For the next two months, you won’t want to talk to anyone — coworkers, friends, and family can all take a hike. You won’t want to do anything — things like going to work, running errands, making waste in the toilet seems like a terrible misappropration of valuable time. You won’t want to pay attention to personal hygiene — shaving, changing or washing your clothes are all out of the question.
And that’s because it is, at long last, playoff time.
The wheat has been separated from 14 teams worth of useless chaff with poor goaltending and now we settle things like gentlemen.
This being my first NHL playoffs as a blog writer, I will break things down for you thusly:
- Why the team will win a Stanley Cup.
- Why you’re an idiot for believing in the team in which you’ve invested so much time and love.
- What my prediction is, for better or worse (and likely the latter).
In the East…
The No. 1 Boston Bruins
WHY WE’RE GOIN’ ALL THE WAY: One reason the Bruins are probably going to win the Stanley Cup is that, with all due respect to the Sharks, they’re the best team in hockey. Excellent forwards, a deep defense, the best goalie in the league this season and a pretty damn good coach is a pretty good reason to bet on any team, but this Boston team especially seems poised absolutely ravage the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Seriously, would you want your team to face them unless it absolutely had to?
WHY THIS TEAM SUCKS: The Bruins’ obvious handicap is that, at times, they don’t play with the intensity that is required to win hockey games, and beyond that, they’ve certainly been guilty of not playing a full 60 every night. Do I think that happens here, especially with a historical rival that they don’t like very much in the first round? No. But stranger things have transpired.
The No. 2 Washington Capitals
WHY WE’RE GOIN’ ALL THE WAY: The best player on Earth right now plays for them, as does the best defenseman this season. Their forward pool may thin out considerably after the top six, but that top six can score by the boatload and there are few teams in the East that can handle them. Plus the Caps went 24-10-4 against playoff teams this year, and 20-6-5 against Eastern Conference playoff teams. That’s mighty impressive.
WHY THIS TEAM SUCKS: Five words: The defense and Jose Theodore.
The No. 3 New Jersey Devils
WHY WE’RE GOIN’ ALL THE WAY: Good up-front scoring, great defense, best goalie alive. That’s really all that need be said.
WHY THIS TEAM SUCKS: They absolutely crapped out at the end of the season for no readily apparent reason after spending four months as the unbeatable titan of the East. If Brent Sutter doesn’t get his boys together in a hurry, he’s going to be carrying a box of his things out of The Rock and driving back to Alberta sad and alone.
The No. 4 Pittsburgh Penguins
WHY WE’RE GOIN’ ALL THE WAY: Two of the three best players in the world, one of the best records in hockey since the deadline, some very strong secondary scoring (finally) and a pretty good offensive blue line? Yeah sure.
WHY THIS TEAM SUCKS: They might just turn back into the Penguins of two months ago. And those guys were terrible.
The No. 5 Philadelphia Flyers
WHY WE’RE GOIN’ ALL THE WAY: They had something like four 30-goal scorers and I think Mike Knuble got up over 25 as well. It’s awful hard to contain the offense on a team like that. They also score shorthanded goals like crazy and their power play isn’t too bad at all.
WHY THIS TEAM SUCKS: Their defense and goaltending are league-average and they take a lot of penalties, which isn’t smart for a team with a PK as mediocre as theirs.
The No. 6 Carolina Hurricanes
WHY WE’RE GOIN’ ALL THE WAY: They’ve been ridiculous lately and Cam Ward has certainly proven he can throw an entire mediocre team on his back and carry it all the way to a Stanley Cup.
WHY THIS TEAM SUCKS: They’re probably going to rely on Eric Staal to play well. Unfortunately, the Thrashers didn’t make the playoffs, so they’re probably out of luck.
The No. 7 New York Rangers
WHY WE’RE GOIN’ ALL THE WAY: Henrik Lundqvist and Sean Avery!
WHY THIS TEAM SUCKS: Everyone else.
The No. 8 Montreal Canadiens
WHY WE’RE GOIN’ ALL THE WAY: Carey Price seems to be playing better lately, and they might just be able to cajole Alex Kovalev into caring.
WHY THIS TEAM SUCKS: But probably not.
Way Out West
The No. 1 San Jose Sharks
WHY WE’RE GOIN’ ALL THE WAY: They’re the best team in hockey. They work hard for once, they’re insanely skilled, and rookie coach Todd McLellan’s got the entire team buying into the defense-powers-the-offense system that works so incredibly well.
WHY THIS TEAM SUCKS: Come on, they’re the Sharks. You know why.
The No. 2 Detroit Red Wings
WHY WE’RE GOIN’ ALL THE WAY: They have the best top-six forwards in the NHL and they’re the defending Stanley Cup Champions. They also fought through an entire season of actually having Chris Osgood be the No. 1 goalie.
WHY THIS TEAM SUCKS: Chris Osgood is the No. 1 goalie.
The No. 3 Vancouver Canucks
WHY WE’RE GOIN’ ALL THE WAY: The Sedins have been unbelievable in their contract year, and obviously Roberto Luongo is pretty much the textbook definition of a goalie that can steal a series and key an entire Cup run. They’ve got some very good talent, they’re hard-working and they’re strong defensively.
WHY THIS TEAM SUCKS: Basically everyone in the West is a tough draw (save for the Flames), and the Canucks just don’t have the depth on offense to get them past the second round, if they even make it that far. They will be far too easy to shut down.
The No. 4 Chicago Blackhawks
WHY WE’RE GOIN’ ALL THE WAY: Toews, Kane and Havlat, for starters. This is another hard-working team with an excellent skill level that, were the way the NHL does its seedings not stupid (a point for another day, perhaps), would be the three-seed. But they’ve got a goaltender who has won a Cup before, an incredibly underrated defensive corps and a frightening amount of offensive punch in their top five or six forwards.
WHY THIS TEAM SUCKS: It has, on the other hand, been a long time since Nikolai Khabibulin has played like the Nikolai Khabibulin that won the Cup in 2004. And that depth at forward seems to drop off a cliff after the top five. Also, Brian Campbell pretty much gave away the puck like it was a live hand grenade in the playoffs last year.
The No. 5 Calgary Flames
WHY WE’RE GOIN’ ALL THE WAY: Jarome Iginla is the ideal NHL player. He does everything. And Miikka Kiprusoff has the talent to steal a series or three (see also: 2004.)
WHY THIS TEAM SUCKS: But like Khabibulin, the Miikka Kiprusoff of today is a far, far cry from the Miikka Kiprusoff of 2004, and the fact that the all of the Flames’ top-three defensemen are either playing hurt or going to miss the entire first round ain’t helping matters. And it’s all Olli Jokinen’s fault, so I’ve heard.
The No. 6 St. Louis Blues
WHY WE’RE GOIN’ ALL THE WAY: Despite an assumedly untenebale injury situation and against all odds, the Blues somehow scrapped their way to the playoffs behind wide-ranging contributions on offense and defense, and the stellar play of Chris Mason.
WHY THIS TEAM SUCKS: At some point, this all has to catch up with them, right? This run seems unsustainable. And besides, there are a LOT of rookies on the team.
The No. 7 Columbus Blue Jackets
WHY WE’RE GOIN’ ALL THE WAY: Five more words: Rick Nash and Steve Mason. Those two alone can steal more than their fair share of games.
WHY THIS TEAM SUCKS: This is the first time either of those guys have made the playoffs.
The No. 8 Anaheim Ducks
WHY WE’RE GOIN’ ALL THE WAY: They’ve done it in the not-too-distant past with a very similar team to the one they have now. They work hard and guys like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, both of whom are scum of the earth, are very good. And since their opponents are probably going to see nothing but Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer for something like 55 minutes a night, that’ll be awful tough to work around.
WHY THIS TEAM SUCKS: There has never been a point at which I’ve watched a Ducks game this season and felt like they were an especially good team. Physicality and being irritating can only get you so far.
And now my predictions, about which you care deeply
East: Bruins in five, Capitals in six, Hurricanes in seven, Penguins in six
West: Sharks in six, Blue Jackets in seven, Blues in seven, Blackhawks in four
East: Bruins in seven, Penguins in five
West: Sharks in six, Blackhawks in six
East: Bruins in six
West: Sharks in five
Bruins in seven