Obviously a lot of very smart and handsome people predicted that the Penguins would face difficulty when faced with a real opponent who could consistently play defense and take advantage of a systemic problem with overly-aggressive defensemen in the offensive zone and a heavy-collapse defense which generally got figured out after the Canadiens used it to eliminate the Penguins in the second round of 2010.
I'm not sure anybody predicted they'd have four full games' worth of difficulty that led to their expulsion from the playoffs without ever having held a lead in the Conference Finals.
It should be a fun offseason in Pittsburgh.
Meanwhile, Chicago fans are already talking about they're going to match up against the Bruins. The only problem with that is the Hawks haven't gotten their fourth win yet. I think that's going to happen. Based on the first four games of the Western Conference Finals, Chicago certainly looks like the better team and now they've got two of three chances to finish off the Kings at home. LA hasn't been good on the road this postseason.
Puck drop is 8:00 tonight. This time we get the full NBC treatment, which is really the same thing as the NBCSN treatment, except more people get that channel.
ALSO, don't forget that game 1 of the Calder Cup Finals is tonight. This one takes place at 7ET. The Griffins face off against the Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay's AHL affiliate). Nyquist and Andersson helped the Griffins get past the Oklahoma City Barons in the Western Conference Finals and Danny DeKeyser is cleared to play in this series.
This is good, because the Griffins will need to be at the top of their game. Syracuse is essentially the same team that won 28 straight games last season (they were the Norfolk Admirals then, but Tampa Bay switched AHL affiliates during the offseason to Syracuse). The Crunch finished third in the East, but have lost only one game in the playoffs so far on their way to the finals.
Grand Rapids is led in scoring by Tomas Tatar, who has 16 points in 18 games during the playoffs and also by goalie Petr Mrazek who leads the AHL with four shutouts in the postseason.
Remember, you can watch the game steaming on AHL Live for free. You have to register with the code CALDER2013. I don't know what to think about how the stream quality is going to be, since I'm expecting that the strain on the system will be larger than it's faced, but here's to hoping.
As a note, jersey numbers for some of the guys you may be looking for will be different.
DeKeyser will wear #55
Nyquist has #13
Tatar is #27
Andersson is #18
Also of note:
#14 is Chad Billins, the undrafted mobile defenseman that has drawn comparisons to Brian Rafalski.
Brian Lashoff is in #32 playing like a veteran.
#10 Jeff Hoggan is the team captain. He's definitely a heart-and-soul kind of guy.
#19 is Riley Sheahan.
Teemu "Holy Slapper" Pulkkinen wears #26
You'll want to keep an eye out for #28. That's Tomas Jurco and when he gets going end-to-end, you should pay attention.