by Kevin Moore
For the first time since 1945 the NHL conference finals features the past four Stanley Cup winners: Pittsburgh (2009), Chicago (2010), Boston (2011), and Los Angeles (2012). So for the most part you can throw experience out the window since all four teams have key players with clutch experience, at least at the scoring positions. If you look in net only one team currently boasts a starting goalie who was in net when they clinched the Cup – last year’s Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick, with apologies to Marc-Andre Fleury who is on the bench for the Penguins after a horrid first round. Regardless of who emerges out of this fearsome foursome it should be wildly entertaining as the Cup could go to any of the four teams.
The Western Conference Finals
Spurs versus Grizzlies. Just like we all predicted
For some inexplicable scheduling reason, the Spurs and Grizz will have played Game 2 before the Eastern Conference Finals begins, so I’ll start with this series first. Game 1 was played yesterday afternoon with the Spurs holding serve on their home-court through 48 minutes of basketball. The end result was not a surprise – home teams win roughly 70% of all opening games – but the manner in which this victory was fashioned certainly raised a few brows. The Spurs dismantled the vaunted Grizzlies’ defense using their well-balanced, unselfish offensive system to provide a steady stream of open looks. But the heart of Coach Pop’s high screen-and-roll, drive-and-kick system is water bug Point Guard Tony Parker. When he is healthy there is no better lead guard in the entire league (he easily could have been an MVP this season had he not been injured and had there not been that Lebron guy in South Beach), and right now he looks healthy. So yeah, there’s that. He was the best player on the floor and as the theory goes, the team with the best player usually wins the game. (Tony Parker = best player = Spurs victory. Even I can figure that one out). Tony Allen and Mike Conley simply could not contain Parker who had 20 points on 9-14 shooting to go along with 9 assists. Parker’s penetration led to a franchise record 14 3-pointers, which by the way was the most 3s the Grizzlies allowed all season, and more astoundingly, every single 3 was assisted (per ESPN.com). Furthermore, Zach Randolph was held to 1 field goal and looked lost throughout the game, and there is no way the Grizzlies can win when their identity (defense and post-game) is nowhere to be found. Statistics would call this game an aberration. I am inclined to believe it. So after Game 1, here are my keys to the series: Continue reading