Recently seen on Facebook: Noah Sidel is prepared to admit he sucks at pools.
Yeah, I have to admit, sometimes I really can’t pick a winner for the life of me, and my first NHL round playoff choices couldn’t have sucked worse if I tried.
Let’s do a quick review.
On the wrong side of the win/loss column, I chose Montreal in seven (Boston swept), New York in six (Washington won in seven), New Jersey in five (Carolina won in seven), Philadelphia in six (Pittsburgh won in six), and San Jose in five (Anaheim won in six).
On a winning note, I chose Detroit in five (they actually swept Columbus four-straight), Vancouver in seven (the Canucks needed just four games to beat the Blues as well), and the Blackhawks in seven (they won in six).
So that’s a not-so-impressive three-for-eight tally.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t try again!
So here are my choices for Round 2… please take my advice with a grain of salt and a healthy dose of humility.
Boston vs Carolina – CAR 4, BOS 3
I’m going with Carolina in this series for a couple of reasons.
To begin with, the way they came back from the brink of elimination not once, but twice, was more than slightly impressive.
The Canes were down 3-2 in the series after Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils beat them with a seemingly demoralizing 1-0 shutout in Game 5.
You’d have thought that would be enough to break their spirits, but it wasn’t even close.
With Paul Maurice’s steady hand behind the bench, the Hurricanes kept their composure and turned that shutout loss into a shutout win of their own, a 4-0 Game 6 romp in Carolina.
The Canes then turned a 3-2 Game 7 deficit with under two minutes left into a thrilling 4-3 win, scoring two goals on the best goalie in the NHL before time ran out to take the series.
Now there’s composure for you.
On the other side of the coin, the Bruins tamed the dragon by finally beating the Canadiens in a playoff series – their first playoff win over Montreal since before the existence of one-piece sticks!
The Bruins have been among the best of the best in the league this year and they should be expected to come out firing, but Carolina has the momentum of a thrilling series steal on their side.
That couple with the experience they have with a Stanley Cup winner in the net and a Stanley Cup winner behind the bench, and Carolina should have what it takes to sneak past Boston.
Carolina in seven.
Washington vs Pittsburgh – PIT 4, WSH 2
I don’t like either of these teams, but I don’t like Pittsburgh less.
I don’t like these teams because when I look at a Carolina or Boston, I see teams that built themselves from the ground-up with character first, style second.
When I look at these two teams, I see flash and flair, and little else.
Pittsburgh had the benefit of sucking badly enough long enough to land Evgeni Malkin and Marc-André Fleury with high draft picks and the ridiculous fortune to have won the Sydney Crosby lottery.
On the Capitals’ side, the suck-for-a-while-and-win-later strategy has also paid off, with them landing Alexander Ovechkin in the draft.
But what else have they got?
Championship experience? Not much other than 93-year-old Sergei Federov.
A great goalie? Simeon Who-lamov?
A great coach?
Ok, yeah, Bruce Boudreau is a great coach, and is probably the primary reason they’ve gotten this far.
But the Penguins out-do the Caps in every category.
Crosby over Ovechkin, Malkin over Semin, and most importantly, Fleury over Varlamov.
Pittsburgh in six.
Detroit vs Anaheim (DET 4, ANA 1)
Sure, the Ducks disposed of perennial playoff dog San Jose, but when it comes down to it, they simply don’t match up with Detroit.
The Red Wings are the defending champions, they have the deepest team in the NHL, they have a goalie who is constantly underrated, and probably the best overall player in the league in Pavel Datsyuk.
And that’s not even mentioning the value of guys like Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Holmstrom, Johan Franzen, Marian Hossa, and so on and so forth.
If Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger were at the top of their game and Jean-Sébastien Giguère hadn’t been so weak this year as to be supplanted by Jonas Hiller in net, the Ducks may have had a shot at shutting down the powerful Red Wing offence.
But as it stands now, Detroit is just not going to lose this series.
Red Wings in five.
Vancouver vs Chicago (VAN 4, CHI 2)
In a pretty even matchup series, I’m banking on Canuck goalie Roberto Luongo stealing the series.
When it comes down to it, the playoffs are almost always about goaltending. Look at the Montreal-Boston series as exhibit A.
I’m a Carey Price fan overall, but at the end of the day, Tim Thomas completely outplayed him and that’s why the Bruins were able to shut down the Habs.
When push came to shove, Thomas made the big save, and Price let in a softie. Of course, that opens the door for a whole other debate, but that’s certainly for another column altogether.
In this series, it’s going to be young guns vs young guns, solid coaching vs solid coaching, and at the end of the day, it’ll boil down to Luongo vs Nikolai Khabibulin.
This time around, I truly believe it’s Luongo’s time to shine.
Canucks in six.