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Best Case/Worst Case for VHL Playoffs [1/2]


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This is being posted early because I'm out of town for work starting tomorrow, and also because I wanted it up before the playoffs begin.


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Best Case/Worst Case for VHL Playoff Teams


The Season 58 playoffs are officially here, and they’re likely to be an interesting one. While the Wild Card game has been in effect in the VHLM for seasons now, the 4 vs. 5 game will bring an interesting element to a VHL league that was used to either 4 or 6 team playoffs for the previous 57 seasons. And especially for the top three seeds that now have a bye to the semifinals, this year’s playoffs seem particularly wide open, with Riga, Toronto and Seattle all within a couple points of one another in the final standings.


So I’m going to borrow an article conceit that I really like: the best case and worst case scenarios for each team. The point is, I’m going to shoot to make these scenarios as realistic as possible—of course, the best case scenario is sweeping the playoffs, and the worst case is getting swept. But if we’re being realistic, Riga probably isn’t getting swept by Helsinki or New York, while I’m not even sure every team can realistically win the championship this year.


With an eye towards realism then, here’s a look at what each team should strive for this offseason, and what would be considered an unmitigated disaster.


:rig: 1. Riga Reign


Best Case: Season 57 was no fluke no matter the finals opponent. Following up last season when he had 13 goals in the playoffs, John Locke once again goes on an offensive explosion to lead the Reign to their second straight title. Riga dispatches Helsinki in a straight sweep in the first round in a de facto European Conference championship, sending Astrid Moon to retirement with a pitiful .850 save percentage over series. Then, facing a Seattle team in a bit over their heads in the finals, Riga eliminates the Bears in 5 games. Locke finishes with 12 goals in 9 games this time, while Krigars finishes with 20 points in total. Finally playing up to his TPE, King has 2 shutouts in those 9 games as well. And with the entire gang coming back, Riga has a chance to shoot for the second threepeat in VHL history.


Worst Case: Maybe that offense really was a fluke. Locke and Krigars finally play less than otherworldly and look more like above-average forwards in a six game loss to the Americans in the first round. That regular season racking up stats against lesser goalies gets stuffed by Rhett Degrath, who posts an incredible 1.50 GAA in six games, including two shutouts. Seeing the team getting older and after getting bumped in the first round, Hedgehog decides it’s time to blow it up, and both Shankly and Krigars retire in turn. It’s a long rebuild before Riga has its next chance at glory.


:tor: 2. Toronto Legion


Best case: Who says defense doesn’t win championships? The trio of Sokolov, Pablo and Lane don’t let many shots on goal, and even when they do, a resurgent Ironside stops them as the Legion complete their rebuild with a championship. The Bears may have made the Legion sweat with an overtime win in Game 1, but the Legion proceeded to blow them out from there, allowing three goals in three games in a Game 2-4 stretch that put the series out of reach. A tough Riga side awaited the Legion from there, but Snatch wanted to go out on top, scoring 7 goals in the 6 game series to lead the Legion to victory. Ironside wins the Playoff MVP trophy with a 1.43 GAA and a .935 save percentage, and given the age of the team, people are talking threepeat again early.


Worst case: Ok, so maybe you do need some offense? The first line gets a few goals, but not enough as the second line of the Bears overwhelms Toronto with its depth and wins the series in five. The Ironside that had a save percentage in the .910s for much of the season is the one that shows up here, as Forsberg, McAllister and surprisingly Jokinen each take their turns scoring hat tricks in the series. Finn, Reinholdt and Do, meanwhile, combine for exactly one goal in the series. In the end, a rebuild that was supposed to start a new dynasty registers exactly zero finals appearances so far, and the future doesn’t look bright as Snatch retires and Ironside, Pablo and Reinholdt all begin to move into regression.


:sea: 3. Seattle Bears


Best case: The last time the Bears won the championship, it occurred because of a miracle run in Season 43 that couldn’t be duplicated. This time, it’s no fluke as the Bears win the title from the third seed. Although Toronto looked to be a bad matchup at the beginning, the double-headed monster of McAllister and Jokinen combined for 5 goals a piece as Seattle takes the series in six games. V2A shows up for this one as well and stifles the Toronto attack, leading to Seattle pressure, and when the Bears outshoot the Legion by an average of 10 shots a game, it’s too much to overcome. The Bears are also helped out a ton when Helsinki upsets the Reign in the other semifinal, allowing the Bears to overwhelm the Titans with their depth in the finals. The five game finals series is dominated by Fook Yu, who also wins Playoff MVP with 9 goals and 19 total points over the two series. It’s a championship a long time coming for Banackock, and the team is inspired to try and run it back next season.


Worst case: The Bears that seemed to fade down the stretch can’t seem to figure out its lines once again as Toronto sweeps the Bears in an absolute drubbing. Ironside wholly outduels V2A in a .933 to .867 save percentage disparity, which certainly isn’t helped by the Bears’ first line going absolutely cold most of the series (McAllister and Gretzky combine for only three goals in five games). Boeser emerges as a star with 10 goals in the playoffs as the Legion go on to win the championship, making it look like they’ll maintain the lead over the Bears over the next couple seasons as well. Seeing the writing on the wall, Yu asks out, followed by Quill, as the Bears’ activity begins to crumble.


:hel: 4. Helsinki Titans


Best case: How often have we seen one goaltender absolutely take over and lead a team to heights nobody expected? Well, Astrid Moon has done it before in his younger days, and in this, his swan song in the league, he does it again. The best goalie in these playoffs finishes with a ridiculous .941 save percentage as the Titans make their way through the Americans, Reign and Bears to an unexpected championship. The sweep of the Americans’ young team leads to a six game series win over Riga, where Schmeckeldorf comes alive with two separate OT winners as Moon keeps Helsinki in the game just long enough to eek out games. Then, facing an inexperienced Bears team in the finals, the Titans continue their roll to win in five, while Cornerstone finishes with seven goals in the series. Seeing the error of their ways, the commissioner team lets Boubabi not only back, but makes him GM of the Titans as they resign in shame.


Worst case: A team with one defenseman seems like a poor idea when facing a bunch of high-powered offenses, right? That certainly bears out as the Titans get swept by the Americans in the first round. Moon performs admirably, but there’s only so much you can do when the Americans are shooting 45 shots a game, and Chase Keller makes the series his coming out party. It’s a whimper to a Titans dynasty that once looked so strong, as Moon goes into retirement, followed by Cornerstone and Ay Ay Ron as forced by the administration. Boubabi comes back, only to post a diatribe talking about why Hitler was actually OK, placing a Vasteras-like stain on the franchise for seasons to come.


:nya-old: 5. New York Americans


Best case: The future is now. Even though they’re the youngest team in the playoffs, the Americans show that they’re for real by sweeping the Titans and upsetting the Reign before finally falling to the Toronto Legion in 6 games. The run is spurred by Rhett DeGrath, who showed who the true best goalie in the league is and why he may have been in the MVP race if he had played more games. Led by his .938 total save percentage, the Americans are able to score just enough in both series, as Chase Keller and Takashi Fujimoto get three game winning goals a piece. And although they ultimately fall to the Legion after being tied 2-2, the stage is set for another future dynasty as the front office feels emboldened to make big moves in the offseason.


Worst case: Well, maybe they’re another season away. Depth doesn’t mean a thing as the Titans’ stars Cornerstone and Schmeckeldorf show a firepower New York can’t match as the Titans sweep the Americans. The team that had trouble scoring with the top teams averages only 1.67 goals per game over the series, in part because of confusing lines that don’t attack the fact that Helsinki has no defense to speak of. The Bears go on to win the championship in a close series against Riga, and with the Reign, Legion and Bears expected to go for it all once again, the Americans aren’t sure they’ll find a place in the shuffle before DeGrath retires and their cadre of Season 57 players hit prime contract status.


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  • DollarAndADream changed the title to Best Case/Worst Case for VHL Playoffs [1/2]

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