stanley Cup final. I think both these teams are terrifically talented and I hope the series is as good as we think it will be. I tend to forget that the season only started in January; think of how close was the NHL to a serious calamity and instead, it’s racking up big ratings and undoubtedly even bigger ones in the final. Crazy.
Stephen: Yeah, hockey seems to be finding an audience this year, and I’m glad. No other sport has a postseason like the NHL. We’ll get the puck going tomorrow in Chicago, and see just how the teams adjust in game 1. I’m looking forward to it, no doubt!
Jay: This series is spaced out a lot more than the previous ones, so by this time next week, we’ll only be three games in. Hopefully, it’ll go the distance, which would put us in the last week of June. And in the meantime, the post-mortems go on for everyone else. In Toronto, there’s the question of possible free agent or trade acquisitions to fill some of the holes in the lineup, and also whether the Leafs should sign Phil Kessel to a long-term deal now (he’s an unrestricted free agent next summer; I say yes). And in Pittsburgh, there are questions about whether to keep coach Dan Bylsma around. What do you think?
Stephen: I think it’s time. Bylsma is great with young, raw talent. But I don’t know if he has the strategic chops to take the Pens back to the promised land. I think he’d do a lot of good on a young team like Edmonton. But I think maybe it’s time to shake the tree. After all, last time it lead to a Cup… So long as it’s not Torts, I’m happy. (Editor’s note: the Pens announced this morning that Bylsma has been extended for two more years, so despite speculation, the coacing in Pittsburgh will remain the same.)
Jay: True. Well, we can forget about our teams’ shortcomings for another week or two, I guess. Bring on the finals!