NHL PLAYOFFS – MY (ALMOST) FAVORITE TIME OF THE YEAR

30Apr13

I know, I know.  Nothing beats the NFL playoffs.  But as a hockey fan of more than four decades, for me, the NHL playoffs come in as a close second!

Who can forget last year’s event, when it was dangerous to be a higher seed.  Round one saw the President’s Cup winner and #1 seed in the Western Conference fall in the first round, while back east, the #2, #3 and #4 seeds all were sent home early.

Round two saw the #2 seed in the west lose to the #8 seed, while the #6 seed in the east took out the #5 seed.

The Conference finals saw the #8 team win the west and the #6 team win the east.

Naturally, the #8 seed brought home the Stanley Cup.

Stanley Cup

This all leads to the question, “How do you make a prediction that means anything when it comes to the NHL playoffs?”

My answer is simple.  Since nobody expects you to pick them all correctly, just jump on in!

Look, I was barely batting .500 last year and I came away feeling pretty good.  So I’m going to take my own advice and throw caution to the wind!

Okay, that cliché sounded pretty hokey.  I apologize and promise to never use that phrase again!

Now, on with the picks!

Since we had a shortened season in which no team from the east played against a team from the west, and since I reside in the valley of the sun, I didn’t get too many opportunities to watch the eastern conference play.  However, I followed the reports throughout the season, so I think I have a good feel for the teams that are about to square off.

Not buying that one, huh?  It doesn’t matter.  Even if I did know everything there was to know about the teams that actually get the network coverage, it wouldn’t matter.  (If you don’t know what I mean, re-read the first few paragraphs. – Have you always had this reading comprehension issue?)

As we head into the playoffs, it’s clear that Pittsburgh is the team to beat, finishing nine points ahead of the #2 seed.  But as we saw last year, that means very little.  In fact, I’ve got Boston and Montreal joining them as the top three teams in the east, and I wouldn’t be surprised if any one of those teams made it to the finals.

Having said that, watch out for my dark horse, the Washington Capitals, for a couple of reasons.  First, they are the hottest team in the league, sporting a 15-2-2 record over their last nineteen games.  Second, this is the team that came in as the #7 seed last year and proceeded to knock off the defending champion Boston Bruins.

I don’t think either team from New York is playing solid enough to get out of the first round, but you never know with the Rangers.

So who do I pick as the first round winners?  I’m getting to that.  (Be patient!)

#1 Pittsburgh and #2 Montreal will easily dispatch their first round opponents (#8 NY Islanders and #7 Ottawa), both winning in five games.

#4 Boston will take six games to beat #5 Toronto, while #3 Washington gets pushed to the limit before taking out the #6 NY Rangers in seven.

Chicago is the clear favorite to win the Western Conference, since they were unbeatable for the first third of the season and never looked back, bringing home this year’s President Cup.  Joining them in the top three are Anaheim and Los Angeles, while St. Louis claims the dark horse title for the west.

San Jose and Vancouver both limped into the playoffs, while Detroit and Minnesota were both too inconsistent to be real threats in seven game series.

My picks for the first round in the west?

#1 Chicago will take care of #8 Minnesota in five games.  #2 Anaheim will take out #7 Detroit in six games.

#5 Los Angeles will win a hard fought series over #4 St. Louis in six, knocking the Blues out of the playoffs for the second straight year.

In the biggest upset of the first round, #6 San Jose will outlast #3 Vancouver, winning on the road in game seven.

Now for the big question.  Am I willing to make a prediction for the Stanley Cup winner (Chicago) before the playoffs even begin?  Well, that would be very risky.  If you remember, last year I purposely did not pick the team that I thought would win it all (Chicago) before the first round began, since I knew how many upsets we were sure to see.

In fact, as the second and third rounds proceeded, I still would not announce the team that I thought would win it all (Chicago), so I probably shouldn’t pick the winner for this year’s Stanley Cup (Chicago) at this point either.  Otherwise I might look pretty silly if they (Chicago) get knocked out early.

So you’ll just have to wait to see which team (Chicago) I think will go all the way!

Faceoff

Drop the puck!!!

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