As Keith noted in the morning links, Nino Niederreiter's Portland Winterhawks are done, falling short in the WHL final. Which means Nino may have played his last junior game. A disappointing camp or unexpected Islanders forward depth is likely all that could change that. Closer to home, Casey Cizikas faces a Game 7 Sunday between his Mississauga club and Owen Sound for the OHL title, but the weird consolation is that no matter what, both teams will play in the Memorial Cup, which Mississauga hosts beginning Friday.
Far, far away, there has been a terrible mistake and the Czech Republic's unbeaten run in the IIHF World Championship ended in the semifinals. Sweden, their wrongful conquerors, face Finland (who beat Russia with that silly Sportscenter goal) in a grudge match gold medal final.
Eastern Final: Bruins vs. Lightning
Season Series: Bruins 3W, Lightning 1W (all regulation)
Playoff History: None
Ex-Islander Factor: Roli, Bergie, Nate, even MAB & Brewer (advantage: TBL)
SBN Party People: Stanley Cup of Chowder | Raw Charge
Ah well. The NHL resumes tonight. Leave your Bruins and Lightning (Islanders South) picks, rationales and rooting interests below.
Of note, Tim Thomas faced the Lightning in all three Bruins wins and put up sterling 1.67 and .950 numbers. On the flip side of that, the Bruins did not face Dwayne Roloson at all -- neither as an Islander or Lightning.
So the season series is an anachronistic curiosity, as neither Dan Ellis nor Mike Smith could be bothered to stop even 90% of Bruins shots.
Speaking of goalies though, the obvious story line we might get tired of by series end is the battle of the Old Goalies. Normally media narratives wear me out quickly, but that shouldn't happen with this one: I love both goalies, their contrasting demeanors in interviews are both entertaining (Thomas is more happy-go-lucky, Roloson is a bit terse or unimpressed with silly questions, but quick to crack a smile and sincere when someone asks something more probing than "So, how does it feel to win?")
The NHL would have better goaltending and a more entertaining product if it had more Thomases and Rolosons.
On the topic of entertaining interviews, both head coaches also qualify their, too. Guy Boucher is intense and scary, but lucid and insightful. Claude Julien looks like your jovial uncle, or maybe Uncle Fester, and his conservative defensive style can sometimes bore, but his thoughts on the game are usually interesting and honest. I don't look away when either is holding a press conference.
- NHL.com preview here.
- TSN there.
- Puck Daddy: Leahy's 10 Things to Know About... plus, their staff predictions and Justin Bourne on the rest both teams have between series.
- Even players (David Krejci) who are complimented by Pierre McGuire think he's a buffoon.
- SBN: Raw Charge previews the Bolts' angle. And here's some notes and Chowdah warming.
- Not only but also (OT but interesting): ex-ref Kerry Fraser attempts to explain the NHL's ambiguous world of what's a charge and what's a legal check. Good luck with that.
I trust you've stopped caring about my "picks" by now, because I certainly expected neither of these teams to be here. In the prior round, I had Flyers in six while the majority of those who voted (63%) correctly called the Bruins, most (33%) in six games.
With all that said I'll give it one more futile go. I figure it will be a close, long series. My leaning toward the Bruins is tempered by the huge loss of Patrice Bergeron, who -- if he misses the whole series -- might be enough to swing the result.
So I'll go with: Minus P. Bergeron, heart says Lightning in seven. So does the head.