I am about to start the stream for Game 1 on about a two-hour delay. I will work up the numbers etc. eventually. For now, fuck you with a rusty nail, Brandon. Hitmen in seven.
Welcome to the eighth annual SNN Predicts series of articles (ninth overall, if you count the 2004 version done on the forums, lost to the mists of time but notable for the fact that I went 0-4 in series involving the Flames), in which we act like we know what we’re talking about and make our (mostly) blindingly obvious predictions, with a shocking amount of success, considering some mainstream reporters usually wind up under .500 by the time the Stanley Cup is finally awarded somewhere around Canada Day. This is also at least my sixth year in a row copying and pasting the same intro, because I’m cool like that.
So. Three of the last four Stanley Cups – including the league’s #1 possession team – are sitting at home, the Jets look like a decent dark horse out of the Neo-Smythe, and the East is tempting me to pull out a d8 and Matt it up. Oh, and I’m doing this for dollars this year, with five of them sitting in an office pool. That should be interesting.
As always, the best predictor is still last-20 GP shot-adjusted Corsi (“possession”), which has about a 75% conversion rate, but I’ve gone against it in three of eight series: two for injury reasons (one getting better, one getting worse), and one for MVP reasons. Fingers crossed there. Also, I’m super nervous about my Cup Finals picks with a bunch of the safe ones gone, and I’m still not completely convinced of my Western champion, but fuck it, you gotta put something down, right? First instinct or bust.
Note: This was written earlier in the week, so of course it goes up after precisely the thing I didn’t expect – Calgary to get solid goaltending – actually came to pass in Game 1. Hooray for stolen games!
(1) Calgary Hitmen vs. (2) Medicine Hat Tigers
So, Medicine Hat, huh? Hoo boy.
|2007 CF||2010 CSF|
I’m still not sure how to feel about the Kootenay series, really. On the one hand, getting dragged to seven by a low seed in round one is seldom a good sign, regardless of past history1. On the other, I would argue that they were two awful goal calls away from wrapping in five – Levi Cable’s kicked-in goal shouldn’t have counted and intent to blow is the most idiotic rule in hockey – and after an understandable Game 6 letdown, they put up a Game 7 performance for the ages. For the last ten minutes of the second period, the Ice stayed even with the Hitmen; the other fifty minutes, the shots were 29-7, and that might honestly be flattering to the Cranbrook group. As a whole, though, the series felt a lot closer than it ought to have, which has me nervous about a series against the only team with a higher possession estimate than the Hitmen this year.
At the team level, we have the #1 shot-generating offence vs. the #1 shot-preventing defence. Calgary had the third-highest shooting percentage in the WHL – they were #2 last year, and there’s likely more repeatability in junior than at the pro level – whereas Medicine Hat was in the middle of the pack. Both teams had mediocre goaltending, with save percentages a hair below .900. To this point, it looks not too bad for the Hitmen. Then you get to the head-to-head: Medicine Hat took the season series 3-2-1 and had a +3 goal differential, but had the shots advantage in all six games and ran the possession show in four of them. I’m not sure what injuries the Tigers are sitting on right now, but given that they won their series in five, the minor bangs and bruises probably aren’t as bad, and Calgary’s goaltending situation remains a mystery. Mack Shields is in for now thanks to Brendan Burke’s injury, but with both men sporting .879 save percentages, the worst among surviving keepers, it seems likely that as soon as Burke is good to go, the goalie carousel will be back in operation. On the plus side, Connor Rankin and Son of Tambo can apparently outscore all manner of brutal goaltending: both set the Hitmen franchise record with seven goals in the Kootenay series, and Tambellini’s 15 points is the top mark in the Dub by three points.
The homer in me is saying Hitmen in seven, likely setting up yet another date with the Fucking Brandon Wheat Kings, but a more likely scenario is Tigers in six. Either way, Go Hitmen.
1 In 2010, the Hitmen fell down 3-1 to Moose Jaw before recovering to win in seven, and subsequently march all the way to the Memorial Cup semifinal. Fucking Brandon.
(1) Calgary Hitmen vs. (WC) Kootenay Ice
I originally wrote this at about 1 PM AT today but forgot to click Post until now. I’m also behind on the stream so no spoilers.
|1999 CQF||2000 CF||2007 CQF||2014 CQF|
I’m honestly not sure if I’m going to continue trying to do predictions past this year simply because, despite increased access, I actually have watched fewer hockey games this season than ever before, including just two and a half Hitmen games (stupid Daylight Savings, stupid Neulion). A quick boo at the stats shows:
- The Hitmen and Ice both have strong offences, but Calgary looks slightly deeper and has Son of Tambo scoring all the goals.
- The Hitmen have a far stronger possession game, allowing the fewest goals in the Eastern Conference despite suspect goaltending (though Brendan Burke has been better since arriving in Calgary, with a .918 in 19 GP).
- Head to head, Calgary dominated possession despite only winning four of seven.
- The Hitmen have better special teams, but have been shorthanded way more often, to a frankly absurd degree. Not that we haven’t seen this movie before. Lots.
- Both teams are pretty good at home, but the Hitmen are equally good on the road, while the Ice are pretty mediocre.
Add it all up, and I’ve got Hitmen in six. Game one goes tonight at the ‘Dome, game two Sunday
afternoon evening (stupid three time zone difference), Kootenay Sucks, Go Hitmen.
It's another patented Doogie Wall of Text™ about Doctor Who!
So with Series 8 of Doctor Who coming to a close, and my attempts to write regularly about it again sidelined by school work, I figure now’s a good opportunity, while everything is relatively fresh in my mind, to look back on the series that was and get a few things out there.