Almost every playoff year, there have been some big upsets in the Stanley Cup playoffs. That trend has been especially true since the lockout ended and the salary cap era spread parity like a wildfire. The 2011 playoffs didn’t feature an eight seed making a deep playoff run (the lowest seeds to advance to the second round were fifth seeds Tampa Bay and Nashville), but there were still a couple upsets in hockey’s most prominent tournament.
The unpredictable nature of the playoffs is part of what makes it fun, but that unruly nature makes it tough to make accurate predictions. We’ve already taken a look at how PHT staff predictions and reader predictions compared to first and second round results, so let’s study how everyone did in the conference finals, shall we?
Eastern Conference finals
3. Boston Bruins vs. 5. Tampa Bay Lightning
Actual result: Bruins win series 4-3.
PHT readers pick: Bruins win series 4-2. (37.9 percent)
Joe’s pick: Bruins win series 4-3.
James’ pick: Bruins win series 4-2.
Western Conference finals
1. Vancouver Canucks vs. 2. San Jose Sharks
Actual result: Canucks win series 4-1.
PHT readers pick: Sharks win series 4-2. (29.7 percent)
Joe’s pick: Canucks win series 4-2.
James’ pick: Canucks win series 4-3.
First round records:
PHT readers: 5-3 (with two exactly correct)
Joe: 6-2 (with three exactly correct)
James: 8-0 (with two exactly correct)
Second round records
PHT readers: 1-3 (with one exactly correct)
Joe: 1-3 (with one exactly correct)
James: 2-2 (with none exactly correct)
Third round records
PHT readers: 1-1 (zero exactly correct)
Joe: 2-0 (with one exactly correct)
James: 2-0 (with none exactly correct)
PHT readers: 7-7 (with three exactly correct)
Joe: 9-5 (with five exactly correct)
James: 12-2 (with two exactly correct)
With the NBA finals matchup determined last night, much of the sports world will get the chance to witness some of the finest competition possible in sports in tonight’s hockey game. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins traveled bumpy roads to get to this point, but whoever wins tonight’s Game 7 gets to face the Vancouver Canucks juggernaut in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals.
Tampa Bay @ Boston (Versus) – 8 p.m. ET; Series tied at 3-3
The Lightning carried the play for much of this series and would not be denied during Game 6 at home. The Bruins have been surprisingly lax defensively during much of this series, often appearing flat-footed against a faster Tampa Bay team. The often superlative play of goalie Tim Thomas has been the ace up their sleeve during their three wins (and occasionally in defeat), though. He gives the Bruins an advantage over a suddenly shaky Dwayne Roloson, although Roloson’s 7-0 record in elimination games cannot be denied.
We’re hard-pressed to pick a favorite going into this one and so were PHT readers, as you can see from the Game 7 poll results.
The Bruins go into Game 7 as light favorites among readers, but they obviously didn’t run away with the poll results.
Do you want more material as you wait to find out which team will represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup finals? Here are all the game recaps:
If you want a little more depth, though, here are some of PHT’s best stories going into Game 7.
There’s so much buzz in the air about the Atlanta Thrashers and the possibility of whether or not they’ll move to Winnipeg and become part of the Western Conference. With that possibility in the air we asked you guys about who you’d like to see come to the Eastern Conference to replace them.
With the choices being between the Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, and Nashville Predators it was between the two eastern most teams in the Western Conference and a team that would blend in perfectly in the Southeast Division given their location in Tennessee. If nothing else, PHT readers are uniform in their approval of having things look appropriate when it comes to the divisional layout.
In an overwhelming vote with over 2,000 responses, 49% of you voted to have the Nashville Predators move to the Eastern Conference and fill the hole left by the Thrashers in the Southeast Division. There they’d form natural new rivalries with Carolina, Tampa Bay, and Florida as well as give the Washington Capitals fits six times a season.
One of the stranger twists is how the next most voted on team was Columbus. Either we’re not read by many Detroit fans or a lot of Red Wings fans are actually happier with their team being in the Western Conference. Our case for Columbus to go east was that it would give them a new lease on life as well as helping them generate loads of new rivalries with teams relatively nearby like Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Toronto.
Whether or not we’ll actually see any of this happen at all is still in the air. Atlanta Spirit Group and True North are still negotiating a potential sale agreement and there’s talk that if the team does move to Winnipeg they may play a lame duck year in the Southeast Division anyway because they might not be able to realign in time for next season. We’re sure everyone in the division would be really excited about making three long trips to Winnipeg next season. There’s still a lot to get figured out yet, but if realignment does happen this offseason, we’ll be very curious to see how it goes.