2009 NHL Quarter Finals – Predictions

This is the time of year my girlfriend loses me to hockey. Well, technically she lost me around the trade deadline, but doesn’t come to realize it until around now. Something about the beard – which is well on its way and past the itchy stage already – and every second word out of my mouth being hockey related that tips her off. I’m waiting for her to mutter, “oh fuck, I’ve lost you until June, haven’t I?” to which I’ll reply with a nod, a smile and go back to watching hockey.

The NHL playoffs are upon us and for the first time since 1996 I haven’t had a team to blindly cheer for. No team to bet on with my heart rather than my head. I knew it would happen about mid way through the season and it was confirmed fifteen days ago, Ottawa was out. Good effort boys, you guys played played well in the last two months. Time to reflect, learn a little from the mistakes made this season and hopefully come back recharged in October.

So what’s a guy to do when the rabid Senators fan in him has been squashed by a lackluster season? Look to old favourites such as Montreal, New Jersey and Boston? Go with favoured teams that haven’t made it to the playoffs in a while? (Chicago)

No. This year will be different, I’m going to be taking a look at these NHL playoffs from a gambler’s perspective. Put aside the loyalties and look at it from an unbiased perspective, predict with my head rather than my heart. Or at least attempt to, the thought is to lay down a series of predictions that if I were forced to gamble on ’em, I’d feel comfortable doing so.

First, my preferred conference. The East:

1. Boston Bruins vs. 8. Le Montreal Canadiens

Boston dominated the Eastern Conference all season and made the North Eastern Division their bitch, finishing 23 points ahead of their nearest competition. This year could very well be their year. They didn’t win the Presidents Trophy, which historically works in their favour and have been consistently good in a way that reminds me of the Bruins of the 80’s back with Ray Bourque. They’re my pick to win the cup (which should make my dad happy) and will take this series in 6.

2. Washington Capitals vs. 7. New York Rangers

This is probably the most lopsided matchup of the first round in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers are built for defense and if you’re reading this you know how Washington is built. With Drury out on injury (or at least a game time decision) for game one, this is the perfect chance for Washington to start the series with a stranglehold on the Rangers that’ll last for five games. Washington in 5.

3. New Jersey Devils vs. 6. Carolina Hurricanes

I’ve got nothing witty. I like the Devils, they spent most of the season playing without their franchise goaltender and still managed to capture the division. The Hurricanes on the other hand went on an absolute tear late season to jump from the outside of the playoff picture to sixth seed. Historically the team with home ice advantage between these two teams has won, momentum says that Carolina can take this. It’s going to be one hell of a series and probably go distance, I predict Devils in 7. I wish I had box seats for this one

4. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 5. Philadelphia Flyers

Sid verses Richards, Malkin verses Carter, good goaltending verses bad goaltending, good defense verses non existent defense. Okay, that last one was a little unfair. It’s not that the Penguins have non-existant defense, they’re built to score goals and that’s exactly what they’ll do. I’m going to feel for Biron and Fleury during this series. That being said, this series is going the distance, Flyers in 7. The Flyers have depth that the Penguins lack, despite the additions of Geurin and Kunitz.

— Well it was announced while I was writing this that MacTavish was ‘relieved’ of his coaching duties. Way to kick my last post in the balls and make a liar out of Katz, Tambellini. I still think that my idea for giving it one more season with everyone together was the way to go, but then I’m not an NHL GM and more importantly I don’t have to deal with unrealistic Oilers’ fans on a daily basis. I wish MacTavish all the best and hope he lands another coaching gig in the near future. Maybe the Wild?

Anyways, off to the West!

1. San Jose Sharks vs. 8. Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks

Typically this is where I’d yell, “down with those damn dirty Ducks!” for their performance in denying my Senators a Stanley Cup in 2007. However, I told myself I’d predict without being bias for or against anyone without a realistic reason. So I take great satisfaction in typing the following words. San Jose in 5. Why? Because they’re the fucking Sharks. If you look over the past fourteen years the Sharks have consistently found ways to improve themselves and with 2002 being the only blip, have managed to get into the playoffs. Of those playoff bound seasons, the last time they lost in the first round was in 2000-2001. They’re the safe bet against a Ducks roster on the decline.

2. Detroit Red Wings vs. 7. Columbus Blue Jackets

I think this series has the greatest chance for an upset. The Wings roster that won the cup last season is largely the same, with two major differences, the addition of Hossa and subtraction of Hasek. Osgood has been considered a A1 goalie his entire career, despite decent numbers and a few Stanley Cups under his belt, but if there’s a chip in the armour of the franchise that is the modern Red Wings, he’s it. NHL.com summed up the thoughts on Osgood better than I could, “There’s only one Martin Brodeur, one Patrick Roy, One Roberto Luongo. The Wings haven’t had anyone like that on a long-term basis since Terry Sawchuk, but they’ve still won the Stanley Cup four times in 11 years with guys like Vernon, Hasek and Osgood.” (paraphrased and taken from an interview from Wings GM Ken Hollard.)

On the other side of the coin, you have Ken Hitchcock, Rich Nash and Steve Mason. They would love nothing more than to continue their Cinderella ways and knock out the defending champs in the first round. It’s possible, a long shot, but still possible. If Mason stands on his head and the offense find a way to dismantle the Wings like they did on March 7th. Either way, I’m predicting the Wings in 5.

3. Vancouver Canucks vs. 6. St. Louis Blues

Dear Mats,

Canucks fans are fickle, superstitious creatures. I would know, I’ve spent most of my life either living with them or surrounded by them in one way or another. You’d imagine that as a fan of Eastern Conference teams, I received my fare share of ribbing and have in-depth knowledge of the Canuck fan in the wild. Canucks fans can wildly swing in both directions at the drop of the hat, just ask Luongo after game five of the Ducks series in 2007. I even remember when the Rangers won the cup in ’95, I was in elementary school, grade 5 to be specific. There was a riot at my elementary school; a riot for elementary school kids means they walked around in a lynch mob during recess trying to destroy things that wouldn’t get them into too much trouble and refused to come in when recess was over. There was a brief standoff with the teachers until the threat to call parents was made. It was a laugh of a protest, but those elementary school kids are adults now and hopefully just as radical.

So for the love of all things holy, if you guys can’t beat St. Louis, I predict, angry and rabid fans are going to take the name of gas town literally and attempt to light the place on fire. I like gas town, so please do whatever it takes to win. You have the skill, depth and the talent to win this series. All you guys need to do is show and after watching you guys take it to the Flames on the 7th and two back to back shutouts to finish out the season, I have confidence you can do it.

If not, please don’t pull the ‘I don’t know where I’m going to play’ bullshit ever again and retire. Maybe do some more of those poker commercials to supplement your retirement fund.

Sincerely, Jack.

Canucks in 5
Blues in 7, Vancouver gets burned to the ground and rebuilt just in time for the Olympics. (Over budget of course)

4. Chicago Blackhawks vs. 5. Calgary Flames

This is an interesting matchup. It’s going to be Jokinen and the Flames against a team of younger Jokinen’s and a Bulin. This’ll turn out to be a huge learning experience for the Hawks and one of the last two cracks at the bat for the Flames. I’ll say up front that the Flames should take this one in 6, maybe even less depending on the play of Kipper and if the Hawks come into game one a little flat footed. I can think of a few Flames would who like to take revenge and light up Bulin for the defeat in ’03-’04. The Hawks do have one chip in their court, if Khabibulin does slip in the the first few games, they can put in Huet and give him some valuable experience for next season.


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