Predictions, here! Get ‘em while they’re hot!
Author’s note: Welcome to another, if more irregular, recurring feature here at ChinMusicPod.com. Every so often, I’ll get out my crystal ball and take a look at an upcoming series, game, event, album or some other thing I have predictions about. Some of them will be more serious, others much less so. I’ll probably be wrong more often than I’m right, but you can guarantee I’ll talk much more about the correct calls than the bad ones. Them’s the breaks.
Now that we know who’ll be dueling for the Stanley Cup, it’s time for every person with a social media account to tell you what they think is going to happen between the San Jose Sharks and the Pittsburgh Penguins. If there’s anything I hate, it’s feeling left out, so I decided to throw my hat in the ring.
This blog is probably going to be too long as it is, so let’s get it started……
- Win or lose, it’s all going to be about Sid
Let’s be quite honest here—while there is no shortage of stars on the Penguins, it all comes down to Crosby. When they’re looking shaky, it’s Sid that needs to step up and fix everything. He needs to play tougher, he needs to work harder, he needs to be a more vocal leader.
And if the Penguins do the damn thing, it’ll be Sid’s world all over again. You’ll read all summer about his incredible comeback this season under Mike Sullivan, especially leading into the World Cup of Hockey (which, despite it all, I’m really excited for. I don’t care if it’s a fabricated tournament with no intrinsic distinction. I just want more international hockey.) He’ll be the NHL’s golden boy once again, and every NHL fan that doesn’t live in Pittsburgh, and probably some who do, will be completely sick of it.
There’s really not a middle ground here for Sid. He’s going to be a hero and discussed among the best ever, or he’s going to be a choke artist who whines too much and doesn’t care about winning enough. There’s no one better than hockey people.
To be fair to hockey people, some of it is justified. He’s the smart money pick for the Conn Smythe if Pittsburgh does win it all, that is unless Matt Murray puts the team on his young, well-named back and throws a couple of shutouts into the mix. And if the Sharks can keep #87 quiet, there’s a good chance that means they’ll be dipping those long beards into the cup
I don’t think that’s going to happen, though…
- Get ready for some goals
My long-lost hockey brother Matt Murray has been pretty damn good so far, in case you haven’t noticed. He’s stood on his head on a few different occasions, and was able to clearly win the job from Marc-André Fleury after the game 6 loss/game 7 win.
Martin Jones has been pretty impressive out west as well. He posted a couple of back-to-back shutouts against the Blues, and in general has been a very solid backstop. Both guys have gotten some early Conn Smythe heat (see: last paragraph, prediction #1), but I think those flames are about to be extinguished.
Good lord, do we have some goal scorers in this series, with the aforementioned Crosby and Kessel, along with Evgeni Malkin, Carl Hagelin, Patrick Hornqvist, Nick Bonino and (apparently?) Brian Rust on the Pittsburg side, and Joe Thornton, Brett Burns, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, Joel Ward and Joe Pavelski in San Jose.
The M and M goaltending tandem has been very impressive so far, but I’m really expecting a high scoring series. Both teams have players that have shown an ability to get it done in the playoffs, and I think there are going to be some high-scoring games in this one.
If one of the goalies can keep the hot streak going, though, there’s a good chance that team is bringing home the hardware
- Everyone you know is rooting for the Sharks
Every fan watches the playoffs differently after their teams have been eliminated. Some fans become agnostic, some adopt a new team and hop on their bandwagon until the run ends, and some turn their passion towards (or should I say against) their most hated rivals.
No matter what any particular fan’s motivation might be, it’s a pretty safe bet that most hockey fans are going to land on the Sharks side of the fandom line this time around.
Can you blame them? There are so many stories to root for on the Sharks. There’s Thornton and Marleau finally winning a cup, together, in San Jose, after being stripped of their letters and shopped openly on the market after a series of terrible trades. There’s the lovable Burns, who just seems to embody everything you want to root for out on the ice (and just to show how popular he is, he’s been the rising star of the season all year.)
There’s also plenty of reasons for the haters to jump on the Sharks boat (see what I did there?). There’s the well-documented hate of Kessel and Crosby, the borderline (if not worse) hits from Kris Letang, and there’s just the fact that they’re the Penguins.
There will be a few haters that end up rooting for Pittsburgh, inevitably. Some purists don’t want to see any warm weather city win, lest Gary Bettman be encouraged to start more teams in snow-less metropolises. Surely, Kings and other Western Conference fans will want to see their rivals disappointed once more. Some people just like to watch suffering.
But make no mistake. In this match, the Sharks are the babyface and the Penguins are the heel. And both sides play their roles well.
- Offside replay reviews finally receive a death blow
It’s been a (not very) quiet story that’s gone lasted almost the length of the playoffs. And while I’m a replay apologist (and the Islanders may have shaken off a 23-year playoff series losing streak thanks to a reversed goal), I think it’s finally time to end this experiment. It wasn’t a terrible idea when it was first introduced. It seemed like it would get some pretty cut-and-dry calls right without disrupting the game too much.
But pretty much the exact opposite has happened.
The reviews more often than not reverse razor thin calls that may violate the letter of the law, but not its spirit, rather than egregious missed violations. It completely strips any energy/momentum that the goal brought. And, for some reason, the NHL refs review these questions about whether a skate was off the ice or if a shoelace dragged enough behind to keep the player onside on a screen smaller than my laptop, rather than having the NHL offices in Toronto take a look at the call on giant television screens.
It seems inevitable that a big goal will hinge on replay during the next few games. And if it does, you can almost guarantee we’ll see at least a change in the rule before next season.
- Sharks eat Penguins
(Again, yes I did study journalism. Shouts to Prof. Boyle for the sweet headline skills. Also, always leave a kicker for the end of an article. Another old journalist’s trick)
At the end of the day, I think Jumbo Joe and the rest of the San Jose squad are going to be too much to handle for the Pens. For most of the Sharks, this is almost certainly their last best chance for glory. And it seems like more than a few guys are determined to finally do the damn thing before they ride out into the sunset.
Pavelski is showing everyone that he’s the West’s answer to Alex Ovechkin, and he might even be better than the great 8. Thornton’s hands are as silky as ever, and Couture has had a coming out party, leading the league in points for much of the playoffs, and but that story been buried by some incredible stories regarding most of the guys on his own team. Joel Ward is the definition of a gamer, and having two different defensemen (Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic) on your squad with double-digit points always helps.
Plus, all the intangible factors are on their side. It seems like a scientific fact that beards as impressive as Thornton’s and Burns’ must hold some magic inside them, and Crosby touched the Prince of Wales trophy for godsakes!
I’ll take San Jose in 6, with Thornton having a big series and winning the Conn Smythe, in what’s going to be a fast-paced, fun series. It may pain some people to see the teal unis of the Sharks skating around, but the team (and to be honest, those teal sweaters) are fantastic and make for a great visual product.
Only a few more hockey games left until Summer. Let’s enjoy them.