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My Finals Picks – Best Goalie, D-Man, Forward and Team

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Let’s get to it – here are my answers from yesterday’s poll questions:

Which goalie would you most like to have on your team in the Finals?

I’m 100% sold on Antti Niemi.

His situation in Chicago this year felt like one of those “let’s try and keep this kid down and give our other goalie every chance to be the starter so people don’t realize we’re paying the wrong guy” deals.  Just like Carey Price over Jaro Halak, and for awhile, Tim Thomas over Tukka Rask.  In the end, you want the best goalie in the net, and teams relent.

Just so solid.

I thought he was absolutely dynamite in the early games of the San Jose series, and he played great against Vancouver.  He’s not that awkward “how is he doing it?” style that I hate so much (*coughNabokovcough*).  He does it the right way.

In the game Philly lost to Montreal, Leighton let in a couple of those “oh god, is he gonna crumble?” goals, before regrouping nicely.  He’s had an exceptional year (for a guy who’s played around 30 games), and is certainly capable of succeeding.  For now though, he’s played in seven total playoff games, facing a Krejci/Sturm-less Bruins team and a fizzling, content-with-where-they-got Montreal offense.

Which Defenseman would you most like to have on your team in the Finals?

I hate this question because of the “in the Finals” part.

Just so annoying to play

I’d take Duncan Keith during the year, and probably even most of playoffs.  I’m completely torn on this one, but if I’m being honest, I think I’d prefer to have Chris Pronger.

My heart wouldn’t let me vote for him in the poll.  I picked Duncan Keith, thinking that Duncan creates offense from defense (uses quickness to intercept pucks, move them the other way) and creates defense from offense (makes such solid decisions his team often plays entire shifts in the offensive zone).

But I couldn’t lie to myself a second day in a row.  Pronger is impossible to play against.  He’s one of those guys that when you play him, your line is on the bench frustrated going “man, we just can’t seem to get anything going today.  Not getting the bounces”.

He uses his long stick like a scalpel to just hinder every f**king play you’re trying to make.  He gets his big body in the right spots, has a bomb from the point and moves the puck like guys a foot smaller than him. 

I hate him, but he’s one of the best.  I’d have to take Chris stupid Pronger.

Which forward would you most like to have on your team in the Finals?

This one inevitably boils down to the two leaders, Richards and Toews.

Just a staple of Flyers hockey.

My general thinking is this:  Toews is going to have a better career than Richards.  He’s 22 and already more of an offensive threat.  He steps up in big games, is crazy responsible for his talent-level (doesn’t have to be, but is), and is just an all-around star.

But Mike Richards wants this.  I’m sure Toews does too, but sometimes Richards’ passion scares the shit out of me.  He plays with a fire I never had.  I think he knows this may be one his last chances to compete for a Stanley Cup in a conference likely to be dominated by Washington and Pittsburgh for awhile.  After all, how often are both those teams going to get eliminated before Philly has to deal with one of them?

He has all the tools to succeed, and he’s in his prime.  Plus, I can’t help but remember that I’ve played Toews in college, and occasionally he gets his three points in such a quiet way that he’s rarely on your radar.  I felt comfortable enough to play my heart out, since I wasn’t looking over my shoulder for him.  I look over my shoulder for Mike Richards before typing (hey, that guy could be coming from any angle).

At the same time, if you read my column yesterday, Philly has that (negative) something that makes them just be so bad once in awhile, and a part of me can’t help but wonder if he’s the common thread.  Toews just smells like winning, so it’s a tough call.

I’ll stick with Richards for now, but ask me Sunday and I’ll probably change my mind.

What’s your Finals prediction?

Picking Chicago in six gets you no love.  It’s the safest thing on the planet, and a lose-lose.  The number of games, six, shows no balls, because you’re always “close”.  The team shows no balls because they’re the (significantly) higher seed.  And that’s why you see pundits go out on a limb, because they have the small chance to be “right” and the guy who “really saw things the right way”.

Just so few real teeth.

But at what point is picking like an idiot beneficial to your career?

Chicago is a little better at every position, which means they’re A LOT better team.

I can see Philly winning a game or two.  I mean, it’s the NHL, Edmonton can beat Washington and it’s not exactly the Detroit Lions beating the New Orleans Saints.  So I can’t pick that short of a series.

So I’ll give the Flyers their due (and play it safe) and go with Chicago in six.  Hey, it’s what I think is gonna happen, I can’t be blamed for that, can I?

Happy Thursday folks.  See ya back here tomorrow!

*****

 

Comments

21 Responses to “My Finals Picks – Best Goalie, D-Man, Forward and Team”
  1. Four to Five says:

    I think your next poll should be whether the Flyers will unleash their RABID HUNGRY PITBULLS on the Blackhawks or not.

    Toews is pretty much a lock for the Conn Smythe if the Hawks win, but I think the true MVP would be Bolland or Campbell. Bolland has shut out other teams top lines, and the Hawks kind of sucked while Campbell was injured, but once he came back, the Hawks have been good again.

  2. Pat says:

    “I look over my shoulder for Mike Richards before typing (hey, that guy could be coming from any angle).”

    Funniest line I’ve read in a while. Great work!

  3. mikeB says:

    I remember when this site wasn’t all about the polls.

    If Chi wins the Cup and Toews doesn’t win the Conn Smythe something has gone wrong in Gary Bettmans head.

    If Philly wins and Chris Pronger doesn’t add it to his trophy shelf something else has gone wrong. (Danny Briere has been the best flyer forward in the playoffs, NOT Mike Richards, Richards just has the one highlight from the MTL series to make him look superhuman)

  4. rouven says:

    yea, whaddabout a HUNGRY RABID PITBULLS blog entry? that’d make my day ^^

    still have to flip a coin … either flyers/pronger or hawks/toews.

    it’s far easier to predict the mvp than the winner of this series …

  5. Jordan says:

    mikeB,

    Assuming Philly wins the Cup, I agree that Pronger has been the best Flyers player to this point, although without adding a bunch of big goals in the SCF he won’t win the Conn Smythe. It’s just not how (historically) the trophy gets awarded. As for your thought that Briere has been better than Richards, I 100% disagree. Briere has scored some good goals (highlight reel worthy for sure), but he has also been invisible at times and visible in the wrong ways as often. In the series against Boston, he made several bad defensive plays that led to Bruins goals and took some very bad penalties (which he does from time to time).

    Richards may not be as flashy, but his efforts on both sides of the ice have been otherworldly in this playoff season. Don’t just look at the goal he scored against MTL…look at that entire shift, from the hit on itty bitty slap shot committee, to setting up Coburn, to back-checking, to outhustling everyone for that puck…then check out his play on the empty netter outworking everyone. And his great pass to set up Carter for the eventual game-winner as well. And realize he is doing this stuff every single night on every shift. The only Flyers forward that has played nearly as well for the entire playoffs is Giroux.

  6. ann says:

    I like the caption on the Keith pic…..

  7. mikeB says:

    I’ve watched lots of flyers games since I backed into picking them in a playoff pool (turns out going Chi-Philly was a good move). But marking 4GWG in one playoff is amazing. And by my research only 6 players have ever gotten more in one run (Joe Sakic & Joe Nieuwendyk 6, Mike Bossy Jarri Kurri, Bobby Smith & Mario Lemieux 5) all of whom played at least 19gm (except Mario who played 15). It wouldn’t be surprising to see him get at least one more which makes him fairly elite.

    As of right now he has 1 more point than Richards and 4GWGs more. He doesn’t kill penalties, and takes some stupid ones. But so does OV8. But right now he is the most dangerous and valuable forward in Philly.

    Mike Richards may be worth a lot more in the leadership department but Danny Briere is getting it done on the ice like no other fwd on that team, and no other FWD in the playoffs except Toews.

    I stand by my Briere pick

  8. Beckmann says:

    mikeB,
    Briere might be the most dangerous Flyer scoring goals right now (debatable) but he is HORRIBLE defensively. GIroux has one less goal, same assists, is plus 10 (briere plus 4), has taken a quarter of the penalties all while playing less minutes on the third line…..

  9. mikeB says:

    Two points

    1. Just a bit back on the skate blades thing from earlier which I found cool
    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/otl/news/story?id=5182060

    2. With Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter hurt Claude Giroux has been getting good minutes (First or second line). He has only averaged 21sec less a game than Briere, and gets almost 2 extra shifts a game (Brieres shifts are 4sec longer on avg). Briere only sees an extra 1/2 shift on the PP a game (23sec).
    - Four GWG in 15 games. Or 33% of the Flyers GWG in the playoffs. (Byfuglien also has 4, Toews has 3, Versteeg has 2 and everyone else left has 1 or fewer).

    I know I’m not going to win the fight, but Briere has the #’s.

  10. Beckmann says:

    mikeB,
    Good points. You’re a little off on your stats though…Richards had 7 GWG, Franzen 5 and Pisani 5 all in the last few years…..every year there is a crap load of guys that get 3-4 playoff GWG’s. Just saying!

  11. mikeB says:

    my stats were from 2004… before Richards got 7. My bad.

    Either was 3 is not unusual, but usually there is only 1 (maybe 2) guy (s) who gets more than 3, any more then that and you have had quite a good playoff run.

  12. Jordan says:

    Here’s the thing to me,

    Giroux and Richards are playing every facet of the game, which, as mikeB pointed out, is not the case with Briere who sees limited PK time. I’m fairly certain Richards is leading all Flyers forwards in ice time, and that’s a point in his favor…

    As for the GWG argument, I just don’t see that it is always so important. Let’s look at Briere’s 4 GWGs:

    vs. Montreal, game 2 – scores opening goal in a 3-0 win, 4 minutes into the first period on the PP. That it held up as the GWG is great and it was a nice play. But I don’t see it as getting anything added because Leights doesn’t give up a single goal that game.

    vs. Boston, game 6 – scores second goal in eventual 2-1 win, 16 minutes into the second period on the PP. Goal made it 2-0 Flyers (after Richards opened the scoring in the first). Leights gives up a late goal to Lucic that makes the Briere goal the game winner. Again, it was a nice play by Briere, but I don’t see it as anything added because Leights now gives up a late goal.

    vs. NJ, game 5 – scores opening goal in a 3-0 win, 3 minutes into the first period on the PP. I can’t even say I remember the goal, but again, it just holds up in a shutout for Boucher as the game winner.

    vs. NJ, game 4 – scores second goal in a 4-1 win, 17 minutes into the second period. This was Briere’s first of the playoffs and definitely got him going a bit. But it wasn’t anything dramatic or special.

    So 4 GWGs, yes…3 on the power play. 2 scored in the opening 5 minutes of games that were won in shutouts and 2 in the second period of games when the team gave up only 1 goal. Briere has had a great playoffs, but his best goal (in my opinion) was the one that tied game 7 against Boston. If anyone deserves props for game winners for the Flyers, it’s Gagne for scoring the OT game winner in game 4 against Boston and the game winner in game 7 against Boston with 7 or so minutes to go.

    Buff’s GWGs have been much more impressive to me…

  13. jtbourne says:

    Jordan – Damn, nice review of Briere GW’s. Not always the most telling stat. Buff’s are legit.

  14. Jordan says:

    It is really remarkable that I don’t get fired from my job for not getting work done ;)

    Anytime you are scoring goals late in the third and in OT, then they (probably) legitimately have a bit more value when determining something like playoffs MVP. If for no other reason than they leave those indelible images on your brain of the person scoring that particular goal. Without doing the same type of review, Buff had 1 OT winner against SJ, and another 2 late in the third period against SJ? I have no idea when his 4th came. But those 3 against SJ are pretty etched in our memories…

  15. Josh says:

    There is no way Chicago wins in 6, simply because if it gets to a game 6 in Philly, the Flyers crowd will not allow them to lose that game. If Chicago is going to win its either going to be 4, 5 or 7 games. I just don’t see any way they win a game in Philly where the Flyers have a chance to force game 7. You’re talking about pretty much the same Flyers crowd that in 87 basically propelled a team decimated by injuries to come back in the third period of game 6 against the Gretzky-Messier-Kurri-Low-Fuhr Oilers to force a game 7. I’ve been in a lot of arenas in my life, but I have never been in place as loud as the Spectrum that night, I honestly thought the building was going to fall down it was so loud. And if this series gets to a game 6, even with the Flyers being down 3-2, the Wachovia Center will be every bit as loud if not louder. In the end it may not matter, but I have no doubt the Flyers win that particular game.

  16. jtbourne says:

    Josh – got your comment on my phone, skimmed it at best. Home teams are around .500 at home in playoffs. No chance? Home ice is near irrelevant.

  17. Pat says:

    Awesome reviews, but the Conn Smythe is gonna go to the best player on the team that wins (save me the Ron Hextall comments). Toews for Chicago and Pronger for Philly.

  18. mikeB says:

    I know nobody else likes Briere for this (and he won’t win it, but is still a very legitimate candidate) but you can’t discount the fact that two of those GWG also came in the first 5min because the goalie, who everyone writes off as a valuable candidate for any sort of trophy ever, gets a shutout. Any shutout that Leighton or Boucher got were team a SO, neither one of them ‘stole’ a game. *I’ve never been a Mike Richards fan, I think that Jeff Carter is and always will be a better player and would have been a more valuable addition to the Olympic team*

    But that is great work on the breakdown, I got remarkably lazy once the stats got a bit harder to find.

    The difference between Buf and Briere (besides stature) is that Briere has been consistent and Buf didn’t do anything in the first round (when they def could have used him against Nashville, although he might have been playing D with Soupy hurt) and a bit.

  19. Char says:

    A fun little video for the Pronger haters:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5BYz8SUnmI

  20. fuzzynaveled says:

    I dunno, Justin…Toews has Trottier in his corner now. Hard to pick against that sort of support.

    http://www.suntimes.com/sports/2327880,CST-SPT-hawk28a.article

  21. Patrick Pryor says:

    It’s Sunday. Richards or Towes?

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