Wishes for Adidas’ NHL Takeover

With Adidas being the parent company of Reebok, they’re set to assume production of all NHL jerseys for the 2017-18 season.  Last time this happened, when Reebok took over in the offseason of 2007, all NHL team jerseys were redesigned to fit the new Edge template.  With this change being forced upon each team, some took the opportunity to rebrand or refresh their looks.  Some overhauled completely (Dallas, Vancouver, and Washington for example).  Others made minor tweaks to their jerseys.  Some made basically none.

Some teams made mistakes.  A few of them, unfortunately, still live to this day.  I’ve taken it upon myself to present a few concept logo blocks with my vision for team primary logos and colors going forward.  If these changes don’t happen, I will be disappointed, but I won’t give up hope — I’ll continue adding to this collection when inspiration strikes, provided that my ideas don’t magically come to life before then.

First up, my Buffalo Sabres:

Buffalo SabresBuffalo Sabres (Away)

Ditch the silver lines, return to a real, vibrant blue, and voilà!  That’s all they need.  This look is clear, identifiable, and timeless.  If they’re going to hoist the Cup at some point, I desperately hope it’s in these.  With the Sabres scheduled to play as the home team at the 2018 Winter Classic, we may see this jersey appear as soon as then — hopefully they do the right thing and elevate it to primary duty afterward.  If not, the likely worst case scenario is it would become a full-time third in 2018-19.  If that happens, they will have earned my money.


Calgary Flames (Third)Calgary Flames (Fourth)

Fixing the Calgary Flames would be simple: return to the 1980s.  Get rid of the black.  Promote the existing third to primary and add a road counterpart.  You won the Cup in these jerseys; why wouldn’t you want to promote them?  ’nuff said.


Carolina Hurricanes (Third)Carolina Hurricanes (Fourth)

The Carolina Hurricanes need a uniform update, badly.  Their 2013 redesign was horrendous, but thankfully they kept their unique third in reserve.  I wouldn’t mind seeing them upgraded to full-time duty.  The flag logo is far better than the swirl, even though they did win the Cup in the latter, but there’s also the fact that I’m not a fan of black primaries.  What about red?  I think that looks damn hot, even if it is a (tropical) storm warning flag.


Colorado Avalanche (Third)Colorado Avalanche (Fourth)

The Colorado Avalanche have been using the 2007 Reebok transition look for a decade; they’re the last to maintain use of the “apron string” look.  It needs a change more than any other team.  Their current thirds are decent, but I’m not sold on them being a primary.  They’re just a bit too experimental, plus burgundy has always been the Avs’ color.  How about these?


Columbus Blue JacketsColumbus Blue Jackets (Away)

The Columbus Blue Jackets‘ third is a great, great look.  I love the jersey, the color scheme, and the logo.  It’s more distinct, compared to the Jacket’s current palette which features zero unique colors.  The only problem is that vintage white cannot be used as an away jersey base, so to solve I’ve made it white across the board.  Looking sharp!


Minnesota WildMinnesota Wild (Away)

The Minnesota Wild are rumored to be going forward with a green jersey, similar to their Stadium Series jersey from last season.  I’m for it.  I think they should keep their away white jerseys and use them template for the homes.  Easy.  I bet this is exactly what we see come Draft Day, more-or-less.


Ottawa Senators (Third)Ottawa Senators (Fourth)

The Ottawa Senators are in dire need of a new look, having used the same original Reebok template since 2007.  Luckily, they’ve already created a complete set that would do nicely.  The “O” logo ties the franchise back to its predecessor in Ottawa, while ditching the tired look of the three-quarter-profile cartoon centurion.  Same as with Columbus, the vintage white is normalized to pure white.  There was a rumor swirling earlier this year that something like this was in the works for the future.  It’s been quiet on that front recently, but I’d still imagine this has a very good chance of happening.

Alternatively, they’ve been sitting on this cleaner version of their original profiled Senator logo for awhile.  It’s not on their jerseys anywhere, for some reason.  If the classic look isn’t to be, why not revamp the jerseys with this badass logo on front?  Hell, I’d be okay with a return to the black primary if this is what it looks like.


San Jose SharksSan Jose Sharks (Away)San Jose Sharks2San Jose Sharks (Away2)

This is more of a thought than a hope.  The San Jose Sharks used the Reebok takeover to refresh their Shark-biting-stick logo in 2007; modernizing while maintaining the overall look.  It’s been a decade since then, and the franchise has matured to a point of ubiquity and success in the Bay Area.  It’s time to grow the logo to match.  We know it’s a hockey team, so there’s no need for a stick in the logo.  This past season the Sharks released a beautiful set of “future” secondary logos for marketing purposes, which went more-or-less unused: see the clean full-bodied shark above.  There’s also a variant with a more triangular shape and a subtle SJ at the vertex.  Either one I think would be a great primary look.


Washington CapitalsWashington Capitals (Away)

Last but not least, look at this.  The Washington Capitals have used this stunning secondary logo since their transformation in 2007.  How is it not the primary?  I get that the wordmark is an update of their original logo, but come on.  This would be an incredible primary logo.  It’s simple, easily reproduceable and identifiable, and it’s freaking brilliant.  It forms a “W.” It’s got the Capitol in negative space.  The angle in the neck invokes the Washington Monument.  It’s wonderful.  After their latest playoff failure, it might just be a decent time to re-brand.  Make this the primary now.


I have a few more wants that I’m not sure how (read: am not skilled enough) to express visually:

Los Angeles Kings

The Los Angeles Kings would do well to add purple back to their look.  I’m not sure if that requires a whole new logo or not — I’d lean toward the latter, given all of their success with their current setup.  Perhaps just a trim on the jersey?  The league needs more purple; ie any purple.


Vancouver Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks have a great set of uniforms, and it hurts to suggest changes because of their mixed history.  I like the orca logo, but the “Vancouver” wordmark needs to go.   Alternatively, promote the third to full time and go full 1970s.  Either way, that’s all I want, so there’s nothing really new to illustrate here.  The design of the jerseys and their colors are perfect already.

In conclusion, I’m surprised by how content I am with the look of the NHL these days.   Only a handful of teams need a redo on the logo, jersey, and/or colors.  For the rest, a few uniform tweaks here and there would be nice, but overall I think these aforementioned changes would be enough to make the league the best it could possibly look.  Now, if only we could make color versus color jerseys for games the norm, only then would we have perfection.

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Stanley Cup 2017, I: Rivalries, Rivalries Everywhere (Sort Of)

I II III IV V

What a difference a year makes, eh?  One year ago I was dumbfounded by the lack of Canadian teams in the playoffs.  Flash forward to today, where we will see five for the first time since… 2015.  So it’s not that unusual (aside: back in the 1980s when there were seven Canadian teams, sixteen playoff teams and twenty-one teams in the league, it was exceptionally common), however, some of the featured teams sure are abnormal.  We’ve got Toronto back in, having last made the dance in 2013 and for only the second time since 2004.  But of course the real story is the end of the Edmonton Oilers’ decade long drought, having last appeared in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.  This is also the first time since then that both Calgary and Edmonton are in the playoffs together.

Canada aside, we’ve got a lot of fresh blood in the tournament this year, which is always a welcome sight.  Most teams had only missed a year or two in their droughts.  On the other hand, those that are returning have been, for the most part, returning for awhile.  And, unfortunately for my entertainment, the best odds for winning the Cup rest with those teams that have won most recently.  Fun.

Also, what’s up Detroit?  Fancy not seeing you here.  Last time you missed, I was just a baby.  Weird.

I have a few issues with the current playoff format, some I get into below.  I cannot, however, fault the fact that we’ve got decent rivalries out the wazoo this first round.  Some have been long dormant; others are just budding.  There are some match-ups I wouldn’t really consider rivalries, but then I look a little closer, and sure enough, there’s playoff history in all series but one* (Thanks for failing to secure us of a Battle of Ontario, Toronto; and the Battles of Alberta and California, L.A.).  It’s quite incredible, really.  The first round is always the best of the playoffs, and I think we’re in for a treat again this year.

Now, to the bracket.  Will I pick one of the above unnamed favorites to win the Cup?  I suppose we don’t have to wait to see:

There’s an old saying in D.C. — I know it’s in Texas, probably in D.C. — that says, fool me once, shame on… shame on you. Fool me… you can’t get fooled again!

I’m a little concerned that I picked the Blues to come out of the West.  It’s foolish to always pick favorites because they rarely make it to the end together, so I’ve got a 2 and a 3 seed in the mix.  Will this work?  Probably not, but it’s worth a shot.

Stats herein (Power Play and Penalty Kill percentages, 5v5 Score-Adjusted Corsi [Shots on goal + missed shots + blocked shots, a decent measure of possession] & PDO [save percentage + shooting percentage, a decent measure of luck]) are measured from the trade deadline, March 1st, 2017, until the end of the regular season.  This is done in order to portray a more representative sample as teams trend toward their playoff forms.  All numbers are taken from NHL.com, hockey-reference.com, and Corsica.

A1. Montréal Canadiens vs M4. New York Rangers:  For the first time since the new playoff format debuted in 2014, the Eastern conference wildcards flip divisions.  I understand that it’s based on having the top team in the conference play the lower seeded wildcard (1 vs 8, more or less), but couldn’t they just put in a provision that if there is one wildcard team per division, they will play in that division’s bracket?  Seems reasonable, right?  We could have had Washington playing New York, and Montréal hosting Toronto!  Instead we have Boston playing for the Metropolitan Division championship, and New York competing for the Atlantic.  Okay.

But we’re stuck with this, and it’s not so bad.  Back in 2014, these two met in the Eastern Conference Final, which was a wild series featuring blowouts, barnburners, and an incident in which Chris Kreider took out Carey Price, torpedoing the Habs chances at a Cup Final berth.  Price has returned to being possibly the best goalie in the world (though there’s competition), and the Canadiens look very, very hot right now.

The New York Rangers are tough to grasp.  I have no faith in them.  Like at all.  They’re sitting above 100 points for the third straight season and are that far removed from a Presidents’ Trophy, but for some reason they’re one of those teams that never seems like a playoff threat.  That’s compounded by the fact that their window appears to be rapidly closing. That said, at one point this season, they were putting up nearly five goals a game, so there’s potential to ramp back into unsustainable territory.  I’m not sure.  I haven’t watched enough Rangers games to feel confident in my pick, but here goes:  Canadiens in five. I’m probably wrong to make the series this short, but between New York and Montréal this season, the Habs win on almost every category.

Record (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
MTL: 103 | 47 [44] - 26 - 7 - 2 | +25
NYR: 102 | 48 [44] - 28 - 2 - 4 | +37

Record Since Trade Deadline (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
MTL: 25 | 12 [11] - 5 - 1 - 0 | +10
NYR: 20 |  8 [ 8] - 7 - 2 - 2 |  +1

Power Play%
MTL: 10.5%, 29th
NYR: 26.5%,  5th

Penalty Kill%
MTL: 86.7%,   4th
NYR: 76.8%, T23rd

5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
MTL: 52.41%,  4th
NYR: 48.27%, 27th

PDO
MTL: 100.60, 13th
NYR: 100.53, 15th

Notable Injuries
MTL: Shea Weber, Alexei Emelin
NYR: None

Season Series
2017-01-14; NYR 4, MTL 5
2017-02-21; MTL 3,NYR 2 S/O
2017-03-04; MTL 4, NYR 1
MTL: 3-0-0
NYR: 0-2-1

 

A2. Ottawa Senators vs A3. Boston Bruins:  Fun fact: this is only the second playoff meeting between the Ottawa Senators and the Boston Bruins.  What makes this fact fun?  The previous meeting was in the 1927 Stanley Cup Final, where the original Senators franchise defeated the Bruins two wins to zero in a four-game series.  Yeah, it was weird back then.  I don’t really think this counts as playoff history, but it’s more fun to think this rivalry goes back 90 years.  These two are, of course, division rivals, and have been every year since the Sens joined the league in 1993, so there’s definitely familiarity and animosity.  Perhaps this series will escalate their relationship into a rare new battle within the already tense Atlantic division’s northern teams?  I honestly don’t know.  Ottawa doesn’t seem like that pugnacious of a team (though they still employ Chris Neil for some reason), and Boston is in the middle of a transition, having missed the last two playoffs after winning the 2014 Presidents’ Trophy.

The Bruins are weird.  They’ve been middling under a bizarre new GM, they fired their veteran Cup-winning coach midseason, and, well, their recent underlying numbers are scary good.  Meanwhile, the Senators are grappling with a crippled defense core, though Erik Karlsson is likely to power his way through whatever injury he’s suffering.  Ottawa is an up and down streaky team, currently on the upswing.  That said, their negative goal differential sticks out like a sore thumb.  I don’t have any love for either of these teams as a Sabres fan, so it pains me to make this pick regardless.  My gut says Bruins in six.

 Record (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
OTT: 98 | 44 [38] - 28 - 6 - 4 |  -4
BOS: 95 | 44 [42] - 31 - 4 - 3 | +23

Record Since Trade Deadline (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
OTT: 26 | 11 [ 9] - 6 - 1 - 3 |  +1
BOS: 23 | 11 [11] - 7 - 0 - 1 | +14

Power Play%
OTT: 16.4%, 18th
BOS: 28.6%, T2nd

Penalty Kill%
OTT: 71.4%, 30th
BOS: 85.5%,  5th

 5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
OTT: 49.81%, 18th
BOS: 53.84%,  3rd

 PDO
OTT: 101.08,  8th
BOS:  99.51, 19th

 Notable Injuries
OTT: Marc Methot, Erik Karlsson
BOS: Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo

 Season Series
2016-11-24; BOS 1, OTT 3
2017-03-06; BOS 2, OTT 4
2017-03-21; OTT 3, BOS 2
2017-04-06; OTT 2, BOS 1 S/O
OTT: 4-0-0
BOS: 0-3-1

M1. Washington Capitals vs A4. Toronto Maple Leafs:  Let’s talk about Toronto and Washington.  Of the sixteen playoff teams, only these two haven’t met in the playoffs in their history, if you count the aforementioned ancient Boston and Ottawa series.  There’s no real narrative here.  The Capitals are the beast of the east, and have been in the upper echelon in the league for decade (excusing a minor blip in 2014), but for some reason cannot seem to get out of the second round in its current iteration.  Alexander Ovechkin has yet to even play for a Conference championship, let alone a Cup.  These Caps, though.  Something about them feels different.  They’re so good, I find it hard to believe their playoff mediocrity can continue.

For now, they’ve drawn the Toronto Maple Leafs, the lower seeded wildcard team crossing over from the Atlantic.  The Leafs finished in last place last year, and thanks to Lady Luck, won the right to draft Auston Matthews, a rookie superstar with professional experience in the Swiss National League A, who has already notched a 40-goal season.  Combined with the support of William Nylander and Mitch Marner, the Leafs have a formidable trio of rookie talent up front.  They’re going to be monsters for years to come.  They are an exceptionally young team; most of their non-veterans were on the Marlies just last year.  I don’t expect much from them in the playoffs.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re a good team.  I just think Toronto is just happy to be there again, having wildly exceeded expectations.  Washington is going to deliver a beatdown; one that will probably teach the kids exactly what they need to win down the road.  Capitals in five.  I expect this to be a relatively tame, but fast and skilled series.  It should be fun to watch, and the arena environments in both cities will be rocking.

You know, this is one of those times it would be amazing to have a color versus color match-up on the ice.  Red versus blue in buildings full of those colors in the stands is a sight to behold.

 Record (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
WSH: 118 | 55 [53] - 19 - 3 - 5 | +84
TOR:  95 | 40 [39] - 27 - 7 - 8 | +16

Record Since Trade Deadline (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
WSH: 27 | 13 [12] - 6 - 1 - 0 | +6
TOR: 26 | 12 [12] - 6 - 1 - 1 | +6

Power Play%
WSH: 25.8%, 7th
TOR: 26.3%, 6th

Penalty Kill%
WSH: 82.8%, 13th
TOR: 78.4%, 19th

 5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
WSH: 55.07%, 2nd
TOR: 51.15%, 9th

 PDO
WSH:  98.61, 22nd
TOR: 100.40, 16th

 Notable Injuries
WSH: John Carlson, Brett Connolly
TOR: Nikita Zaitsev, Roman Polak, Frederik Andersen

 Season Series
2016-11-26; WSH 2, TOR 4
2017-01-03; TOR 5, WSH 6 OT
2017-04-04; WSH 4, TOR 1
WSH: 2-1-0
TOR: 1-1-1

 

M2. Pittsburgh Penguins vs M3. Columbus Blue Jackets: Awwwwww yes!  This is easily my favorite up-and-coming rivalry, and luckily for the world, this is a revenge meeting for the Penguins’ dispatching of the Blue Jackets back in 2014.  In the middle of the season, the Jackets were lighting the league on fire with their win streak, while the Penguins were flying high after winning the Cup last year.  The Blue Jackets are a tough team to evaluate.  This year feels abnormal, given their basement finish last year, as well as their record of mediocrity since their inception.  However, this is far and away their best season as a franchise and it’s hard not to think they’ve finally arrived.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh is as good as ever, and are in a decent position to repeat as champions — a feat still never accomplished in the cap era, though they were one of the two teams involved in the first repeat Final appearance.  I’m firmly on the Blue Jackets bandwagon.  I want them to finally win a round so badly, and to do it against the Pens would be satisfying (which is similar to the sentiment I had in 2014). It’s just… they’re the Penguins, man.  With Detroit out of the picture, they hold the longest playoff streak and have two Cups during that time.  It would be unwise to bet against them, even as my heart begs me to.  Penguins in seven.  Here’s hoping it goes the distance.  It’s a damn shame one of these two has to go home after one round, so let’s make it last.

 Record (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
PIT: 111 | 50 [46] - 21 - 6 - 5 | +49
CBJ: 108 | 50 [48] - 24 - 6 - 2 | +54

Record Since Trade Deadline (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
PIT: 27 | 12 [10] - 6 - 0 - 3 | +8
CBJ: 24 | 11 [11] - 8 - 1 - 1 | +3

Power Play%
PIT: 28.6%, T2nd
CBJ: 11.6%, 28th

Penalty Kill%
PIT: 77.8%, 21st
CBJ: 83.3%, 12th

 5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
PIT: 49.17%, 22nd
CBJ: 49.79%, 19th

 PDO
PIT: 101.14,  7th
CBJ: 100.72, 12th

 Notable Injuries
PIT: Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Carl Hagelin, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz
CBJ: Ryan Murray, Zach Werenski

 Season Series
2016-12-22; PIT 1, CBJ 7
2017-02-03; CBJ 3, PIT 4 OT
2017-02-17; PIT 1, CBJ 2 OT
2017-04-04; CBJ 1, PIT 4
PIT: 2-1-1
CBJ: 2-1-1

C1. Chicago Blackhawks vs C4. Nashville Predators:  Well look at this.  The Central isn’t the maelstrom it was just a few years ago, but the Hawks somehow cannot seem to find the end of their ascendancy.  They’ve been in the playoffs since 2009, have won three Cups, and show absolutely no sign of slowing down, despite conventional wisdom saying that it’s been inevitable for some time.  And it sucks, because I don’t want to have to pick them to win all the time, but they’re always the favorite and for good reason.  They’re healthy, they still have their core, and they’re the freakin’ Chicago Blackhawks.

And in this corner, the Nashville Predators, who’ve turned themselves into a playoff team more often than not.  Unlike the Hawks, the Preds had high expectations coming into the season in the aftermath of the P.K. Subban trade.  After a stumble out of the gate, they cemented themselves into a playoff spot and, it was too close, but they stayed in the Central Division to match with the Hawks.  These two haven’t played too often in the playoffs, having met twice in the last seven years; when they do, the Hawks win the series and then they win the Cup.  So, uh, that’s not quite a trend yet.  Nashville is intriguing because they seem to love to move around promising assets in exchange for similar levels of talent, resulting in seemingly little gain or loss.  Shea Weber was the foundation of the franchise, yet Subban has filled in nicely in his stead.  I would like to see how the top performers of last year’s run do — looking at you Colin Wilson.  If they’re in the form they showed against the Sharks, they’re in good shape.  If not, well, it will end badly.  I’m going with the Blackhawks in five.  The Preds can’t repel firepower of this magnitude.

 Record (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
CHI: 109 | 50 [46] - 23 - 8 - 1 | +28
NSH:  94 | 41 [39] - 29 - 8 - 4 | +18

Record Since Trade Deadline (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
CHI: 26 | 11 [9] - 5 - 4 - 0 | -1
NSH: 21 |  9 [9] - 7 - 2 - 1 | +7

Power Play%
CHI: 15.1%, 21st
NSH: 12.7%, 25th

Penalty Kill%
CHI: 82.6%, 14th
NSH: 77.5%, 22nd

 5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
CHI: 49.86%, T16th
NSH: 51.68%,   6th

 PDO
CHI: 100.05, 18th
NSH: 101.72,  5th

 Notable Injuries
CHI: Michal Rozsival
NSH: Mike Fisher, Colin Wilson, Roman Josi

 Season Series
2016-10-14; CHI 2, NSH 3
2016-10-15; NSH 3, CHI 5
2016-12-29; CHI 3, NSH 2
2017-01-08; NSH 2, CHI 5
2017-03-04; CHI 5, NSH 3
CHI: 4-1-0
NSH: 1-4-0


C2. Minnesota Wild vs C3. St. Louis Blues:  For our second budding Central rivalrly, we have these two franchises.  They’ve been consistently overshadowed by the Blackhawks throughout the last few years, but recently there have been potential signs of a changing tide.  The Blues slayed the demon and advanced to the Western Conference Final last year.  This year, they fired their coach and, inexplicably, have been riding that to an incredible hot streak at season’s end.  A team some thought had a closed window has roared back into the playoff picture and, despite being a three-seed, I believe is the favorite here.  Back in 2015, the division champion Blues met the Wild and were upset in an unthinkable six-game series.  I have a hard time believing they will let this happen again.

In Minnesota, it’s been a roller coaster all season.  This team had a twelve game winning streak in December, broken only by the Columbus Blue Jackets, who were feeding a (longer) streak of their own.  But then they couldn’t win, allowing the Hawks to steal the division and set up a more difficult path for the Wild.  Bruce Boudreau is a fascinating playoff coach.  His tenure in Washington was marred by playoff disappointment; it went similarly in Anaheim, though he made it a bit farther.  Minnesota, somehow, has held by far the best possession numbers since February, and their percentages suggest there is still room for improvement.  That’s a nice thought, but it’s also the Wild.  I don’t expect anything from them, really.  They’re one of the few teams I would love to see get a Cup; it just doesn’t seems like they have “it.”  Basically, Rangers West.  Does that make sense?

I think St. Louis is rolling, and the only way for Minnesota to win is for the series to go fewer than seven.  Blues in six.

 Record (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
MIN: 106 | 49 [46] - 25 - 6 - 2 | +57
STL:  99 | 46 [44] - 29 - 5 - 2 | +17

Record Since Trade Deadline (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
MIN: 18 |  8 [ 8] - 11 - 2 - 0 |  -4
STL: 32 | 15 [14] -  3 - 1 - 1 | +23

Power Play%
MIN: 16.1%, 20th
STL: 18.9%, 15th

Penalty Kill%
MIN: 81.0%, 15th
STL: 87.7%,  3rd

 5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
MIN: 55.23%,  1st
STL: 50.80%, 10th

 PDO
MIN:  97.73, 25th
STL: 103.92,  2nd

 Notable Injuries
MIN: Jared Spurgeon
STL: Robby Fabbri, Paul Stastny

 Season Series
2016-10-13; MIN 2, STL 3
2016-11-26; MIN 3, STL 4 S/O
2016-12-11; STL 1, MIN 3
2017-01-26; STL 1, MIN 5
2017-03-07; STL 2, MIN 1
MIN: 2-2-1
STL: 3-2-0

 

P1. Anaheim Ducks vs P4. Calgary Flames:  Another first for the new playoff system: the Pacific Division has finally sent a wild card team, and thankfully, unlike what happened above, they remain in their rightful bracket.  However, thanks to the Ducks being complete spoilers, we’re left with a pair of semi-rivalries in the Pacific instead of two full blown wars.  It’s not the worst thing: Anaheim and Calgary met only two years ago in the Division Finals, with Anaheim winning in five.

Calgary has had incredibly bad luck against the Ducks.  Their last win at Honda Center was in the 2006 playoffs — when the arena was known as Arrowhead Pond and the Ducks were Mighty — and their regular season drought goes back to 2004.  So, basically, the Flames are facing an impossible task not having home ice in this series.

Anaheim this season won their fifth straight division title, albeit under a new (old) coach many expected to negatively affect their standing.  Funny that: Randy Carlyle is viewed as an old-school grit and truculence style coach, yet the possession numbers show the Ducks in the top 25% of the league.  With a sky-high PDO since the deadline, it’s possible they’re over-performing, so I expect only a round or two out of them before they normalize (and are eliminated).  The Flames are a speedy young team with streaky goaltending; they’ll pose a decent challenge to the stalwart Ducks, but I’m not sure they’re good enough to overcome the difference in skill and depth.  Ducks in six.  Bonus prediction: the Flames will win one game at Honda Center.

 Record (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
ANA: 105 | 46 [43] - 23 - 10 - 3 | +23
CGY:  94 | 45 [41] - 33 -  2 - 2 |  +3

Record Since Trade Deadline (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
ANA: 31 | 14 [13] - 2 - 2 - 1 | +22
CGY: 22 | 11 [10] - 7 - 0 - 0 | +10

Power Play%
ANA: 17.5%,  17th
CGY: 22.6%, T10th

Penalty Kill%
ANA: 83.9%, 9th
CGY: 88.5%, 1st

 5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
ANA: 51.37%,  7th
CGY: 50.37%, 14th

 PDO
ANA: 104.04, 1st
CGY: 101.48, 6th

 Notable Injuries
ANA: Hampus Lindholm, Cam Fowler
CGY: Chad Johnson

 Season Series
2016-11-06; CGY 1, ANA 4
2016-12-04; ANA 3, CGY 8
2016-12-29; ANA 3, CGY 1
2017-04-02; ANA 4, CGY 3
2017-04-04; CGY 1, ANA 3
ANA: 4-1-0
CGY: 1-4-0

 

P2. Edmonton Oilers vs P3. San Jose Sharks:  On the flipside of the split Battles of Alberta and California, we have this.  Like Anaheim and Calgary, these two have history dating back to 2006, where the underdog Oilers defeated the Sharks in the second round on their way to the Cup Final.  In fact, both of these teams’ most recent appearances in the playoffs were losing in the Cup Final!  Isn’t that mildly interesting?

Now here’s where I’m at: the Sharks recently have looked terrible.  They’re tired, banged up, and listless.  I may have to attribute this in part to the long season they played a year ago, but given teams like Chicago’s and Los Angeles’ recent winning ways, I’m not sure that’s the whole story.  In short, the Sharks should be better, but they’re not.

Meanwhile, the Oilers continue to impress.  It hurts watching the team who stole your lottery destiny succeed, especially when that team also employs Milan Lucic.  What doesn’t hurt is how fun the Oilers are.  Connor McDavid is amazing; his foot speed and stickhandling abilities are unmatched, and he’s only 20 years old.  I am supremely jealous.  With the defense looking decent-ish and the goaltending of Cam Talbot adding much needed stability on the backend, the Oilers may just go deep this year.  Assuming the Sharks haven’t suddenly traded for a bizarro-tandem of Andrew Ladd and Marc-Andre Bergeron

In the battle of San Jose and Edmonton, I think youth trumps age, and freshness beats fatigue.  Oilers in five.  I really want a Cup for Thornton and Marleau, but I have to say I wouldn’t be sad to see this “upset” happen.  The Sharks’ play of late has me super down on them, I guess.

 Record (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
EDM: 103 | 47 [43] - 26 - 4 - 5 | +36
SJS:  99 | 46 [44] - 29 - 6 - 1 | +19

Record Since Trade Deadline (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
EDM: 27 | 13 [13] -  4 - 0 - 1 | +21
SJS: 18 |  9 [ 9] - 11 - 0 - 0 |  -7

Power Play%
EDM: 27.1%,   4th
SJS: 14.3%, T22nd

Penalty Kill%
EDM: 85.4%,  6th
SJS: 78.2%, 20th

 5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
EDM: 49.86%, T16th
SJS: 51.20%,   8th

 PDO
EDM: 102.51,  3rd
SJS:  99.36, 20th

 Notable Injuries
EDM: None
SJS: Logan Couture, Joe Thornton

 Season Series
2016-12-23; EDM 2, SJS 3 OT
2017-01-10; SJS 5, EDM 3
2017-01-26; EDM 4, SJS 1
2017-03-30; SJS 2, EDM 3
2017-04-06; EDM 4, SJS 2
EDM: 3-1-1
SJS: 2-3-0

I like this first round.  A lot of fresh faces.  Lots of colors.  Edmonton recently changed their primary jersey to orange, which is different.  Speaking of Canadian teams, none of the five here play each other, so it’s possible we see five left standing among the final eight.  That would be something.  And, as usual, aside from the Sharks, my rooting interest lies with the teams who’ve never won before.  Any of them could win a Cup and I’d be okay with that.  Even Ottawa.  I know, weird.

Fun Facts & Frivolity Field
Cup Virgins:  7 — CBJ, MIN, NSH, OTT, SJS, STL, WSH
Cup Champions since 2006:  4 — ANA (’07), BOS (’11), CHI (’10, ’13, ’15), PIT (’09, ’16)
Longest Cup drought:  STL, TOR — 48 seasons
Returning teams:  9 — ANA, CHI, MIN, NSH, NYR, PIT, SJS, STL, WSH
Fresh blood:  7 — BOS, CBJ, CGY, EDM, MTL, OTT, TOR

Would you look at that.  I updated my logo blocks again.  They’re featured in more detail above and the whole catalog is available on my Colors page.  This time the change is less subtle, and adds much needed clarity and modernization, as well as tweaks that make the logos look more physical.  That, and all of the colors are completely 100% perfect.  I’m looking forward to next season when Adidas changes everyone’s jersey designs and I get to do it all over again.

Stanley Cup 2014, II: Worst. First Round. Ever.

 I  II  III  IV  V

My bracket is nearly worthless.  Woe is me.  I should have gone with my gut instead of thinking that the numbers meant anything.  Hockey is a strange beast, one that often defies the logic of mathematics or science.  Sure, when they say the team that has the puck more often is more likely to win, that sounds reasonable, but man, just look at Sunday‘s games, there’s no rhyme or reason.  Perhaps a blind coin toss would have been better than an “educated” guess.

nhl_bracket_2014_r2At least last year I had hope and apparently a decent amount of luck.  Now I’m stuck in 445,364th place (8% percentile) with little chance of moving up.  Verdammt!  Why did my Cup winner and hometown team not only have to lose in the first round, but be the 4th team ever to be reverse swept. 😡

Why you heff to be med?, indeed.  Frustrations aside, the hockey was really terrific.  Forget the negative hyperbolic title, the uncertainty, lack of safe leads, forced games, and all around terrific spectacle made for a memorable first round.  Hell, I’d go out on a limb and say, objectively, it was the actually best first round ever.  Let’s take a look:

Bruins vs. Red Wings:  I really hoped beyond all hope that the Red Wings would pull off the upset.  After Game 1, I was really really hoping that would continue.  However, it was not to be.  The juggernaut Bruins looked as such while the upstart Red Wings streak of skill and luck abruptly ended in a blazing four-game slaughter.  It’s a shame, my overwhelming dislike of the Bruins led me to pick against them out of principle, instead of doing what was clearly the smart thing to do.  Does that make me Ned Stark?

Lightning vs. Canadiens:  As for this, well, clearly I didn’t see that coming either.  I really should have, given the crucial injuries to the Lightning, who basically dressed the Syracuse Crunch for this series.  Game 1 was close, with a single defensive lapse being the difference; Game 4 was close too, ending in a desperate rally crushed by what I have to consider one of the worst penalty calls of the playoffs thus far.  The other two weren’t so tight.  Too bad.  My Atlantic Division bracket is dead.

Penguins vs. Blue JacketsHell of a series!  The deepest playoff run by Columbus in their history, where they won their first two playoff games ever.  Both in overtime.  Both after coming back from down at least 2 goals.  In fact, the first four games of the series were 4-3 decisions with the loser blowing a 3-1 lead, not to mention the near rally in Game 6 to make it 4-3 too!  Crazy.  The Jackets were never going to defeat Pittsburgh’s star power, but for a second the thought might have crossed my mind.  Forget the Penguins; everyone in the hockey world was rooting for #Lumbus this year.  What a great season they had, finally.  The best days are still ahead.

Rangers vs. Flyers:  There’s always a series I end up paying the least attention to.  I guess that’s what happens when you’re commuting during game time / watching the other simultaneous Eastern series instead.  I didn’t even see the fan brawl at the end of game six.  I heard Marty St. Louis was pretty good though. And Lundqvist too.  What’s he, like 5-1 in game sevens now?  Way to be, King Henrik.  Oh, right, I picked the Rangers to go to the Cup final.  At least that pick is going strong! Haha haha ha ha… oh I made myself sad.

Avalanche vs. Wild:  Alright I know I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but this series was ridiculous.  Late leads blown (what else is new), overtime heroics, controversial calls, etc.  The home team won every game, except seven of course, and even that was nearly a Colorado win.  Like I said, the advanced stats pointed toward the Avalanche’s demise, yet I couldn’t pick against them. It’s not like they helped pick my other series too… (facepalm).  Good for Minnesota though.  The acquisitions of Parise and Suter (as well as Moulson, Pomniville, their goalie carousel) are beginning to really pay off.  How good was Parise in game six?  Real good.  I might as well root for the Wild in round two.  I mean, I’ve got nothing else to lose.

Blues vs. Blackhawks:  For the Blues, this almost couldn’t have been more reminiscent of last year.  After Game 5, this comparison made the rounds.  Oof.  That hurts.  The Hawks would of course finish the series in six, but scoring 5 instead of 2.  Double oof.  Auf wiedersehen Sabres-west, you played okay, then fell apart.  Kinda like the Sabres!  Chicago, I really really didn’t like you after the Seabrook/Backes incident, but I suppose you’re not so bad as a whole.  What a fun series to watch this was.  Action-packed, slightly controversial, late comebacks, plentiful overtime. Really, the proto-typical divisional playoff matchup.  If only it could have been a Conference Final instead.  Hopefully this happens year after year after year.

Ducks vs. Stars:  I don’t understand how the Ducks won this series. Maybe the Stars collapsed into black holes, maybe the luck just went the Ducks’ way, I don’t know. Both teams clearly played their best hockey at home (in Dallas’ case in game six, their best 55 minutes…) There was a little bit of old Pacific rivalry residuals as well as new bad blood, especially with Corey Perry spearing nether regions and an injured captain’s wounds being targeted. I was clearly pulling for Dallas though. Like Columbus, they have some bright days ahead. As for the Ducks, well, a team from California is making the Western Conference Final, so that’s pretty good for my state of residence. Speaking of…..

Sharks vs. Kings:  In my prediction I wrote that this series would be “historically” awesome.  Well… it was absolutely historic.  Only if you’re a Kings fan, was it awesome.  As if the Sharks needed a bigger hill to climb in their struggle to shed the choker label.  I don’t even know what to say.  The Sharks were so dominant in Games 1-3; the Kings made taking Games 4-7 look easy.  When San Jose put up 13 goals in against Jonathan Quick in the first six periods, I thought the series was over.  I should have learned not to sleep on this Kings team.  Not after 2012, not after 2013, and not now.  Holy crap they’re good.  It’s almost not fair.  I bet we’ve got a repeat of last years Western Conference Final coming up.  I hope not, but what can you do with these almost-dynasties running around.

So many long series, such frustration.  Maybe it would be better if I didn’t make a bracket and just enjoyed the hockey.  Now that it’s shot, I can do as I damn well please in the later rounds.  Let’s roll the dice and draw a fresh hand from the deck:

Boston Bruins  Montreal Canadiens

A1. Boston Bruins vs A3. Montréal Canadiens:  Well, this will be fun.  I can only hope for a bloodbath.  This storied rivalry knows no lulls and there’s no chance this one goes quietly. Boston ran over Detroit, while Montréal ran over Tampa Bay.  The Habs have noted Bruins-killer Thomas Vanek, whilst the B’s have noted Canadien neck-breaker Zdeno Chara.  Whomever gets out of this series will be limping into the Conference Final.  The Bruins are the favorite, but my hatred for them has never been higher (except Iginla, he’s still cool). Canadiens in six.  And why not?  I’ve got nothing to lose at this point.  It’s a dumb move, yet there’s no way I’m picking the Bruins for anything. I hope they lose painfully.  For the next two weeks, I’ll be speaking French and wearing as much bleu, blanc et rouge as I can find.

Season Series:
2013-12-05; BOS 1, MON 2
2014-01-30; MON 4, BOS 1
2014-03-12; BOS 4, MON 1
2014-03-24; MON 2, BOS 1 S/O
BOS: 1-2-1 — MON: 3-1-0

Pittsburgh Penguins  New York Rangers

M1. Pittsburgh Penguins vs M2. New York Rangers:  With Columbus out of the picture, I once again care absolutely nothing for the Metropolitan Division.  I’ve got the Rangers going to the Cup Final and I stand by that pick.  Pittsburgh isn’t as good a team as their record suggests and if their stars continue to under-perform against a solid Rangers team, then it’s lights out.  Lundqvist had a terrific bounceback in game seven against the Flyers, and if he’s in the zone, good luck Penguins.  Rangers in seven.  I think this will be pretty evenly matched.  And once again, I think Fleury & Co are destined for a second round exit.

Season Series:
2013-11-06; PIT 1, NYR 5
2013-12-18; PIT 4, NYR 3 S/O
2014-01-03; NYR 2, PIT 5
2014-02-07; NYR 4, PIT 3 S/O
PIT: 2-1-1 — NYR: 2-1-1

Chicago Blackhawks  Minnesota Wild

C3. Chicago Blackhawks vs C4. Minnesota Wild:  Hey, who would have thought these two would meet again this year?  And in the second round?  Raise your hand.  I can wait.  Now, Minnesota clearly achieved something great in their franchise’s history by advancing for the first time since 2003, while Chicago is where they should be, where they’ve been almost every year since 2009.  As usual, I can only hope these new division rivals get heated and intense in their matchup.  Hopefully it will be a bit closer than it was last year.  Probably not.  Blackhawks in six.  Yeah, I gave the Wild another win this year, but that’ll be it.  If the Hawks do somehow find themselves on the losing side, well… that would be cool!  I love fresh faces in the final four and right now we’re looking at a strong possibility of the same four teams again this year. Blech.

Season Series:
2013-10-26; MIN 5, CHI 3
2013-10-28; CHI 5, MIN 1
2013-12-05; CHI 3, MIN 4
2014-01-23; CHI 1, MIN 2
2014-04-03; MIN 2, CHI 3 S/O
CHI: 2-0-3 — MIN: 3-1-1

Anaheim Ducks  Los Angeles Kings

P1. Anaheim Ducks vs P3. Los Angeles Kings:  Excuse me while I wipe the tears away to write this. …  For the first time in history (somehow), the Ducks and Kings will play each other in the playoffs.  Really, it’s never happened before.  Like the Sharks/Kings series, this one will be good. Maybe historically awesome!?  It can go one of two ways: 1) whomever wins is too beat up to reach the Cup Final or 2) whomever wins will cruise their way to another Stanley Cup.  I don’t see it shaking out any other way (which I guess would be to lose in the Cup Final).  The Ducks are here despite nearly reaching seven with Dallas and putting up typically bad possession numbers. The Kings became the fourth team to win a series after being down 0-3.  This is an easy pick, folks. Kings in five.  Then again, that season series might indicate another future.  Gah, I don’t even know what to think anymore.

Season Series:
2013-12-03; LAK 3, ANA 2 S/O
2014-01-23; LAK 1, ANA 2
2014-01-25; ANA 3, LAK 0 (Stadium Series)
2014-03-15; ANA 2, LAK 1
2014-04-12; ANA 4, LAK 3 S/O
ANA: 4-0-1 — LAK: 1-3-1

And finally, my homemade bracket with new pairings.  The lack of re-seeding makes life in the later rounds much easier and there’s something more aesthetically pleasing about the logos moving on in order instead of scrambling every round.  I might just continue to leave the seed numbers off too.  It’s not like they change at all.  We’ll see.

playoffs-2014-2Let’s keep it interesting.  All series to seven!  Blown leads!  Comebacks!  Line brawls!  The Bruins, Penguins, Blackhawks and Kings losing badly!  I want it all!

(and I want it in two weeks)