As a setup…well, let me turn things over to my partner. They call Alabama the Crimson Tide, call him Deacon of American Literachoor, Michael “the Greek except without the racism” Berube:
I think the lessons of our first-round LGM NHL playoff predictions, 2015 edition, should be clear. I made four predictions about the Eastern Conference playoffs based on whim, desire, whimsy, anecdote, unexamined prejudice, whimsicalness, and a hurried review of the participants that didn’t even manage to describe the Tampa Bay lineup correctly.
Scott made four predictions about the Western Conference playoffs based on knowledge, observation, statistics, evidence, puck possession ratios divided by turnover multipliers, and actual information about actual players.
The results? I said Rangers in 5, and the Rangers won in 5.
I said Canadiens in 6. The Canadiens won in 6.
I said Capitals in 7. The Capitals won in 7.
And I said Lightning in 6. The Lightning won in 7. Seriously, you didn’t think they would lose three games at home?
Scott can tell you more about his appalling 1-for-4 performance (perhaps he just couldn’t believe that his Flames would send the Canucks packing?). The important thing, for me, is that my vastly underinformed predictions held up so well against the predictions of someone who is substantially more knowledgeable about the actual game and the actual players in this actual season.
And now, peoples, you know why 90 percent of sports commentators have their jobs. Ignorance and glibness– an unbeatable combination. Boo-yeah!
And for those of you who complained about the Steely Dan lyrics lacing our predictions: you can speak your mind, but not on my time. Next year, I will seed my hockey commentary with Billy Joel lyrics, and you will come crying, crying, I say, “come back, clever soulless Steely Dan lyrics, all is forgiven.”
Rangers over Caps in 6. Canadiens over Lightning in 7. Just because.
I will point out that I salvaged myself a .500 record with my Eastern Conference picks, but nonetheless quite terrible. We’ll see if we can do better:
Flames v. Ducks I should give due credit to Vox’s Brad Plumer, a Canucks fan who emailed me before the series to observe that “Willie Desjardins is a WHL coach who makes WHL decisions,” and the Flames had a big edge behind the bench. And this was indeed the x factor I missed. Desjardins was rightly criticized for not giving enough ice time to the Sedins, who just destroyed Calgary’s hobbled top line in the first game of the series, but the ice time he gave his awful bottom defensive pairing at the expense of his one very good and one decent pairings might have been even more destructive. (It was Sbesia and Bieksa who were on the ice in the interminable shift that led to the Russell goal and a stolen road win for Calgary in Game 1, which was ultimately decisive.) Hartley went for the jugular from the opening faceoff, while Desjardins spent the first half of the series going 1-2-3-4 1-2-3 like it was a game against Carolina in January, and combine with the emergence of Sam Bennett and the Irrelevant Micheal Ferkland it was enough to put the Flames over the top. Will it be enough against Anaheim? I can’t see it. Bourdreau’s not going to get taken to school like Desjardins, and the Ducks are both a better team than the Canucks and a much better matchup against Calgary. I still think Anaheim isn’t quite as good as their record and would like to have had a crack at them with Giordano in the lineup, but especially with this roster I see more of a Hobbesian state of nature series. I hope to receive another email from my mother criticizing me for my lack of faith after this round. DUCKS IN 5.
Rangers v. Capitals I don’t think either team bowls your over with their rosters, although certainly I think the Blueshirts have more talent than their mediocre possession numbers this year indicate. Given what is otherwise a fairly even matchup, I have to go with King Henrik. RANGERS IN 7.
Hawks v. Wild Hell of a series. Dubnyk did come to earth a little in the first round, although he was fine, but St. Louis’s goaltending was so bad it was beside the point. Nobody well ever mistake Darling or Crawford for Tony Esposito, but they are much less likely to just blow games outright, and I think will give the Hawks enough to get to the conference finals one more once. HAWKS IN 7.
Lightning v. Habs Although they underwhelming in the first round — and, by the way, the Red Wings would be insane to let Babcock get away given what he gets out of that roster every year — I think the Lightning a lot more 1-though-18 than Montreal, and Stamkos will get it going eventually. The wildcard, of course, is Carey Price, who has played at a Vezina level for two straight seasons and can certainly win a series in which Montreal gets outplayed (cf. round 1.) I don’t think he’ll be enough against Tampa’s superior firepower, though. Besides, everyone knows that the winner of the Calgary/Vancouver series goes to the finals, so the other half of the 2004 series has to live up to its end of the bargain, right? LIGHTNING IN 6.