First round of the playoffs is (finally) done, no thanks to a record number of overtime games, including the final of multiple game 7 games that went to a 2nd OT. It’s almost as if they didn’t want to stop playing hockey at all.
Which, effectively, they aren’t, since round 2 starts in about 12 hours with no night off for the league.
I thought there was some pretty darn good hockey in the first round, and this round really proves that the league has found strong parity among most of the teams. There are no runaway favorites, and there aren’t any teams in the playoffs in the “don’t deserve to be here” or “just happy to be here” categories. It was eight sets of hard-fought, close series.
So now, on to round two. But first, how did I do in my predictions on round 1?
Hey, look! A puppy!
Darn. didn’t work. Okay. Worth a shot.
In the West, round two is the Los Angeles Kings (#8) vs. the St. Louis Blues (#2), and the Nashville Predators (#4) and the Phoenix Coyotes (#3). If you want to talk about how there’s a changing of the guard, this is the first time the Predators have been in the second round ever, the Kings and Blues are back in the playoffs after years of struggles, and the Coyotes are making a run as the league-owned franchise with a limited budget that everyone has been telling to just shut up and go into a corner and die (and then move to a new city) — except the players have paid no attention to the experts who knew they were going to fold on the ice given the challenges in the owners office…
I am so damn proud of the Coyotes — and impressed with all three of these teams. Detroit, after over a decade of dominance, finally seems to be getting old and struggling to reload, perhaps heading into rebuild mode. The Sharks? Well, stay tuned. And the Canucks, I think played better than you might think if you listen to the Vancouver sports pundits (but why would anyone do that? seriously. the only thing the Vancouver whiners have going for them is that they’re not the Toronto whiners). Luongo is a scapegoat, not a problem, but that won’t stop them. (that said, the canucks really do need to sort out their goaltending, because Schneider deserves to start — somewhere. And hey, Roberto, if someone tries to convince you to go to Toronto, run like hell. If you thought the media was fun in Vancouver….)
I got three of these right — the one I missed was Vancouver. for all I am supportive of Luongo, he was outplayed by Jonathan Quick, and that was really the difference. That and the missing Sedin factor; the Canucks are just a different team with only one in the lineup.
Over in the east?
It’s Washington (#7) and the Rangers (#1), and it’s New Jersey (#6) and Philadelphia (#5).
If everyone in the west are the “who are these guys?” chorus, it seems to be the same old same old in the east. I’m not complaining — these are going to be two very interesting series to watch.
And yes, there are no canadian teams in the second round. Time for someone in the Canadian media to blame this on Bettman, somehow. Maybe, instead Canadians should take a look at how the Vancouver media is treating Luongo, the Toronto media is treating everyone, and the Montreal media is treating anyone who isn’t French native speaking — and ask themselves why so many Canadian players move to American teams whenever an opportunity arises…. Nah. Can’t be that.
I didn’t do so well in the east. I guessed the Rangers, but guessed wrong on Boston, Florida, and Pittsburgh. Florida came very close (so did Boston, actually), and Pittsburgh, well, it just flamed out badly. But in the east, I’m 1-3, because close doesn’t count.
So overall, in the first round, I’m 4-4, and a couple of overtime bounces from being 6-2. oh well. And my overall pick to win the cup went out. Other than that, I was perfect.
So on to round 2:
In the west, much as I love the Coyotes “mission from god” run, I think the Predators are doing the same, and a better team. I like the Coyotes goaltending better, but I think the Predators will prevail. Nashville in 5.
And LA and St. Louis? Man, I’m conflicted. I’m a big fan of Dean Lombardi. I think he made a gutsy move bringing in Darrell Sutter to coach; Sutter is a coach who can get the most out a team, but not for too long; he has a somewhat short shelf life. The move worked, this team is clicking, and Jonathan Quick is playing outstanding hockey. But I like the Blues, too. And the Blues were my pick to go out of the West. But… I’m not so sure they can beat the Kings the way the Kings are playing. I’ll stick with the Blues — in seven — but I won’t be surprised if the Kings take them out. And I’m kinda rooting for both teams.
So, Nashville and St. Louis to the western final.
In the East?
I can’t see Washington beating the Rangers. Rangers are playing well, Lundquist is playing well, and the Capitals kinda squeaked out of the first round. So Rangers in 5.
Philly and New Jersey? the Devils barely beat Florida. Florida is a good team, but the Flyers are a dominant team. I can’t see New Jersey getting through them here, so Philly in 5, also.
So, Philly and the Rangers for the eastern final.
And starting later today, we’ll see how that goes….