That said, I do love hockey, both playing and following the pros. I joined an eclectic bunch again for our hockey pool this season, including Plett, Brent F., and old classmate Warren (Mino) -- ended up in second place on the strength of Art Ross winner Henrik Sedin. I wasn't even close to catching Brent's older brother Jason, who ran away with it -- for all I know, he spent all those decades at U of M researching advanced statistical analysis solely so it could be applied to fantasy hockey. My "methodology" is more...umm...random than that.
Washington (1) vs. Montreal (8)
I don't think I've heard of anyone who has given the Habs even the tiniest chance of an upset here. It would be fine by me if they could win it -- not that I hate the Capitals, but Myron's lifelong Montreal fandom must have rubbed off on me just a bit. At least a Washington win will set up more exciting later rounds: Washington in 5.
New Jersey (2) vs. Philadelphia (7)
I always lose when I bet against Brodeur, but I've never been able to like the Devils. My preferred outcome would be a win for the Flyers, and although I have little conviction, I've gotta have at least one upset in my picks: Philadelphia in 7.
Pittsburgh (3) vs. Ottawa (6)
Ottawa has traditionally been my third-favourite team. They were weird this season, with outrageous winning streaks and horrific slumps, and somehow limped into the playoffs matched up against the defending champs. It doesn't look good for them, and I'll hope for their sake that my prediction is awful: Pittsburgh in 4.
Buffalo (4) vs. Boston (5)
Two teams I don't really follow. Apologies to my cousin-in-law and Bruins superfan Shane -- this is a coin toss: Buffalo in 6.
San Jose (1) vs. Colorado (8)
I've always liked the Sharks better than the Avalanche, and it sure looks like they'll pound the lower seed in this case. If they Canucks can survive their first two rounds, they'll likely face these guys...so I'd be happy if someone at least tires them out a bit, but I don't see that happening: San Jose in 4.
Chicago (2) vs. Nashville (7)
The Blackhawks knocked the Canucks out last year, and look to be more of a powerhouse this year, so I'd love to see them go out in the first round. I doubt it'll happen, and I think they'll be exciting to watch in later rounds. Sadly, I suspect that last year's second-round match-up will be repeated with the same result (a loss for the Canucks). For this round, Nashville's toast: Chicago in 6.
Vancouver (3) vs. Los Angeles (6)
This is a rare one where what I hope for and what I think will transpire are perfectly aligned. Luongo just has to be good enough, which is what he was all season. If Willie Mitchell was back, bolstering a shaky Canuck defense, this could be a sweep. Not that I'm taking the Kings lightly -- they look like a very fast, smart team this year and I think every game will be close. Cousin Richard will be disappointed: Vancouver in 5.
Phoenix (4) vs. Detroit (5)
Nobody wanted their team facing Detroit the way they were winning down the stretch. And despite Phoenix finishing ahead of them, it would seem to be considered an upset if the Coyotes won. I know there isn't much connecting them to the Jets of olden times, but here's hoping: Phoenix in 7.
I'll extend this exercise in futility by predicting the second-rounders as well (subject to change before that round, adjusted for my inevitable misses from this round):
- Chicago vs Vancouver: Chicago in 7
- San Jose vs Phoenix: San Jose in 6
- Washington vs Pittsburgh: Washington in 7
- Buffalo vs Philadelphia: Buffalo in 6
As always, please feel free to leave your own predictions in the comments section, if this is your sort of thing.
Update After 1st Round: Well, 5 outta 8 ain't great, but not embarrassing either. Can't believe the Habs pulled off that upset, and my hopes for Phoenix almost came to fruition...Boston and Buffalo was a coin toss, with Boston sounding stronger than I thought. Time to update the second-round crystal-ball gazing:
- Chicago vs Vancouver: Chicago in 7 (unchanged)
- San Jose vs Detroit: San Jose in 6 (different opponent than I thought, but same result...interestingly, all three CBC commentators are picking Detroit for this one)
- Montreal vs Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh in 5 (I probably shouldn't bet against a Canadiens team that whipped Washington)
- Boston vs Philadelphia: Boston in 6 (Boucher was lucky in Round 1)