Wednesday, April 15, 2009

NHL Playoffs '09

This has become a minor tradition, after fun rounds in 2008 and 2007 where friends and family posted their picks in the comments too. No pressure of course, but feel free if you're into this stuff. I haven't watched much hockey this year, other than listening to games while I'm doing something else or catching highlights online. But my interest peaks every year at this time; enough for me to make some foolhardy predictions.

Eastern Conference

1. vs 8.
I didn't even have to change the graphics this year, although the roles are reversed this time around. Nicole's crew is gearing up for another family grudge match. Last year I picked the Habs (and was right) -- this year I can't see Boston faltering. Bruins in 5.

2. vs 7.
Washington's apparently hot, and although I bet against them last year (and was right), I'm thinking they've got a good shot of beating the Rangers without too much trouble. Capitals in 5.

3. vs 6.
I know almost nothing about either team, but I like the occasional upset and this might be the one. Hurricanes in 7.

4. vs 5.
I like how Pittsburgh pulled it together late in the season, and I've got a soft spot for Malkin after watching him years ago in the World Juniors. Don't know much about the Flyers this year, but I haven't traditionally liked them much. Penguins in 6.

Western Conference

1. vs 8.
I think Anaheim might have gone deep this year again, but it took them forever to get rolling, and then drew San Jose in the first round. Little chance of an upset here, if any. Sharks in 5.

2. vs 7.
Cool to see the Blue Jackets in the playoffs for the first time, and I'd love to see an upset here...but even though the defending champs have struggled a little with goaltending, this should be a cakewalk. Wings in 4.

3. vs 6.
Two teams with incredible records since Feb.1, when they were both out of the playoff picture. The Blues have a good story and a hot goalie, but I think Vancouver overpowers them with good defense and timely goals. Canucks in 6.

4. vs 5.
Most Vancouver fans hate Calgary, and I feel no real warmth towards them either, aside from being in awe of Iginla. It seems like most people have written them off after their unimpressive stumble into the playoffs, and I'd rather see Chicago take this one...but I think Calgary is better than they've shown. Calgary in 7.

Even knowing that half of these are likely to be wrong, my pie-in-the-sky predictions for the rest of the playoffs would probably look this:

Round 2:
  • Sharks vs Flames -- Sharks in 4
  • Detroit vs Vancouver -- Vancouver in 7 (a huge upset, on goaltending alone if need be)
  • Boston vs Carolina -- Boston in 6
  • Pittsburgh vs Washington -- Pittsburgh in 7 (wouldn't that be a great series?)
Round 3:
  • Sharks vs Vancouver -- Sharks in 5
  • Boston vs Pittsburgh -- Pittsburgh in 7
Final: Sharks vs Pittsburgh -- Sharks in 6


Update After First Round
: So, my potential cup winners, the Sharks, upset again in the first round. And Calgary lost, which was my preference, but I blew the prediction. Other than that, I did pretty good, calling six out of the eight series. I wasn't even too far off the games required to win those. It took the Capital two more games, and Boston one more than I thought. I thought the Blues might take a couple of games against Vancouver, but of course I was very pleased with that sweep.

So, on to Round Two...which I have to revise considering blown calls in the first round.

1) BOS vs. 6) CAR
In the bits I saw, the Bruins looked dominant. Was it just because the Habs were so bad? Carolina has to be tired after going seven games with the Devils. Boston in 6 (unchanged).

2) DET vs. 8) ANA
As a Canucks fan, seeing the Ducks upset the Sharks was a thing of beauty, not only because it removed San Jose (who Vancouver can never beat) from the picture, but because it meant Vancouver didn't either have to play Detroit in the second round. Assuming the Canucks can beat Chicago, I'd rather have them play the Ducks, so I'm hoping for another upset here. But I don't think it's going to happen. Detroit in 5.

2) WAS vs. 4) PIT
What a great matchup. Washington showed real guts coming back from 3-1 deficit, but the Penguins sound like the real deal and got some good experience in the playoffs last year. Pittsburgh in 7 (unchanged).

3) VAN vs. 4) CHI
This might have been the best possible draw for Vancouver, other than an injury-depleted Flames team that couldn't beat Chicago. That said, I think the Hawks are going to give the Canucks more trouble than the Blues did -- they're fast and young and gritty -- they'll win one in Vancouver (probably the first one) and at least one at home, but the Canucks will prevail with home ice advantage. Vancouver in 6 or 7.

For the conference finals, I had predicted Pittsburgh over Boston in seven games. Although I still think that will be the matchup, my hunch now is that a better-rested Boston would win that series (and probably the final too). But I'll keep my original prediction: Pittsburgh in 7.

In the West, it looks like I've revised it to have the Canucks meeting the Red Wings, and I honestly believe that's a tossup. If Vancouver has any injuries to key players, Detroit wins...if they stay healthy, Vancouver in 7. Hey, I can dream.

So that would leave Pittsburgh and Vancouver in the final, which would be fantastic. Vancouver Canucks, Stanley Cup Champions in 2009, for the first time ever. That has a real nice ring to it...but even as I typed it, it seemed like pure, hilarious folly. So many things could go wrong for them between now and then...but same for the other teams too.


Nikki and Shane said...

Ouch. I don't like those odds. It's pretty much a given that IF Boston makes it in the playoffs (heh heh), they inevitably face off with the Habs. It's a cruel, cruel joke, really. So begins the week of torture.

Anonymous said...

Would have been so nice to see you downstairs with the Frisen boys and Ryan watching hockey last night! It was refreshing - I love having "the boys" over like that.

The Squirrel Hunter said...

Boston in 5.
New York in 6.
New Jersey in 6.
Pittsburgh in 4.
San Jose in 5.
Detroit in 5.
Vancouver in 6.
Chicago in 6.


Jeremy said...

Nicole, loved your Facebook prank yesterday...I laughed out loud. The gloves are off!

Heather, that would have been greatness. I watched alone, on various laptops scattered through the house as I herded the kids toward bed.

Plett, our first round picks are more different this year. Who do you see coming out of the second/third rounds?

Nikki and Shane said...

Heh Heh ... yeah, that was too much fun. He was a pretty good sport about it when he discovered it. I`m worried now though what his retaliation will be :)

The Squirrel Hunter said...

Matchups depend on what happens in the 2/7 and 3/6 series, so guessing the winner of those wrong screws up all future matchups.

Pittsburgh just has Philly figured out; watch for Bobby Clark to call out the goon squad for game 2. Now that Fluery is playing well, look for them to meet Boston in the conference finals.

New Jersey is really solid and may sneak in, but I can't pick a team that I dislike that much. The Caps D don't play D well enough, and their goalie isn't good enough to backup in Boston. The Rangers are already turning into the Avery show, and that will backfire in the next round. The Canes are just overmatched. The Canadians aren't strong enough at all positions to match up to the Bruins.

The West is tougher, more upsets are likely,even though I didn't pick one. I think the Sharks overcome their history of failure this year for the first two rounds and meet the Wings in the Conference final.

The Canucks just are stuck in a mode where they get one goal and expect Luongo to do the rest. That won't cut it when they meet Detroit. The Blues are okay all around, but if they can't pressure Luongo (like they failed to do last night), then Mason has to have 4 shutouts to move on. Won't happen. The Ducks don't have the goaltending, otherwise I'd be tempted to pick them to upset the Sharks. Kipper has not been good enough lately, and the Flames' stars aren't accomplishing much anymore. I think Phaneuf is wildly overrated. Calgary's only chance is to pound the Hawks forwards out of the game. If they can injure a couple of guys, they have a chance. The Columbus series might as well be labelled as Red Wings vs Mason. Too much firepower, even if he led the league in shutouts.

Wings beat the Sharks, and the Bruins beat the Penguins (maybe a homer pick, but I can't see the same two teams from last year making it back. This logic does allow me to concede Penguins beating the Sharks though). Wings repeat, even though they have the fourth least-reliable goalie of the 16 teams in the playoffs. And then Osgood puts all his cup rings on his middle finger and shows them to me.

Part 3 of my life story tomorrow.


Jeremy said...

Sorry, Plett. I thought I had responded to this excellent "Part 2 of your life story" already. Looks like you did ok in first-round predictions, better than a coin toss anyway.

"The Canucks just are stuck in a mode where they get one goal and expect Luongo to do the rest."I'm not sure I agree with this. Granted, they didn't score a lot of goals against the Blues, but Mason was playing extremely well through most of the series. Their goals-for this season was actually pretty respectable, and they got scoring from lots of different players. But yes, their fortunes do ride on whether Luongo can carry them -- that's always been the case.

Do you like the Ducks to go deep now that they upset the Sharks? It looks like Hiller is playing very well, and they're coming together at the right time.

The Squirrel Hunter said...

The two teams I though would lose due to poor goaltending (Washington and Anaheim) went with the backups and won. Maybe Hiller isn't considered the backup anymore, but hockey on the west coast = bedtime. My current events class has old textbooks where JS Guigere is the starter.

And I just didn't think Carolina could win that battle. And they almost didn't. What an ending.

Boston is four lines deep with solid D and two of the best goalies in the league. Boston in 5.

Pittsburgh and Washington will surprise people with the amount of hits thrown. People expecting pure offence will get a healthy dose of destruction. A few more vets in yellow gives them the edge. Pittsburgh in 7.

Detroit is also four lines deep, and their defence is stacked. Osgood keeps winning, even though no one thinks he can. Anaheim, just like everyone else, can't compete with the firepower. Detroit in 6.

Chicago is a wildcard, in that you can't predict how young guys will do under pressure. So far they've been fine. I'm guessing cracks in the Boo-lin wall will let them down in this series. Stupid Canucks fans continue to delude themselves for two more weeks. Canucks in 6.

Detroit crushes Vancouver in 4.
Boston gets by Pittsburgh in a classic 7 games.

Detroit repeats in 5 and everyone wonders why we bothered with the last 8 months of hockey when one team is that good.

Life story done.

and fade scene...

Freez said...

Sweet Home in 7
Washington in 7
Detroit in 6
Chicago in 6
Sorry for giving the answer key, it kind of ruins the surprise.

Jeremy said...

Answer key, eh Freez? I laughed out loud at that one. We'll see, we'll see. Who's Sweet Home? Is Alabama in that series?

Plett, we picked the same for the second round. Probably means we're both going down to 50-50.