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April 14, 2010

NHL Playoffs - My Picks

I normally don't get into the prognostication game (and when I do, it's with the acknowledgment that I really suck at it and so it's all for fun), but I thought it would be cool to make my predictions for the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year. Why not take this opportunity to show how little I know about hockey, even after watching the game for years and years?

You don't have to answer that.

(Ok, that sounds like a lot, but it's really more like 11 years)

Anyway, here we go!

For my readers who are not hockey fans but yet, for some reason, are still reading this, the series are Best of Seven games

Western Conference

#1 San Jose vs #8 Colorado

The Sharks are perennial playoff chokers. While their top line is excellent in the regular season, the only place Joe Thornton (and, to a lesser extent, Marleau as well) shows up is on the back of a milk carton. Speaking of which, when was the last time a missing person was on a milk carton? Just how old is this joke? And how old am I to be using it?

Anyway, their goalie, Evgeni Nabokov, has also had problems in the playoffs after regular season success. Don't get me wrong. He's no Thornton or anything. He does a decent job of stopping the puck. He just hasn't been able to slam that door when it really mattered. Like when they had the lead. Or were trying to come back.

That being said, Colorado is a very young team, a surprising team that everybody thought would be cellar-dwellers this year. I think they took one look at the monster in the basement and said "Yikes! We're not going down there!" They are kids, you know. They did kind of back into the playoffs, though, not doing that well down the stretch (it's just that the Calgary Flames did worse, and as a Vancouver fan, let me get this out now: BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!).

Their goalie, Craig Anderson, has never been a true #1 goalie and I don't think he's ever played this much, so he could get worn down by the combination of fatigue and the pressure the playoffs bring. That, and getting pissed off every time Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly shortsheet his bed.

I think San Jose takes this series, but it will be a tough one.

Sharks in 6

#2 Chicago vs #7 Nashville

As a Vancouver Canucks fan, I have a bad taste in my mouth when I talk about the Blackhawks. It will be interesting to see what happens if the Canucks and Hawks meet up again this year in Round 2. Revenge will be sweet!

But first, they have to get past the Nashville Predators, who won't try and make it easy. The Hawks have a high-powered offense with some great young talent, but I don't know if they're going to be able to survive trading Ben Eager to the Wild this year. That just might have put them over the edge and into the abyss.

I kid, I kid. What will kill them, if anything does, is their goaltending. Last year, Nikolai Khabibulin managed to keep them in some games when their offense did falter. This year, they've got Antti Niemi and Cristobal Huet in net. Not quite the same thing. Still, the Hawks should be able to outscore Nashville, though Predator goalie Pekka Rinne might have something to say about that.

Basically, the only shot Nashville has in this one is if they distract Hawk phenom Patrick Kane by calling him a cab and then giving him bad change. That, or having the defenseman with a rocket-shot, Shea Weber, forego shooting at the goal and instead start shooting at Hawk players.

That might actually be fun to watch.

Hawks in 5

#3 Vancouver vs #6 Los Angeles

As a Canucks fan, you know I'm going to be picking the Canucks. Even if I wasn't one, I still think I'd be picking them. The combination of the Sedin line, plus the Ryan Kesler line, and goalie Roberto Luongo returning to form (PLEASEPLEASEPLEASEPLEASEPLEASEPLEASEPLEASEPLEASE) will make the Canucks a very tough team to play against. If worst comes to worst, Alex Burrows could skate by the LA team and say something nasty in French that would really piss them off.

LA's got a really good young team, but they're just that: young. However, they do have some veteran experience, including Ryan Smyth, that might guide them through the playoff butterflies. They've got a great offense, but I'm not sure how well it matches up with the Canucks.

Goaltending will be the issue with LA, though. Both of their goaltenders are young and unproven, and haven't been that good this year. Luongo should easily outduel Quick, as (for once) the Canucks have the offensive horses to actually take advantage of a suspect goalie.

Will the Kings Kids be able to stand up to the pressure of a Vancouver playoff crowd laughing at what's supposed to be a playoff beard?

I don't think so.

Canucks in 6

#4 Phoenix vs #5 Detroit

Phoenix is the big surprise this year. A team that everybody thought would be down in the dumps, with no attendance and being run by the NHL, a bunch of no-names on their team (other than Shane Doan, who is only a partial no-name) and a hot goalie. Some people have wondered whether the fact that the NHL actually owns the team right now might have made the referees be a little more favourable to the Coyotes. Personally, I don't buy that. It's not their fault that Stephane Auger has reffed most of their games. (I kid, I kid).

They've been successful due to some great goaltending from Ilya Bryzgalov and a stifling defensive game that coach Dave Tippett brought over from Dallas. It's a system that has put most of the empty seats in Glendale Arena to sleep, but it has brought them to their highest point total in a long time.

But can they stop the high-flying Red Wings, who are finally injury-free and tearing up the league during the last few weeks of the season? The Wings have suspect goaltending in Joey MacDonald and Chris Osgood, but Osgood seems to turn it on in the playoffs and MacDonald is pretty decent too. They're a fast team, too, especially now that Chris Chelios (a man older than some Northwestern Redwood trees) is gone. Niklas Lidstrom anchors their defense, and while he's getting up there too, he's still pretty good.

But I think the Coyotes steal this one.

Coyotes in 7

Eastern Conference

#1 Washington vs #8 Montreal

Washington ran away with the President's Trophy this year, marking the first time that a Washington team has had more points than all the rest of the teams combined. It helps when you're in the Southeastern Conference and your toughest opponent is the Tallahassee Jets from the Florida Peewee League. Alexander Ovechkin, widely considered the best player in the game when he's not suspended, is just a lot of fun to watch. He puts the puck in the net just a bit more often than Washington's goalies allow the puck to go into the net.

Which can create a problem. But not this time. Montreal's not bad, of course (they are a playoff team!). But they don't have the wheels to handle the Capitals' offensive juggernaut. The Canadiens might steal a game, but that's it.

Capitals in 5

#2 New Jersey vs #7 Philadelphia

The New Jersey Devils are another boring team to watch, as they quietly (and tediously) build up points every year with the magnificent goaltending from Martin Brodeur and just enough offense to get by. Isn't it fitting that the TSN playoff TV schedule starts with Game 1 of this series! Way to enter on a high note, there.

That's not to say the Devils aren't good. They just aren't fun.

Meanwhile, the Flyers are another team with a history of playoff collapses, mainly due to their goaltenders forgetting what they're supposed to be doing. You know, stop the puck? I know it's a difficult concept, but you'd think they'd eventually learn. The Flyers have some great offensive players, though the Devils might be able to stifle that.

Then again, they haven't been able to do it all year, with Philly taking the season series 5-1, or so I've heard. I have the same feeling about research that Philly management has about goalies. "Goalie? Who needs a goalie?"

I think Philly takes this one.

Flyers in 7

#3 Buffalo vs #6 Boston

This should be an interesting match-up. And when I say "interesting," I mean I'll probably be glued to the highlights. The Buffalo Sabres' goalie, Ryan Miller, backstopped the USA hockey team to an Olympic Silver, and he was excellent throughout the tournament. He's also been excellent all year, with many people suggesting he might steal the Hart Trophy (MVP) from our very own Henrik Sedin. And I don't mean that he'll literally rip it out of Sedin's hands up on stage, though that would be pretty cool. An awards show becomes a chase flick!

Anyway, I really don't know anything about these teams, so I can't really comment on their relative merits. Of course not knowing anything doesn't stop some writers from spouting off. I do know that Boston's got a good defense, that Buffalo's got a really hot young offensive star and a stud rookie defenseman.

But here's honesty for you. Any pick of mine is basically going to be a guess.

Sabres in 6

#4 Pittsburgh vs #5 Ottawa

This should be an interesting match-up. Sid the Kid leads a high-powered offense into the playoffs on the strength of a 5-point game in a quest for the scoring title. Good thing that he needed 8 points to pass Henrik Sedin. The Penguins are the defending Stanley Cup Champions from last year, but hit a rough patch this year due to injuries. They're still a phenomenal team, though. They could easily go all the way again, and wouldn't a Washington-Pittsburgh semi-final round be fun? A 7-game series of hatred between Crosby and Ovechkin? NBC is probably drooling at that match-up right now. Ok, they don't actually like hockey, so maybe "drooling" isn't the right word.

Oh yeah, Ottawa. Who are they again? Just some obscure Canadian team. (I'm channeling the NBC executives).

While Ottawa's a good team, I don't think they can keep up with a driven Penguins team firing on all cylinders. Especially with their weak goaltending. It's like the puck has a repulsor field on it when Ottawa goaltenders try and catch the puck. It just doesn't happen.

Pittsburgh in 5

Will I do this for Round 2 as well? We'll have to see what the response is to this one. And how successful I am. And how many women hockey fans send me gifts asking for another round. Pictures will help.

Send your pics to

And maybe I'll consider it. Unless I get them all right, in which case you will definitely hear about it.


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