I feel kind of robbed, you know, and I don’t just mean the miniscule turnaround time, either. Seriously, why’d Chicago have to go and win Game 6? They robbed us of four Game 7s. How rad would that have been?
Anyway, at the start of the playoffs, I think most analytics types had LA, Chicago, Boston, and the Rangers as their final four, and three out of four ain’t bad. Certainly, Boston’s ouster by Montreal was an upset, though not a totally unpredictable one. Regardless, given how we got here, I think this is pretty much Chicago’s Cup to lose at this point. The Kings and Rangers have both played 14 games already, and historically no team has ever played two seven-gamers and gone on to win the conference finals. It’s certainly possible this time around, as both teams are well-matched against their opponents, but if things hold true to historical form, we’re looking at Chicago-Montreal in the Finals, and that’ll be a fast series in more than one sense.
But hey, that’s why they play the games, right? So, let’s get to it and make some hasty calls.
Campbell Conference Finals
(5) Chicago vs. (6) Los Angeles
Playoff History: As the Bob Rivers song goes, “didn’t I get this last year?” Chicago won the last conference final in just five games, which looks bad, only one was decided by multiple non-EN goals. This is Chicago’s fourth trip to the Cup semis since 2009, and LA’s third in a row; the last team to make three conference finals in a row were the 2007-09 Detroit Red Wings.
|1974 QF||2013 CF|
Season Series: The Hawks won all three games in regulation by a combined score of 9-4. The score-close sample here is tiny, though: 63.5 minutes, with LA posting the 57.7% possession advantage and 87.2% PDO. We’re getting into thin statistical territory here with essentially one complete game of 5v5 close.
Doogie Says: You know, I was going to expand on this originally today (Sunday the 18th), but at this point, I’m just going to leave well enough alone. What more am I going to add to justify the pick at this point, anyway? They’re arguably the two best teams in hockey, not many holes, pretty thin reasons to pick one way or the other, regardless. They’ve had very similar paths here – down early in round one to a contending division rival before winning four straight, had a tougher than expected time with the presumed creampuffs of their divisional playoffs in round two. Only difference is, the Kings needed an extra game in both series, which introduces a slight fatigue element as the series goes deeper. And as I noted above, the 4-1 series score last year was highly deceptive; it was a tight match-up then, too. So, let the record stand: “Blackhawks in six. Because the Kings am tired.”
Gerard Says: Quick turnaround. I’m mathematically eliminated, so Hawks in 7.
Matt Says: As much as I hate betting against the Hawks, and as much as I agree with Doogie’s assessment of “the Kings am tired”, I’m gonna have to invoke a little bit of Game Theory here (despite my absolute lack of skill at strategy games — except for maybe when I roll dice for Risk, or become a Monopoly Mob Boss), and say Kings in six. They may be tired, but I think they’re really hungry for that second Cup, and Chicago hasn’t had it all that easy on the way here either.
Wales Conference Finals
(4) Montreal vs. (5) NY Rangers
Playoff History: Nothing terribly recent – in fact, just one series in my lifetime – but a bunch of really old results. Look at those two-leg series, you guys! There’s two of them! Incidentally, this will be the eighth time the Habs and Rangers have played for the right to contest the Stanley Cup, though only the second of the expansion era. Also interesting but irrelevant: the Habs and Rangers’ only meeting in the Stanley Cup Finals was not during the Original Six era or earlier, but in 1979, when the Rangers upset the ascendant Islanders in the semifinals.
|1930 SF||1932 SF||1933 QF||1935 QF||1950 SF||1956 SF||1957 SF|
|1967 SF||1969 QF||1972 QF||1974 QF||1979 SCF||1986 CF||1996 CQF|
* – Denotes two-game, total-goals series.
Season Series: The Habs won it, two shutouts to one. I’m not kidding, the scores were 2-0, 0-1, 1-0 (OT). It’s like a soccer series. Anyway, because of this, we have the bizarre statline of 0% SH% and 100% SV% at 5v5 close for both teams. The Habs, you’ll be shocked to learn, lost the possession battle badly, to the tune or 43.3% over 103.3 minutes. However…
Doogie Says: …we’re now far enough along to know that maybe we should bin the regular season results. Montreal is finally icing their best healthy roster, one that will only improve when Alex Galchenyuk makes his return (presumably at the expense of the walking wounded, Brandon Prust, though one can never be sure). While the Habs were a regular-season disaster, their improved lineup and tactics allowed them to stay close to even with Boston, outside the first two games, which isn’t an easy thing to do. The Rangers, meanwhile, sort of got run over by the Pens a bit, though one is inclined to blame fatigue at least a little bit. That fatigue factor is honestly what’s got me thinking the Habs could pull this off, given the stat cited at the top. Now, last time the Habs made it this far, I got burned by putting too much faith in them, but they were also the tired team in 2010, and it showed against Philly. Now, I haven’t seen the Rangers play really at all this post-season, so I don’t have much of a point of reference here. Lundqvist is still Lundqvist, so the goaltending matchup should be a wash on paper, though Lundqvist, like Rask, has had issues with the Habs in the past. Nash apparently can’t fire the puck into the Hudson right now, though at some point that’s gotta turn around. Both teams are running competent depth players, from the looks of things. Under most circumstances, it’d probably be a pick ‘em leaning in the Rangers’ favour, but with the way the post-season’s played out, I’m sort of inclined to give this one to Montreal in six. Probably a homer pick, but fuck it.
Update: Neeeeeever the fuck mind.
Gerard Says: Quick turnaround. I’m mathematically eliminated, so Habs in 5.
Matt Says: Let’s face it, at this point, I expect the Canadiens to do the opposite of whatever I write here, but given that I’ve eliminated them twice already in this year’s playoffs, I’m sticking to my guns and saying Rangers in five.