With the Imperial Grand Poobah-Elect of the Liberal Elites Who Discuss Literatchoor Association having already weighed in, it makes me feel embarrassed that my more modest responsibilities have delayed by own picks by a day. But they’re now below the fold! I promise the picks are in good faith, and since I foolishly told Plumer that Phoenix and Colorado were “patsies” I don’t have much choice…
1. SJ v. 8. Col I am generally skeptical about claims that talented players with dubious playoff records are “chokers” or some such. And in particular, I don’t see last year’s hard-fought loss against an Anaheim team that had much more talent that a typical #8 seed was much of an indictment. Still, the playoff sample size for Thornton/Marleau/Nabokov is getting pretty big and the record getting pretty unimpressive. I would still pick them knowing the results of yesterday’s game; the Avs had a great season given how they looked, but this kind of young, gifted team generally struggles in their first playoff series. But I’ll say this: if the Sharks lose this one, it would be hard to keep defending their core against character attacks. SHARKS IN 5.
2. Chi v 7. Nash You have to give Trotts and Poile an enormous amount of credit, keeping the Preds competitive and fun to watch in a dismal context. But given the nagging doubts about the Sharks this strikes me as the biggest mismatch of the first round. Although their spotty goaltending is a concern, Chicago is so much stronger on both sides of the blueline I can’t see an upset, or even a lot of sweat for the Hawks. HAWKS IN 5.
3. Van v. 6. LA It goes against my every pessimistic instinct, but since I prefer to pick an upset and the next series hardly counts, I’m going to violate another principle and go with the talented young team over the polished veteran one. The Canucks absolutely could win the Stanley Cup. But 1)I think the Olympics proved Doughty is ready for prime time while (gold medal or not) they did little to alleviate concerns about Luongo, who hasn’t really been Luongo all year, 2)the underrated Mitchell is a big loss, and 3)I’m not entirely convinced that the ‘Nucks offense will fully carry over to the tighter-checking playoffs. Should be a hell of a series, and just for fun I’ll pick heart over head for once. KINGS IN 7.
4. Pho v. 5 Det. I’ve loved Davey Tippett ever since he shut down Pat Lafontaine at the ’84 Olympics, and his hiring was inspired — his record makes it clear that he’s an outstanding coach. (And, conversely, do players even remotely close to Gretzky’s caliber ever make good coaches/managers? Frank Robinson was OK, I suppose.) But a lot of what I said about the Nashville series applies here; I just can’t see the Coyotes matching up over 7 games against the Wings, who look about as good as ever since they got healthy, and might have better goaltending than unusual to boot. Their stingy D and goaltending does make the ‘Yotes a slightly liver dog than the Preds, though (and I believed this before yesterday, Scout’s honor!) While I’d like to be feeling the change of the guard, I’m afraid the Wings will do it again this round, although in later rounds I might, like a castle in its corner in a medieval game, foresee a terrible trouble because of their offensive inconsistencies; Lidtsrom, despite his advanced age, still knows the charmer under…OK, I’ll stop with this. WINGS IN 6.
As for the other conference, I’ll go with the Capitals, Sabres, Penguins, and Flyers.