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The Puck Stops Here

Stanley Cup Finals Predictions

My third round predictions did not go well as i was 0-2.  When combined with my first round and second round predictions, this drops my record to 7-7.  I have been as good as a fair coin in predicting the winners.  When I look for other predictions on the internet, I find that I am not doing much worse (and in some cases am doing better) than anyone else is.  Nobody has successfully predicted a large percentage of series this year as far as I can tell.  Which is the way Gary Bettman wants it.

In the ideal Gary Bettman “parity” league there are 30 teams that are essentially interchangeable (“McHockey franchises”).  On any given day, any one can beat any other.  The games are perfect for Las Vegas oddsmakers, as they are essentially long dramatic coin tosses.  This makes the NHL gambling friendly and gives fans the idea that their team is never out of the race (as they are no worse or better than any other team in the league).

While the NHL is not there yet, these playoffs show that they have had some success in getting to that goal.  In the finals, we have a Philadelphia Flyer team that finished 18th overall.  They should not have even made the playoffs (as only 16 teams do).  They owe their playoff berth to playing in a weak East Conference.  Their opponent is the Chicago Blackhawks.  This team is one of the better teams in the NHL (though I would argue there are a couple better teams that have not made it through the parity-filled playoffs).  They are a plausible Stanley Cup champion in the era of no elite teams.  They are a team that win or lose will have to begin getting broken up next year thanks to the salary cap.  That is a shame because it is clear that this team will be better in a few years when Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Patrick Kane reach their late 20’s.  The problem is this team won’t exits in its current form at that point.  A potential elite team of the future will be broken up before that can happen.

At any rate, I am predicting Chicago Blackhawks defeat Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup final.  It has been clear for a while that the West Conference is significantly better than the East Conference.  Chicago is one of the better West teams and Philadelphia is among the weakest East playoff teams.

I think this year’s playoffs are a good case study in the loss of potential fan excitement due to the lack of elite teams in the NHL.  It is clear that one of the finalists (Philadelphia) is so far below elite level that almost everyone is predicting Chicago to win the cup.  It is almost a foregone conclusion (the NHL’s attempt at parity may keep it close - but the Flyers need five-times waived goalie Michael Leighton to continue playing over his head and that is unlikely).  The semi-finals slowed down the momentum of the playoffs.  They were over too quickly.  Chicago and San Jose was a good match up (it is likely the de facto Stanley Cup championship) and most of the games were close, but Chicago swept.  The Philadelphia vs. Montreal series was over in five games and it was between two teams that could not have made the playoffs if they played in the West Conference Now the league sits dormant for the better part of a week before the finals begin and the finals are not a particularly interesting series.  Nobody expects much from the Philadelphia Flyers and that kills much of the drama.

Will there be exciting games?  Probably.  Will it be as good as it could have and should have been?  This answer is an almost guaranteed no.  The lack of elite teams in the NHL hurts the quality of the Stanley Cup finals.

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“Nobody has successfully predicted a large percentage of series this year as far as I can tell.  Which is the way Gary Bettman wants it.”

Yeah, because knowing absolutely who will win each series before they’re played makes for compelling hockey.

You know what, maybe we shouldn’t even play any games; whatever team manages to put the best collection of players on paper automatically wins! Yay!

Posted by jhart on 05/25/10 at 12:44 PM ET

Steve Strowbridge's avatar

In the ideal Gary Bettman “parity” league there are 30 teams that are essentially interchangeable (“McHockey franchises”).  On any given day, any one can beat any other.  The games are perfect for Las Vegas oddsmakers, as they are essentially long dramatic coin tosses.  This makes the NHL gambling friendly and gives fans the idea that their team is never out of the race (as they are no worse or better than any other team in the league).

While the NHL is not there yet, these playoffs show that they have had some success in getting to that goal.  In the finals, we have a Philadelphia Flyer team that finished 18th overall.  They should not have even made the playoffs (as only 16 teams do).  They owe their playoff berth to playing in a weak East Conference.  Their opponent is the Chicago Blackhawks.  This team is one of the better teams in the NHL (though I would argue there are a couple better teams that have not made it through the parity-filled playoffs).  They are a plausible Stanley Cup champion in the era of no elite teams.  They are a team that win or lose will have to begin getting broken up next year thanks to the salary cap.  That is a shame because it is clear that this team will be better in a few years when Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Patrick Kane reach their late 20’s.  The problem is this team won’t exits in its current form at that point.  A potential elite team of the future will be broken up before that can happen.

What does this have to do with your predictions?

Maybe this is an entirely different topic?

Posted by Steve Strowbridge from St. John's, NL, CA on 05/25/10 at 02:13 PM ET

Steve Strowbridge's avatar

I think this year’s playoffs are a good case study in the loss of potential fan excitement due to the lack of elite teams in the NHL

We must be watching different playoffs. I, personally, have enjoyed the quality of hockey thusfar. I find it exciting to watch, even.

Posted by Steve Strowbridge from St. John's, NL, CA on 05/25/10 at 02:15 PM ET

Leo_Racicot's avatar

I’m really interested to see how Chicago gets the puck through/over Philly in the neutral zone. 

Laviolette has got the kind of approach that could give the Hawks some problems.

Posted by Leo_Racicot on 05/25/10 at 02:16 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

I, personally, have enjoyed the quality of hockey thusfar. I find it exciting to watch, even.

I too have enjoyed the quality of hockey.  I find it exciting to watch.  I could say the same of the Memorial Cup or Calder Cup playoffs.

The Stanley Cup playoffs should be better than they are - especially in the finals - if there were any elite teams.  Let’s face it Chicago vs. Philadelphia is approximately the level one would expect from a first round match-up.  In fact, in the first round Chicago played Nashville.  It went six games and will likely be a closer fought series than our finals.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 05/25/10 at 02:26 PM ET

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I’m very befuddled.  Lack of elite teams?  Loss of fan excitement??!!  I found the playoffs this year to be the most exciting in a quite a while.  Major upsets, teams playing beyond their norm, outstanding goal tending and TONS of action.  I think puckstopshere must have been watching the AHL by mistake.  I find it ironic that your predictions have been so weak (VERY understandable - you get a free pass) and yet you continue to predict the status quo in the finals.  In case you haven’t noticed, anything goes this year.  Yes, the Hawks are the obvious prediction but I wouldn’t lay a nickel on it as a bet!

Posted by TonyC2639 on 05/25/10 at 06:18 PM ET

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Some people are never happy.  Series goes 7.  Byfuglien is the difference and Chicago wins it.

Posted by 13 user names on 05/25/10 at 08:43 PM ET

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It went six games and will likely be a closer fought series than our finals.

But that’s EXACTLY what you want. You want the better team to win. The Blackhawks have at least two guys who could be considered elite players for a decade and a half, with another one or two who have the ability to do so, so they should make their way with the Flyers - 4-0 would be your ideal, right?

“No!” you’ll say; “the Stanley Cup Finals should feature the best on-paper teams in the league! Gary Bettman’s system doesn’t allow for the best teams to compete for the Stanley Cup!!”

Okay… except for the past three seasons, we’ve had entirely top-8 league-wide seeds competing for the Cup. The year before that, the Oilers played the Hurricanes, and the ‘Canes, a second-seed in the East, ended up winning in what was one of the most exciting playoff rounds in years.

Pre-lockout, when things were good and dandy in your land, PSH, we had sweeps in the Cup Finals; we had some of the most boring hockey ever played in 02-03; and similar seedings to recent Finals in other years (01-02, 04-05, 93-94, etc.).

The hockey in 00-01 between the Devils and Avalanche wasn’t better or more exciting than we’ve seen recently; neither was the hockey in 03-04 or 98-99. I don’t know how you’re measuring the “quality” of hockey, but I’ve seen some great, great hockey played by the Hawks, the Flyers, the Canadiens in the past month. They may not be “great” on paper, but they play great and that’s why we play the games—to show who rises to the occasion, something you’ve apparently forgotten about in favour of regular season stats.

Posted by jhart on 05/25/10 at 08:49 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I’ve seen some great, great hockey played by the Hawks, the Flyers, the Canadiens in the past month.

What I’ve seen out of the Canadiens in the past month has been interesting results brought on by a brand of hockey I hate supported by a different standard of officiating in the playoffs I don’t support.

Yeah, It’s a good story when the 8th (19th) seeded Canadiens came back to upset both the Capitals and the Penguins, but each of those series spent five games getting to the exciting parts.  Games 1-5 in each of those series were ho-hum hockey and the only reason games 6 and 7 were exciting was because of the storyline, not because of what was happening on the ice.

I find it ironic that your predictions have been so weak (VERY understandable - you get a free pass) and yet you continue to predict the status quo in the finals.

This is not irony.  The best bet to go on when you think you should use the term is to never use the term because you’re going to be wrong most of the time. 

It would be ironic if TPSH were to say that he thinks the Flyers will win because of heart, intangibles, and elite goaltending.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 05/26/10 at 10:17 AM ET

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Hey puckhead, you better check around a bit better. Open Ice Hitter, at openicehitter.com, is 5 for 6 in the past 2 rounds. Only mistake was taking the Pens to beat the Habs. Who knew? Obviously, not you.

Sorry buddy, I don’t know your background, but ya ain’t good enough to write for Open Ice Hitter, and maybe if you spend some time studying the site, you will learn a thing or 2. First is to do your homework and check around all the hockey blogs….. you have to stay off the big corporate sites, where the writing is all vanilla

Open Ice Hitter has played hockey since he was 5, and aside from the site, blogs for canwest….... a pure and traditional hockey fan

Posted by Open Ice Hitter on 05/26/10 at 05:40 PM ET

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Another thing puckhead, the Flyers have been in the conference final 2 years in the past 3…. along with Detroit and Pittsburgh. They are built for the playoffs, only the Pens have beaten them in the past 3 playoffs
There is no perfect playoff setup, and this one is what it is, regardless of what you think
Who, exactly, are your elite west teams? San Jose ( loud laughter )..... Chicago? Okay, the Hawks are having a delightful year. Who else? Detroit? By your own logic, a 5th seed is a patsy. Vancouver ? ( more raucous laughter )
Buddy, you need to buy me a keg of beer and a texas of JD, and I will explain the game of hockey to you

Open Ice Hitter

Posted by Open Ice Hitter on 05/26/10 at 07:08 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Open Ice Hitter

I will let you have your free advertising for your site by keeping your links active for now - you appear to be trying to engage me in some hockey discussion.

Checking out your site, I learned that Philadelphia is the 13th most likely (of the 16 playoff teams to win the Stanley Cup).  I will quote you:

13. Philadelphia -  This year was a disaster. They are counting on career back up Boucher. All the forwards had a bad year. The pieces are there, but didn’t fit together

Interesting that you disagree with yourself in your responces to my comments.  Not a big sign of credibility.

If we look at your first round results (which can be figured out from your power rankings at the opening of the playoffs - you do not actually list them) you would have gone 5-3 in the first round.  You went 3-1 in the second round and then do not have any published third round picks. I am hesitent to give you credit for correct picks where there are no picks available.  I see you as having gone 8-4 through 2 rounds.  I went 7-5.  Not a significant difference.  We agreed in all cases except you had Phiadelphia over Boston - despite the fact this disagrees with your own power rankings.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 05/26/10 at 07:42 PM ET

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Puck

You have to look back through Hits of the Day on May 15 for round 3 .....

-      Campbell Conference Final :  San Jose vs Chicago – A good series in store, but the Black Hawks have a bit too much depth for the Sharks. Goaltending is a wash, as neither stopper is going to intimidate the opposition. Look for the Black Hawks to take this in game 6 or 7, with a roster that is filled out a bit better than that of the Sharks. San Jose rely on a guy like Manny Malhotra, basically a bust. His counterpart ? John Madden or Dave Bolland? Yeah, Chicago takes this series

-      Wales Conference Final :  Philadelphia vs Montreal -  The Flyers were major underachievers in the regular season. The Habs overachieved big time. This put them at pretty much the same spot in the standing heading into the playoffs. At which point, the Flyers woke up for a round and made short work of New Jersey. Everybody knows what happened against Boston. For the Habs, stunning upsets of the Capitals and Penguins plus resident superstars. Problem here for Montreal is that the Flyers don’t have only 2 or 3 guys to shut down. They have 3 lines that will keep coming, with a lot more physical play than they seen from the glitzy Caps or Pens. That is where the small and soft Habs hit the wall. Jaro Halak has been awesome, but won’t be able to do it all on his own. Watch for Mike Richards to target Mike Cammaleri for a thunderous hit, after which time it will be game over for the Habs offensively. Flyers will take this series in 5 or 6 games

Posted by Open Ice Hitter on 05/26/10 at 08:07 PM ET

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Pucks

I did not make round 1 predictions because I was driving from Saskatoon to Lake Havasu, and due to putting it off, the series were already under way…... I could not then make picks, since after one puck drop, objectivity changes….
I went 5 for 6 in rounds 2 and 3, pretty smokin…..
To round things out, I have been up and down picking playoff teams, this year only calling 11 of 16 teams, my best year pegging 13 of 16 teams that made it to the dance….
And of course my headline stating that Canada would win gold at the Olympics this year, and the immediate realization that the Turin roster would not win gold back when Gretz took all of his buddies to Italy for a vacation
When you read the reasoning, it is pretty much bang on…..........
As for the Windy City vs the City of Brotherly love…... still pondering wether or not Lav lets his 4th line see much action, as that is the line that will get the Flyers in trouble against any of Chicago’s top 3 units…

Posted by Open Ice Hitter on 05/26/10 at 08:16 PM ET

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To clarify, the rankings heading into the post season were not power rankings as much as breaking down the likelihood of a teams success….. power rankings are more of a who’s hot / who’s not….... and we all know that day 1 of the playoffs is a whole new season
Leighton was injured for Philly at the start of the post season, and was a question mark regardless….. he is having an awesome run, and is a better goalie than Boucher. The Devils were a huge question mark heading into the playoffs. Parise has been a flame out and Kovie….. well…... don’t think I would give him more than $5mill per. Got to start telling these guys that team success comes first

Posted by Open Ice Hitter on 05/26/10 at 08:24 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

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