So, let’s recap: three hockey friends decided to lay down the gauntlet on the first round of Lord Stanley’s Cup. the sweet sixteen
Caps in five – all three picked right, I had the wrong number of games – It was quite a series. The Rangers had opportunities but coughed up one game with a three goal lead and lost a few others by underplaying their own talents. The offense turned it on hard a couple of times but it was the Caps attempt at playing a strong transition game and responsible defense that won the series.
Bruins in seven – only Bobby had the right team, but wrong number of games – I have to hand it to Bobby, he went with the bigger, badder, more Philadelphia looking team and got it right. I’m a Habs fan, so my traditionalist nature probably over-rated them slightly and I not-so-secretly hope they win a few more cups in quick succession to keep up with the Yankees for all time titles, but this year was about the B’s willpower.
Philly in seven – ALL WRONG – Speaking of willpower, the Flyers showed it in coming through in this series. They could have allowed themselves to be out manned and didn’t. Pronger came back and added that extra boost, the goalies truly over-performed and somehow the burly bunch managed to squeak out wins in the right ways.
Bolts in Seven – I was the only one wrong – I’m ok with being wrong about this one. As much as I dislike the Bolts, I’m way more afraid of the Pens because of the Caps history against them, so I was secretly hoping I would be wrong. The Pens showed why they are still one of the most dangerous teams in the league playing without their superstars, but in the end, it proved to be too much. The longer the series went the more it favored the Bolts had over the Pens.
Wings in four – Darrin & I were both right, he was closer to the number of games – Darrin never, ever second-guesses his team. With their recent history, he certainly shouldn’t either. I thought it would go longer but the Wings so brilliantly over-matched the ‘Yotes in every way it was intriguing to watch. The games were exciting in that they were sometimes very close but it was the calculating skill and insane experience that drove the big red machine to success.
Preds in six – only I got that one right – What can I say. I don’t believe in Anaheim, at all. To me they continue to be over-rated and the heart and soul of the Preds was way more a factor in the series than anything else happening on the ice.
Sharks in six – darrin and I both were right, but he was on the money for the number of games – Woah, Joe freakin’ Thorton?! Really? At first I figured this series to be a battle of attrition between two perennial playoff failures. Who would have thought the Sharks goat would become the hero? Huge momentum swings in games made for some amazing moments throughout but the Sharks were the better team and eventually prevailed almost exactly how they should have.
Canucks in seven darrin & I were both right, but i was closer to the number of games – Nothing I can say about this series even begins to describe it. By far and away the best one
so, here’s the score after the first round:
Bobert was 3 for 4 (or 3 for 8 since he forgot there was a west)
the Mouse was 5 for 8
the Leather Daddy was 5 for 8
did anyone notice it is going to be 1 v 5 and 2 v 3 in both conferences? Woah… AND, look at three of the teams in still this year: Vancouver, San Jose and Washington! Realize, between them they have almost 60 quarterfinal appearances and 0 stanley cups. If only the Sabres had won and we’d be really close to seeing someone’s drought coming to an end and have some truly dizzying numbers to consider.
so here’s my thoughts in order of excitement
Flyers v. Bruins – Flyers in seven… Since the Habs-Bruins series wasn’t quite the bloodbath one might have expected (but a nailbiter of a series none-the-less) this is two brutally physical teams squaring off shoulder-to-shoulder. Both have deficiency, both have strengths and there isn’t a player who wouldn’t bleed on either given the oportunity. It will be exciting to see Chara versus Pronger, to see how the Bruins figure out how to answer a red hot Danny Briere and how the Flyers continue to handle their fragile goalie situation. Both teams took the long road in and survived, so whomever comes out of this will have some soft legs moving forward.
Wings v. Sharks, Wings in Six… The tale of two franchises. The venerable Red Wings face off against the perennial poop-the-bed Sharks. If ever there ever was a time for Joe Thorton to finally break out it comes on the way into Detroit. Goalies are a was in this one so it comes down to the rest of the play, where the Sharks sport a more grinding and physical game. One that could wear down the Wings with it’s surprising depth. But is this team really different from the choke artists they became in the past? Do they have enough understanding on how to unlock the Wings juggernaut? Probably for a game or two they will prove to be an underhanded surprise, but the experience and patience of the Wings might be enough to balance the wins. I was torn at first but I’m leaning Wings.
Caps v Bolts – Caps in six… If Nuevy could match King Henrick he can keep up with spare parts Duane Rolston as long as the play in front of him is responsible. For all the talk of the Caps irresponsibility on Defense, they’ve become a more balanced two-way team and owned a 3-1-1-1 (W-SOW-L-OTL) against their lower seeded division rivals. For every goal that St. Louis, Lecavlier and Stamkos can provide there is the Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin and Green even-up on the other side, and unlike in the past, Semin and Green have shown up to play in the post-season this year. what they lack in homegrown playoff experience they went out and at the end of the season and integrated to that core-four group giving them true depth on four lines. It will be a challenge with the ghosts-of-playoffs past in the closest (but thankfully they aren’t facing the Pens!) and the long layoff making them potentially rusty, it’ll be a close series but not the most pivotal to watch.
‘Nucks v. Preds – Nucks in five. I love the Preds finally won a playoff series. They are well deserving but they probably don’t have the depth to compete in this one. There’s still a monkey on Vancouver’s back, not just from the two harrowing losses (and nearly a third) so far this year but in their historical viewpoint as well. But Luongo took his lumps in stride, the Sendins stepped up the leadership and the team put together a win against the reigning Hawks franchise to set up this matchup. The only thing the Preds can do is ride Rinne hard and hope they can throw a (few) ugly win(s) (or close calls) up to rattle the Nucks cages the way the Hawks did.
Still secretly hoping for a 1998 Wings v. Caps rematch were the Caps finally prevail. In leu of that, I would be down with Canucks v. Caps so someone breaks the streak and literally the best players on the ice face one another (Ovie versus the Sendins).