April 14th, 2010

Worldmaker

Games I'd like to see

Yesterday, I did a realistic take on how I thought the playoffs would shake out. Today I'll branch into the realm of fantasy, where the lines are short, the beer both cheap and fresh, and the home team always wins unless they're a reviled evil empire.

Washington vs. Pittsburgh

If I have to sit through another Senators opening round exit, I at least want to see another intercontinental clash. This time, the stakes can be even higher: as long as at least one of the lower seeds knocks off another division leader, Ovie and Cindy can meet in the conference final. The hockey night ratings might even beat Dancing With The Stars if that happened.

Phoenix vs. Los Angeles

On one side, you've got the team that was instrumental in ushering in the big-contract era of the modern league; on the other, the scapegoat for everything which is wrong about sunbelt expansion and franchise operational control. If they both made the western final, it would absolutely kill the purists to face the horror that one of these two teams would be playing for the Cup.

Detroit vs. Colorado

Always good for a laugh due to their absurd history together, and more likely to remain compelling now that the Wings are playing a little closer to the Avs' level. Or maybe Datsyuk and company just steamroll 'em again. Either way!

Ottawa vs. San Jose

Maybe a bit of a pipe dream, but I would love to have Heatley come back to town less than a year after he snubbed us so good, and with the championship on the line no less. Part of the speculation as to why he got out of here was because he didn't like the media scrutiny; it'd be fitting to see him squirm under the lenses again, especially while fielding questions like "how does it feel to play against the team that willingly took you in after a terrible tragedy which essentially forced you to leave the Thrashers, just when it looked like you and Kovalchuk might've given them an actual degree of legitimacy?" and "is it true that you tried to reinstate your no-trade clause when you realized the Sharks played in San Jose, rather than San Francisco?" And the booing! Oh, there's nothin' better than a disloyal player to rile up a crowd. We could have riots in the streets. Or we could just take advantage of SJ's tendency to stop playing in the middle of the playoffs to rack up the goals. Actually, I'm not sure why we couldn't do both. They seem to manage in Montreal. And speaking of which...

Montreal vs. Boston

Even more unlikely; due to the seeding, these guys can't even meet unless it's in the conference final. But my recently extended family cheers for the Habs now, and a series with the Bruins would guarantee a sympathetic audience for every game.

Nashville vs. Buffalo

I shook my head again yesterday. How did Nashville get to the postseason? How'd they manage to hit the 100-point mark? They're essentially a team of unknowns, so they must have some sort of cohesive framework, and maybe a halfway decent goalie. Heh, yknow, that makes 'em sort of like...

...oh shiiiiit.

The only thing I will enjoy about a Preds-Sabres series is that somebody will get their first Stanley Cup victory. Other than that, it would be a soulless journey of forgettable names into the gaping maw of ennui. Please, please do not let this be the season when a general lack of star power in favour of good fundamentals is what gets teams to the end.
My Equally Valid Opinion

One last quick thought

As the man in Pittsburgh mangles the national anthem, I'm doing a little number-crunching. Some guy on Fark mentioned that good shootout records didn't matter in the postseason. I don't remember what point he was making but I separated the overtime wins and losses from the shootout records (which were available on nhl.com, but on different pages for some reason) and took a look. Tossed in the two nearest misses to the playoffs for comparison's sake, too.
	WIN	LOSS	OTW	OTL	DRAW*	SOW	SOL	POINTS
WAS	43	15	6	7	11	5	6	116
NJD	40	27	2	2	11	6	5	97
BUF	35	27	6	4	10	4	6	96
PIT	33	28	6	5	10	8	2	93
OTT	34	32	5	1	10	5	5	89
BOS	25	30	4	4	19	10	9	81
PHI	35	35	2	3	7	4	3	84
MON	24	33	8	5	12	7	5	81
NYR	34	33	1	7	7	3	4	84
ATL	29	34	2	7	10	4	6	79

SJS	43	20	1	5	13	7	6	106
CHI	37	22	6	2	15	9	6	103
VAN	41	28	4	1	8	4	4	99
PHX	31	25	5	1	20	14	6	93
DET	33	24	5	5	15	6	9	96
LAK	32	27	4	1	18	10	8	91
NAS	33	29	6	2	12	8	4	92
COL	54	30	2	4	12	7	5	88
STL	30	32	3	5	12	7	5	83
CAL	35	32	2	3	10	3	7	87

* combined shootout wins and losses

Now, this isn't 100% accurate, since games ending in draws would play out differently than the modern shootout equivalent. But it's enough to draw a few conclusions. There's only a few teams that would see any mobility: Phoenix would drop to the other side of Detroit, LA and Nashville would swap places, and the Rangers vault the Habs while the Bruins drop into the last spot in the east. (Calgary still misses by a single point.) However, we can also see that those same teams are the most prolific at extending the extra end in the first place. And it's so important to win those big overtime battles in the playoffs, which starts with giving yourself the chance by keeping the puck out of your end. I wouldn't worry about it if I were Buffalo, but Detroit must be lifting an eyebrow right about now.

On the other hand, if you just win games outright, you never have to worry about an OT situation. We'll see how it plays out. (Pens and Sens are tied 1-1 as I close this post.)