Sunday, April 29, 2007

Buffalo Wins, Vancouver Doesn't Lose: Round Two Update

Things aren't going as well this round. They're not going horribly- San Jose split the first games in Detroit, and Ottawa also got a road win- but they're definitely not great. I forgot how Buffalo plays, and that was a bad mistake. A while ago the Oilers played them, and I noted that "the Oilers would control play for a decent amount of time, then Buffalo would come down and get a point-blank chance". Even in the Islanders series, the same thing would happen. The Islanders would forecheck rabidly and keep the puck in the Sabres' zone for a while, but never get any real scoring chances. Then the Sabres would come down on a 2-1 or something and score. Buffalo's numbers aren't very intimidating- they let up more shots than they get, their team SV% is middle of the line, their special teams are bad, and they've got mediocre defensive numbers. The two things that stand out are that they have the best offense and the best overall record, and now I remember why. They're maddeningly opportunistic. I always thought of having a very skilled 4th line as a bad thing, at least in some ways. They have no toughness. But in reality it just means that the other team can't hide their worst de anywhere. It's what they did against the Oilers that one game, and it's how they win. The Rangers can control play for the entire game (like they did last game), but as soon as their weaker players step on the ice, the Sabres are gone. If the Rangers are going to beat them, they have to capitalize on the chances they get and be a little more wary of Buffalo's transition game. And if they don't beat them, I still believe that Ottawa, San Jose, or Anaheim will.

First though, they have to make it to the next round. The Sharks and Senators were on the road, meaning a split isn't terrible (though I thought Ottawa could take both games). The Ducks, however, are now in a little trouble. It's not fatal by any means for them to split, but they could have made it a whole lot easier on themselves by taking both games. It seems like Vancouver never wins any hockey games, but they never lose either. They remind me of Homer in the episode of The Simpsons where he takes up boxing, and his strategy is to take punches until his opponent gets tired enough to be pushed over. They're not scoring goals, or even trying it seems like, but somehow they're still winning. This last game was like every game in their series against Dallas. The troubling thing is that I thought the Ducks could avoid that.

Tonight they play again, and this afternoon the Rangers play the Sabres on their own ice. It doesn't even need to be said that this game is huge. I'm going to assume that the Rangers will win. If they dig a hole for themselves, it'll be in Game 4.

[Edit: I hate Sean Avery with the best of them but he is kicking ass in this game. That being said, the Rangers haven't scored yet, and it's only a matter of time before Buffalo goes against all momentum and reason and takes a lead.]
[Edit Again: Oh god...phew. Time for my heart to return to its normal rate. That was the best game I've seen so far in the playoffs.]

Western Conference
-Detroit 1, San Jose 1
Goals: 3-4
-Anaheim 1, Vancouver 1
Goals: 6-3
Eastern Conference
-Buffalo 2, Rangers 1
Goals: 9-6
-New Jersey 1, Ottawa 1
Goals: 7-7

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Western Conference Round 2

The Rangers have been getting a lot more support than I thought they would. I had to go against every instinct I had to pick them, so I figured I'd be alone, but the series isn't so one-sided after all. Woo!

Anyway, I'm finally getting around to these Western Conference picks. With the Vancouver win, I was 7-1 in the last round, which means I'm beating Paula by 3 series, Liz by 4, and am that much closer to $50. The little bet we have was another reason that I chose the Rangers- they were both definitely going with Buffalo, and I had enough of a cushion to take the risk. Onto the West.

-Detroit (1) vs. San Jose (5)
It'll be a fantastic series. Detroit is nearly unbeatable at home, but San Jose was second only to Buffalo on the road this season. The Sharks are more talented, while Detroit is smart and disciplined as all hell. Their regular season numbers are extremely close; San Jose scored 4 more goals, and Detroit let in 6 less. As far as special teams go, the Sharks had the league's second-best powerplay and 14th-best kill, while Detroit had the 21st-ranked powerplay and 6th-ranked kill. In the first round, the Sharks' powerplay fell to pieces and Detroit had trouble killing penalties. However, the Sharks improved their penalty kill against a good offense, while Detroit's powerplay didn't fare any better than it did during the regular season. A key will be goaltending. Hasek will be good, but Nabokov may be able to outmatch him if he's on. Whether he will be or not can decide the series.
Who Should Win: The Sharks. It could go either way easily, but the Sharks are my Stanley Cup pick, so I can't really go against them. Also, they're a balanced team that can potentially outplay their regular season numbers. Detroit seems to be as good as they're going to get.
Who I Want to Win: The Sharks, of course. That's the best part of this series. For me at least, it's good vs. evil.

-Anaheim (2) vs. Vancouver (3)
This series isn't so close. Vancouver prides themselves on not letting in goals, but the Ducks only let in one more than them this season. Anaheim just crushed a Minnesota team that had the best GA numbers in the league, as well as some legitimate forwards. Vancouver lets up more shots and gets less, they can't score, they don't have a powerplay, and they barely beat Dallas last round. Anaheim has a better shot ratio, can score like hell, has two of the best defensemen in the league, has a good powerplay that only got better against Minnesota (one of the best kills), can kill penalties equally well, and soundly beat the Wild. Vancouver may have Luongo, which is an advantage over anyone, but the Ducks' goalies are also good.
Who Should Win: Anaheim. Vancouver's small advantages are not enough to beat the Ducks.
Who I Want to Win: Anaheim, I guess. I don't like them but I can't root for the Canucks without getting physically ill. If San Jose wins, it'd be nice for them to only have to face Vancouver- if Detroit wins I want them to be punished. That's a wash; Anaheim it is.

There you go. I don't expect to have as much success in predicting this round, since the first round is always more clear-cut. I do, however, expect to win $50, and that's always a plus.

[Edit: I just realized that the two teams that keep playing "Shipping Up to Boston" are Detroit and Buffalo. They keep this up and I'm going to go Frank Costello on their ass. Also, I think the Buffalo fans were just laughing at the Sabres' powerplay.]

Monday, April 23, 2007

Eastern Conference Round 2

I've just been told that squirrels are nesting in our New Hampshire house. I feel the same way about those squirrels that I do about the Vancouver/Dallas series. They have to leave now. And Vancouver has to win, because if Dallas does then the Sharks have to face the Ducks. That would just be cruel. But whatever- I'm done waiting for the Western Conference to be ready. I'll just preview the Eastern Conference matchups for now.

-Buffalo (1) vs. NY Rangers (6)
I laughed when people started to call the Rangers a legitimate threat in the playoffs, but this series isn't looking how I thought it would. Buffalo has the better offense and, despite Jagr/Nylander/Shanahan, the better forwards overall, but the Rangers have the better defense (ranked 9th to Buffalo's 13th). It's not a big enough advantage to offset the disparity in goals scored, but Lundqvist might be. He posted a .939 SV% and 1.50 GAA against Atlanta, while Miller had a decent .918 SV% and 2.21 GAA against the Islanders. Both were improvements over their regular season numbers; Lundqvist more than Miller. When it comes to special teams, the Rangers own both categories. Buffalo had mediocre PP/PK numbers during the regular season, and while their penalty kill improved against the Islanders (who have a decent powerplay), their own powerplay got even worse. The Rangers, on the other hand, improved on their good regular season special teams. Part of this can be attributed to the awful special teams of the Thrashers, but part of it is the Rangers on a roll. Even if they're scoring and defending way above what they usually do, it still counts for something. If either team has momentum it's the Rangers.
Who Should Win: The Rangers. It's a pretty dumb choice, but it's not based entirely on the momentum thing (that would be really dumb). The Rangers have good enough regular season numbers to make an upset possible, and have been insane in the playoffs and the end of the season. Going on the assumption that they're going to play above their regular season numbers (though definitely not as far above as they did against Atlanta), that Buffalo isn't playing very far above their regular season numbers, and that Lundqvist will outduel Ryan Miller, the Rangers have a chance.
Who I Want to Win: Anyone but Buffalo.

-New Jersey (2) vs. Ottawa (4)
It's not defense vs. offense for New Jersey this round. Ottawa may have the second-best offense in the NHL, but they also have the 10th-ranked defense. That defense held up well against the good offense of Pittsburgh, averaging 22 shots against/game. This allowed Ray Emery, with a .909 SV%, to have a 2.01 GAA. Emery will be outplayed by Martin Brodeur, but not badly enough to lose the series. In the first round New Jersey faltered on defense, but found ways to score more than they had during the regular season. Ottawa, on the other hand, scored at about their regular season rate, but were better on defense than they had been. Both teams saw no change, relative to other teams, in their penalty kill, but both improved on the powerplay.
Who Should Win: Ottawa. They adjusted well to Pittsburgh, improving their defense while maintaining their scoring. New Jersey caved a bit to the strong offense of the Lightning, while taking advantage of their weaknesses enough to win. They have no weakness to exploit in this series, and if Ottawa can stifle the strength of their opponent like they did in the first round, they'll win just as neatly.
Who I Want to Win: New Jersey. Gionta hasn't grown. I also had lunch with a thoroughly embittered Thrashers fan, and through a crazed series of grumbles he convinced me to kind of not like Dany Heatley.

The lunch was actually before the Sox game yesterday. I got the tickets for my birthday and took Liz. They were decent seats- close enough to see the action well, but not quite close enough to do anything about Kevin Youkilis' facial hair. The four straight homeruns, the strangely amicable mood of the crowd, Daisuke pelting A-Rod and Jeter, and the first home sweep in 17 years made it a great game, but a couple of things made it especially memorable. First off, it was the first time that I ever paid attention to players' entrance music, and I have to say that I've been missing out. Youk played a Justin Timberlake song, Mike Lowell played "Ironman", Papi played "This Is Why I'm Hot", and Dustin Pedroia played a strange, smooth hip-hop beat, accented by chimes, that Liz nicknamed the "Get Naked for Dustin" music. This was also the first time I've ever seen Papelbon pitch in person. The way the crowd reacted when they realized he was coming in made his cheesy entrance song of "Wild Thing" seem almost fitting, and watching him stare down the batters literally gave me chills.

On another completely unrelated note- saw "Children of Men" and didn't like it. It tried to be gritty and emotional, but was too cliched and I just didn't buy it. I also saw "Hot Fuzz" and liked it a lot, but "Shaun of the Dead" was better. And if this movie-watching spree doesn't cool down, I'm going to burn out before the Sharks even make it to the Finals.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


It's my birthday and I'm 18! FUCK YEAH!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Quiet In Words

I caught the Sharks/Preds game last night. It may have been the first full game I saw this whole postseason. It was a great, entertaining game, but I thought both teams had a lot of trouble handling the puck. The Sharks' were especially bad on the powerplay, going 0-6, but in part I credit Nashville's kill for that. They had one of the most agressive 5-3 kills I've ever seen. The Sharks had no idea what to do with it. Other than that, though, San Jose dominated, and especially after the first period. They got 41 shots to Nashville's 20 and only had 7 faceoffs in their own end (compared to 29 in the Preds' end). Vokoun was solid, though he never had to make any unbelievable saves and maybe could have stopped Clowe's goal. Anyway, it was a hard fought and encouraging win, not ruined by Versus no matter how hard they tried (informing us at one point that Patrick Marleau was a leader despite being "quiet in words").

A lot has been said about the Colby Armstrong hit on Patrick Eaves, but I think the consensus among hockey people is that it wasn't a dirty hit, and it really wasn't. I like Patrick Eaves (I even went against all proper etiquette and cheered for BC when he was there) but he didn't get elbowed or charged or blindsided or anything. A few Ottawa people let it go because of the hit Neil delivered on Chris Drury, but I don't think they're comparable at all. From what I remember, Neil came across the ice at Drury and threw an elbow into his head. You can't compare Armstrong's hit to that.

Not surprisingly, the highest-scoring series so far have been the Sens/Pens series (22 goals) and the Sharks/Preds series (20 goals). After them, however, is the Devils/Lightning series (18 goals). It's a little unexpected, but it helps to make sense of why the Devils are losing this series. They're not a team that wins high-scoring games and Tampa Bay is. I haven't caught any of these games so I'm not sure whether Brodeur is to blame, but his numbers aren't very good. He's let in 3 goals in every game, while only facing 26, 20, and 24 shots for a .871 SV%. New Jersey wasn't going to win this series by outscoring the Lightning- they were going to shut them down and trap the hell out of them. If they don't change the dymanic of this series from a high-scoring one to a low-scoring one, they're going to lose and have to watch painfully as the Sabres sweep the Lightning in the next round.

One interesting (and kind of scary) thing is that the lowest-scoring series is the Ducks/Wild one, with only 11 goals in 3 games. The fact that the Ducks are up in this series 3-0 is a serious testament to what a complete team they are. Minnesota is a team that wants a low-scoring series. It's how they play and where they thrive, and if they were playing a team that relied only on offense, they'd be winning right now. But Anaheim, with the defense and goaltending they have, is in no way one-dimensional. They can play a high-scoring series and win with the forwards they have, but they can also play a low-scoring series and win (possibly even sweep) with the defense they have. They were Liz's Cup pick (because she thinks Giguere is cute...) and I'm beginning to think more and more that she made the right choice, as painful as that is. I haven't given up on the Sharks, and if someone in the West is going to beat Anaheim it'll be them, but it won't be easy.

Tonight the Thrashers go to New York, down 2-0, for the first time this series. The Sens/Pens again face off in Pittsburgh and the Canucks and Stars try to finish a game in less than 4 hours. The Ducks can be the first team to end their series with a win in Minnesota tonight. Calgary hopes that maybe they won't lose quite so badly at home. I've stopped caring who wins that series, because the winner most likely won't make it too far anyway. If Calgary wins (ha) they'll have to face Anaheim, and if Detroit wins they'll most likely have to face either the Sharks or the Preds (unless they get lucky somehow pull Dallas). All of the series are starting to take shape, with the Sens/Pens and Sharks/Preds being the best and most entertaining so far. I can't see either series going less than 7 games, unless one team implodes (which isn't out of the question).

Unrelated movie note: Knowing it'll be out of theaters soon, I dragged a few people to see a late showing of Pan's Labyrinth in Davis Square (love that theater). It was brutal, gruesome, creepy, depressing, and one of the darkest movies I've ever seen, but I loved it. See it in theaters.

Western Conference
-Buffalo 2, Islanders 1
Goals: 9-6
-New Jersey 1, Tampa Bay 2
Goals: 9-9
-Atlanta 0, Rangers 2
Goals: 4-6
-Ottawa 2, Pittsburgh 1
Goals: 13-9
Eastern Conference
-Detroit 2, Calgary 0
Goals: 7-2
-Anaheim 3, Minnesota 0
Goals: 7-4
-Vancouver 2, Dallas 1
Goals: 7-7
-Nashville 1, San Jose 2
Goals: 10-10

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Game Twos

On Wednesday night I got a call from my uncle Mike, who wanted to cheer with someone about Dice-K striking out Ichiro. I was watching hockey, so we got to talking about that instead. He agreed that Anaheim and San Jose are nasty, that Buffalo sucks (though apparently they always used to get beaten by the Bruins, so he feels bad for them), and that the Penguins can surprise people this year. Just as he said that, Ottawa scored the second of its six goals. Surprise!

Last night the Pens were off, which was unfortunate. They were really awful last game and probably don't want to sit on that for an extra day. Still, I have confidence that they'll come out and play much better in their game today. They pretty much have to. It would help to get a win, but on an even smaller scale they just need to play better. If their defense is as bad as it was last game, they're going to have a hard time in this series.

I'm betting on the playoffs with Paula and Liz, except that none of us really know what we're doing. Basically we're picking the winners of each series for each round, and whoever wins the most series overall wins, plus there's a bonus for picking the Stanley Cup winner. I picked using the predictions up on this site. Paula just picked the higher-ranked team in every case but Pittsburgh (because she loves Malkin). Liz used such mathematical criteria as: "Flames, because I don't like the city of Detroit", "Canucks, because Texas shouldn't win a Stanley Cup", "Sharks, duh", "Lightning, because I still hate the Devils from 2003", and "Thrashers, just cause". Both Liz and I picked the Sharks in this series, but I also picked them as my Cup prediction, which is (one reason) why it sucks that Nashville is trying to kill them off one by one. First Cheechoo got knocked out with a nasty knee-on-knee hit (though the Nashville-based replay clearly shows that Hartnell's hit would have been a shoulder check had Cheechoo not thrown himself at Scott's knee in a spontaneous act of masochism), and then Bernier was taken out on a hit from behind by Raffi Torres. Granted, Cheechoo is back and Bernier might be fine, but it's still a little annoying, and especially since it's not Raffi doing the hitting. It's Alexander Radulov. I mean, he had an amazing goal in the first game of the series, but if even he's injuring people then Nashville's gameplan is clear. I'm not saying they're trying to be dirty, but they're definitely trying to be physical. It's playoff hockey, so I understand, but if they go after Patrick Marleau then I'll be less forgiving. (By the way, that was my biggest fear in the Oilers/Sharks series last year. After Raffi destroyed both Bernier and Michalek, I wondered if they should have Patrick switch jersey numbers with a teammate for a game or two. You know...just in case.)

Thursday morning I was sitting in school and, having missed some games the night before, decided to check the scores on my phone. When I saw that the scoring recap for the Canucks/Stars game went to "Period Seven", I figured ESPN had no idea what they were talking about an had mistaken hockey for cricket or something. Nope- there were four OTs. I really believe that this couldn't happen with any other series in the playoffs right now. It reminds me of the triple OT game between Winconsin and Cornell last year. Watching that game was painful because it didn't appear that either team would ever score. They were both defensive and focusing on not losing more than necessarily winning. If two teams in the playoffs were to do that, it would be these two. I don't think that Pittsburgh and Ottawa, for instance, could ever get that far into overtime without scoring a goal because they would be playing offense more than defense. That being said, I didn't watch any of the Canucks/Stars game and am only speculating.

The biggest surprise to me this far was the Islanders/Sabres game. While the Islanders lost solidly and didn't have a realistic chance of winning that game, they weren't as completely dominated as I thought they'd be, and I got the feeling that if DiPietro had been in it could have been closer. That's about as positive as I can get this far, but the Islanders were strangely easy to cheer for and I don't see them getting swept anymore.

Today all of the Eastern Conference teams play. After hours and hours of statistical analysis, I say that the Buffalo/Islanders and Ottawa/Pittsburgh games are closer, the Atlanta/Rangers game is a massacre, and Tampa Bay wins in a shootout. Go Sharks!

Western Conference
-Buffalo 1, Islanders 0
Goals: 4-1
-New Jersey 1, Tampa Bay 0
Goals: 5-3
-Atlanta 0, Rangers 1
Goals: 3-4
-Ottawa 1, Pittsburgh 0
Goals: 6-3
Eastern Conference
-Detroit 1, Calgary 0
Goals: 4-1
-Anaheim 2, Minnesota 0
Goals: 5-3
-Vancouver 1, Dallas 1
Goals: 5-6
-Nashville 1, San Jose 1
Goals: 9-7

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Anyone But Buffalo

Before I even look at the standings, I have to ask how the hell the Oilers won- did the one thing I needed them to do to partially redeem themselves- and the Avs lost. It's not worth getting flustered over, but Jesus Christ. Anyway here's the first round of the playoffs as I understand it:

Western Conference

-Detroit (1) vs. Calgary (8)
Season series: 2-2 each
All signs point to a Detroit win in this series. While they have identical GF this season, the Red Wings have an edge in GA (ranked 4th to Calgary's 10th). For Detroit, this comes from a solid defensive team, not just goaltending. Calgary averages 31 shots against per game; Detroit averages 25. For the Flames to win this series, they'll have to be rougher (both teams have nearly identical penalties drawn/taken), work harder, and take advantage of any and all mistakes or injuries that have happened or will happen. They also have to take all of their home games, because it is a bitch to get a win at the Joe.
Who Should Win: Detroit. There's that little voice in the back of my head telling me I'm an idiot for picking the Red Wings to win a playoff series, but I can't not pick them this time.
Who I Want to Win: Calgary. Basically it's the lesser of two evils. I'm always down for Canadians winning, and Detroit is one team that I absolutely refuse to cheer for under any circumstances. The other two are Vancouver and Buffalo. If any of them meet one another in a series I'm sticking my fingers in my ears and singing "lalalala" repeatedly until it's over.

-Anaheim (2) vs. Minnesota (7)
Season series: 2-1-1 Anaheim
Minnesota's strategy this year seems to be a suffocating defensive game+Gaborik/Demitra. The Ducks, however, have scary-consistent numbers. They have the 2nd-ranked powerplay and the 4th-ranked kill. They're ranked 4th at home and 5th on the road. They're 7th in GF and 7th in GA. Minnesota, on the other hand, is 2nd at home and 17th on the road, 1st in GA and 19th in GF (though they have good special teams). When Gaborik/Demitra are both healthy and clicking, they've got a little more offense going for them, but overall they're a mostly one-dimensional team. The one thing they have is that they always seem to win games when it feels like they lost. I can't count the number of times that the Avs or someone were playing the Wild, and we were dominating the game, and I'd look up at the score and realize that we were losing. Maybe they can win a series in which it feels like they lost?
Who Should Win: Anaheim. They've got experienced veterans, promising young guys, scoring, defense, they're physical, they're quick...I'd be shocked if they lost. Minnesota's good, but Anaheim might be the best team in the playoffs.
Who I Want to Win: Minnesota. I kind of like them, and despite the insane comments that were made about his wife, I still hate Pronger.

-Vancouver (3) vs. Dallas (6)
Season series: 2-1-1 each
I'll be surprised if this series doesn't suck. Two defense-first teams that no one really likes? Woohoo! But honestly, it should be extremely low-scoring with the 21st-ranked (Vancouver) and 22nd-ranked (Dallas) offenses going at it. The difference is that Dallas is a better defensive team overall, allowing 25 shots per game to Vancouver's 29, while Vancouver has Roberto Luongo.
Who Should Win: Vancouver. Everyone knows a good goalie is worth way more than a good defense in the playoffs. If the Sedins do anything in the scoring department, Vancouver should win. Plus they kick ass in OT with a 12-3 record (not including the shootout), and Dallas is probably the weakest Western Conference team.
Who I Want to Win: Dallas. Another lesser-of-two-evils scenario, and like I said before I just can't bring myself to root for Vancouver, even if it means rooting for Dallas. It doesn't matter. I won't be watching this series anyway.

-Nashville (4) vs. San Jose (5)
Season series: 2-1-1 Nashville
By far the Western matchup I'm looking forward to most. Despite their middle-ranking in the West, they're the 3rd and 5th-ranked teams in the league and could have easily been higher in the standings. Nashville is, record-wise, better than both Anaheim and Vancouver, meaning San Jose might have been better off dropping a few spots. Even still, I think the Sharks have the ability to be even better than they were during the regular season. Both teams are solid in both ends of the ice (Nashville is 4th in GF, 8th in GA; San Jose is 6th in GF and 6th in GA) and have two good goaltenders each. Scoring won't be a problem for either team, though- Nashville oozes offense, while San Jose will have two awesome lines centered by Thornton and Marleau.
The Sharks' powerplay is deadly, but will be facing the 3rd-ranked kill of the Predators. One disparity is that Nashville gets 28 shots/game, but lets up 31, while San Jose is more balanced at 29 for/26 against, but that doesn't mean too much, except that San Jose is a little better defensively.
Who Should Win: San Jose. It's close, but I like them in the playoffs this season. This series is awful- either team has a shot at the Stanley Cup this year, and that one of them has to be knocked out in the first round when some pretty weak Eastern teams will go on is painful.
Who I Want to Win: San Jose. I like both teams, and the Paul Kariya action figure staring at me from my desk (it was a gift) is making me feel a little guilty, but the Sharks might be my favorite team this postseason. It's not just because of Joe- I actually like Patrick Marleau more than him. Also, Scott Hannan reminds me of Dominic Monaghan, and I tend to automatically like people if they look familiar.

Eastern Conference
-Buffalo (1) vs. NY Islanders (8)
Season series: 3-1 Buffalo
The best offense in the NHL against a potentially DiPietro-less Islanders? Oh no. The Islanders are not good enough defensively (33 shots against/game) to make up for a second-string goaltender, and especially not against Buffalo. With Smytty (God bless his soul) as their best forward, they also have no shot in hell of outscoring the Sabres. In fact, there is nothing at all remarkable about the Islanders, statistic-wise, that would make me think they have a chance in this series.
Who Should Win: Buffalo.
The Sabres have the best road record in the NHL, meaning this could be over quickly.
Who I Want to Win: The Islanders. Despite the obvious Smytty factor, which is the only real reason I want to see the Islanders do well, I just really, really hate the Sabres. In fact, my motto for this year's playoffs is "Anyone But Buffalo", which is a lot catchier and more appropriate than my original motto, "I Will Make Sweet Sweet Love to the First Person to Give Daniel Briere a Concussion". Though the offer still stands.

-New Jersey (2) vs. Tampa Bay (7)
Season series: 2-1-1 Tampa Bay
It's defense versus offense, it's St. Louis and Lecavalier versus Brodeur, it's...not going to work for Tampa Bay. Like I said before, goaltending is huge in the playoffs, and Tampa Bay doesn't have any. They average a very respectable 27 shots against per game, yet they're 24th in the league in GA and have the 28th-ranked PK. Yeah, New Jersey themselves are 27th in GF, but at least they have a few forwards that can score for them if they need it. The Lightning have just terrible defensive numbers- too terrible to win any series.
Who Should Win: New Jersey. No way Tampa Bay is beating them- they're the worst team in the playoffs.
Who I Want to Win: New Jersey. I always hated them until Brian Gionta came into my life. Now I might even say I like them a bit. Should Gionta leave the Devils, that would change, but for now I don't mind them too much.

-Atlanta (3) vs. NY Rangers (6)
Season series: 3-1 Atlanta (with 2 OT wins)
Series like this make it even harder for me that the Avs missed the playoffs. Both teams have unbelievably mediocre numbers, particularly Atlanta. They're 14th at home, 14th on the road, 14th in GF, and 15th in GA. The only thing notable about them is that their powerplay (19th) and penalty kill (26th) are both pretty bad. The one thing they have going for them is a promising young goalie, which tend to miraculously become Conn Smythe-winners, in Kari Lehtonen. The Rangers, though, counter with Henrik Lundqvist, who is hot right now. It'll be him against a potent Atlanta offense.
Who Should Win: The Rangers. I don't really know why. Neither team is particularly scary, but the Rangers have slightly less mediocre numbers, and Lundqvist.
Who I Want to Win: The Rangers. I don't like either team, but I kind of like Petr Prucha. That he's the deciding factor shows how little I care about this series.

-Ottawa (4) vs. Pittsburgh (5)
Season series: 3-1 Pittsburgh (with 2 OT wins)
Like the Western Conference 4-vs-5 series, I'm excited for this one, but then again who isn't excited to see the Penguins this postseason? Both teams are great offensively and mediocre defensively, with the Senators having a slight edge in both areas. Pittsburgh has a strong powerplay; Ottawa's better on the kill. The Sens are nearly as good on the road as they are at home, but the Pens are better at home than them. It should be a thrilling and close series.
Who Should Win: Pittsburgh. They're all young and excited. You can say they're inexperienced, but does anyone really want the kind of postseason experience that the Sens have? Moreover, I trust Crosby to up his game, and if he does then the Pens win for sure.
[Edit: After spending way too much time looking at more numbers, I can't believe I picked Pittsburgh here. Ottawa was top-five in every way I ranked teams. Even still, I'm sticking with the Pens. If a team is going to pull an upset this season, it's going to be them.]
Who I Want to Win: Pittsburgh. I like Crosby, I like Malkin ("Shrek on ice" according to Paula), and I'm a Staal family fan. Plus, anyone that has a soul is rooting for the Penguins, and (surprisingly enough) I haven't sold mine off yet.

As you can tell, I'm excited for the playoffs. It's the only time of year that I can root for random teams nearly as enthusiastically as I root for my own. Like most Bruins fans I've talked to, I hope San Jose can win it all. And like most people who put a large, triple cappucinno-fueled amount of energy into making predictions, I hope I'm right.

*Disclaimer: I'm always wrong.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

The End?

Not much has been going on in the hockey world, which is part of the reason why I haven't posted for a few days. But there's something now. Tonight might finally be the night that Calgary clinches the last playoff spot. Despite their inability to do so until now, there isn't much hope that the Oilers can beat them. If they drag it into overtime they have a shot, as the Flames suck there, but I can't see that happening. There are still too many "if"s to be fulfilled. Basically, if the Avs are going to make the playoffs, something incredible has to happen. I'm ready for it to happen, but not all that hopeful. As was pointed out, however, should the Oilers pull this off, Joe Sakic will die before he sees the Flames beat them on Sunday. Why am I still nervous about everything? It's over, right? Damnit.

I've heard (and I can't remember the article) that the Bruins are going to keep the same defensive corps that they have now for next year. This would be fine, except for two things: something with the defense is off, as they suck, and we have some prospects that seem primed for recall. I haven't seen much of them, but from what I hear it's about time that Mark Stuart and Matt Lashoff should get some big league time. As far as I'm concerned, it'd be better to do this sooner rather than later. If they can get time from the start of the season on, they'll be at least mildly trustworthy should the Bruins make the playoffs. Of course they'll be given a fair shot in training camp, but that's the way the Bruins should be leaning.

In other Bruins news, there's actually an article about Andrew Ference and his bike-riding ways. Apparently he's into saving the environment. My favorite part is that, in an article that paints him as a devoted, conscious, caring individual, he cites "If somebody slashes you, you slash them back twice as hard" as one of his most valuable lessons learned. Granted, it was about gaining respect, but it's still something I love about hockey.

Partially unrelated note: I've noticed that a lot of arenas are playing "Shipping Up to Boston" by the Dropkick Murphys as their pump-up song. Unless they're planning on shipping the Bruins a few good players (which I'm entirely welcome to) they really have to stop that.

Completely unrelated note: I saw "Grindhouse" last night and absolutely loved it. Watching it, you can see just how much fun they had making those movies. It's not for everyone (I'm a Tarantino freak) and I'm sure it would have been better if I had any B-movie experience (especially for "Death Proof") but I still think everyone should go out and see it. Don't wait, either- it has to be seen in theaters.

Right now I'm eager to see the first-round matchups for the playoffs. As soon as that's solidified, I'll pick who I want to and think will win each round. The end of the season can't come soon enough.
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