The greatest time of the year has just arrived. For all you pucksters in the area, it is time for the best three months of the year, the Stanley Cup playoffs are here. And fortunately for all of you readers, I will help you win your office pool with not just one, but two Stanley Cup prediction formulas.
The first formula is based on an old saying that a lot of my friends have heard me say before. It is a goaltender’s world, and the rest of the players are just living in it. Hot goaltending wins the championship almost every year, so we are going to take a look on how the playoffs will play out. The tough thing about the National Hockey League playoffs is that they no longer keep the rounds in brackets. They actually re-seed the draw every round to keep the highest surviving seed against the lowest round to round, which plays havoc with the underdog. They have to keep on beating the strongest team if they want to keep going, but it doesn’t matter in formula number one, Picking by the goalie’s save percentage.
We will start in the Western Conference, where the Detroit Red Wings won the President’s Cup for the best point total in the league with 115 points. The NHL awards two points for a win and one for an overtime loss. They will be facing the No. 8 seed Nashville Predators. The Predators have Dan Ellis in the net, who pitched a .924 save percentage this year in the league. The Red Wings play Chris Osgood most of the time, and Osgood has a .914. Predators in seven.
For you local fair weather fans that just seem to have to cheer for all Minnesota teams, the Wild will probably lean on Niklas Backstrom, who has a .920 average, while the Colorado Avalanche’s Jose Theodore posted a .910 mark. Wild in six.
The Anaheim Ducks will throw Jean-Sebastien Giguere against the Dallas Stars and their backstop Marty Turco. Giguere’s percentage of .922 will shut down Turco’s .908, handing the Ducks the win in a four game sweep. And in the last matchup in the west, the San Jose Sharks will take on the Calgary Flames. To the dismay of a few of the guys I know coaching hockey at the Maysa Arena, Miikka Kiprusoff will be out done by Evgeni Nabokov of the Sharks, as Nabokov holds the save percentage advantage over Kiprusoff .910 to .906. Sharks in six games.
In the Eastern Conference, my Montreal Canadiens nabbed the number one seed with rookie Carey Price in the net after dealing Christobal Huet to the Washington Capitals. Price posted a .920 save percentage, putting him only .024 points behind league leader Ellis. Price’s foe will be Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins, and Thomas’s .921 edges out Price by one one-hundreth of a point. The Bruins in seven games even though the Canadiens won all eight of the meetings between the two teams this year. Because remember, it is a goalie’s world.
Yes the Pittsburgh Penguins have superstar Sidney Crosby on the squad, but the main thing they have is Marc-Andre Fleury between the pipes, and Fleury edged Ottawa net minder Martin Gerber .921 to .910. Penguins in five.
The matchup between the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils features veteran puck stopper Martin Brodeur of the Devils. Brodeur finished with a .920 this year, and that will be enough to edge New York’s Henrick Lundqvist’s .912 mark. Devils in five.
Last but not least is the battle between the Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers. The Capitals not only have the league leading scorer on their team, they also have Minot native Anthony Aspaas in their sales and marketing department. Aspaas, a former goaltender for Minot High School as well, will attest to my theory that the only position that is important outside of the marketing staff is the goalie. As a matter of fact, I can’t even remember the name of the guy on the team that led the league in scoring. It was on the tip of my tongue, but it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that Caps goalie Huet will outduel Martin Biron of the Flyers, as the Capitals will win it in five games.
On to the conference semi finals we go, as “THE FORMULA” will pit Nashville against San Jose in one of the western matchups, and Minnesota against Anaheim in the other. Under the save percentages already mentioned, Giguere outlasts Backstrom as the Ducks beat the Wild in five games, and Ellis and the Predators will be no match for Nabokov and the Sharks in the other semi, winning that matchup in five games as well.
The west will then be won by the Predators, as Ellis is too much for Giguere and the Ducks. The Predators will win in seven games over the defending champions.
In the east semis, it gets interesting as both Thomas of the Bruins and Fleury of the Penguins both have identical save percentages. So do we have to look at the other players on the teams to decide a winner? Heck no, all we need to do is go to the tie-breaker, the goals against average. And in that department, Fleury’s .233 beats the .244 posted by Thomas, so the Penguins will win in six.
In the other semi we have the same dilemma, with Huet of the Caps and Brodeur of the Devils deadlocked at .920. Bring on the tie-breaker again. Brodeur over Huet in goals against average wins that one for the Devils in six games.
The Eastern Conference will be won by the Penguins, as Fleury defeats Brodeur by .001 save percentage.
And when it comes time to hand out the Stanley Cup, the city of Nashville will rejoice, as Ellis shows why he is the 2008 season goalie leader, as he will shut down Fleury by three one hundredths of a point to defeat the Penguins in six games. Make sure that you print this and hang it up so you can follow these goalies through the playoffs.
I have been accused of writing “novels” by fellow writer Chris Bieri and the rest of our staff, so I will keep the second formula short and sweet. Formula two is simply how the “Greatest Hockey Mind” sees the playoffs playing out. That mind being mine of course according to my hockey radio broadcasting partner Rob Hall.
In the east, it will be Montreal over Boston, Pittsburgh over Ottawa, Washington over Philadelphia, and the New York Rangers over the New Jersey Devils.
In the Western Conference the winners will be the Detroit Red Wings, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche and Anaheim Ducks.
The semifinals in the East will be Montreal over the Rangers and Pittsburgh over Washington. Montreal will win the east over the Penguins. (For everyone chuckling right now because they know that I am a Habs fan, keep in mind that they were third overall this year, and led the league in scoring and have the No. 1 power play in the league.)
Detroit will oust Calgary in the west semis, while the Avalanche will take care of the Ducks. Detroit rolls over Colorado in the conference finals, but will lose to the Montreal Canadiens for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
And for the 25th time, the Cup will return home to Montreal.