You’ve seen our brilliant (and scientific!) prediction for the East (if you haven’t, get thee to Part 1), now on to the West!
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL:
Red Wings (1) vs. Ducks (2)
Goaltending: Dominik Hasek should have retired years ago, taking his glass groin with him; sure he can still play, and can still win, but frankly we tire of him and his dorky old-style helmet. He set the bar high for himself our first season when he pulled himself from a big playoff start, spent the game standing next to the coaches on the bench in street clothes, attacked a reporter after the game, and then had his teammates literally stand behind him in a press conference the next day. Unless he’s going to offer antics like that (minus the attacking Jim Kelly; he may have made some crazy comments about Marty Brodeur this post-season, but we don’t wish him harm), he should take his bad stick-handling and insatiable hunger for diving into retirement. J.S Giguere stole Marty’s Conn Smythe in 2003, despite Marty setting a post-season record for shut-outs. He won, presumably, because is a god. Or at least, more than a mere mortal. Or so says Gary Thorne (he once called a big stop by shouting, “I defy you to tell me he’s human!” Dear Gary, He’s Human. Signed, Pookie and Schnookie.) Also, based on attending a Ducks practice several years ago (long story), we can confidently report that St. Jiggy can’t skate to save his life. Dude needed someone to push him around the rink during skating drills. Advantage: Ducks. But it’s a close call. Marty really deserved that Conn Smythe.
Coaching: Mike Babcock is one of the coaches in the NHL we hate the most, and we actually even base this opinion on more than just “he seems like a jerk”. First of all, he helmed the Ducks in 2003 against the Devils, and by the end of that playoff year we were ready to throw a heavy object at the head of the next person who said the word “greasy”. Second of all, he allegedly told Mike Commodore that he was so bad he never should have been drafted, a comment that not only impugned our (once) very own Mikey C., but also impugned the draft record of the New Jersey Devils. Not cool. And third of all, he seems like a jerk. Randy Carlyle has not only done nothing to offend us, he’s done nothing to make us notice him at all. The only thing we can think of off-hand that he has working in his favor is that he’s not Mike Babcock. Advantage: Ducks.
Uniforms: The Red Wings sport one of the classiest uni’s in all of sports. The winged wheel is sublime. It’s just simple enough a kid can draw it on a sign and make it sort of recognizable, but just intricate enough you feel like care was taken when it was first designed. The colors are classic and show up beautifully on even the most murky television broadcast. The typography could stand to be a little less slender, but the unique detail of the double sleeve stripe on the white sweaters makes up for it. Meanwhile, the Ducks… oh boy, the Ducks. The new uniforms are a vast — VAST — improvement over the teal and eggplant disasters of years past, but they still have issues. By moving to black sweaters it seemed as if they had solved their biggest problem: the shade of purple used for their helmets didn’t match the shade used in their sweaters. However, by using a very strange orange — yellower than Flyer, less vibrant than Syracuse — the Ducks have made it so that the t-shirts and towels given out for orange-outs clash more than the helmets and sweaters ever did. The new Ducks logo is also surprisingly boring. It’s almost as if the only person in the world who finds the Avs’ shoulder patches charming was put in charge of picking a new icon to represent the franchise. Advantage: Wings.
Mascots: Well, this one is easy. Wild Wing, while not the traditional pot-bellied build of mascot that Schnookie favors, is at least an actual mascot. A mascot who rappels from the rafters, makes birthday party appearances (hint to gift-giving-minded readers: Schnookie’s birthday is right around the corner…), and, of course, sets himself on fire (you didn’t think that was going to go unmentioned, did you?). He has a mean face, though, which is a major detractor. The Wings probably think they’re too “classy” or “timeless” for a mascot, but you know what? Plenty of other Original Six franchises have mascots, and it hasn’t hurt them. Look at how well the Leafs, Bruins and Canadiens have been doing the last few — oh. Um. Yeah. Never mind. Anyway, almost as an insult to those of us who love mascots, the Wings have this dumb cartoony octopus that is like their unofficial mascot… seriously, could there be anything lamer than that? Either have a mascot or don’t; you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Advantage: Ducks.
Players We Love, In Spite Of Ourselves: Well, this will be a short list. Ryan Getzlaf. We’ve mentioned in previous posts that Getzlaf vaguely resembles Horatio Hornblower from the A&E miniseries. And that’s enough for us. Why, you ask, is it enough for one player to earn the highly-sought-after love of IPB by merely looking (from the right angle) like a nobody actor in a shockingly dorky old tv show, but other players receive nothing but scorn for being no better or worse than Getzlaf? All we can say is IPB works in mysterious ways. Every other player in this series doesn’t do anything for us. Advantage: Ducks.
Players Who Annoy The Living Crap Out Of Us: Pookie recently discovered the perfect way to describe the exhaustion we feel when hearing about or watching certain long-time NHL veterans; she suggested this type of player should be voted to “Old NHL Island”. You know the type: the Scott Mellanbys, the Derian Hatchers, the Jeremy Roenicks (or, actually, just about anyone in the Coyotes organization) — the guys you randomly stumble across while watching whatever’s airing on a quiet night of Center Ice that make you exclaim aloud, “Did they just say [so-and-so]? Didn’t they mean [so-and-so] Junior?” It’s not just a question of the player being old; it’s more an issue of them being obsolete, or just enough of an “Old NHL” remnant that it doesn’t seem we should have to be hearing about them anymore. And consequently, they should be gently taken out of the “New NHL” and plunked down in a comfortable, remote location known as “Old NHL Island”. That doesn’t mean they have to retire, per se . It just means they should go away. And you know what? There are zillions of these guys in this series. Anaheim has Sean O’Donnell, Scott Niedermayer (okay, maybe it’s not an “Old NHL Island” thing with him and is more of an “ex-Devil who took less money than Lou was offering to play with his best friend/sibling [and what kind of loser is best friends with their sibling?] and for that he is DEAD TO US” thing), Rob Niedermayer (he’d be “Old NHL Island” even without the “he is the offending best friend/sibling in the Niedermayer Free Agency Debacle), Brad May, Chris Pronger (also probably, when examined closely, not an “Old NHL Island” thing, but rather more of a “classless, overrated asswipe” thing), and Teemu Selanne. No, we can NOT get behind this “Win One For Teemu” crap. Please. Detroit, on the other hand, is practically an “Old NHL Island” team. (We are big enough to recognize that everyone outside of the modestly-sized Devils fanbase knows exactly what we mean with this because they feel the same way about our beloved boys.) We’re tired of hearing about the Red Wings every spring, and that problem has been exacerbated by the fact that NBC’s schedulers decided to make the nationally carried game into a Red Wings home broadcast of sorts. But more specifically, Chris Chelios, Dominik Hasek, Mathieu Schneider (we know, we know, he’s out for the rest of the playoffs), Kirk Maltby, Kris Draper and Chris Osgood (we know, we know…) all scream “Old NHL Island”. This one’s close; we actually dislike more of the Ducks players, but the Ducks narrowly edge out the Wings on the team factor. Advantage: Ducks
Playoff History Against New Jersey: Both teams have had the good grace to lose to the Devils in the Stanley Cup Final. The Ducks are the only one, though, to play the clinching game of their Cup Final series with us in the building. That said, the Red Wings have also had the good grace to beat the Flyers in the Stanley Cup Final. Advantage: Wings.
City Claims to Fame: Based on a trip to Anaheim, we wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Anaheim is to tile stores as DeLand, FL is to ferns. Aside from the minimally interesting fact that the Ducks’ practice facility was designed by popular architect/hockey fan Frank Gehry, there is, as far as we know, little of note to be said for this city. It does claim a fabulous city seal, which features an idyllic valley in the background with a foreground groaning under the weight of a sumptuous harvest of California-grown peaches. Detroit, meanwhile, was referred to by FDR in an Fireside Chat as the “Arsenal of Democracy”. It counts among its sister cities Torino, Nassau and Dubai. Its city flag appears to feature a seal showing two Grecian women standing in front of a burning city imposed over quadrants filled with stars, stripes, fleur de lys and lions. Wait, is that a burning city? The city features a raging inferno devouring buildings on its official flag? Sweet! Advantage: Wings.
And perhaps the most important ingredient for success: The Stafford Factor: Neither team has Drew Stafford in their line-up. Advantage: Sabres.
Conclusion: The Wings might be riding a “Red Wave” of momentum after vanquishing the Sharks so momentum-building-ly, but seriously, the Sharks were coached by Ron Wilson and captained by Joe Thornton. How hard could beating them be? But still, before crunching the numbers the brilliant hockey prognosticators in us suggested it would be unwise to bet against the Wings. But the Tale of the Tape never lies, and the Ducks came out of the calculations with a decisive 5-3 advantage. Ducks in 7.