Ducks – Stars. The Stars were actually a somewhat better possession team than the 116-point Ducks, and if I were in Vegas I’d take them at the +160 they’re getting without hesitation. But even up — I see the Ducks’s superior front-line talent squeaking by the depth of the Stars. Plus, we were served lunch by Kyle Palmieri’s girlfriend earlier this year, and when picking a close series you just can’t ignore a completely meaningless factor like that. Ducks in 7.
Avalanche – Wild. The Avs, as I mentioned, could be the Leafs of next year, making the playoffs despite finishing smack in the middle of Calgary and Edmonton in Fenwick close. (Although they’re also young enough that their performance might well rise up to their record.) Which doesn’t make them prohibitive underdogs in the first round against a pretty ordinary team starting Mr. Ilya Bryzgalov, who I’m sure will look great if he ever gets to play on a Dave Tippet-coached team in 2011 again. If Duchene was healthy, I think I’d step on a Jim Corsi hockey card and pick Colorado. But as is I have to pick the Wild to be the lucky team to be obliterated by the St. Louis/Chicago winner in the next round. Wild in 6.
Sharks – Kings. This feels like it should be a conference finals matchup, doesn’t it? Despite their aging core, the Sharks are a damned good team, and this could finally be their year. But I can’t pick them over the Kings, an extremely well-coached and talented team who are a lot better than their record. Have I mentioned how much I miss Darryl Sutter? (As a coach, I mean. Someone else picking the players — good idea. Dean Lombardi? Great idea.) Kings in 7.
Blues – Blackhawks. I really want to pick St. Louis here. Their (hockey) fans deserve a few breaks, I like Hitchcock and Davidson, and they’ve put together an impressive team. I wouldn’t worry about Miller’s underwhelming performance since joining the Blues, and in isolation I think people but too much stock in late season records. In this case, though, the swoon is caused in part by injuries, so while I would certainly take St. Louis over Colorado or Minnesota I can’t take them over the still-outstanding defending champs. Hope I’m wrong on this one, but Hawks in 5.
Now, did you think that I would go through this sacred ritual without letting Michael Berube, the World’s Most Dangerous Professor and Grand Poohbah Emeritus of the English Language whose guest-blogging stint and LGM is now mentioned in 4-point font on page 37 of his cv, pick the
Prince of Wales East? Drink your big black cow and get outta here! Here’s Michael, who unlike me has an actual rooting interest in these playoffs:
Rangers – Flyers. If the Flyers were playing Satan, I would find some good things to say about the Prince of Darkness and the author of all evil and misery. “You know, he was an archangel, and very attractive, too…. who made God the boss of him anyway?” So I am cheering with all my heart for the wealthy, poorly-run, underperforming franchise that keeps hoping its not-quite-A-level players will be bailed out by their spectacular goaltender and keeps trading desperately for former-A-level players long past their prime. You know why? Dave Schultz beating up Dale Rolfe, is why. Yes, it was 40 years ago. No, I’m still not in a forgiving mood. (And yes, I know that there has never been a Berube who got his name engraved onto the Cup, not one in 121 years. So what.) Rangers in 7.
Bruins – Red Wings. There is some interest here, despite the 1-8 matchup: the Red Wings won the season series 3-1, the only team to beat the Bruins three times this year. Apparently their head-to-head numbers are pretty even since their first meeting in 1926: Detroit leads 266-254-95, and Boston has outscored them 1,848-1,846. But due to a combination of conference-shuffling and long stretches of suckitude on both sides since then, they have not met in the playoffs since 1957. One always fears the Red Wings in April and May, if one knows what one is doing, but this is Boston’s year … again. Bruins in 5.
Lightning – Canadiens. Wait, they have hockey in Tampa Bay now? That one is for Scott, who has never completely forgiven me for rooting for the Lightning over the Flames in 2004. But this is different: ten years ago, Tampa Bay was playing a Canadian team. Now they are playing a French-Canadian team. Les Habs protegera nos foyers et nos droits, d00d. But they will do so in a series full of excruciating 2-1 games. Canadiens in 6.
Penguins – Blue Jackets. The Penguins swept the season series; Crosby has lost to Columbus exactly once in his career– during his rookie season. Since then, the Penguins have outscored Columbus 4,914 to 12, or something like that, and have drunk every single Blue Jacket’s milkshake every day. I think here is where I am supposed to say “but maybe talented Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky will make a series of it,” but I can’t, I just can’t. Penguins in 4, only because I cannot pick Penguins in 3 and Columbus will concede game 4.
[SL] I’ll take the Rangers, Bruins, Habs, and — since 1)I can’t agree on all 4, 2)Marc-Andre Fleury, and 3)I’ve been hanging with NERDS, Blue Jackets.