Maybe our pre-season predictions weren’t perfect, but we’re hoping for more luck with these. If we picked our own teams to advance it’s because we feel they can. We know they will. Nothing else is acceptable, RIGHT?
Yet we remind ourselves, and you, these are the Stanley Cup Playoffs. No team is safe. Not even the #1 seed.
Pittsburgh (1) vs. NY Islanders (8)
Let’s be honest here – can anyone beat the Pens right now? It’ll be nigh impossible to stop the Pens on their quest for the Cup. We’re delighted that they Isles made the big show and excited that our favorite middle school science teacher, John Tavares, finally has the chance to show off his exceptional skill in the post-season. He could break out but this series is all Pens.
This is too tough a 1st round draw for the Isles. The Penguins drop players like kids drop crayons – they can still make a picture, but one color always seems to be missing. Now it’s: Avengers, ASSEMBLE. Expect Crosby to be unlike we’ve ever seen him. There is nothing he (and I) would like better than to take his injuries, time missed and all the shit-talk and shove it down every other team’s throat until they choke. Whew… I need to calm down. Is it Wednesday yet?
Montreal (2) vs. Ottawa (7)
Apparently, Erik Karlsson has Wolverine X-Men-like healing ability and boy are the Senators glad to have him back. His return to the lineup will no doubt lift the Senators’ game. He makes all around him better and that is what his team needs to challenge the Habs. So goes Carey Price, so go the Habs. He’ll need to be stellar this series for the Canadiens to advance.
Or alternatively: I don’t care about this series. If the East sees an upset I think this would be it.
Washington Capitals (3) vs. New York Rangers (6)
Good looks can only get you so far and Rangers are going to have their hands full with one of the NHL’s hottest teams. Caps’ PP is en fuego and Ovechkin has poured it on in the last few weeks (14 goals in April!). But the Rangers have Lundqvist and a solid defensive corps. Look for the McDonough/Ovechkin match up alot this series. I’m glad that our friendship is strong and based on more than just hockey because this series will put it to the test.
I believe in the Caps. Hell, I even believe in Ovi for the last two months. He is right now the unstoppable, force-of-nature player of years past. Like then, he brings Nicky and Mikey right up with him. Add in scrappy players who rise to playoff occasion – Chimera, Hendricks, Beagle, Ward – and it’s talent on top off tenacity. I
think feel hope know it’s going to happen. The red is ready to rock.
Boston Bruins (4) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (5)
Original Six Match-Up! Bring it on! Bruins won the season series 3-1, but have slumped in the last dozen games. Leafs have been a better team than they have in the past – Kessel, Lupul, Van Riemsdyk, and the emergence of Kadri have lifted the Leafs to the #5 seed. If Bruins want to win this series, they need to play “their game” – physical, punishing, bear-like. Lucic, Horton, and Marchand need to step up. Tuukka has played well in the net and it’s his time to shine as the Bruins #1.
The Bruins are bigger and badder – and if they lose this series, it will be because they beat themselves. Nice to see the Leafs make the dance, though.
Chicago (1) vs. Minnesota (8)
Hop on board the Blackhawks Train! Choo Choo! This team has been on-point from Day 1 of the season and honestly, the Western Conference is theirs to lose. The Wild just squeaked into the #8 slot by winning their last regular season game. Suter has played well as of late after a rocky start in Minnesota and of course, there is Parise, but it is going to be hard to get past Crawford and Company.
Remember in 2010, when you felt like you were watching magic happen? That’s been going on since January, and it ain’t over yet. There is almost no one I’d rather watch in the playoffs than Jonathan Toews – he is the epitome of a competitor and a captain. That game-tying, short handed, under 2 minutes left goal to send Game 7 to OT vs Vancouver in the first round of 2011 still rips out my beating heart like we’re in the Temple of Doom.
Anaheim (2) vs. Detroit (7)
The Ducks are a team that have flown under the radar all season. (Flown. The Ducks. See what I did there?) Detroit has made the playoffs for the 22nd straight season. Ducks have a great goaltending tandem with Fasth and Hiller. Detroit has a phalanx of talented forwards. Series should be fun to watch but I think Anaheim comes out on top. I weep at the thought of no Zetterberg playoff beard. WEEP.
I don’t think the Ducks have been under the radar, just far away. They won all but 2 games in February, so right away they were good and loud about it. This is the Ducks team we should have seen last year, plus I miss Bruce Boudreau’s red, screaming face. And Teemu Selanne cannot actually play forever, despite appearances. Getcha some Haagen-Dazs for this one.
Vancouver (3) vs. San Jose (6)
If the Canucks are to have any chance on winning this series, Cory Schneider & Ryan Kesler need to be healthy. Sharks won season series 3-0, have a proven Stanley Cup goalie and a boat-load of forwards led by Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, and our favorite caveman, Brent Burns.
San Jose, the NHL’s streakiest team. Remember how hot they were to begin the season? If they can find the winning formula again, it’ll be the Conference Final before anyone knows what hit ‘em. Then the Sharks will choke, because that’s how they do in playoffs. At least they’ll have taken Vancouver out first.
St. Louis (4) vs. Los Angeles (5)
No way the defending Stanley Cup Champs are going down without a fight and I still think they’ll take the series, but if Backes steps up, this series could go either way. Sure, the Blues may have lost to the Kings 8 times in a row but like the Black Eyed Peas – I got a feeling. The Blues do have a shot. Both teams play a similar game but Blues’ goaltending has been slightly better, so you can see my dilemma.
The more I think about it, the more I like the Blues here. They’re pissed LA swept them out last season. They’ve won 12 of 15 in April, and 10 of those by 1 or 2 goals. That’s a lot of hard-scrabble 60 minute hockey, perfectly timed for this time of year.