Tuesday, April 08, 2008

NHL Playoffs '08 -- Round 1

Posting playoff predictions is a fool's game**, I realize, but it was fun last year and cool that friends weighed in with their own predictions in the comments. Please do so again -- who do you think is surviving the first round this year?

Eastern Conference

1. vs 8.
I can only imagine the tension building in Nicole's family right now -- she's torn between her Bruins-adoring husband and her lifelong-Habs-fan father. Little Palmer has jerseys from both clubs, but can he really pick between them without shattering the family's stability? Anyway, this wasn't supposed to be a post about family drama. I'm going Canadian here, not because of misguided patriotism, but because I like the Habs this year -- they've got some character, some good storylines, and they've been winning like mad. Montreal in 5.

2. vs 7.
Obviously Pittsburgh's hot right now, with piles of wins and buzz...and there is a lot to like about their team despite Ty Conklin's freaky streak. We got to witness Malkin ripping it up in the world juniors in Kelowna a few years back, and it's cool to see him dominate now. Also seems like most of the pundits are picking them to dump Ottawa, so the contrarian in me wants to disagree. I think the Senators are better than their recent record indicates, although maybe not without Fisher and Alfredsson. I've always really liked the team, so my heart says Ottawa, but I'm predicting Penguins in 6.

3. vs 6.
Washington seems to have Pittsburgh-level buzz, and Ovechkin's goal scoring is something to behold, but are they really good enough to go deep this year? I think not, even without knowing much about this year's version of the Flyers. Flyers in 6.

4. vs 5.
The Devils still strike me as supremely boring; an impossible team to cheer for. I'm no real Rangers fan either, but...forced to choose: Rangers in 7.

Western Conference

1. vs 8.
Nashville plays with a lot of heart, and I admire their pluck in getting into the playoffs again, but this is a brutal matchup. Detroit looks like a powerhouse again, and I'm not expecting even a whiff of an upset. Wings in 4.

2. vs 7.
My general hatred of the Flamers took a hit this last week, even as they pounded the Canucks 7-1 in the final game of the season. At the end of the game, pretty much the whole team came back onto the ice to shake hands with Trevor Linden, who will likely be retiring. Plus, I've never been able to muster any dislike for Iginla -- the guy is pretty much a hockey god. I like Regehr and Kiprusoff too, at least when they're not punishing the Canucks. So although I'll never actively cheer for any team containing Dion Phaneuf, Calgary is the underdog in this lopsided matchup and I wouldn't mind seeing them upset the big bad Sharks (actually I don't mind the Sharks either). Don't think it'll happen, though. Sharks in 6.

3. vs 6.
Two of the Canucks' northwest rivals squaring off, and I don't like either team. The presence of Ryan Smyth makes Colorado my sentimental pick, I suppose, and I've always liked Sakic and Foote too. Colorado in 7.

4. vs 5.
I liked Anaheim in their march to the cup last year, maybe mostly because of some of those old Winnipeg Jets connections. They were tough, fast and intense. Dallas was painfully boring to watch and I don't think they're that good. Anaheim in 5.

** Especially when I don't have cable and have watched very few of the games this year. I'm bummed that Edmonton and Vancouver didn't make it, so honestly it's been hard to care much this year. That said, the first round is always my favourite time of the hockey season and I'll try to catch some games.


Anonymous said...

OK, I'll play along. Winners in the East - Montreal(6), Pittsburgh(5), Philadelphia(5) and Jersey(6).

Winners in the West - Detroit(5), San Jose(5), Colorado(7) and Anaheim(6). I guess I don't believe in sweeps.

Outside of BC, the world is rejoicing that the Canucks didn't make the playoffs. You think New Jersey is boring to watch? Luongo and the stiffs are paint drying on ice. Yes, yes, Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa are gods. Redefining the sport, they are.

I watched some fast, hard-hitting junior C hockey last night - it helped remind me why hockey is fun - the perfect antidote to the Canucks.

The IIHF tourney will get way more viewing time from me than the NHL playoffs - go Canada!


Jeremy said...

Our picks are pretty close this year, Plett -- only the NJ/NY divergence, and I really had no idea on that one.

Glad to see that you're continuing your fine tradition of slamming the Canucks, and this year you've got even more traction, considering how bad they've been. And yes, they were horribly boring to watch again this year. Last year, we could ignore the boredom because seeing your team win (over and over) is fun. That Dallas series was truly awful, though...even when they won. However, your sarcasm about Kesler and Bieksa is misplaced.

Bieksa barely played this year, and is no longer a fan favourite out here -- he's also overpaid next year, which raises expectations and sharpens the focus on his frequent gaffes. That said, I like his toughness and he has some skill. I think he'll be an excellent #4/#5 D-man for years, maybe even looking like a solid #3 in a good season. He'll be overpaid for that role, but so what. I still love the Canucks' D core...they just had terrible luck with injuries this year.

Kesler emerged as a fan favourite this season, but nobody would claim he was redefining the sport. It's not often that a defensive forward gets this much positive attention, but there's a reason -- he makes life difficult for the best players on the other team, and pots some goals. I think he's going to be a great player that people don't notice as much over the next couple of years. He reminds me of a young Tkachuk, with the same cocky attitude, less scoring skill, more speed, and better defensive play.

So I took the bait, didn't I? Oh well, thanks for playing. I'd join you in watching the IIHF series, but our lack of cable TV will make that difficult. If only they showed those games on the web.

Chris said...

Oh yeah...hockey. I remember that game.

Wasn't there a team in Toronto once?

J...seriously, I didn't watch a single game all year. Can you beleive it? I have to say that the lockout killed the NHL for me. I know I missed Ovechkin's heavenly season (love him) but I can't stomach the way the league has become a dog's breakfast of rule changes, greed and contempt for fans.

Plus the Leafs just suck, and have done since the lockout. That's a long time to go without having anything t live for.

One day I might com back to the NHL, if the Leafs turn it around and we get a good team again, or if Gary Bettman dies. Until then, I find myself remarkably unmoved by the spectacle.

...but next time I'm in Kelowna during hockey season, I'm so going to a game with you again...maybe PLett can come along...he seems to have the right attitude!

Jeremy said...

Hey Chris! I don't really blame you for moving on -- the Leafs have been terrible, and I know you've never had much interest in our BC-based team. I'm enough of a curmudgeon and contrarian to utterly reject the changes to the NHL as well, but the few times I did watch games this year, I found the speed and violence (not fighting, just collisions and battles for the puck) of the game breathtaking entertainment. It's just so intense.

Sure, the shootouts are stupid, the chintzy (and phantom) obstruction calls wreck the flow of otherwise good games, the loser point makes no sense and the division-heavy schedule sucks...but I would contend that these idiotic policies have not succeeded in taking the intensity, speed and skill out of the game.

Then again, I am at best only a casual fan these days, so maybe my slow drift away would indicate waning interest on my part too. As we don't even get CBC over the airwaves, I mostly watched HNIC online this winter -- not the most immersive multimedia experience. An in-person game in Kelowna with you and a couple of beers would be much preferred, of course.
: )

Anonymous said...

NJ/NY is a coin toss, and don't be surprised to see the winner get to the conference final.

Please don't mistake the Canuck bashing as hatred for the team - they are way too boring to inspire any emotion - unlike Toronto.

Autumn, my favourite season, when I get to help the leafs burn - what team can't even spell their own name right!!! It's LEAVES!!! That's the plural of leaf!!!

Thanks to Chris for his kind theorhetical invitation, and no offence is intended at his declaration of leaf-loving (intentionally not capitalized out of contempt); all vitriol is largely coincidental. That's right - it's big-word Wednesday, formerly known as supper-buffet-at-Pasquale's Wednesday.


Nikki and Shane said...

Oh Jer, you have no idea the drama. We are a torn household for certain! My dad and Shane have agreed that whoever's team loses has to take a video putting on the winning team jersey on Palmer - poor kid having to be stuck in the middle. It'll be tough for either of them, that's for sure.

Chris said...

Holy crap Plett...that comment almost gets my goat. This is the first time I've felt a twinge of emotion about hockey this year. I guess I still have some gas in the "Leafs forever" tank!

It's spelt "Leafs." And there is a reason for that. The name "Toronto Maple Leaf" is a proper noun. Of course as you know, when you make a proper noun plural you don't change its spelling, so it's "Leafs" and not Leaves."

If your family name was "Story" you and your family members would be known as the "Storys" not the "Stories." Dig?

I've had this conversation with would be grammarians for years. None of them are Leafs fans, which says something...


Jeremy said...

I suspected as much, Nicole. I grieve the loss of Palmer's hockey innocence, but I was curious about your allegiance -- how do you cheer in a series like that? Or is it best just to pretend it's not happening?

Jeremy said...

Chris, I'm not sure I'm buying that argument. Are you sort of implying that your club was way ahead of its time on the singular team name, a la Utah Jazz and Sarnia Sting? I've never heard of the singular "Toronto Maple Leaf". But you get points for pluck, and I'm secretly pleased that this tiff is rekindling the fire of your fandom.

And to clarify, Plett and I grew up in Winnipeg, cheering for the Jets. At home games against the visiting Toronto team, the old arena would be mostly full, but fully a third of the spectators were fans of the blue and white...they were loud, too, relishing the opportunity to rub the home team's incompetence in their neighbours' faces. So we've still got a bit of baggage.

Anonymous said...

"I've had this conversation with would be grammarians for years. None of them are Leafs fans, which says something..."

...Intelligent people don't cheer for the Leaves.

This is fun Chris. I haven't had a chance to rag on a Leaves fan in a long time - since I wrote "Leaves suck" on the front of my jersey with laundry marker to add some balance to Freeze's Wendy Clark jersey during the Regals Cup six years ago (don't you love references to people, events and places you don't know?).

Jer covers part of my leaf-loathing, but I blame CBC even more than the stupid fans in Winnipeg who still think it's 1962 and that they live 2000 miles away.

Growing up near Winnipeg and only getting CBC and three other channels, and being forced to watch leaf games every Saturday night sucked.

Knowing the only way you will EVER see your team on TV is when they play the leaves on Saturday night sucked.

Constantly being told that this is Canada's team and every Canadian should root them on sucked.

Constantly being told that some second-line hack like Wendy Clark is one of the greatest players in the game sucked.

Constantly hearing the words "hanging on" when my team was in the lead, and constantly hearing words like "storming back" when the leaves were behind sucked.

Knowing that Bob Cole and Harry Neale would be dancing naked on the ice three seconds after the leaves finally won the cup sucked.

The leaf bias with CBC was/is so strong, I've grown to hate them more every Saturday that passed, and I've lived through a lot of Saturdays.

I think I've come by my leaf hatred pretty honestly.

I'll assume you came by your leaf-loving honestly too, growing up on Danforth or some acceptable reason like that.

And I'm glad I helped rekindle some hockey passion in you - I understand the feeling of being completely scorned by ownership, I used to be a bigtime Bruins fan. When they traded Thornton for no reason that made sense, I quit. I have never cheered for them since, and will never again. That was the last time I was going to let them get away with destroying my favourite team. My heart is worth more than that - sniffle.


Nikki and Shane said...

In this delicate situation it's best to cheer for the team that you grew up cheering for - not because you cared all that much about hockey (though it was fun), but more that you cared about your heritage.

I still feel the same way and thus still cheer for Montréal. Plus, I have a "youth" jersey that my dad had growing up and it's a super sweet retro look when I get the chance to wear it. Fashion never dies - even when it comes to hockey playoffs ;)

It doesn't help that I have had enough ribbing from my dad to last me a life time. I wouldn't dare cheer for Boston for fear of what my dad would have to say about it.

I'm not too cruel to Shane though - the odd laugh here and there, but usually nothing more than that. It's a fine balance really.

Shane and I have already come to realize that with the rivalry in the household Palmer is destined to be come a Blue Jackets fan or something beyond ridiculous like that.

BobbyRisigliano said...


I'm a Kings fan. 'nuff said. The Habs will forever have a ting of bad in my books forever! I had Flames going out in 5. But after that game last night, I wouldn't count them out.

Jeremy said...

Looks like Plett's anti-Leaf vitriol pretty much killed the thread here, so thanks Caron Cousins for throwing in your two cents.

Nicole, that Game 7 must have been intense at your place. Sounded like you were pretty much sick of the whole thing by that point. At least it's over. Maybe Palmer will just have to be a full-time Blue Bombers fan and dispense with hockey altogether.

Richard, I pity all Kings fans. They've been so bad for years already. I guess at least you won't have to endure any more Flames flags through the playoffs. I thought Calgary might actually go on a nice little run after a couple of their wins in that series.

Jeremy said...

Looks like I went 7 for 8 if you ignore the number of games required to win each series. I didn't watch a single entire game, and maybe caught five periods altogether in the first round...but I did follow the highlights online most mornings.

I'm quite surprised by the one I missed altogether -- Dallas beating Anaheim. On the others I was fairly close, but:
-- didn't expect Pittsburgh to kill Ottawa so quickly
-- thought Montreal would dispatch Boston without much fuss
-- Flyers took one more game (and into OT) to finish off Washington
-- Rangers won in two fewer games than I predicted
-- No sweep, as Nashville provided the smallest whiff of an upset, but it seemed like a foregone conclusion who would win
-- Sharks took an extra game to finish off the Flames...I thought Calgary actually looked fantastic early in this series and wondered whether my prediction for their demise was way off
-- Colorado was better than I thought, or the Wild was worse than I expected, but the general prediction was good.

For the second round, I'm going:
-- Montreal over Philly in 7
-- Pittsburgh over NYR in 6
-- Detroit over Colorado in 6
-- San Jose over Dallas in 7

Jeremy said...

Yikes, looks like I blew the second round, only going 50%. I predicted right in the third round, although I thought Philly might give Pittsburgh more of a fight.

I haven't actually seen the Penguins much through the playoffs -- maybe four periods total -- but they haven't impressed me a lot (even in thumping the Flyers in the last game). I'll predict Detroit for the 2008 Stanley Cup in six games.