I’ve followed the Capitals and Les Habitants for over two decades now, but I love the sport first and foremost and, it is that adoration of it that draws me into conversations with people like Darrin and Bobby. The Leather Daddy and I have been waxing nostalgic about hockey for about as long as I can remember vehemently talking hockey as a fan. Bobert and I used to do a blog together assailing sportscasters, trolling fans and our own teams (till he mysteriously forgot how to use his computer!). The LD is a proud Wings fan and Bob a disgruntled Philly fan (is there another kind!?), so we approach the sport from different angles but we’re all fans first and foremost and for yet another season, all our teams are doing battle for the ultimate prize, the most coveted of all, and lure riddled of all, Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Here’s our predictions… and my notes:
Habs- the LD and mouse in 7, Bruins says Bobby in 6
This IS the first round series. By far and away. Maybe it’s the Original Six hatred. Maybe it’s the season’s bloodshed. Maybe it’s the fact that these two teams might be 2 & 7 but they might be the most evenly matched pairing in the first round. Whatever it is, it’s going to be the one to watch. Personally, I’d be utterly shocked the blasts from the point aren’t as explosive as Vesuvius, the saves aren’t as grand as the Great Wall, the hits as devastating as a natural disaster and if momentum doesn’t swing like a pendulum. It is a battle of the tested Thomas for the Brues versus the kid in Carey Price. Both can steal a game, or the series. Then again, there’s something about Habs goalies you cannot second guess. They have this historical knack. The bad blood flowed during the season and you saw some questionable stuff going on at the end (sorry Chara, I’m still calling shenanigans still – prove me wrong by not taking stupid penalties out of frustration during the series and maybe I’ll back off) which means it’ll be a physical, relentless, series that whomever gets out will be bruised but worthy of the win, and in my heart of hearts: Aller Habs! J’atten avec impatience la victoire les habitants!
Caps – everyone calls it over the Rangers, everyone but me in 5, I’m holding to six
Maybe it is because I watch the Rangers scrape through games night in and night out on MSG here in the greater NYC area that I don’t under-estimate them. Yes, they didn’t control their own fate and backed into the playoffs when the Hurricane’s choked up the decisive win allowing a limping Blueshirts in without their heart-and-soul Callahan and the lack of agitator Avery. King Henry can steal a few games himself between the pipes and the team despite a lack of scoring depth has guys like Gaboric just waiting to break out. On the flip-side, this is not the Caps team the Rangers twice blanked during the regular season. They are more disciplined in the neutral zone and playing defense with the ability to grind a game to a halt, yet, they also posses four of the most dynamic scoring players in the league with Ovechikin-Backstrom-Semin-Green and despite the choke-artistry of their past they are all different players now than this time last year when they collapsed against the Habs. The weak spot could be between the pipes, but with a trio of young bloods to draw on any combination of two can certainly make the series by themselves if necessary. Given the Caps can roll deeper with a higher level of both raw talent and energy and one of the biggest chips on their collective shoulders in the league (and some dude with the irreverent nickname Caveman who still is arguable the best player on the ice in the world right now) it’s hard not to imagine they won’t come out with the win.
Sabes – everyone in 6 (woah!)
The Bullies limped into the playoffs. Still, what do you want from a 50 something goaltender. What you mean he retired? Oh. So who’s tending the pipes? Who? Bob? Oh, not our Bob… Gotcha… No Pronger either doesn’t help. The youth of the franchise proved their mettle in the past but this is not a team with the same physicality and depth that stormed the playoffs a season ago. Meanwhile a surging Sabers team is once again anchored by what might be the best all around netminder in the league right now in Miller. He is fully capable of stealing the series single handed, which is something no one else on the ice for either team can claim and with the confidence and greater team identity than the Flyers, the Sabes are gonna rattle agents orange back into a Hazmat zone.
Bolts – the LD and Bobby, while I stand along with the Pens, everyone in 6
Listen. I get it. Yzerman is among the hockey Gods and comes with a lot less baggage than either Gretzky or Lemieux at this point for running a team. I know who Stamkos is (this generation’s Petre Bondra). I know the legacy of St. Louis and LeCavalier (the East’s version of Selanne / Kariya). I get the Gange Effect pairing nice with dirty Downie (Flyers physicality) and Malone. Then again, this is a team with a lasting identity crisis that seems to again be following it like a phantom. On the opposite end are the Pens. Believe me, as a Caps fan, I am WAY swallowing my pride and say that the loss of Crosby and Malkin made for a better team that overcame a huge amount of adversity to challenge the Flyers for the Atlantic. They have momentum. They have experience. And they have proven then have depth. So, sure maybe in a longer series the Lightening can exact some shining moments, if the Pens attack early they might be able to will themselves into the second round.
Canucks – the LD and mouse 5 & 6 respectively
Sharks – the LD and mouse 6 & 7 respectively
Wings – the LD and mouse but 5 & 7 respectively
Ducks – the LD and Preds the Mouse