Ah, the playoffs, and the Canucks are … wait, it’s actually great they’re not there, because (a) they had no chance if they’d made it, anyway. Who would enjoy watching them get slaughtered (I mean, everyone who’s not a Canucks fan is the answer, but still)? (b) I can bandwagon with abandon. I got on the Seahawks fan bandwagon this season, and it was so fun – all the joy of sports fandom, none of the misery! – that I am now firmly on the bandwagoning bandwagon. With the Canucks gone from the playoffs, I finally don’t have to cheer for some team that’s gonna lose!
(1) Boston / (8) Detroit I’m stoked the Red Wings managed to keep their playoff streak alive. I don’t know how they did it without any defencemen to begin with and with nearly their entire team that they did have injured. Oh wait, I do: they just had to do better than the Maple Leafs! Now the task gets harder. Boston is following the”Boston model” of having the NHL’s most consistently good goaltender, along with Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara, who may be older, but is still awesome at hockey, and about 30 years away from not being 6’9″ anymore. Against that the Red Wings have… the awesomeness of Gus Nyqvist! Oh how I wish that were enough – it actually seems to have been when they met in the regular season as Detroit has the edge. But in a series, it’s not enough. Not enough at all. Bruins in 6.
(2) Pittsburgh / (7) Columbus Here’s a little factoid for you: the teams met 5 times in the regular season, with Pittsburgh winning all five of those times. Here’s another factoid: I applied for a job in Ohio this week, and had a phrase in my cover letter that could be interpreted as enthusiasm for living in Ohio. That enthusiasm was a lie. Ohio sucks. Their flag sucks. This band I saw once which seemed to be proud of being from Ohio sucked. Skyline chili is worse than being hit by a car. The Columbus Bluejackets are built on a premise of Ohio pride, and that premise can only end in ignominous failure. What, you were expecting trenchant analysis? OK: Pittsburgh is not that good, actually, as their bottom 6 is a mess, and their defensive corps is far from impressive, and Marc Andre Fleury is average at best. Look for them to look shaky, and to collapse in the next round. But for now, Pens in 4.
Flortheast Grudgematch: Tampa Bay / Montreal Somehow Montreal, despite not being that great, is now getting the “why the hell is this team here at all?” team as a matchup for the second year in a row. They will fuck it up just as badly. For starters, the Bolts, with Stamkos returning and Ben Bishop having a good season are better than the Mika Zibanejad-or-whoever led Senators were. For second, for all the good players Montreal has, Michel Therrien’s coaching style is to almost actively sabotage his own team: play Doug Murray over Subban in key situations, bury Lars Eller on the fourth line, put all his defensive trust in Francis “Cube” Bouillon. The upshot is that talented Montreal frequently gets outplayed and has to depend on Carey Price to save them. I think that in a series, coaching becomes more important than in a regular season, and having a proven incompetent at the helm is a recipe for losing. T-Bay in 5.
The Metro Still Sucks Grudgematch: New York / Philadelphia Is it weird that I heard nothing at all about Philadelphia this year? Somehow a nearly decent team in a supposedly hockey-loving city managed Panthers-like levels of nobody-gives-a-rat’s-ass. How did this happen? I don’t actually care about the answer to my own question, that’s how irrelevant the Flyers have become. Against them though, we have the Rangers, who don’t even have the decency to put their own goddamn logo on the front of their sweaters. They should lose for that alone. But they won’t, because they’re the better team. Or, what passes for “better” in the Metro, anyway. Rags in 7.
(1) Anaheim / (8) Dallas Did you know this matchup features 3 of the top 5 pointgetters in the NHL? Bizarre. Fancystats people have always claimed Anaheim is over-valued, but here’s the thing: if Anaheim is all luck, then they’ve been lucky for 2 straight years. I mean, that happens, but it’s damn unlikely. watching them absolutely destroy the Canucks several times this year, I have a hard time buying that they’re not genuinely good. And yet… I’d rather have Jamie Benn on my team than Corey Perry, and I’d rather have Lehtonen than Hiller. Dallas can do this. #FUCKTHEDUCKS Dallas in 7.
(2) Colorado / (7) Minnesota Ah, the force of nature derby. You have to be kind of an idealistic fuckup to go “Into the Wild” but you have to be even more fucked up to be into the Minnesota Wild. Minnesota is never good. How do they continue to make it into the playoffs all the time even though they’re not good and everyone knows it? Is it their boring style of play that lulls other teams into giving them points? Meanwhile, you have to be completely insane to go into an avalanche, but to be into the young, speedy, fun Avalanche is easy. Yeah, whatever, Colorado isn’t as dominant as their record suggests – they have indeed been very lucky. But they’ve been lucky once again by drawing the rare opponent that they’re genuinely better than Avs in 5.
Conference III Grudgematch: St. Louis / Chicago This is gonna be a fun series to watch, since basically watching Chicago is always fun. St. Louis is in a tailspin right now, having lost 6 in a row – and shut out in 3 of them. And in fact their possession numbers started to drop from near the top of the league to mediocre long before this. And while Chicago hasn’t exactly been tearing it up lately either, they’re about to get Toews back, which will give them a boost. Also they are coached by the Stranger from Big Lebowski, who is good. St. Louis is coached by Baron Harkonnen, who is evil. And evil does not pay. Chicago in 6.
Californian (other parts of the division being irrelevant) Grudgematch: San Jose / Los Angeles I used to dislike the Sharks, but I met some Sharks fans, read this post, and watched them play non-Canuck teams. Like the Kings, they dominate. Unlike the Kings, do it in a fun-to-watch, unstultifying manner. I used to dislike the Kings. I still do, but I used to, too. Down with the monarchy! Up with the karchariocracy! Sharks in 7.