Wednesday, April 15, 2009

God does not play dice with the universe

But I’m afraid he/she sure does to a large extent with hockey. My favorite time of the year begins later today and below are some thoughts/predictions. I preface everything with the caveat that individual hockey games, and to a lesser extent individual series, are determined in no small part by the various manifestations of luck, ranging from injuries to bad calls to plain old the puck was bouncing all funny (there are some very complicated mathematical models out there which try to pinpoint just how much luck plays a role in hockey outcomes, and I won’t even link to them let alone try to engage in discussion; suffice it to say, it’s a crazy game). So with the understanding that any of these matchups could easily go the other way, this is how it should all play out.

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins (1) vs. Montreal Canadians (8) – the Bruins have basically rolled through the East from beginning to end of the season while the Canadians’ much ballyhooed centennial season had plenty if not everything go wrong – a multitude of injuries to key players, allegations of players partying too much, a star-player told to leave the team for a little while, a fired coach, and the reporting of a vague connection between certain player and local mafia elements. Nonetheless, this is as fierce a rivalry in the history of the sport and I expect it to be close. The Bruins, as dominant as they’ve been and as deep as they are, they’ve relied on a fair amount on smoke and mirrors as they’ve actually been outshot by their opponents at even-strength, though I guess Tim Thomas in net makes up for some of that. But they’re relatively healthy, and while Montreal still has some firepower up front – and Kovalev always raises his game in the playoffs – they’re missing Markov on the back end at least to start and just don’t have the dept up front or on D right now to handle the big, bad Bruins. The only bad part of the onset of the playoffs is that the regional telecasts will soon give way to Versus and NBC and we won't get to hear the maniacal laughing and blatant homering of Jack Edward much longer. Boston in 6.

Washington Capitals (2) vs. New York Rangers (7) – my current team against my most recent team. The Capitals dominated the Rangers this season – certain stretches of play were particularly lopsided – but NY is a different team now with a different coach and some important personnel additions. Lundqvist is probably the biggest threat as he can steal a game or two by himself, but all that said, I’m not all that worried. If the Caps play as they’ve had for the most of the season, this one shouldn’t be all that close. Washington in 5 (or 6).

New Jersey Devils (3) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (6) – Both teams have good even-strength shot differentials and are a bit mediocre on the PP (though NJ gets shots to the net on the PP but without converting those chances, as you’d probably expect given their limited skill). That said, Carolina has gone on an insane hot-streak towards the end of the year, one that I’m hesitant to attribute to the normal ups and downs of a season because it coincides with a coaching change and an important roster addition (Erik Cole). And plus, I really hate the Devils, the state of New Jersey, Devils’ fans, and the state of New Jersey’s fans. Carolina in 7.

Pittsburgh Penguins (4) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (5) – Each of these teams have the ability to go into a deep playoff run. I think Philadelphia is certainly deeper up front and on the back end and probably better overall, but the Penguins have played great under their new coach, and they have a pair of once-in-a-generation players in Malkin and Crosby on their team, and those are the dudes that usually have more to give in the playoffs. It’s probably a toss-up, but I’ll go with Philadelphia in 7.

Western Conference

San Jose Sharks (1) vs. Anaheim Ducks (8) – San Jose has been dominant all year, though they struggle a bit late. I actually think the Ducks could give them a bit of a tough time here as they’re physical and deep if not as spectacular as they once were on D. But they’re essentially a one line team and Todd McLellan is too good a coach to not figure out how to stop them. San Jose in 5.

Detroit Red Wings (2) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (7) – Detroit is the best team in hockey by far and if they had received in decent goaltending over the season they would have ran away with the President’s trophy. The Blue Jackets are actually a good team and they’re going to be even better next year. But it would take heroic effort s on the part of Steve Mason in net and some of the key younger, playoff-inexperienced players (Nash, Russell, Voracek, Brassard), as well as a monumental goaltending collapse at the other end, to pull off the upset. Red Wings in 5.

Vancouver Canucks (3) vs. St. Louis Blues (6) – phenomenal effort to the get into the playoffs by a Blues team that suffered some very severe injuries to important players early on in the season and were certainly written off, by me at least, a few months ago. They’re playing great hockey and they’re for real I think, but it’ll take a game or two for young players like Berglund, Oshie, Perron, Boyes, and Polak to adjust to the speed and intensity of the second season, and that’ll be too much ground to get back against a Vancouver team that is absolutely built for the playoffs. Vancouver in 6.

Chicago Black Hawks (4) vs. Calgary Flames (5) – youth and skill vs. experience and grit would be the general and non-nuanced narrative of an American sports channel’s TV producer trying to create a plot line for the series rather than let the beauty and drama of the games themselves play out. I’ll go with my head over my heart. Calgary in 7.


Renan said...

You had me right up until your irrational Jersey hatred. A pox on the Capitals!

rananda said...

I will say that you are probably the best thing to come out New Jersey since Bon Jovi.

And I should add that I made my playoff predictions w/o knowing that Robyn Regehr is injured for Calgary. Blackhawks in 6.

Sir Fantastic said...

The mathematical models on the randomness of hockey sounds interesting. I'd always found it strange how many upsets there are in hockey play-offs and never understood it. Even more so than other sports. I also watched some espn analysis on the games and those commentators are morons. "The capitals need to be aggressive and play their game today. They can't let the rangers dictate the momentum," etc. Anyways, just because I'm an a-hole I feel the need to say that I also read somewhere that Einstein was wrong with that quote of his. Apparently God does play dice with the universe.

rananda said...

Most of the commentators of any phenomenon aimed at mass-public consumption - sports, news, movies, etc. - are painfully moronic, but yes it does seem particularly bad in hockey. And yea, Einstein was wrong. Kinda. Heisenberg uncertainty is that you cannot simultaneously definitively measure a particle's velocity and position. This did not sit well with Einstein. Albert would have hated hockey, methinks. That was kind of the point with the title, though, the point being that randomness, or "puck luck," plays such a huge role in the outcome of a hockey game, that these predictions should be viewed in that context. Of course God is playing dice, this whole fucking thing is one big crappy craps game.

Odo said...

ah yes. cf. "not only does god play dice, but sometimes he throws them where he can't see them." the luck of the bounce is particularly exaggerated by "system" goaltenders who best beaten not by amazing moves and great shots, but rather by deflected, fluttering end-over-enders that climb the shaft of a stick and fall into the net. if the D keeps the puck from getting across to the other side of the ice, you might have a few inches of net available for intentional scoring. once again, fuck the system.

so I couldn't wait for you to come with your second round thoughts, as I'm watching hockey on tv for the first time in many years with these playoffs (couldn't get enough flames-blackhawks), but this 2nd round caps-pens thing brings me to Ovechkin, especially re: his knee-to-knee on Gonchar. now, I love the little bugger for his Pavel Bure-like joy in scoring etc., but his hitting style is hell of wack, all skates up, arms out, middle school muscleman trying to be a tough guy. this unsurprisingly results in KO'ing Gonchar in a play which inspires a vision of Brian Marchment leaning back in his overstuffed leather chair, taking a proud sip of his whiskey and nodding approval that the youngsters still remember how to play hockey the right way. FUCK THAT

ps. hockey worlds in Belarus? better not to play in that one, lest you end up in hockey prison camp playing against bears for the amusement of Glorious Leader Lukashenko.

rananda said...

the luck of the bounce is particularly exaggerated by "system" goaltenders who best beaten not by amazing moves and great shots, but rather by deflected, fluttering end-over-enders that climb the shaft of a stick and fall into the net. if the D keeps the puck from getting across to the other side of the ice, you might have a few inches of net available for intentional scoring.totally, i agree. ive been saying it for many years now, the goalies are simply too good. either the size of the pads must be reduced, or the net must be enlarged. not soccer net style, id say 4'x6' becomes 4'3''x6'5''.

regarding ov on gonchar, i dont think it rises close to the level of marchment, who would routinely stick out a knee to avoid missing completely and did some serious damage numerous times. but i agree,it wasnt good. ov basically plays the game on the edge of being in control of his body and not, he skates hard and fast and into people. and he looks to damage fools. gonchar tried to get out of the way and ended up taking it knee on knee as opposed to shoulder on head or shoulder on chest. i kind of agree though, fuck that, and ov probably needs to be suspended if as it appears gonchar is done for the playoffs.

yea hockey worlds in minsk in '14 i think. are we going? huge russia gold medal win yesterday, hopefully a post coming soon if i can get off my ass and do something around here. speaking of which, i did start writing a 2nd round prediction post, but couldnt be bothered and gave up 3/4 in. just no motivation to get all up in here lately, hopefully that will change. here are my picks anyway.

bos in 6 (i still think they'll come back actually).

wash in 7 (w/o gonchar youd think theyd still have a good chance but im not so sure).

det in 5 (would have happened if hiller had only stolen one game and not 2).

van in 6 (surprised that chi has had this much success. luongo has been good but not luongo-insane. should be a great game tonight).

Odo said...

what is up with this caps-pens thing. trying to recall the last thing that so exceeded the magnitude of hype at this level. just watching it makes you a better hockey player. played an adult league game saturday night after watching game 5 and finally got that shutout i've been chasing for a decade. but this shit is so strong that afterwards i had enough inspiration left in the tank from witnessing ov using the game of hockey to functionally illustrate the top of john wooden's pyramid of success (competitive greatness: performing your best when your best is required of you) that i went on to take sem pictures of silver on platinum and then mix records until 4am. leaving school early to watch today's game 6s was probably the best decision i'll make all week. 7-5? old time hockey? toe blake?

of course ov is no marchment, and while fortunate to dodge the suspension, he's making up for it with what looks like a conscious effort to not fly open towards contact as he'd been doing with annoying regularity before that. somehow it feels like game 7 shouldn't be able to live up to the first 6, that someone will eventually break one of these open (most likely the curse of hal gill), but i'd believe anything by now.

goalies are simply too good. true, but not the way you mean it. we exist on a higher plane. let the skaters evolve to meet us. the game looks pretty damn clean right now, far away from the neutral ice waterskiing, clutch and grab rodeo show of the 90s. that hawks-canucks game had mad wristers past earholes, which is the known way to beat big fools with flexy knees. you don't have to change the game, just elevate it.

rananda said...

yea, caps-pens has been some 'notha level shit. teams tied or separated by 1 goal 92% of the time. ridic. frankly i think the pens have outplayed them in the series, and i think a lot of that is because bylsma has been badly outcoaching boudrea. he gets every matchup he wants, home or away, he's made the bizarre decision to never use malkin on the point on the pp and it's been working, meanwhile boudrea continues to put laich, the only pp player they have who will go to the front of the net, on the 2nd unit, he keeps ov and green out there for the full two minutes despite getting little done, the caps pp is a mess. i dunno, im looking forward to the game tomorrow, i could see another ot. it'll come down to officiating and luck i imagine.

Odo said...

we know it takes money to pay the bylsma, and though i had an initial beef with his playing of satan, it's more than obvious that he was at least step ahead of whatever jerk's been hanging out behind washington's bench. that fool lived off varlamov not knowing any better and ov's competitive greatness, doing nothing noticeable outside playing those guys.

not the curse of hal gill but rather gonchar's revenge. perhaps sad that it wasn't a close game, but happy for the fact that justice prevailed. plus i get the satisfaction of having called it, even though i did so in hopes of being shown wrong. loser of the series is def semin; most memorable play from holmes was taking a dive.

if detroit doesn't beat the ducks, the last fool out of town better remember to light it on fire. i pray for pens-hawks and the loss of productivity that would entail.

rananda said...

aud-dro - i was gonna reply to this but instead just posted instead. so for that motivation, thank you. im in la may 28-jun1 let's discuss.