NHL Playoffs – Conference Finals Preview
Before I start with the preview, I want to rant about some things first. (Notice this article can be found in both the “NHL” and the “Rantcentric” sections this time – for future reference).
First off: This has been a surprising year for the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a lot of upsets and many of the remaining teams coming out of nowhere to impress everyone. My predictions may have been awful, but in all fairness so was half of ESPN’s so-called “Experts”. I went 4-4 in the first round and 1-3 in the 2nd round. For those of you who are too lazy to do the math, that’s a pretty horrible score of 5-7… But again, looking at the ESPN “Expert Picks”, you’ll see that NOBODY chose the Devils (I’ll explain why later), Everybody but ONE person chose the Predators, and a majority took the Blues – all losers. So, anyone who says: “Why would I read this guy’s article? He can’t even pick the right winners in the only sport he writes about”.. Well, why would you go to ESPN’s NHL page either then? Those writers are paid to do this.. I do this as a hobby and I came up with the same results as them..
That being said: The 2nd half of my “Rant before the actual article” is the awfulness of Philly sports fans and the media that covers the Flyers
Part 1 – The Fans are brutal:
If you read any of my other articles, you’ll know that I’m a huge Flyers fan, but I’m not a typical Philly sports fan. I actually hate other Philly sports fans due to their blinding favoritism and bias arguments that a 5 year old would make. Ask any Flyers fan why we lost in the Playoffs last year? I guarantee over 50% say it was Kris Versteeg’s fault. Yeah, I guess he went to Florida and had a great year this year just to spite us, right? What was the problem this year? 95 maybe 98% will blame Ilya Bryzgalov and complain about how we need to trade him. Did anyone else actually watch the series against the Devils? Or did you only see the awful, terrible, gut-wrenching goal Bryz gave up in Game 5?
Well… I got news for everyone. He was the best player in the series, like it or not. He’s signed here for 8 more years. He’s not going anywhere. And no, he’s not going to be the highest paid goaltender in the league. I’ll tell you something that no one will believe, especially because NBC slurped him for being 40 the entire series, but Martin Brodeur did not look any better than Bryz during the series. He did not steal any games for the Devils. Hell, he didn’t even have to stop more than like 25 shots a game! You know who did have to stop over 30 shots a game? Bryz. And it they were still tight games, score wise (Not counting Empty Net Goals).
Part 2 – The media is ridiculous:
I’ve read at least 4 or 5 different articles in the past few days that start off with Bryz’s comments: “What I lived through this season I wouldn’t wish to an enemy”. From there the article will go on to make Bryz look like he’s trashing Flyers fans. Well first off, Bryz also stated “”You should understand that I am not speaking out against the fans. Philadelphia has great fans. They are the majority. They are always with the team in difficult times.” Conveniently, this quote was left out of most articles.
The other thing that the media is forcing down our throats is that Holmgren said that Bryz wasn’t as good as expected. Also conveniently left out is that Holmgren said he thinks Bryz will be better next year and he understands that it takes time adjusting to play here. Remember, Bryz came from Phoenix where no one cares about the team, to a city where every goalie has been hated since Ron Hextall. You don’t think it’s going to take time to adapt to a city of fans who will eat him alive after 1 bad game? How about I come to a job that you just started and yell at you about how much you suck and how I hate you. Let’s see how long it takes to you to adapt to that.
It’s embarrassing how the media adds fuel to the flames and takes certain quotes out of context. They want a goalie controversy in Philadelphia, otherwise there would be no good stories to write about the Flyers. They want casual fans who don’t follow hockey as well to read that Bryz said bad things about them and the GM thinks he is no good. When the Flyers pulled Bryzgalov in Game 4 of Round 1, Barry Melrose actually said “All is right in the hockey world now that the Flyers have pulled a goalie in the playoffs.” Seriously, Barry? Fleury got pulled in one of the games too if I remember correctly… Brodeur got pulled in the 1st round against the Panthers. The FLORIDA PANTHERS, Barry. Make a big deal out of that! Oh no, we can’t because bad goaltending is only a big deal in Philly and sometimes Vancouver. If you’re a casual sports reader (and by some chance came to this site looking for a cereal or something) do yourself a favor and keep reading here. I won’t just jump on the “goaltending is always an issue in Philly, so let’s just write an article about that again” bandwagon. Promise.
Now on to the previews:
I know this is late, but even before Game 1 of this series I was going to say: The Kings look dominate. They are just owning everyone they play. Jonathan Quick looked unbeatable until his embarrassing soft goal from center ice. But after that, he made a ridiculous save where he batted the puck out of the air with his hand, not using his glove or blocker… Did I mention he was laying across the goal line with three or four guys in front of him? Take a look at how unbelievable this is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNV9rDpKP6A. Dustin Brown has been a monster, Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar are looking good, Mike Richards always plays good in the playoffs.. I just don’t think the Coyotes can beat them. Mike Smith has been good all playoffs long, but I don’t see him outplaying Quick and stopping the offensive power the Kings bring.
NOTE: I know I was all against the Kings last round and I even admitted that it was probably because I was biased about Mike Richards and Jeff Carter losing in Philly but Carter only has 4 points in 10 games. That sounds about right for postseason Jeff Carter. He’s not the hero of the games like they wanted him to be or the offensive talent they thought would lead to this kind of postseason. Lucky for him, the other team members are stepping it up and he doesn’t have to do much. They’re just deeper than any Philly team was with Carter and Richards and oh yeah, actually having a goalie behind them probably doesn’t hurt either.
This series can’t last more than 5 games: Los Angeles Kings in 5
As a Flyers fan, this is going to be tough to watch. After the Rangers owned us so bad this year I hate them, but the Devils eliminated us and I don’t think they’re even a good team. Honestly, can anyone say the Devils are better than the Flyers? I think they were barely better than the Florida Panthers. The Flyers just rolled over for the Devils. Apparently they thought the cup would be handed to them after beating Pittsburgh.
Unfortunately, I think I’m going to have pick the Rangers here. As I said in the last preview, the Devils have like 3 guys who can score (and guess who scored most against the Flyers?) – Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrick Elias.. The way you beat the Rangers is with offense. They play great defensively and Henrik Lundqvist has been so good this year. They Devils don’t have enough offense to put up 3+ goals on the Rangers, which is what you need to beat them. I honestly don’t want to see either team win, but also, I don’t hate the Devils as much and I respect Martin Brodeur so much, I guess seeing him have a chance to win the cup again wouldn’t hurt as bad as watching Tortorella get it.
Also, at this point I’d like to be able to keep saying every team to eliminate the Flyers in the postseason has won the Cup.
We’re going on 4 years here:
Penguins in ’09 – Eliminate Flyers in 1st round and win the Cup.
Blackhawks in ’10 – Eliminate Flyers in Finals and win the Cup.
Bruins in ’11 – Sweep Flyers in 2nd round and win the Cup.
Devils in ’12 – Eliminate Flyers in 2nd round… and…. the hockey fan in me just doesn’t see it happening.
I’ll take: New York Rangers in 6