The first round, which featured two game-seven’s on the same night, is finished with yours truly in pretty darn good standing compared to some of the “experts” from major websites (I missed only two picks out of eight). Let us go down the list so that I can both gloat and chide myself on my picks. I’ve inserted my predictions from last round to act as a reference, and in my next article I will follow with my picks for the next round.
-Detroit vs Nashville
Detroit is Detroit and we hate them because they are Detroit. Even still, they are good and should cut through a soft Nashville team like (insert any scary 2008 skate related injury joke here)
Red Wings in 5
As it turns out I picked the winner here, but Nashville gave the Wings all they could handle…and Thomas Vokoun doesn’t even play for the Predators anymore! This is good news for the Avs, as they needed the Preds to beat up the Wings a bit. The shocker from this matchup came in the form of a brewing Detroit goalie controversy. Oh for the love of a goalie battle that doesn’t involve Peter Budaj for once!
San Jose vs Calgary
With the wildly overdue for a title Joe Thornton at the helm, towards the end of the season SJ looked like the team to beat in the West. Calgary has some punch because their coach is an old insane guy named "Iron" Mike Keenan. Jarome Iginla, who is the captain of the Flames WILL get into at least one fight in what will be a tighter series than expected. Fun should be had by all. There will be balloons for the kids.
Sharks in 6
Unfortunately Iginla didn’t get into a fight, bummer. But Mike Keenan started plenty of trouble with Flames fans after he pulled Miikka Kiprusoff half way into game seven. Most Sharks fans, as it turned out, don’t have much confidence in their team, even though they finally woke up and put Calgary down in the end.
My secret wish that a crazed and shirtless Keenan would be taken down in a hail of FBI tranquilizers after the series also failed to materialize. Double bummer.
Colorado vs Minnesota
Okay...what if you took two teams that almost played the same and put a healthy Peter Forsberg on one of them? That is how close this series will be. Forsberg has scored 11 points in his last 4 games and is once again THE GUY in Colorado. Avs pull the upset in this one because they have a better offense.
Avs in 7
My how things changed in a week! The player of the series turned out to be the much-maligned Jose Theodore, who has been playing stellar hockey since January. If it wasn’t for the good work of Theo (his 3-2, 40 save victory in game 5 was the stuff of legends) I believe the Avs, who were out-skated all series by a younger, faster Minnesota squad, would have lost. Leaving the rest of Colorado to act like they actually enjoy watching the Rockies and the perpetually underachieving Nuggets. As always, thank God for hockey!
Side note here: should you ever land 5th row tickets to a playoff game, bear in mind that there will be people who will show up to the Can some time during the 2nd period in suits and gowns and make it their mission to glare at you every time you yell “Derrick Boogaard eats children!” Because really, there’s nothing quite like pricing most of the die hard fans out of the lower bowl, and then turning it into a country club where showing passion for your team is borderline illegal…and some folks wonder why I hate rich people…
Anaheim vs Dallas
Last year's champion, the former Mighty Ducks of Anaheim will try to beat down a solid divisional foe in this round. Dallas is slumping and the Ducks play defense. Simple as that. Look for Ducks goalie, J.S. Giguere to find a way to cheat and wear even bigger pads during the playoffs, as he really isn't very good.
Ducks in 6
Boy did I ever miss the boat on this pick! Fortunately the rest of hockey did as well. It turns out the Ducks used up all their street fighting tokens during their Cup run last year. This season their thuggery was finally deemed unacceptable, and Dallas was able to take advantage of an almost constant parade of Ducks to the penalty box. The only prediction I did get right from this matchup was that Anaheim goalie J.S. Giguere wasn’t very good. But that is more fact than theory.
Montreal vs Boston
Surprisingly these two teams did much better than expected this season. Boston was banged up since the first month and Montreal was mostly crappy. Yet both teams found quality play from unexpected sources and here we are, an Original Six matchup! Good times. Look for Montreal's strong second half play to continue in front of wunderkind goalie Carey Price and the resurgent Alex Kovalev.
Les Habitants in 5
This matchup ended up going the distance, as Boston discovered their will to win after they were on the edge of elimination, pushing the series to seven. This battle eventually led to a renewal of Montreal and Boston hostility, which poured onto the streets after games. In a classic display of angst-ridden Québécois virility a number of ornery Montreal youths overturned and burned police cars after the Habs secured game seven.
I’m supposed to write something here about how this is yet another sign of the fall of Western civilization, but really I was inspired by such a grand display of drunken and disorderly conduct after a FIRST ROUND contest. I’m not only a Habs bandwagon fan now; I’m almost demanding they win the Cup! If that were to happen I suspect the province of Quebec will burn throughout the summer, until the flames are doused by the snows of November.
Pittsburgh vs Ottawa
Ottawa, last season's Eastern Conference representative in the Cup final has been a mess since their back up goalie Ray emery flipped out and got their coach canned sometime around midseason. I would give you an exact date except I'm still laughing. Yet because the East is the weaker conference they have managed to hang in long enough that they should be soundly thrashed by the Pens in the first round.
Thanks for playing.
Penguins in 5
The Pens swept this series, and in a hilarious shift of loyalty many Senators fans are actually cheering for their team to be dismantled after the playoffs. I don’t even have a joke here. Some people in Ottawa are literally demanding that the team be disbanded! Can, um, the Avs have Dany Heatley if that happens? Please?
Washington vs Philadelphia
Alexander Ovechkin has been the best player in hockey this season, potting 65 goals, which is good. Yet aside from a couple other good up and coming players, and the addition of a starting goalie (Cristobal Huet) at the trade deadline in February they probably don't have a talent to win the conference.
Philly on the other hand is young, has star players (Daniel Briere, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter) and has no clue how to play defense...but they can beat people up! That's good...right?
This matchup gives me a headache.
Capitals in 6
The Capitals ended up losing to Philly in seven games despite the efforts of Ovechkin and up and comer Nicklas Backstrom. I’m kind of sad about this because we won’t get to see Alexander the Great will his team to more victories against disorganized clubs like Philly. I guess the only thing I can take from this is that there is still the potential for Philly defenseman Derian Hatcher to become the first hockey player to shed his boots during play and actually walk down the ice faster than he skates…dragging his mongoloid knuckles the whole way…I’m still not clear if he actually plays with a stick and he’s been playing for 15 years!
NY Rangers vs New Jersey
This is another rivalry matchup featuring some of the best players to ever play like Jaromir Jagr of the Rangers and Martin Brodeur of the Devils. The games will be intense and a few players may get their feelings hurt. Make sure your kids watch this matchup so they will know how to properly fight come high school. The Devils are slumping and the Rangers are heating up, so this will definitely be a close one.
Rangers in 7
Long story short: Pestilent Rangers moron Shawn Avery used to date actress Elisha Cuthbert, who is so bad at her profession that I couldn’t prevent myself from yelling at the television every time the first season of “24” came on. While she and Avery were dating, NHL.com actually decided to give her a blog on their website for a full season.
She made it four postings, and none of the posts was anywhere near readable, grammatically correct, or at all intelligent.
During this time it finally dawned on me that not only was America accepting idiocy as its modicum for success, citizens were demanding it!
Fast forward to troglodyte Shawn Avery against the Devils and his need to faceguard goalie and future Hall of Famer, Martin Brodeur. It was a tactic so classless and disrespectful that the NHL was forced to change its rules during the playoffs.
I’m not sure why Avery and Cuthbert aren’t dating anymore. They would have set a new standard for wealthy idiots everywhere, and possibly spawned a new generation of gas station register jockeys and adult film stars for all to behold.
The abstract lesson here is that no matter what, I hate the Rangers.