By Kevin Stone/@kstone06
Well, we wanted sports back, but none of us knew it would be this ugly.
After months of clamoring for the return of sports, we’ve got more than we can handle right now. The C’s are wrapping up their regular season and have looked good. But that’s about all that’s looked good thus far.
The Sox walked off on Sunday too, staying within striking distance of what would be a mind-blowing playoff berth despite a brutal start. The Patriots and Cam Newton are in training camp mode but we don’t know if there will be a season,
That means that the most important team to focus on right now is the Boston Bruins.
The Bruins – at least in March – had a legitimate shot at returning to the Cup. Now, after three “round-robin” games, there is plenty of doubt. The team looked sluggish, but there may be one big thing people are overlooking.
After last year’s ridiculously easy path to the Cup, it seemed like that would never happen again. However, with the way the brackets are now set, the B’s may just be lucky enough to have the seas part one more time.
Let’s take a look at their potential road back:
The sweep in last year’s Eastern Conference Final over Carolina means nothing now. The Hurricanes’ speed and offense could provide some real issues, meaning Tuukka may have to steal this series. The lack of offense from the “perfection” line is terrifying, especially in the postseason. But if this team can truly just “flip the switch,” then they’re obviously still much more talented than the Hurricanes.
I trust Bruce Cassidy to give this team a kick in the ass they need to not go home early, although I’m far less confident than I was weeks ago.
Prediction: Bruins in 6
Here’s where it gets fun. If somehow the Islanders can magically take out the Capitals in the first round then the easier road will be paved early. The Bruins are set to face the winner of the Islanders/Caps series unless Carolina has other plans.
Obviously, the Bruins will always have to worry about Holtby in net, and the offensive weaponry the Caps have is outrageous. Both power plays will be entraining as hell to watch, but if the B’s get to avoid the Caps for a second straight year on their way to the Cup then lets freakin go Islanders.
Tuukka’s numbers against the Islanders are pretty ridiculous and it goes without saying the pressure will be far less of a burden when the Islanders are at the other end of the rink instead of Ovechkin and the Caps.
Prediction: (If Washington) Caps in 7, (If New York) Bruins in 5
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
The same thing sort of applies here. If Montreal, Philadelphia, or Columbus can pick off the Tampa Bay Lightning before the Bruins see them then, as Seinfeld’s Kramer would say, “giddy-up.”
I’d be lying if I said the idea of playing Montreal in a playoff series still didn’t terrify me still. I know they aren’t very talented, but the Claude Julien/Carey Price combination can’t be ignored. Philly has been surprising all year, but I still think this Bruins defense can handle what Philly has. Goaltending should also favor Boston if they meet the Flyers as well.
Columbus is a little scary for me just because they’re such a heavy and physical team. You can never count out a Torts coached team as well. But this is all a long way from saying ANYONE but Tampa. Much like the Caps, I just don’t see how the Bruins keep up with the Lightning’s skill guys over a seven-game series.
Still, the way Philly, Montreal, and the Blue Jackets are playing right now, it wouldn’t shock me one bit to see the Bruins get lucky yet again and avoid Tampa during another Cup run.
Predictions: (If Tampa) Lightning in 6, (If Philly) Bruins in 6, (If Columbus) Bruins in 7.
I don’t think I could handle another matchup with St. Louis, but it’d be intriguing as hell. The West is pretty wide open and I think Chicago – even if they don’t belong – could still be dangerous.
A matchup against Seguin and the Stars would be fun, and another Vancouver series would be a wonderful excuse to take a trip down memory lane back to 2011.
Vegas will be entertaining too and a matchup with Colorado will be tough but winnable. Overall, the only matchups for a Cup Final that wouldn’t really move the needle would be against Arizona or Calgary.
The only team I would honestly “worry” about in a Cup rematch would be St. Louis. Chicago would be second on that list simply because of Kane and Toews.
Prediction: (If St. Louis) Blues in 7, (If anyone else in the West) Bruins in 6.
Back in March, no one would have cared who the Bruins saw on their way to another Cup. They were a runaway freight train. Now, there is quite a bit of pessimism and it’s understandable.
Ramping back up to the “best team in the league” level after four months off is no easy task. I don’t really believe in flipping the switch, but it’s also not every day you have this kind of veteran leadership.
I think the B’s will get lucky and avoid at least one of either Washington or Tampa. The path could line up for them again, and in a year where nothing has gone according to plan, it seems bound to happen.