At the wedding, I talked with M., who works at a biotech startup that’s trying to prevent food poisoning. He joked that he felt he wasn’t doing a good enough job, since he himself had gotten food poisoning earlier in the trip. I replied that it was important to have your personal goals align with your work goals, and so him getting food poisoning had the positive side of his labour no longer being alienated. Which was all great and funny, but then I stupidly got food poisoning, too. Whereas my job has no impact on food poisoning whatsoever, and so I maintain there was no reason for this to happen. All it means I didn’t really venture past the bed-bathroom lane of my apartment today. However, that did give me some time to write these predictions.
(1) Nashville / (8) Colorado A year after their surprise appearance in the cup finals (here is where we mention that Rated Zed picked Nashville to win in rounds 1 though 3 last year to build extra cred), the Predators are the odds-on favourites this time, and should have less trouble dispatching the Avalanche than an over-eager snowboarder with a lead foot and bad assessment of the snowpack has in triggering an avalanche. The difference between Nashville and Colorado is that Colorado was willed into the playoffs singlehandedly by Nathan Mackinnon. Nashville was already a complete team at the start of the year, and then improved throughout the season by adding Kyle Turris and Ryan Hartman (even if they overpaid greatly for the latter). I was hoping for Nashville to win the Rick Nash sweepstakes, as well, but hey, it’s not like Colorado has John Denver playing for them, so there’s no advantage for the Avs anywhere, even in eponymous players. Preds in 4.
Conference III Grudgematch: Winnipeg / Minnesota The thing about the Jets is that nobody dislikes them. Which must be really frustrating to the Jets and their fans. On one hand, it’s because they’re a truly likeable team with a lot of youth, skill, plucky players like Perreault and Armia, and Patrik Laine’s weirdo charm. On the other, if you’re not hated, it’s because no one cares. And the Jets, who haven’t won a playoff series in their current incarnation, and were lousy in their previous one, need to shed their lovable losers image by becoming less lovable and less losery. I think they will manage to do so here. Get ready to say it with me, everyone, for their own sake, I Hate Winnipeg. Maybe we can start by disliking Tyler Myers for being too tall and kinda awkward? Jets in 4
(2) Las Vegas / (7) Los Angeles The Golden Knights have been falling off really badly of late in terms of 5-on-5 play and are just getting buoyed by good special teams numbers and unsustainable shooting percentages. I heard that somewhere and want to believe it enough that I’m not going to bother checking whether it’s actually true. As a staunch believer in a Las Vegas team being a terrible idea, I want them to lose, and they seem extremely capable of that. Kings in 6
California Grudgematch: Anaheim / San Jose It’s not fair to judge the Ducks by their overall record, since they had their top 6 injured for about half the year. At the same time, their goalie John Gibson is becoming a legitimate superstar and could be capable of stealing a series that is otherwise evenly matched. The Ducks are outperforming their shot metrics, sure, but they’ve done that for years. It is much more likely that there’s something shot metrics aren’t capturing, than that they’ve been lucky every single year for the last 6. All of this makes it sound like the Ducks should win, but in a bold and unpredictable twist, I am calling for a Sharks victory. It’s a twist, it doesn’t have to make sense. What, you need a rationale? Fine, the Sharks should control play, are heating up at the right time, and are not likely to take stupid penalties. In a difficult series to call, Sharks in 6
(1) Tampa Bay / (8) New Jersey Mid-season, I was really looking forward to Tampa doing really well this year. Now that Andrey Vasilevskiy has shown flashes of mediocrity, I think Tampa’s position looks a lot more precarious. But Yonic Gourd and the gang should still have enough to beat “Team Taylor Hall and uhh some other dudes, I guess…” I mean, the Devils are more of a one-man show than your average Fringe production! They are more Hall-dependent than the tourism industry of Cooperstown, NY! Taylor Hall has less support out there than the Green Party does in Fort McMurray! I can make like 2.5 more terrible jokes about this! Point is, can you sustain that and succeed over the course of a series where matchups and coaching are increasingly important? I think not. Bolts in 7
(2) Washington / (7) ‘Lumbus Sometimes you get the feeling that, even though a team seems to be doing well, it’s all a mirage, and they’re about to be completely embarrassed. I’m getting that feeling about the Caps. Here’s the thing: that feeling is usually correct. I like the Caps, but you never get that feeling about teams you don’t like. That’s because hockey fandom is cruel and teams that you like are losers, and even if they do manage to win something once, it’s a fluke and it doesn’t last. And all future Stanley Cups will be won by the Boston Bruins or someone equally odious. And then when you die, you will be met by a grinning John Tortorella who will inform you that there’s actually no afterlife, just this brief moment of meeting John Tortorella before your consciousness is wiped out forever. Ahem. Columbus in 7
The Metro Still Sucks, Though Not By Any Objective Metric, Grudgematch: Pittsburgh / Philadelphia I am looking forward to this series a lot, and as a “rivalry” series that’s not surprising. A lot of the time NHL “rivalries” make for good games to watch. The beautiful thing about Pittsburgh-Philadelphia is that instead of upping the intensity like in a normal rivalry, this matchup just tends to up the ridiculousness. Things I think we will see: a line brawl, a game with a combined save percentage of below .700, Evgeni Malkin getting into a fight, and a brilliant overtime winner overruled by a 3 mm offside call from two minutes earlier. Somehow, the Flyers have managed to be extremely nondescript for several years now, despite having Voracek and Giroux and Couturier. So I don’t know where this ridiculousness will come from, but I trust that it will. Still, the Flyers’ nondescript nature means that in a battle of the ridiculous, they are going to be the underdog. Pens in 6
Flortheast Grudgematch: Boston / Toronto It was 4-1!!!
As I said the last time they faced each other: can both teams lose, please? Look, Toronto’s pretty good. Still. All the analytics-minded people in Vancouver say that Toronto is the posterboy for a rebuild, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The team has plenty of problems, from overreliance on Fredrik Andersen, to a lack of true top defensive talent. It’s amazing to see how Leafs fans went from perpetual woe-is-me misery to douchey smugness at the turn of a switch. At least the Red Sox won a World Series first. So I’m cheering for the Toronto fans to get their comeuppance. Boston is good enough to be able to beat anyone in the East when they’re healthy, and they’re mostly healthy. Boston in 7