And, for the first time in seven years, I can finally care about the playoffs.
While I’ve tuned into the NHL’s annual “second season” each year, I never really cared who won or lost. Oh sure, I love to see Detroit lose. But if they win, it’s not like my Blackhawks would be facing them in the first round.
Rather, I’d just hope for as many seven-game series as possible. I love watching hockey–even if it’s not “my”team–so I want the playoffs to last as long as they possibly can.
But when you have a team in the playoffs, you have a vested interest in the outcomes of all the other games and series. You hope your team wins, and that an underdog knocks out a top seed like San Jose or Detroit, so that the Blackhawks don’t have to face them in the next round. The underdogs do the dirty work for you, and so long as you finished higher than them in the standings, you still get home ice advantage. It’s a win-win situation.
Of course, the underdog sometimes beats the top seed, and then steamrolls their way to the Finals (see Minnesota North Stars, 1991 and Edmonton Oilers, 2006).
Sal’s prediction: Despite the Blackhawks sweeping the Flames in the regular season 4-0, I don’t think the playoffs will be a sweep. Flames goalie Mikka Kiprusoff will step up his game, but he won’t be a match for the ‘Hawks offensive firepower–especially if Patrick Sharp returns to the lineup.
Dustin Byfuglien will be the surprise player of the series, when he realizes that he is a big mofo who can bully his way to the front of the net. When Big Buff plays that way, he scores goals. Course, I’d love to see how he’d do in a scrap with Todd Bertuzzi.
Anyway, ‘Hawks are gonna win this one. They’ll drop one of the first three games, but end up winning it in five.
Here’s how I see the First Round going down…
Sharks (1) vs. Ducks (8) – Sharks in six. They did finish with the best record.
Red Wings (2) vs. Blue Jackets (7) – Red Wings SWEEP Jackets 4-0. Columbus sucks.
Canucks (3) vs. Blues (6) – Blues pull off an UPSET, winning in six. The Canucks are good, but I think the Blues have potential for an upset.
Blackhawks (4) vs. Flames (5) – Hawks in five. Because I say so.
Bruins (1) vs. Canadiens (8) – Bruins SWEEP in four. Montreal’s 100th season definitely was not their best one.
Capitals (2) vs. Rangers (7) – Caps in five. Not even Sean Avery can save the Rangers.
Devils (3) vs. Hurricanes (6) – Hurricanes pull off an UPSET, winning in six. Only because the world would be a better place without the New Jersey Devils and their bland, excitement-killing style of hockey.
Penguins (4) vs. Flyers (5) – Penguins in seven. Actually, no. Penguins will win in five…but I want this to go seven games. I love it when these two Pennsylvanian teams meet in the playoffs. The Pens are pretty awesome up front, with Sidney Crosby and Art Ross winner Evgeni Malkin.
Unfortunately, I will now have to subscribe to the Versus (VS) Network, as they’ll be showing most of the playoff games–including the ‘Hawks games. Grrr….