NHL Closer writer Greg Wyshynski previews the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals right up until they drop what is commonly referred to as "the puck."
No.1 Detroit Red Wings (54-21-7, 115 Points; Blew Game 5 and lost the conference finals to Anaheim) vs. No. 8 Nashville Predators (41-32-9, 91 Points; Shown the door by San Jose for the second-straight season)
The Red Wings are a bunch of softies? Look, don't make them participate in your stupid crap if you don't like the way they do it. You make them get out of bed, you make them come over here. You make them make a phony phone call to Edward Rooney. The man could squash their nuts into oblivion! And then ... and then ... and then you deliberately hurt their feelings.
The last person I'd expect to accuse the Detroit Red Wings of being a collection of Euro wussies — the kind whose photos Don Cherry uses as urinal cakes — would be affable announcer Mike "Doc" Emrick, the man who made "BIG DRIVE!" as much a established attribute of the NHL on American television as miniscule viewership. And yet here's what Emrick said in a preview of the Detroit/Nashville series:
Emrick said Europeans have "smashed a lot of the stereotypes (about being soft), but it still raises its ugly head when you talk about Detroit.
"Do they have enough character? Are they going to be stamped as the Euro skill players, and can Nashville intimidate them? And that's the story for this series," Emrik (sic) said. "In the regular season (these teams), played eight games with no fights. They'll probably have a couple in the first game."
The Chief at Abel To Yzerman would love to hear who, exactly, these Euro softies on the Red Wings are. But there's a morsel of truth to Doc's cultural thesis. It's the reason Detroit sold its soul and traded for Todd Bertuzzi last season. It's the reason Darren McCarty was invited to escape mothballs and join the living again this season. And it's the reason Chris Chelios will likely be playing for the Red Wings until the end of Jeb Bush's second term. They've got great skill, but someone needs to mind the store.
There's always going to be that lingering doubt about Detroit's mettle. It's a team that's lost in the first round as a prohibitive favorite as many times as its won the Stanley Cup since 1997. Is Nashville going to join the Arturs Irbe Club of Red Wings stunners? Eh, not bloody likely.
Key Match-Up for Detroit: The Defense vs. Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont. These guys led the Predators with 72 points apiece, and they're playoff gamers: Dumont with 20 points in his last 23 playoff games, and Arnott having won the fracking Stanley Cup with a goal in 2000. Take them out, and you've basically carved out the team's heart with a tablespoon and a rusty pair of pliers.
Key Match-Up for Nashville: Crashing the Net vs. Old Goalies. When the defense fails in front of Hasek, he's looked very human this season. Get behind those soft Euros (tm, Emrick) and make him look like a pinball in his own crease.
Worst Case Scenario for Detroit: They're not going to lose this series, so the worst case would be to lose even more players to a list of walking wounded that already includes Samuelsson and Maltby.
Worst Case Scenario for Nashville: David Legwand drives the team bus to Detroit.
Well, If You're Going To Twist My Arm: Red Wings in five. Nashville's gritty enough to snag a win, but this is Detroit in a walk.
Vital YouTubeage: From his days in Dallas, a little Aaron Downey trash talking:
No. 1 Montreal Canadiens (47-25-10, 104 Points; Uninvited to the postseason pants party) vs. No. 8 Boston Bruins (41-29-12, 94 Points; Also uninvited to the postseason pants party)
Oh, joy: A matchup of the most exciting team in the entire League against a team whose only hope is to smother the fun out of it, like putting a damp pillow over a clown's face.
(As a Devils fan, I think I just had a moment of self-revelation and would like, on behalf of my colleagues, to apologize for the last 15 years.)
To call the current incarnation of this Original Six rivalry lopsided would be an insult to Tara Reid's boob job. Montreal has flat-out owned the Bruins, having won the last 11 meetings between the teams. They're better statistically across the board: In goals for, power play, penalty killing, and actually only 0.01 off the goals-against pace against a Claude Julien team that preaches defense first, second, third and fifth. Outside of the inspirational kick of seeing Patrice Bergeron make it back from concussion-ville and the potential for Tim Thomas to steal a game in goal, a Habs' loss here would be absolutely bat-shit insane.
Key Match-Up for Montreal: Shattering Spirits vs. Glimmers of Hope. Drop Game 1 to the Bruins, and this could be a dramatically different series. If you have your jackboot on the back of Boston's head, you don't let it up to breathe - you stomp the curb, son.
Key Match-Up for Boston: Shaken Confidence Vs. Carey Roy Dryden. The Canadiens have placed their faith in rookie goalie Carey Price, and play stellar team defense in front of him. Boston has to plow through that defense, crush his newbie soul and get inside his head to win this series. Or else this is all Montreal and its fans are going to see during Round One (and thanks to Eyes on the Prize for the blasphemy):
Worst Case Scenario for Montreal: They win in six rather than five or four.
Worst Case Scenario for Boston: Carey Roy Dryden is so magical, the Habs find a way to win in three.
Well, If You're Going To Twist My Arm: Montreal in five. Boston should break the streak at home for a bit of a tease, but fall short. Warning: If Bergeron gives them a huge lift, if Thomas plays out of his skull and if Montreal's injuries ( like the one to Saku Koivu) prove to be too much, we might have to make a major flip-flop on this pick. And since the Bruins are from John Kerry country, I suppose that would only be apropos.
Vital YouTubeage: "We don't get a lot of French-Canadian cabbies, let alone French-Canadian goalies..."