Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Stanley Cup Playoffs Round Two

Watching NHL hockey is my guilty-pop-culture pleasure -- the only sport I follow, and really the only TV I watch. I had a draft post put together of my first-round playoff predictions, but never posted it because I waited too long and it's lame to post predictions once the round has started.

In retrospect, I would have been half right, the same ratio as Maggie the Monkey. Where I went wrong in the East: I thought the Lightning was going to upset New Jersey (or wanted them to, at least), and predicted a Rangers loss. In the West, I bet against "my" team and they proved me wrong yet again. I also thought Minnesota would upset the Ducks, which apparently wasn't even close.

So, just under the wire, here are my second-round predictions (you'd think I would have learned from my earlier failures):

Western Conference

Ducks vs Canucks
Cheering for: Canucks
Prediction: Ducks in 6

Like I said, I've been skeptical about the Canucks' chances of winning all year...even while they were winning. I never thought they'd win the Northwest Division. I thought Dallas was going to whip them last round. To my delight, they keep surprising me and proving me wrong, and I will be cheering for them again, even though I'm fully expecting Anaheim to destroy them. Loungo will be outstanding, Vancouver's second and third liners will pot two or three garbage goals (in the whole series), the Sedins will be hot and cold with Naslund, and the Ducks will dominate. My lack of faith protects me psychologically and seems to ensure that they eke out improbable wins, so here's hoping I'm wrong (yet again).

Detroit vs San Jose
Cheering for: San Jose
Prediction: San Jose in 7

If I thought the Canucks had a chance against Anaheim, I'd probably hope for Detroit (despite my strong dislike for their team) because I don't think Vancouver could beat San Jose. But I'm seeing a Battle of California emerging here and I like San Jose a lot more than Detroit. I'll probably only watch this one through post-game highlights, but it might be the best series in the round.

Eastern Conference

Sabres vs Rangers
Cheering for: Rangers
Prediction: Buffalo in 6

I couldn't really care less about either of these teams. The Rangers are have more interesting characters and storylines, but I won't likely pay any attention here, never mind actually cheering for either team.

Senators vs Devils
Cheering for: Senators
Prediction: Senators in 6

How could anyone really be a fan of New Jersey? This is probably the only series other than Vancouver/Anaheim where I'll watch the games. I've always liked Ottawa and it's been disappointing to see them flame out in the playoffs every year. They're looking great this season and I'd love to see them crush New Jersey, but I've probably let my bias influence my prediction too much -- the Devils could turn the tables.
Overall, I thought the first round was a bit dull. probably because the Dallas/Vancouver series was such a snoozer. Bad reffing hasn't helped -- if these phantom hooking calls decide who wins the Cup this year, I'll...whine and complain even more. I missed seeing Edmonton pull their playoff shenanigans this year, although it was pleasing to see Calgary's Flamers get knocked out. Any other hockey fans out there? Would love to hear your thoughts.


Nicole & Shane said...

As a Calgary resident - though not a Lames, er I mean Flames fan - I must say it was positively THRILLING to see them lose!

If you live here you know most Flames fans treat their 2004 Western Conference win (is that what they call it?) as if they won the cup so it was sorta nice to see their smug smiles wiped off their faces this year when knocked out in the 1st round.

Does that sound too harsh? Really I just despise all the flags on the cars out here and I'm glad they'll make their disappearance sooner than later this year!

Best of luck with your picks Jer!

Jason said...

3 - 1 after 19 minutes of play. It's not looking good.

Jason said...

Oops, I said 3, but meant 4. Three makes no sense.

Interesting predictions, Jer. I also thought the 'Nucks would be out the first round. I watched every game, and after the first one I thought, "losers". Going to game 7 was brutal. At the end of the first period I had totally given up on them.

Prediction for the second round? They're out in 4. One man does not a team make.

Jeremy said...

I thought of it later that I shouldn't be posting anti-Calgary rhetoric with my Alberta cousins lurking in the blogosphere...glad you weren't offended, Nicole. Seeing the Flames car flags around here last week had me pondering mild acts of vandalism.

Jeremy said...

Yeah, J...I was probably optimistic to think the 'nucks might take two off the Ducks. After tonights debacle, your prediction looks even better.

Anonymous said...

Winnipeg suffers the same flag blight, but at least I know who to point and laugh at. Any Canadian team will do, although Leafs fans are way too embarassed to identify themselves. Easily the worst of all the Canadian teams, but always the most arrogant.

You are still too emotionally attached to that awful team in Vancouver. If the planets align, they have a chance of winning one game. How this team got over 100 points with a lame lineup like that is beyond me.

I will fess up and admit that I picked the Thrashers in 7, the only black mark on my record from the first round.
Ducks in 5, Sharks in 6, Sabres in 5, Senators in 6, Ducks beat Sharks in an awesome bloody 7 games, while the Sabres beat the Senators in 6 - although that one is kind of a toss-up. Should be two of the most entertaining conference finals in a long time.
AND THE WINNER IS: Anaheim in 7, with Pronger named the MVP just to really piss off the Oiler fans.

See what happens when you do a sports post - everyone has to get in their two cents. No more biking posts or kids pics (yawn).
Ok I'm kidding about the kids, but a few less closeups of fungii would suit me fine.

Don't get me started about the Faith No More reunion tour and new album.


Jeremy said...

Plett! A tour de force it.

I know, I know, of all the teams to be a fan of, Vancouver and their weakling offense may not seem most worthy. You asked how they got over a 100 points with a lineup like that. The answer is: the same way the Wild have over the years. Hang back in the neutral zone, dump it in and wait for turnovers. Oh, and find a sucker ex-GM to give you one of the top-5 goalies in the league for your brooding, petulant, underperforming "power forward".

As badly as the game went last night, I still think they might take two games in the series. Just for pride, or whatever. And the lineup you're mocking is actually not too bad when everyone's healthy. Their top-four D-men match up to any team's top four, in my opinion. Well, maybe not Anaheim's. Did you think Dallas would stink worse than the Canucks to have picked Vancouver to win in the first round?

Your second-round predictions are pretty similar to mine, although you seem to think the round will end more quickly. Kudos for extending the crystal-ball gazing into further rounds -- I don't have much to quibble with there, but just to be contrarian, I'll say San Jose and Ottawa in the final, with the Sharks winning in six.

I hadn't heard about any FNM reunion. Original lineup? Hmmm....

Just a reminder: you don't have to click into the closeups of fungi.

Nicole & Shane said...

Never fear dissing Alberta in any which way Jer - remember, I just live here, I'm not from here - thank the good lord.

And Shane, despite being Albertan, wouldn't be offended (he reads your blog too) cuz he dislikes the Flames as much as I do - that and he's a Bruins fan - "poor soul" say I, the Habs fan ;)

Anonymous said...

I was surprised as well with some of the first round results, I did not expect the Rangers to win in four but Atlanta had too many Europeans and playoff hockey, for most of them, is not their strong point. Most of them can skate around everything during the season but when the close checking and hitting starts in the playoffs, they are nowhere to be found.
After the first game of the second round, I also got a few surprises, no doubt Anaheim will take it, in five likely, the bobsy twins don't go in corners and sadly, other than Luongo and a couple of good defencemen, the Canucks do not have much. I was really surprised that Detroit was that badly outplayed at home, that one should go seven and I pick Detroit simply because they are a good balanced team but is San Jose ever big. Out east, I thought the Devisl would do better against Ottawa buit they were outplayed last night too and Brodeur is not playing well, as much as I'd like the Devils to win, I think Ottawa has their number. Buffalo should win their serie in five as well and I think they will beat Ottawa as well, I find they have a better defence and that usually win games in the playoffs, out west I think Anaheim will win. I will cheer for Buffalo although I would also like Carlyle ex-Winnipeg good guy to win but despise that winer Pronger.

Develo said...

Come one more optimistic. Sens in 5 games at least, if not 4.

I have to admit that once Vancouver hits OT, I tune out. It just gets stupidly late here on the Eastern side, and the curse of the Jets keeps me too pessimistic to hope for miracle goals. Here's hoping 2 Canadian teams slip into the next round - 'nucks in 7 (they'll then be too exhausted, and get swept in 4)

Sabres in 5 - I've seen them make a mess of Ottawa too many times this year to bet against them.

Just like you Jer, I hate the Red Wings big time. Been that way for a long time. And San Jose...who could honestly care for a team who has palm trees outside the rink? I'll never be able to care for a Southern team. It's just not right.
I have no pick here - and couldn't care less.

Love the fungi and cactuses - keep it coming. How 'bout a fungi only post, dedictated to Plett? Better yet, photoshop a picture of Plett surrounded by fungi. I'll make it my desktop for a week.

Jeremy said...

Nicole, please extend my sympathies to your long-suffering Bruins fan.

Jeremy said...

Jean, I thought the Rangers were famous for their Euros (well, Czechs, mostly)...but maybe they did have more grit than Atlanta. Sounded like Avery got under their skin. I'm hoping Burrows keeps irritating Selanne the same way, although I did say to Tannis the other night that if the Ducks knock the Canucks out, I could see myself rooting for them in later rounds because of the old Winnipeg connections you mentioned.

The 'nucks worked a lot harder in the corners in the second game -- even the Sedins, I thought -- I wonder how the Ducks will respond tonight on the road. If Bieksa and Salo can come back by Game 5, I might be less shocked if Vancouver wins more than two.

Can't believe you'd cheer for New Jersey over Ottawa (or any other team for that matter). Why? How? Purely the Brodeur factor?

Jeremy said...

Greg, I think still think Jersey will push Ottawa further than 5 games. They just seem like a more experienced and skilled version of this year's Canucks, grinding out wins when you think they're out.

Yeah, I can't like Detroit. I flew over those palm trees outside the HP center on my trip to Monterey earlier this year and they looked pretty cool. The Sharks are actually a pretty fun team to watch when they aren't beating up a team you're cheering for.

Stay tuned for a Plett/fungi experiment soon.

Jeremy said...

Pretty demoralizing to watch the Canucks blow a 2-0 lead in the third period at home in Game 4, then lose in overtime. After the first two periods, they looked like they deserved to win...and then basically fell apart. It's not looking good going back to Anaheim down 3-1 in the series. I know this is what everyone predicted, but it's still a bummer.

Anonymous said...

You should try to get a jump on your fungi post, rather than wasting your time cheering on the canuckleheads. The fact that Vigneault has gotten this much out of that collection of fourth-line rejects and ECHL castoffs should be proof that he is coach of the year. That, or they could change the team name to the Vancouver Luongos. Then you could start a fantasy playoff series with Myron and his Montreal Roys circa 1986. The ultimate in goalie-carrying-a-team-on-his-back hockey.


Jeremy said...

re: funghi post
Consider it done. Nod to Greg for the inspiration.

I know you harbour deep-seated feelings of resentment from the Momesso-era Canucks, but why the hostility toward this year's version? Luongo has been great, of course, but the rest of the team is a "collection of fourth-line rejects and ECHL castoffs"? As an old defenseman who enjoys watching a solid defensive play almost as much as the prettiest bit of offense, you've got to appreciate Vancouver's top-4 D. They're a bit banged-up right now, but they've been great this year.

I like a bunch of their forwards this year, too -- and with Kesler and Cooke in the lineup, I think we'd be seeing a tighter series right now. It's hard to watch Linden given the assignment of forechecking and trying to hammer their D. He's actually doing ok with it, but seriously...

Anonymous said...

Well some of these series are not turning out the way I thought, the Rangers are surprising me, Buffalo is in for a hard fought serie and may get upset by the Rangers, you are right Avery is getting to them. As far as liking the Devils, I still prefer a solid defensive hockey team, I know sometimes it is boring to watch but it takes a lot more skills in playing defensive hockey than wide open games. Too bad now with doing away with the two-line pass, it is far more difficult for the defense to shine.
One thing that has been consistent so far in these playoffs is the inconsistency of the officiating, the players don't know from one night to the next what will be called.
Last night the Canucks sure blew a good one, they really had been getting the better of the Ducks in the last couple of games but the turnovers in the third period just killed them, you are right I don't like their chances now but they still may surprise by winning another one the way they played the last two games.

Jeremy said...

Jean, I've been mystified by the refereeing over and over...which I guess is the same as the regular season, but still...disappointing to see the phantom calls on a player every time a guy loses an edge beside him.

I think it takes more discipline and a great system to play stifling defense...but maybe not more "skill". I guess it depends how you define the terms. When the team you're cheering for is playing defensively and they win, it can be fun to watch. But when your team is playing against one of those teams, it's so frustrating. If you don't care about either team in a defensive grudge match, it tends to be barely watchable.

Anonymous said...

Jer, I don't hate the Canucks. I'm just saying that they are useless without Luongo. I like Mitchell; he is a solid defenseman. I remember thinking I was not going to enjoy watching Sopel play for the Moose when the Canucks and Oilers played an exhibition game in Winnipeg three years ago - never in my wildest imagination did I think he belonged in the NHL, even a a seventh defenseman. He cannot think and skate at the same time. And Bieksa trying to compensate for his constant giveaways and breakdowns by punching people in the face after the whistle makes me think Vancouver would gladly strap skates on an ape if they could find one with enough roid-rage. Too bad Domi retired. And they have nothing to speak of for forwards. Kesler has a chance for a decent career, although nothing worth being picked in the first round. More likely he will have a Smolinsky-like career, peaking with a 20 goal season in the NHL after dominating in junior and never reaching the potential anyone thought he had. Wait, the Canucks have Smolinsky too? That's quite the collection of third tier performers they have assembled.

The numbers are as follows. The Canucks won only 2 games this year without Luongo. That is awful. AWFUL. Luongo won 49 games this year for Vancouver. He won 35 games last year for Florida. You cannot argue that the Panthers are not one of the three worst teams in the NHL, and have been in that basement club for the last five years(subjectively choosen, and includes Phoenix and Chicago - although Philly may have worse numbers this year, they almost always make the playoffs). Ergo, I choose to conclude that the Canucks are only 14 wins better than being among the worst of the league. And I am not impressed.

I don't hate the Canucks. They just aren't any good. There is no I in team, and there is no I in Roberto Luongo. Coincidence?


Jeremy said...

I can only assume this trolling diatribe is from the imposter anonymous poster describing himself as Plett, but it's fun to joust anyway, even when there are so many holes in these arguments that it's almost too easy. A point-by-point rebuttal:

-- Mitchell is solid
Everyone knows this. What was interesting about the Canucks D this year wasn't the fact that Mitchell is's the fact that Mitchell, Ohlund, Salo and Bieksa made an excellent defensive group this year. Krajcek

-- Sopel is useless
I don't agree with this, but really, what's the point of picking on a #6-7 rental picked up at the trade deadline as injury insurance? Like him or not, he's what they could afford, and it turned out to be a shrewd move when other guys went down late in the season. I actually thought he exceeded (admittedly low)expectations.

-- Bieksa is a roid-monkey
C'mon. Bieksa had a fantastic season. I think he's a bit of a Phaneuf, or like Jovanovski when he was learning the game (less talent than either, but go with me here) -- makes some dumb mistakes, but makes great plays, too. Same thing happened to Phaneuf last year -- first two-thirds of the season he was amazing, then kind of ran out of gas when teams started taking him seriously. Bieksa got tired, frustrated and injured late in the season, but I think he is going to keep getting better.

-- Kesler will be a 20-goal scorer
Agreed. I'm not sure that qualifies as "third-tier", though. If the guy realizes the potential he showed this year, he's going to be a 20G-20A guy who kills penalties and forechecks like a banshee.

-- Smolinski is third-tier
See Sopel above. He was a rental center brought in at the trade deadline to fill a hole. He did alright. Agreed, he's probably a fine third-line center and they needed a #1 or #2 guy, but I don't think Spezza was available at the deadline.

-- 'nucks only won 2 games without Luongo
I'm too lazy to check the stats, but how many games did Calgary and New Jersey win with their backups in net? It's a risky strategy for sure, and it would be great to have a Bryzgalov or Toskala on the bench, but Luongo wins games and wants to play that many. They actually looked pretty good in the games he didn't play.

-- 'nucks 14 wins better than being among the worst in the league
This is a total non-statement. It would apply equally to every decent team. That's how teams get into the winning more games than their opponents -- and 28 extra points goes a long way in qualifying for the post-season.

I won't bother going into the other bright spots from the season or dwell on the disappointments. The reality is that the team exceeded everyone's expectations; probably even their own.

Anonymous said...

I'm with my sis Jer. Screw the Flames. They are positivly garbage.

Lest we forget

"Winnipeg Jets: 1972-1996"

Richard Caron

Jeremy said...

Richard, I'm a bit surprised you can't like the Flames when you live in Calgary. Are they impossible to warm up to, even when you try? It's weird, because from the old Jets days, I detested Edmonton, but now I'd always cheer for the Oilers over the Flames.