In the first round, we predicted six of the eight series correctly. The two we were most unsure about were the two incorrect picks – no surprise at all that New York or Los Angeles won.
Now that the second round is here, the picture becomes a little more clear. Only one of the four series will go the full seven games. Which will it be, and who will move on?
The playoffs have been interesting so far. Some teams have surprised me. Others haven’t at all.
The biggest surprise was the play of the New York Islanders. I thought Pittsburgh would wipe the floor with the Isles and that they should feel lucky if they pick up one game in the series. New York ended up staying with the Penguins in almost every game, and lost two heartbreakers at home in overtime. I never thought I’d say this, but the Islanders look as if they are finally turning things around. (Just in time for their move to Brooklyn!)
Another surprise was the performance of the Minnesota Wild. I’m not surprised that they lost to Chicago, but because they got bounced in only five games. Losing their top goaltender didn’t help, but Minnesota’s offense was stagnant the whole series. The Wild also looked terrible in Game 4 as they got shut out at home and handed the Blackhawks all the momentum in the series. Nevertheless, Minnesota looks stable and if they can add another scorer and fix their inconsistency in the net, they should be a force next season.
Speaking of net consistency, here’s Vancouver. The Canucks’ first-round sweep didn’t surprise me at all. They looked flat-out awful against the Sharks. Roberto Luongo started the first two games in net and didn’t look that bad, but then he was pulled for Cory Schneider, who wasn’t an improvement. Vancouver needs to fix its goaltending problem next season, or else they can kiss their fading Stanley Cup hopes goodbye.
Anyway, we’ve said goodbye to eight teams and are now off to the Conference Semifinals. Here are my predictions for the second round.
May is my favorite time of year. College hockey wrapped up a few weeks ago, the AHL playoffs are under way and most importantly, the NHL playoffs have begun.
Just a few months ago, amidst the constant bickering and endless debate over a new labor agreement, I didn’t think any of us would be watching playoff hockey. Now that it has begun, I have a feeling it’s going to be just as unpredictable as last year. Did anybody see Los Angeles and Phoenix battling for a bid in the Stanley Cup Finals, or New Jersey getting on an impressive roll at the right time? As I write this, six of the eight opening NHL playoff series have begun, so I’m a little behind. So before Game 2 starts, here are my first round predictions.
Where I live, beards are fashionable. A record store, restaurant, grocery store and boutique knickknack shop that sells bearded garden gnomes were among the local businesses that recently donated a trove of prizes for a moustache/beard contest at my library. Among the contest winners was an international beard-growing champion1. The reality TV series “Whisker Wars” paid attention. By the way, there’s a reality TV series called “Whisker Wars.”
Don’t be fooled by the playoff seedings after a 48-game regular season. There are no shoo-ins here.
Think the short season wasn’t long enough to shake things up? The Maple Leafs are playoff upstarts and the Red Wings are fading. Jarome Iginla is in Pittsburgh and Jaromir Jagr is in Boston. The defending champions brought nearly their entire Stanley Cup-winning roster back into the regular season, yet aren’t favored to get out of the first round.
And yet, amidst the craziness, the best hockey teams on the planet are seeded first in each conference, on a collision course to a memorable Stanley Cup Finals.
You’ve got to hand it to Toronto for going big.
How better to respond to the Maple Leafs’ first playoff appearance in nine years than by creating the world’s largest goal light?
Everything was setting up so perfectly. The top-seeded Quinnipiac Bobcats had support from its campus, a veteran-laden squad, a number-one ranking in the nation the majority of the season, some love from ESPNU, and several articles about them in publications around the country.
They had come from behind to beat Canisius, dominated conference rival Union, barely broke a sweat in the Frozen Four semifinal against St. Cloud State, and their Hobey Baker finalist goaltender was 39 minutes into a shutout against Yale, a team the Bobcats had beaten three times during the season.
Every now and then you’ll see one: A piece of sports championship memorabilia up for auction from a once-wealthy player hard up for cash. Or, in the case of O.J. Simpson, more than one.
The Los Angeles Kings 2012 Stanley Cup champion’s ring that you see above is up for auction, but this one’s for a good cause.
Last week, I tried predicting who would make the Frozen Four next week in Pittsburgh. I did OK, getting two of the four teams correct, while missing terribly on the other two. The good thing is I don’t think anybody predicted that the field of Quinnipiac, Yale, St. Cloud State and UMass Lowell would be heading to the Steel City, so I take solace in that.
A lot of storylines came out of last weekend.
Follow along as we preview each round of the 2013 NCAA tournament and pick a champion.