Adidas & The NHL: 31 Thoughts

The long-awaited Adidas NHL jerseys are finally here, having been revealed today, and, well, it could have been worse.  Some of my wishes, the ones I wanted most, failed to come true, but a few actually did, in a way!  First, a little history

The Adidas jersey technology (called Adizero) was revealed last year before the World Cup, touting lightweight construction and liberally deploying nonsense buzzwords.  The World Cup of Hockey jerseys weren’t bad, but they also didn’t really look like NHL jerseys, given the general lack of waist striping, thick yet minimal arm striping, and only one traditional shoulder yoke, to say nothing of the added Adidas three-stripe motif.  Lots of stripe issues, apparently.

For all of the Adidas cut jerseys, the most glaring new change is the collar.  No longer does it rise above the shoulders and taper to a point at the base of the neck; instead it lays flat and is rounded, joining to the NHL crest from the sides.  I need to see it modeled on players in full gear and/or during play action to really make a judgment, but my first impression is I’m not sure that like it.  It feels less like a sweater and more like a shirt.  In a way it feels cheaper.  At least, and it was a touch-and-go for a while, they can support laces.

One more common thing to note: the logo crests and rear numbers generally appear quite a bit larger.  I’m going to say that this is for the better.  There are numerous tweaks to the fabric, crest construction, and stitching, but I won’t go into detail as that’s not really my area of expertise or interest.

So, here are my brief (mostly) thoughts on each of the new jerseys’ unique aspects.  For fun, I’m going to assign a letter grade to each, based on my expectations, how they could (potentially) be better, and how they took advantage of or missed a once-in-a-decade opportunity.  Alright, let’s go!

Anaheim Ducks:

In what will surely be the theme of the day, this looks basically like their old one.  I must say, unlike most rose-glassed millennials, I think I prefer their current logo and color scheme to the Disney mask and bizarre eggplant and jade scheme.  That said, this jersey still needs some work.  The lines along the lower arms and torso remain weird, and I’d rather they went with either the original Mighty Ducks’ striping style, or their (former) third jersey’s, but that’s neither here nor there.  These are merely adequate. (C)


Arizona Coyotes:

It wasn’t that long ago that the Coyotes debuted a shiny new jersey, so it’s little shock that they’re sticking with it, more or less.  It’s decent, though I still prefer their original Reebok Edge set without black. (B)


Boston Bruins:

Can’t mess with a classic, though I must say the shoulder yokes look a bit weird in the new cut. (A)


Buffalo Sabres:

Still using navy blue.  Still using front numbers.  Still using silver.  Sigh…  At least they got rid of the piping, finally.  The collar is no longer fully gold, with blue in front instead.  Huh.  I’m simultaneously let down and relieved.  An intermediate step, I’m hoping — progress, however little, is still progress.  Let’s see those Winter Classic uniforms ASAP!  (B)


Calgary Flames:

No retro promotion.  Sigh.  The continued use of black.  Ugh.  Flags on the shoulders?  Why??  They got rid of the piping but kept the side stripes.  That de-italicized their nameplates?  I don’t get it.  They’re better, but not much. (C)


Carolina Hurricanes:

Whoa!  Really did not expect this!  The Hurricanes have reintroduced black into their jerseys, thank the hockey gods, but more importantly, the storm flag stripe is back!  These are solid.  A cleaner, but not emptied retooling of their original jersey, it’s got history, distinction, and modern simplicity all in one.  Drastic rebrands aside, this is what the Hurricanes should have done in 2013, but it’s better late than never. (A)


Chicago Blackhawks:

As expected, nothing to see here.  Hard to improve upon what they’ve got, even if I think it’s massively overrated. (A)


Colorado Avalanche:

Ohhhhhh baby, I see mountains!  The Avs are back, and it’s only been ten years in the making.  Can you believe that the Colorado Avalanche have gone half of their team’s lifetime without this classic look?  It just feels so right that it’s been restored.  From absolute worst to near-best, Colorado is the winner of the Adidas redesign.  Perhaps their team will chart a similar course on the ice? (A)


Columbus Blue Jackets:

Disappointing insofar as it’s not the cannon jersey, but I’m glad it still looks pretty sharp.  The major changes appear to be that there’s no more white in the collar, and there’s a new (worse) nameplate typeface.  Otherwise, yeah, again I didn’t get my wish. (B)


Dallas Stars:

Not much to report, which is great because the Dallas Stars reinvention in 2013 was one of the best rebrands in NHL history, at least from a jersey perspective.  Stick with what works. (A)


Detroit Red Wings:

Again, nothing to really see here.  The simplest uniform set in the league stays that way, and we’re better off for it. (A)


Edmonton Oilers:

In April, I watched the Edmonton Oilers defeat the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center.  During warmups, I shot photos of the teams, and I have to say, the Oilers looked damn good in their road whites with royal blue shoulders.  After suffering the worst of Reebok’s 2007 transition, management made the wise (easy) decision to go with the original 80s jerseys full-time in 2011.  With the team finally resurgent this past year, it seemed to all be clicking into place. …And then they scrapped the blue homes for orange.  Not the worst decision, given the WHA history there, but still a little weird.  Alberta should be blue vs. red, but that’s not the main issue anymore.

For some reason, they’ve decided to replace the royal blue with navy in their color scheme.  Huh?  Navy simply does not go with orange.  The Islanders tried it in 2002 and, surprise surprise, decided to re-adopt their classic colors as soon as they were allowed.  But then there’s the new Oilers jersey itself.  What they’ve done here is kind of a shame; thankfully the recently leaked jersey wasn’t quite accurate and the collar isn’t completely hideous, but it’s still not great.  Those stripes, while faithful to the previous home/away set, don’t work with these colors — the blue looks black in contrast, and I’m worried about how the away jersey will look.  This is a definite step backwards.  Way to take a top-10 jersey and throw it right in the trash, Edmonton.  (D)


Florida Panthers:

Having just completely rebranded last year, the fact that there’s nothing new on these is warranted.  This is, in my opinion, the best the Florida Panthers have ever looked and it’s a relief they didn’t even go so far as to tweak anything. (A)


Los Angeles Kings:

No changes here.  I wish they’d bring back purple in some way, however these have become another modern classic jersey — two Cups in two years will do that to a look, even if it’s not the best. (B)


Minnesota Wild:

Finally, we’re back to green homes in Minnesota, and as a nice compromise, they’ve taken the script M from the old (beautiful) thirds and put it on the shoulders.  They’ve notably added a wheat-colored chest stripe, which is becoming somewhat of a trend thanks to the Panthers stealing from Montréal last year.  In addition, red remains an accent around the NHL crest, as well as in a stripe nestled inside the wheat arm stripes.  If the road jersey can finally match the home, the Wild will be one of the best dressed in the league.  I am very pleased with these. (A)


Montréal Canadiens:

Don’t. mess. with. perfection. (A)


Nashville Predators:

Huh.  While I’ll admit the old template (once shared with and worn more poorly by the St. Louis Blues) had its flaws, it added some necessary contrast.  This one seems rather dull and empty.  Thankfully, the piano keys and number strings remain, as well as the original typeface, but I am slightly underwhelmed.  It’s a bit curious that the blue at the waist and arms was pushed even further down.  I don’t know — that might be too much yellow.  On the other hand, it’s minimal and clean, which is a highly desired quality in a timeless jersey.  In retrospect, I might view these better.  For now, they get a (C)


New Jersey Devils:

Here’s a look at the new New Jersey jerseys.  New Jersey had their old jerseys for nearly thirty years; for the first time since 1992, New Jersey has new jerseys.  I wonder if they didn’t want new New Jersey jerseys because of obnoxious people like me talking about their new New Jersey jerseys like I’m doing here?  Or, maybe because the old New Jersey jerseys were such a timeless, modern classic, three-time Cup-winning uniform that it would be idiotic to change them?  Well, it’s not a radical departure, but it’s different enough to feel wrong.  The waist stripe is gone and the white on the arms is widened significantly, apparently to evoke the Colorado Rockies.  One curious addition: a green inner collar featuring the three Cup-winning seasons listed.  Was this necessary?  No.  I prefer New Jersey’s old jerseys to New Jersey’s new jerseys. (C)


New York Islanders:

Same classics as they were, except I’m going to rate them as if there were improvements because there’s no more black alternate. (A)


New York Rangers:

Like their cross-town rivals, the Rangers didn’t need to change anything.  The only difference is the red from the NHL crest is much wider due to the Adidas cut.  Looks weird, but there’s not much to do about it. (A)


Ottawa Senators:

Oy, Ottawa, what are you doing?  It wouldn’t have taken much to make this uniform infinitely better, yet you do so little anyway.  Somehow you’ve successfully converted one of the worst Reebok-era uniforms faithfully into Adidas form, albeit with a new number font.  Wow.  I don’t get it; a stunning new set would bring in so much money, and for a frugal owner, that would seem like a no-brainer, no?  Disappointed.  (D)


Philadelphia Flyers:

It doesn’t appear that the Flyers really did anything here, except perhaps thicken the white at the end of the sleeve.  Can’t complain, I think their look is fine. (B)


Pittsburgh Penguins:

One of only two teams not put out reveal teasers, probably because they’re busy doing other things at the moment.  Also, there’s nothing new anyway.   (A)


San Jose Sharks:

Look at that new Shark shoulder patch!  I’m very happy to see this, and it looks great.  Still rocking the minimal teal, I see.  That’s fine, I love the color and it doesn’t make my Pavelski jersey too obsolete.  I would have liked waist stripes, but what’re ya gonna do?  Can’t win ’em all.  (B)


St. Louis Blues:

The only major change here is a switch from yellow to white on the back numbers, which I think I like more.  In addition, there’s a new hanger effect inspired by the St. Louis city flag that is quite welcome.  Already one of the best jerseys in the league, it’s even a slight bit better now.  (A)


Tampa Bay Lightning:

The Toronto-south look lives on, unchanged.  It’s alright, I guess, though I think I’d prefer it if they went back to black.  (B)


Toronto Maple Leafs:

The other team not to put out teasers, it too makes sense as not a lot has changed from last year’s fresh redesign.  And why should they?  This is the look of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ future. (A)


Vancouver Canucks:

Come on Vancouver!  What are you (not) doing?  Your jersey is perfection except for the one thing I asked you to change.  We get it.  You play in Vancouver.  You don’t need to tell us with a wordmark.  (B, but it coulda been an A)


Washington Capitals:

I’m not sure about this one.  The Capitals have been rocking their look for a decade, and while it’s been symbolic of the franchise’s best (regular) seasons, as well as their consistently heartbreaking playoff runs, I’m not sure it really translates on this new template.  It feels…off.  Also, it should have been Weagle.  (C)


Winnipeg Jets:

Yep, looks the same.  I was never really a fan of the Jets look, yet it’s been six years now and that’s, well, how they look.  (B)


And last but not least, the newest member of the National Hockey League, from T-Mobile Arena on The Strip in Paradise, Nevada, playing in its first professional season, please… welcome… yoooouuuurrrrrr……

Vegas Golden Knights:

Not bad, eh?  As expected, there is red featured on the arms as an accent stripe, while gold plays a major role in the elbows and above a thick black hem line.  I would have liked more red, but alas.  Black also fills the arms up to the shoulders, similar to the Coyotes’ latest.  The shoulders feature the secondary logo, which looks damn good here.  Shame the aways don’t have a grey yoke, but those details in the gold are an interesting touch!  Really, not a bad start, Vegas. (B)


And that’s it.  Except the remaining 31 away jerseys will appear over the next few days sometime between now and the start of the season — many are already appearing out in the wild.

As for my overall impression of these, they’re decidedly above average.  My final grades are as follows:

  • A: BOS, CAR, CHI, COL, DAL, DET, FLA, MIN, MTL, NYI, NYR, PIT, STL, TOR
  • B: ARI, BUF, CBJ, LAK, PHI, SJS, TBL, VAN, VGK, WPG
  • C: ANA, CGY, NSH, NJD, WSH
  • D: EDM, OTT

The Oilers’ leak had me spooked, but they’re by-and-large decent.  I’ll get used to the collar change eventually, while most of the jerseys look so similar to their previous iterations there won’t be any adjustment needed at all.  However, the missed opportunities will surely continue to haunt.  Buffalo, Calgary, Ottawa, Washington, and Vancouver… try harder next time.  Minnesota, Carolina, and Colorado?  I appreciate what you’ve done.  Thank you.

Aural Impressions: Dispatch, America, Location 12

Dispatch is a band I’ve followed for a long time, all the way back to the summer after I graduated from elementary school.  In those years, I associate their music with some of the best times of my life, mainly during the carefree summers of yore.  From the folk-influenced styling of Silent Steeples, to the broader roots- and rock-tinged Bang Bang, the stripped-down jamming of Four-Day Trials, and the diversely electric hodgepodge of Who Are We Living For?, their many sounds are in some way synonymous with a youthful happiness.

They entered my life at a time when the world was full of limitless possibility; when my hometown transitioned from the entire universe to merely its gateway.  I associate Silent Steeples with not-too-far removed memories of Hawaii; Bang Bang with New England summer; Who Are We Living For? with late-summer storms before leaving for college; Brad’s solo album Watchfires with that same time’s sunsets; Pete’s album Untold with freshman year of college.  Part of what makes Dispatch so timeless to me is their long hiatus.  They disappeared from the studio for over ten years, appearing only in a smattering of live shows during the span between albums.  In that time, improbably, their popularity only seemed to soar.

They put out an album in 2012, Circles Around the Sun.  By then, I was just recovered from the worst of times, albeit still living everyday in a psychological hellscape for still months to come.  That album never grew on me.  It felt more like a collection of solo material from each of the three members (some of it was, in fact), and not even their best.  Dispatch fell off my radar again.  Five years later, they’ve returned.  America, Location 12 is their latest offering, is an absolute treat, bringing back the harmonies and melodies I loved so much.  They make extremely good use of acoustic guitars, but also add some new production elements — not too much to distract, just enough to enhance and freshen.  But enough talking about it; let’s dive in, shall we?

  1. Be Gone:  Interesting that an album titled “America…” would being with a Celtic-sounding flurry of guitars, both electric and acoustic, that gives way to a chant-like vocal accompanied by a plodding drum.  The main vocal line is sung by Chad with harmonies from the others buried a bit deeper in the back.  At times it feels almost State Radio-like.  There are keyboards and several tempo changes, abruptly shifting dynamics and a wide range of guitar effects, from clean, to distorted, to a very subtle tremolo in the bridge.  A riff in the early middle of the song changes into 5/4 for four bars out of nowhere.  There are a few false endings, with the last one leading to an extended instrumental outro of guitar effects, blasts of distortion, bass, sustained vocals from Brad, and a closing sound of fading reverb.  Such an outro is definitely a curious way to start.
  2. Only The Wild Ones:  A jangly, syncopated clean guitar forms the basis for the next song. It goes at an apparently arrhythmic 4/4 until the picking straightens up in the chorus.  It’s slow and warm until the percussion comes in, adding a deal of clarity to the rhythm, as well as some additional movement.  It continues to build and build, bringing in muted guitar, a broader range of percussion, and multi-layered vocals — again Chad is here on lead.  The background harmonies are done well, as usual, though it sounds like at times like it’s a multi-tracked Chad instead of the trio.  I like this song.  It gets bigger as it goes, but not too big; overall it’s pretty chill.  Reminds me somewhat of a more energetic combination between “Bang Bang” and “Bullet Holes.”
  3. Curse + Crush:  This one begins with aggressive minor key acoustic guitars and reverberating vocals with a steady, chugging drum beat.  It’s somewhat militant, pushing forward with the strumming driving the rhythm.  The chorus features low vocals, a perfect blend of all three voices.  Like the previous track, this one builds and expands its sonic palette with electrics and broader vocals, bursting into a nice major key chord progression.  All three shine through in the elevated chorus all the way to an abrupt conclusion.
  4. Painted Yellow Lines:  Woah does this song move.  The drums are straightforward and quick, the bass dances, and the guitars lightly nudge it along.  There are handclaps and tambourines, used sparingly, but effectively.  And then it stops as soon as it gets going into a contemplative, vocal-laden chorus.  This cycle goes on and off a few times during the first few minutes.  We flip between indie and classic rock, evoking an effective mixture of the sounds of the 70s and 00s.  As clean electric guitars enter, we’re really pushing along here.  It sounds very unlike Dispatch, yet it works.  At certain times, the the rhythm and melody recall The Beatles’ “Two of Us,” but overall it sounds much more lush and smooth.  Our fourth Chad song in a row, I’m hoping the others take the lead within the remaining seven songs.  “Painted Yellow Lines” is definitely one of the standouts of this album.  It really doesn’t hurt that the lyrics talk about going to the beach; naturally, it fits right in with my existing impression of the band.
  5. Skin the Rabbit:  Crunchy!  I haven’t heard a riff like this on a Dispatch record ever.  Reminds me somewhat of Collective Soul or Soundgarden at first listen.  Vocal duties here are split between Chad and Brad.  At this point I’m starting to think I don’t really know what Pete sounds like anymore.  But this song is quite good.  The vocals are relentless in their push forward during the chorus.  The bass bounces and slides.  The chord progression is suitably dark, given the subject matter.  The bridge is wide and spacey, and by the end I’m getting strong Who Are We Living For? vibes.  Solid song, perhaps my immediate favorite.
  6. Midnight Lorry:  Another folksy riff with multiple acoustic guitars and/or a banjo.  This is the kind of bluegrass influence I didn’t know I’d been missing.  The synergy of the dueling riffs is wonderful.  Chad’s vocals are half-sung, half-rapped during the verses.  There’s a lovely upbeat sung chorus with a slight reggae-rock feel, throwing us back to Bang Bang.  In the middle we’ve suddenly popped into an almost electronic ambient environment — for a hot second it sounded almost like Air or something like that.  The second half is even weirder.  Beyond a repeat of the chorus, there are electronic effects, a dulcimer, an ever-changing key, and rising vocals, leading to a sparkling texture inside a blending choral melody.  It reminds me a lot of The Beatles or Elliott Smith, especially each of their latter works.
  7. Begin Again: Fast picked guitar and a low-sung vocal immediately brings to mind Joshua Radin and his signature style.  In the second verse we get a lead vocal in the verse from Brad, though it’s later shared with Chad.  Pete’s vocals appear in the background, understated and deep; a role he seems to have settled into on this record.  This is a short, hopeful, upbeat song featuring a mandolin, whistling, and a crescendo of brass, which I don’t think we’ve heard since Bang Bang.
  8. Rice Water:  Sublime picked guitars and a solo ride cymbal progress in a twisting, dissonant way, again making me think of mid-career Elliott Smith.  Musically, this album is far less straight-forward than previous efforts by the band.  This song is understated, with occasional falsetto vocals, and injections of energy at the first choruses.  Near the half-way point it leaps into a full-on sprint.  After that, it’s a different song, with full instrumentation, catchy, upfront vocals and a stutter-stepping pre-chorus.  The latter half’s energy is contagious when coupled with the minor chords, while the suddenly slow and drawn out conclusion feels almost psychedelic.
  9. WindyLike:  Bagpipes and a meandering bassline under bright acoustic guitars feels so much like a solo Braddigan song.  And like a solo Braddigan song, this mostly likely my favorite of the album.  It’s catchy, upbeat, and simple, with flourishes to bring up the mood including a stop-and-go rhythm, a soaring chorus with only a slight effectively deployed touch of melancholy, and an exceptionally warm atmosphere.  This is the kind of song that’s been missing almost since all the way back in the day of Silent Steeples, and it might make the perfect sound for a sunny day.  It’s a shame it ends with a fadeout, because the diminishing sound is almost as intriguing a bridge as the rest of the song.  I’d love to hear this song live among a stadium of singing fans.
  10. Ghost Town:  Can I just remark at how good the acoustic guitar playing is on this album?  It doesn’t take the spotlight, it just adds so much to the foundation to these songs.  This song doesn’t differentiate itself a ton from the album’s overall feel, however the later choruses have several overlapping and poly-rhythmic vocal lines from Chad, Pete and Brad.  I love when they pull this off so much, I wish there’d been more of it on this album, though that alone will keep me coming back to this song.
  11. Atticus Cobain:   Sharp electrics and heavy drums make this one a slight throwback to Who Are We Living For?, though again it’s just a bit different.  The crisp strums evoke Gold Motel to me, but in the Dispatch-realm, the verse is definitely influenced by years of Chadwick Stokes material.  Soon, it erupts into a lively sing-a-long chorus more indicative of an album closer, one that takes great pleasure in doing nothing other than celebrating life.  Those later-chorus chords are especially scintillating.   It makes me think of a song like “Railway” that doesn’t take itself too seriously.  It’s riff heavy, uptempo, and over before you know it.

I really like this album.  Upon first listen I was a little disappointed in the lack of standout vocals from either Pete or Brad, the latter of whom has consistently fronted my favorite Dispatch songs, but upon close repeated listening, they’re all definitely there, with their harmonies and backups as tight as they’ve always been.  Unlike Circles Around The Sun, this album is more thematically and sonically cohesive, sounding like a proper Dispatch record as opposed to an album of solo B-sides as mentioned fore.  It’s mostly chill; no one song gets too large, yet they’re all superb quality.  The fact that it, most of the time, fits immediately into their early sound is comforting.  The completely unexpected moments, like the clean energy of “Painted Yellow Lines,” or the entire second half of “Midnight Lorry” serve to keep it fresh and interesting.  Discounting Circles, it feels like it’s been years since I’ve really heard what the band can do when they’re firing on all cylinders.  What more can I say, Dispatch is back.

Stanley Cup 2017, IV: Gold & Silver

I II III IV V

Here we are again: on the one hand, we’ve got a team well established as a winner, with 4 Cups to its name and a handful of proven international superstars on their side.  On the other, we’ve got a team that’s never been here before, has a roster (mostly) full of near-nobodies, and plays in a city the average person doesn’t associate with hockey.  This is how it’s been each year for kind of a while now.

Recently we’ve had Pittsburgh, Chicago, New York, and New Jersey in Finals against San Jose, Tampa, Los Angeles, and Los Angeles respectively.  Going back to the Canucks/Bruins series, only the Blackhawks/Bruins series doesn’t really fit this mold.  True the Lightning and Kings each have at least a Cup, but how many regular folks know that (or care for that matter?)

It would have been horrendous for ratings and league popularity to have the Ottawa Senators find a berth in the Stanley Cup Final.  It’s also what I wanted most, with Nashville clinching first.  A Final with two Cup virgins, each from small markets, each franchise born in the 90s, and each with a defensive superstar I’d love to see hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup.  Alas, it was not to be, and in their stead, we’ve got Goliath.  At least there’s a clear underdog here to root for, and root for them I shall.

Penguins vs Senators:  This was entirely expected.  In fact, along with the following series, I predicted this one on the nose.  The Penguins, beaten and bruised, haemorrhaging players all playoffs long, managed to use their intangibles and their star power to narrowly win the war of attrition that is fighting the Ottawa Senators and their stifling system.  It was a rollercoaster of a series, with Ottawa and Pittsburgh exchanging wins before a complete and utterly devastating blowout put the Sens on the brink.  In true pesky Sens fashion, they suffocated their way to a Game Six comeback win, and, surprisingly, turned a boring first period of Game Seven into an all-time legendary game, answering the Pens goals with quick responses all the way to a marathon double-overtime finish.

I picked the Penguins to win, but my heart was screaming for the Senators.  Weird, I know.  I don’t hate this Senators team.  Both Buffalo and Ottawa are so far removed from 2006-07 that it doesn’t feel relevant anymore.  I like Erik Karlsson.  More than anything else, I wanted a new team to win, and I discovered that I’d be happy for the Senators if they pulled it off.  Now, much of that is satisfaction from an indirect blow to the Leafs, but hey, I like to have fun.  On the other hand, it’s probably best the Senators didn’t win.  The NHL is a copycat league, and boy, I don’t want to see this kind of hockey become the norm.  Not again.

Playoff Series
2017-05-13; OTT 2, PIT 1 OT
2017-05-15; OTT 0, PIT 1
2017-05-17; PIT 1, OTT 5
2017-05-19; PIT 3, OTT 2
2017-05-21; OTT 0, PIT 7
2017-05-23; PIT 1, OTT 2
2017-05-25; OTT 2, PIT 3 2OT
PIT defeats OTT: 4-3
Prediction: Penguins in 7 ✓✓

Ducks vs Predators:  We’re in a new era.  For a couple years around the lockout, the Anaheim Ducks more often than not faced the Detroit Red Wings in the playoffs.  Half of the time, they’d advance.  Now, they seem to run into the Nashville Predators every other year, but they never win.  In three meetings, the Preds have owned the Ducks 12 wins to 7.  That’s not to say this one was lopsided.  In fact, the team that scored first went on to lose 4 of 6 games.  This was an evenly matched, blow and parry type of series, with the counter being strong enough to overpower the initial attacker.  This was a feisty battle, which is expected with these Ducks, having usurped the role of the NHL’s bullies from a combination of Vancouver, Boston, and Philly.  The Predators were somewhat lucky to escape from this series with minimal injuries, though those they did suffer could be crippling; they’re missing their top 2 centers.

For Nashville though, it was their insane depth that carried them through Anaheim.  With an all-time great defensive line, albeit with Anaheim’s in 2nd right behind them, a host of young wingers (hello, Milwaukee Admirals) and the continued absolutely stellar play of Pekka Rinne, they simply outmatched the Ducks.  Any other team, perhaps, and the Stanley Cup is the Ducks to win.  With a shaky goaltending performance from Jonathan Bernier and the young John Gibson out with injury, it’s hard to imagine the Ducks having an answer to four lines of onslaught from the Preds, but weaker netminding has won Cups.  The Ducks, somehow, seem to have a wide open Stanley Cup window, despite an aging core and old-school coach.  They’re filled to the brim with young talent that, in a few years, might just give Southern California another Cup.

Playoff Series
2017-05-12; NSH 3, ANA 2 OT
2017-05-14; NSH 3, ANA 5
2017-05-16; ANA 1, NSH 2
2017-05-18; ANA 3, NSH 2 OT
2017-05-20; NSH 3, ANA 1
2017-05-22; ANA 3, NSH 6
NSH defeats ANA: 4-2
Prediction: Predators in 6 ✓✓

A newbie and a repeat appearance.  This should be good, no matter what happens.


Advanced stats herein are taken from March 1st through the end of the third round, with the rankings being among the two teams remaining.

 

C4. Nashville Predators vs M2. Pittsburgh Penguins:  This will be fun.  As I alluded to above, this is a real David vs. Goliath story.  The Pittsburgh Penguins are the defending Stanley Cup champions looking to become the first team to repeat since 1998.  They’re also making their third return trip to the Final in their history, which is weird — the Penguins only seem to make the Final in pairs of seasons.  The Nashville Predators are the first lowest-ranked seed to make the Stanley Cup Final, and are making the franchise’s first appearance as well, having previously never even played for a Conference Championship.

The thing about hockey is, though, that this is far more even of a match-up than it appears when comparing each franchise and their histories up to and including this past regular season.  The Predators have steamrolled their way to this point, losing just four games; the Penguins made easy work of their nearby interstate rivals, while getting into seven game slugfests with their next two opponents.  Looking at how banged up each team is, their deficiencies balance out:  Nashville has no center depth, while the Penguins are in shambles on the back end.  They’ve also deployed both of their goaltenders to decent results, as Matt Murray returned from a long injury from round one.

Meanwhile, in Nashville, Pekka Rinne has held fort for three rounds — we haven’t seen a sniff of Juuse Saros.  The Predators wingers are a deep collection of NHL vets and nobody rookies, whereas the Penguins are looking at promoted depth at this point.  To look at positions of strength, you see the Nashville blue line being dominant and as previously mentioned, in a class of its own.  In Pittsburgh, you’ve got the all-star one-two punch of Crosby and Malkin.  The Preds had done a great job of shutting down others’ offensive talents — Kane, Tarasenko, Getzlaf — but, I said the same of the Sharks last year.  The Penguins were just too quick to counter.  If Pekka Rinne stands on his head, the Penguins are toast.  If Crosby and Malkin play like, well, like they have been, then the Predators have a tough road ahead.  I like the Predators and I’m rooting for them.  The city deserves a Cup.  P.K. Subban deserves a Cup.  I want to see Mike Fisher (or proxy captain) hand it off to Pekka Rinne in full goalie gear.  I want a Cup champion wearing a color other than black or red.  I want a new team to win a Cup.  It’s about time.

That said, Penguins in six.  Yeah, they’re going to repeat.  I picked against them last year because of what my heart said; I won’t make that mistake again.

Power Play%
NSH: 13.7%
PIT: 26.8%

Penalty Kill%
NSH: 82.4%
PIT: 81.7%

5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
NSH: 52.10%
PIT: 46.71%

PDO
NSH: 102.27
PIT: 101.54

Notable Injuries
NSH: Kevin Fiala, Ryan Johansen, Mike Fisher
PIT: Kris Letang, Patric Hornqvist

Season Series
2016-10-22; PIT 1, NSH 5
2017-01-31; NSH 2, PIT 4
NSH: 1-1-0
PIT: 1-1-0

Nothin’ but gold, baby.  In about two weeks, we’ll see a team decked out in gold lift the ultimate silver prize, the Stanley Cup.  And, shortly after that, the NHL will welcome another gold team to the party — the Vegas Golden Knights.  This seems less than unintentional, now that I put it all out there…

Final Fun Facts & Frivolity Field
Cup Virgins:  1 — NSH, OTT
Cup Champions since 2006:  1 — PIT (’09, ’16)
Longer (or, only) Cup drought:  NSH — 17 seasons

Just like last year, our final two teams’ logos are facing each other in battle, though I think they look far more intense this time.  Here’s hoping for a different result than before.