Stanley Cup Playoffs – round one | predictions

This originally appeared at Magnum TH’s other website, Pretend It’s Not Me.

Welcome to the 2017 PINM NHL Playoff Preview. Lets just get right to it. There are a lot of words to get through here, folks. Huge thanks to the 3 dudes who participated.
CHI/NSH: Nashville in 4*

Lets just get this out of the way. Yup. My stupid crazy pick of the first round is not only a Nashville upset pick, but a Nashville upset in stunning fashion pick. GET THE BROOMS OUT! I’m going big this year and I’m ready to go down in spectacular fashion for it. But in my cold dead heart I believe in this pick. And that’s the plan this year, stand my ground and shoot from the hip.

*I will mention that the dark arts are at play here and a curse has been cast. And all curses have a cure. Tootoo dressing is that cure. Any game he is in the Hawks will win.

STL/MIN: St Louis in 6

This is a pick I have the utmost confidence in. The planets all aligned for the Blues. The modern NHL classic mid-season coaching change. Getting hot. And finally landing the perfect first round matchup against the team with recent struggles. So of course I do have this fear of the Wild being “that team” that I underestimate and overlook completely this year (was BOTH San Jose and Pittsburgh last year… Oh what a horrible playoffs). But oh darn, get yourselves ready for the Blues darkhorse getting it’s gallop going.

ANA/CGY: Anaheim in 5

The Ducks thoroughly out match the Flames in every aspect of the game. But still, this should be must see TV. Their last regular season matchup was pure hatred. Calgary would be best served to keep fanning those FLAMES (heh) to stand a chance. Oh and they haven’t won a game in the Honda Center since 2004 or something downright silly… So I figure that’s gotta give + the fisticuffs/hatred thing = Calgary with the fluke win in Game 1. But Anaheim will make it look easy after that. The hiccup sweep.

EDM/SJS: Edmonton in 7

Lots of feel good stories coming out of the upstart Canadian based teams after been shut out of the playoffs last year. Montreal obviously should have never missed last year but of the rest of ’em, the Oilers are the most capable and complete. The matchup against the Sharks is a tough draw. But while the Sharkies forced the window to stay open last year all the way to the Finals, I think it is finally slamming shut on Southern Oregon (Northern California). Long fought first round exit and then the team blows up in the offseason.

MON/NYR: Rangers in 6

Down goes another 1 seed Nicholas? Really? Yes. While the Atlantic was slopping around in the mud the Metropolitan was being forged from molten steel. Sharpening and strengthening each other the entire season. Montreal suffers that wildcard crossover matchup with the plenty capable and experienced Rangers. It wouldn’t have been a deep run if New York didn’t get to cross division lines but they won’t miss taking advantage of the opportunity!

OTT/BOS: Boston in 6

This was the hardest to pick for me. Wasn’t just a clean case of heart vs head here. It was heart vs gut. And my gut has been telling me Boston since I saw the matchup. Dunno why. Maybe it’s that Ottawa is the only playoff team I didn’t watch a game of this season. My brain is like tricking itself or something and just picking Boston to fill that void perhaps. Or maybe I just “know” Boston is better. Either way, Boston. And so down goes another Candian-based team…

WSH/TOR: Washington in 4

Washington’s 5 on 5 play and possession is so stupid good I just enjoy watching them move the puck. I can literally just watch Washington pass the puck and be entertained. Its stunning and videogame-esque. I know years go by and we all become accustomed to the Caps not having it all or putting it all together when they do. But this team is something I just haven’t seen in hockey before. And I think its going to go up a good handful of notches in the second season. It’ll take a second round series win before everybody really starts talking about it but I’m telling you now: Watch out.

PIT/CLS: Pittsburgh in 5

If OTT/BOS was the hardest, this pick was the most annoying. Columbus is always the little team that could, and their fans deserve more, but I just don’t think that cannon will being firing enough. It’ll fire a’plenty because Pittsburgh is just fast and loose and everything I hate about modern playoff hockey. But that nut hooking son of a gun and his gang aren’t gonna deny the NHL the coveted WSH/PIT matchup. I also happen to think this is the sneaky undercard to the maincard of ANA/CGY as far as the rough stuff is concerned.
Nick’s Picks
Bill’s Picks
I’m not one for celebrating anniversaries of any kind. For example, I’ve been in a wonderful relationship with my significant other for over 17 years but we’ve never celebrated an anniversary (I’m not sure we actually know the date of our meeting but that’s for the romance section). There are a few significant dates in my lifetime, excluding the obvious stuff like birth, virginity loss, seeing Star Wars in a theater, etc…, such as April 5, 1995 Fugazi & Unwound at Irving Plaza ($6!) or December 31, 1995 the last day I ever drank alcohol but perhaps the most momentous date of all is October 23, 1983, just two weeks from my 10th birthday.

My next-door neighbor (RIP Wally) offered to take me to my first live NHL Hockey game as an early B-Day gift. Not just any game, especially for a New Yorker, but Islanders vs. Rangers at Madison Square Garden. I was already a hockey fan, playing with friends on the pond in the middle of our neighborhood, on the street in the off-season and watching on TV. I hadn’t really picked a team to support though since I lived in Upstate NY and at age 9 the “City” seemed like a million miles away while Long Island was basically imaginary.

So this was it. I would pledge my allegiance to the winner of this game. The night prior, the Rangers defeated the Islanders at the Coliseum, only their third regular-season victory in Nassau in the their last 23 visits, so I was already leaning. Going to watch any professional sports live is an eye opening experience for a kid with all the noise, the size of the crowd, the smell, the energy…the fights. Hockey in the 1980’s was vastly different to the modern game of corporate sponsors, gaudy ticket prices and Pierre McGuire. Not to mention hockey in the 80’s was wide open and bonkers before the neutral-zone trap suffocated the game (thanks Jacques Lemaire).

How wild and fun was hockey in the 1980’s? My first game is a great example. The Rangers took a 5-1 lead into the third period. At 15:15 of the third, the Islanders scored 3 goals in 27 seconds and another later on to tie the game at 5-5. In the 1980’s NHL games averaged 9.1 goals per game so while scoring 3 in 27 seconds may have been uncommon, the biscuit found the basket all the time during this decade. In the Blue Seats, the scariest part of the old MSG, fights broke out as far as my glasses allowed me to see. It was equal parts terrifying and invigorating.

Tied 5-5 and going to OT, my allegiance still hung in the balance. In overtime rookie Peter Sundstrom and Rangers captain Dave Maloney (their current radio broadcaster) converted a perfect two-on-one break to send the Garden Faithful home happy with a 6-5 victory. I’ve bled Blue ever since. Fast-forward 34 years and my puck addiction remains as important to my life as oxygen, water and coffee. Tomorrow, April 12, 2017, the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs begin. No sport can compare to the insanity, energy, anxiety, hysteria and excitement of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s the toughest trophy to win in sports and the journey is equally stressful for fans.

Thankfully I was a Hockey fan before a Rangers fan so regardless of their run, I will be watching until the very end when a lucky Captain hoists the Holy Grail of sports trophies, Lord Stanley’s Cup. Here are my predictions for the first round (bookies odds to win the Cup):

Eastern Conference

Washington (4/1) vs Toronto (25/1)…the best team in hockey all season vs. the new kids on the block. The Leafs had 6 rookies play at least 70 games this season, an NHL record. Auston Matthews is the future of USA Hockey. I think Ovechkin and the Caps will be too much and this might be their year for a serious run…finally. Caps in five.

Pittsburgh (8/1) vs Colombus (10/1)…the defending champions looks set for another run. Despite all kinds of injuries the Pens just kept winning and Sidney Crosby probably had the best all-around season of his (annoying) career. The Blue Jackets shocked everybody with thanks to Bobrovsky’s (loose cannon!) Vezina-like season and Cam Atkinson’s offensive break out. Pens in six.

Montreal (14/1) vs New York (14/1)…this hurts… My beloved Blueshirts hold the 1st Wildcard spot on the Eastern Conference. My confidence is not high. The Rangers finished the regular season 9-10-2 in their last 21 games. Montreal swept the 3-game series. They’ve been consistently inconsistent all season. Carey Price might be the best goalie in hockey and the Habs beefed up for the stretch run. Canadiens in seven. Ouch.

Ottawa (28/1) vs Boston (25/1)…this is a toss up. The Senators beat the Bruins head to head 4 times in the regular season. The Bruins really turned it on down the stretch and the little ball of hate will be well rested after serving his cup check suspension. Bruins in six.

Western Conference

Chicago (4/1) vs Nashville (25/1)…The Preds feature the NHL’s best defense and a fun, skilled group of forwards (what is it with players named Forsberg!). Unfortunately for them, Toews found his game and the Hawks are a different team in the postseason. Hawks in six.

Minnesota (8/1) vs St Louis (33/1)…The Wild got real cold in March but turned it around and I think Boudreau has the right mix to make a run. Never bet on the Blues in the postseason. Wild in six.

Anaheim (14/1) vs Calgary (25/1)…Ducks finished the regular season 11-0-3. I love Johnny Hockey but the Flames don’t have enough depth to support him. Ducks won the season series 4-1, the 1 Flames win was an 8-3 anomaly. Ducks in six.

Edmonton (16/1) vs San Jose (14/1)…Connor. McDavid. Oilers were incredible all season to watch, especially down the stretch. Sharks have some key injuries in Thornton and Couture. I don’t think Brent Burns mighty beard can soak up all the Oilers greasy skill. Oilers in seven.

Follow my anxiety all postseason & complain at me on Twitter via @UndeRadar. See you in the next round puckheads. Let’s GO Rangers!

-Bill
Kevin’s Picks
Washington (55-19-8) vs Toronto (40-27-15)

2016 me said this: I’ll start by saying that Washington is good…like really good. Their offense is outstanding. Their defense is outstanding. Their goalie is playing really good. They don’t have any injuries (Beagle is coming back for the series). The big question is if they are going to show up. Year after year they get to the playoffs and lay an egg when they get there. 2017 me still thinks the same thing and the Beagle is healthy! They are good…. really good. Toronto has some rookie fella that is doing alright and a coach that is all about playing tough hockey. With that being said… Toronto’s has a lot of players that are banged up including their goalie. I just can’t see them pulling off the upset.

Washington in 5

Pittsburgh (50-21-11) vs Columbus Blue Jackets (50-24-8)

This might be the best first round series IMO. I know Pitt is banged up but Kunitz, Malkin, and Hagelin are day to day, which means they will probably play in this series. Pitt losing Letang was a big hit, but they still have Trevor Daley who is basically the same player. This series will go back and forth because Columbus has Bob in goal and he has been standing on his ol’ noggin all season. It is going to be really good series. And I am still not a fan of Crosby, so go Columbus!

Columbus in 7

Ottawa Senators (44-28-10) vs Boston Bruins (44-31-7)

Two teams I dislike…. One being the Boston Bruins and the other being the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Ducks. Buncha losers. It will be a sloppy series with Ottawa moving on after 7. Plus, you have to pull for Craig Anderson and everything he has been through this year. Pretty cool story.

Ottawa in 7

Montreal Canadians (47-26-9) vs New York Rangers (48-28-6)

Last year, I was quoted by saying Lundqvist was the best goalie in the league. He has had his ups and downs this season so I am a little worried about his mentality going into the playoffs. I do like Montreal’s make up for this year’s playoffs and I think they are set up for a deep run. Carey Price has been playing solid all year so that is the difference maker in this series. goaltending.

Montreal in 6

St. Louis Blues (46-29-7) vs Minnesota Wild (49-25-8)

I am a Wild fan and after the major collapse in March I am not feeling too confident about this first round series. It would be the most Minnesota thing to lose in the first round of the playoffs against the coach you just fired 9 months ago. Doesn’t matter that Minnesota beat up on some soft teams the last two weeks of the year. They will lose in 6. I just cannot see them making it past the first round….and Ol’ Brucie has a great track record in the playoffs. #COMM17TED

St. Louis in 6

Nashville Predators (41-29-12) vs Chicago Blackhawks (50-23-9)

2010 and 2015, the Black….Hawks played the Preds in the first round of the playoffs. What ended up happening those years? The Hawks won the cup. I told the Editor/Chief of this here website that whoever wins this series I will become a fan of (I already have the gear waiting) and ditch the Wild. Chicago is playing really well and they know how to win in the playoffs so it is really hard to pick against them here. Hopefully I am wrong for, Taylor’s sake. #Skatriots

Black…..Hawks in 6

Anaheim Ducks (46-23-13) vs Calgary Flames (45-33-4)

I dislike the Ducks and Bruins more than any other team in the NHL. I am going to stick with that trend and have the Flames upset the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Ducks. I think Calgary can stick with them for a few games and might take this series. Elliot has been playing well this year but his playoffs in years past haven’t been the greatest. I like Calgary in 7.

Calgary in 7

San Jose Sharks (46-29-7) vs Edmonton Oilers (47-26-9)

The youngin’s blowing through the regular season and made the playoffs! Talbot has been solid all year and they have the best player in the NHL in Drake Caggiula. The other night Connor McDavid threw him a sick saucer and Caggiula buried it in the back of the net. So basically its 1A = Drake 1B= Connor for best player in the NHL. The Sharks bring experience and with making the Cup Finals last year I see them making a deep run again. But screw that, go Oilers!

Oilers in 6

I have the Columbus and Edmonton in the Cup Finals. What a boring Finals that would be! I was wrong last year with my picks and I know I will be again this year. Happy Playoffs Hockey Fans!
Taylor’s Picks
I’m going to get right to this. The meat of my words will be within, so dive on in. We’ll start with the East. These may be on the brief side, because, as you’ll no doubt remember from the last two years, I don’t know much about the East. I’ll bore you in the Hawks section, I promise.

Montreal Canadiens (47-26-9) vs New York Rangers (48-28-6)

Two goaltenders that are wizards and two teams that go waaaayyyy back. I like this series, even though I don’t really care for either of these teams. It’s lazy to say ‘it comes down to who has the hotter goalie”, but honestly, that’s what I want to do. But I won’t! I hope the Canadiens win because Kevin Hayes hurt my feelings by leaving the Hawks for the Rangers. Oh and Vesey, too. It’s like a who’s who of dudes who should be wearing the Indian Head. But, I also love the King. Hmmmmm…

I’ll take the Habs in 6, because … suck it, Kevin Hayes!

See? We’re off to a stunning start. I assure you these will get at least a little bit better. Probably. We just have to power through the East, guys. Stick with me.

Ottawa Senators (44-28-10) vs Boston Bruins (44-31-7)

I really like both of these teams. I think the Bruins are better than their record indicates and I think the Sens are awesome because I do. I would really like to see Craig Anderson continue to play well after the cancer diagnosis of his wife, but I think Rask wins out. I reserve the right to change my mind when Marchand spears someone in the throat and gets perma banned from the playoffs.

B’s in 6.

Washington Capitals (55-19-8) vs Toronto Maple Leafs (40-27-15)

Uhhhhhh… yeah. I love Toronto’s resurgence, personally, but this has bloodbath written all over it. Do the Capitals fold again? Maybe. Does it happen in round 1 to this Leafs team? I don’t believe it does. Hopefully Toronto wins one at home, so I will pick a sweep to not jinx them on that quest. Good luck to the Leafs, they will need it.

Caps in 4.

Pittsburgh Penguins (50-21-11) vs Columbus Blue Jackets (50-24-8)

I don’t like any teams that are consistently good. I am petty and I want everyone to think of the Hawks as the best team of the cap era. (They are anyway, so far, but the Kings were threatening and the Pens are right there.) So I am ready for the Penguins to collapse. However, I think the Blue Jackets are already in collapse mode. Plus, I miss Brandon Saad a ton. Seeing him happy makes my petty, selfish, dead, black heart hurt. I love you, Saad. I hope you fail miserably. The Penguins are without Kris Letang and that affects them a ton, but not in this series.

Pens in 6.

Edmonton Oilers (47-26-9) vs San Jose Sharks (46-29-7)

Gotta love the Oilers, right? If you’re going to get behind a Canadian team, it’s them, isn’t it? Maybe the Flames? Leafs? Meh. I still have some ill will towards Babcock. So I guess I’m into the Oilers. But I would really prefer that they lose before potentially face the Blackhawks. No thank you. The big question here, I guess, is if Joe Thornton is playing or not. How about Logan Couture? If they’re out, the Oilers cruise; if not, it’s a different ball game. Unfortunately, we won’t know until after this is posted and I’d rather swing and miss then bunt a single, so…

The Oil in 7. Let’s do it, boys.

Anaheim Ducks (46-23-13) vs Calgary Flames (45-33-4)

Woof. I have no interest in this series at all. It should be physical, but outside of that, I don’t give a fart. I just don’t care about this one at all. Whatever.

Ducks in 6.

Minnesota Wild (49-25-8) vs St Louis Blues (46-29-7)

Yikes. It doesn’t get much worse for the Wild, does it? I mean, outside of injuries. But goodness. They fell apart completely, but now have some false hope because they won 4 in a row. Want me to destroy that false hope? They beat the Avalanche (30th in the league. There are thirty teams) twice, the Coyotes (27th) and the Hurricanes (21st). Yikes. I’m all for a boost heading into the playoffs, but holy shit. They are falling apart mainly because of everyone’s hero a few months ago, Devan Dubnyk, but now he’s playing like throwback Dubnyk. New season starts Wednesday though, so they may be able to right the ship. The Blues, on the other hand, are heating up, and have the Wild’s old coach, which, if you know anything about sports, all but assures a victory over his former team.

Blues in 7. Sorry, Wild. Hell of a season, but not this time. Blow it up*. (* – this goes for both teams, whichever loses)

YOUR Chicago Blackhawks (50-23-9) vs Nashville Predators (41-29-12)

I am going to start this off with some truth. I am more than a little nervous about this matchup. I can’t even really say why, but the Hawks losing this series doesn’t strike me as that improbable. The Blackhawks are still a pretty flawed team. Their top line has been juggled all year long because Jonathan Toews just cannot get a steady LW, the poor bastard. Nick Schmaltz has been remarkable and remarkably streaky, so who knows what you’re getting with him. Richard Panik has scored almost as many goals this year than he had scored in his career (22 this year; 25 career) and he’s been in the league for 5 years. The good news is that he’s shooting 14%, which is around his career average. Nothing crazy that is unsustainable. So maybe he’s just found his touch. I typed that with crossed fingers. I’m impressed.

The second line is the real first line, even though we all pretend that Toews’ line is always the 1st line. Kane and Panarin are an absolute treat to watch and Anisimov should be back healthy. If he misses time, the Hawks are boned. No joke. The third line has Marian Hossa on it, who would be a first liner on like 26 teams in the league. Marcus Kruger will be on that line, too, I think.

But who else is in this lineup? John Hayden has looked good in limited action after getting called up from Yale, but I don’t know how much he plays. Tanner Kero looked great filling in for Anisimov and I hope he sees some action. Andrew Desjardins and Jordan Tootoo are essentially the same guy and probably will play about the same amount. Tomas Jurco was a buy low risk that hasn’t panned out; Vinnie Hinostroza is someone I like a lot, but it sure doesn’t seem like Q does. The best bottom six player (not named Marian) the Hawks have right now is Ryan Hartman. There was a time when people really wanted the Hawks to resign Andrew Shaw. I did not solely because of Hartman. However, even with the confidence I had in Hartman, I never would have thought he’d pan out like he has. Hope he can keep it up. He’s been a pleasant surprise.

Duncan Keith is still a cyborg; Brent Seabrook is melting down, slowly, but much quicker than anyone wants; Nik Hjalmarsson is my hero and one of the best defensive d men in the league; he’s reunited with his old stalwart Johnny Oduya, who was a welcome addition, but doesn’t quite look like he did back in the Cup years. Hope he can turn that on. After that, it can get a little dicey. Brian Campbell was supposed to be a huge pickup, but he looks lost. He is a puck moving d man playing for a team that doesn’t want their d men carrying the puck. Great idea. Trevor van Riemsdyk is almost really good, but smells a lot like Chris Campoli to me. Forget I brought that up. I don’t want to talk about it. Outside of them? Michal Rozsival (christ…), Michal Kempny (who should be good, but handles the puck in his own zone like it is a literal bomb), and Gustav Forsling (who is good, but not ready).

I love Corey Crawford and I will back him until I am dead. Just kidding. I will back him until he implodes because I am a fickle sports fan. He was on pace for a career year, then his appendix exploded and he never quite came back. If he can’t get it done, Scott Darling comes in and saves the day again, right? He’s the only reason they won the Cup in 2015, so it’s not without precedent. Scotty is going to go somewhere this offseason and I hope he makes bank and plays really well when he doesn’t play the Hawks.

Anyway, I wanted to get that all out because I don’t know that the Hawks get past this round. Had to say it all now. Thank you for sticking with it.

Fuck Nashville, fuck country music, fuck Barret Jackman even though he retired last year.

The Blackhawks beat the Predators in 6 games in 2010 and won the Cup. They beat the Predators in 6 games in 2015 and won the Cup.

Blackhawks in 6. Let’s fucking go.

Saturday night, April 8, 2018: Staples Center, LA.

We exit our lyft and walk up to the arena. “Mother of god”, I thought. “This place is legendary.” After paying my respects to the Gretzky statue, we headed for the airport security line the kind people of LA had placed. Once inside the excitement and nervousness began to mount. Not two nights earlier, being destroyed by Anaheim, left me with an uneasy feeling about our playoff chances. Mind you nobody played, and it was a meaningless game. I can’t help but wonder what’s to come. The puck drops, and… we look like a hockey team. Going up 1-0 in the first, being solid in the second, and completely falling apart in the third. OT was nothing less than a shit show. But, when Hjalmarsson is out tending to his new offspring, things can get dicey.

Today is April 13th, and what will be the first playoff game of the season. I sit here late as shit, on the bus to work, already a wreck because I couldn’t find my Blackhawks hat to adorn for the day. Round 1 has served the Hawks Nashville. Having a solid last third of the season, locking up 1st place was possibly the best thing for us. Having a easy bout in the first round means a better time if we have a slow start. Resting players at the end of a season always makes me nervous, hoping they’ll get back at it once at full strength. Crow looked a little shaky in LA, again lacking the full strength of our defensive unit proves to be crucial for this team to operate.

I have no doubts the Hawks will clear the first round, but with what ease? I think the two major keys to a deep run this season will be keeping all the pieces of the puzzle healthy and on the ice, and staying out of the penalty box. I have complete confidence coach Q will execute a well balanced approach. If the Hawks can keep this series on the shorter end, it will bode well for their defenseman getting rest to keep healthy. As for the recent penalty box issues. The penalty kill has been dismal, embarrassing actually. There, I said it. Embarrassing. Normally the Hawks do a really good job of not taking penalty’s, so it hasn’t been too much of an issue. Lately, that has. It been the case. It’s easy enough to fix, just stop taking dumb penalty’s, plain and simple. What is not so simple is Hartman. The Hawks lack a true enforcer in the size sense, but have always made due with players that will annoy the shit out of you. RE: Andrew Shaw. With Hartman you have a player that’s just as much of an instigator, but you also have a player that’s bigger than Shaw. So more fisticuffs are expected. I really like Hartman as a player, but lacking a penalty kill backing will drastically reduce his effectiveness in that department. If the penalty kill can’t finds its feet, Hartman could be more of a liability than an asset. Keeping him from boiling over in tight games will be crucial.

All in all, if this goes to 7 games, things could get ugly in round 2. I like the Hawks in 6, even better in 5.

Prediction: Hawks in 6
Benjamin’s Picks
Ben’s Picks
I grew up in a hockey town in a state that doesn’t have an NHL team. 1980 Olympic champion Bob Suter operated his store a block away from my house and coached my high school’s hockey team. Three miles away the Dane County Coliseum hosted Wisconsin Badger hockey games. Back then the team was coached by Jeff Sauer and featured NHL stalwarts like Chris Chelios, Tony Granato, and Mike Richter. In later years, back when people thought he would end up ten times better than Gretzky (and before the accident) even Dany Heatly carved up the local ice. I tell you all of those things so you know and understand that I grew up around hockey.

That said, I’ve never played it and wasn’t all that interested in it (though, it’s worth noting here that I did own a hockey stick at one point that was given to me as a gift by former Badger and my neighbor, Matt Walsh). I mean, I was down to tear up some NHL ’93 and ’95 and, when the carpal tunnel cooperates, I’ll still smash out some 2K16, but I’ve never been a hockey fan. I think part of the problem is that I never learned to ice skate so it’s kinda like watching people do something you can’t do (ignoring, for the moment that the fact that I am out of shape wouldn’t also greatly impede my game) and being jealous about it and then deciding it isn’t for you.

But, I read enough headlines and played enough video games and listened to Taylor and Bill, so I figure I’ve got a lock on this year’s NHL playoffs. I’m going to use a formula that mixes a bunch of NCAA basketball tournaments like – Are the uniforms cool? Does the mascot look tough? If I were playing NHL 2K16, would I pick this team based on intangibles? You know, the same types of questions that dude/chick at your office who has never watched a sporting event uses and then wins the NCAA basketball pool and you have to buy pizza for the whole office.

Let’s do this!

Bruins v. Senators – Listen, I’m gonna be real for a bit. Hockey is basically a Canadian thing. Like their one thing. And I like Canada. Hell, my favorite band is from Canada. But then you also have to take into consideration that politics are a goddamn dumpster fire these days and that Senators are a part of government, and they are pretty much all losers at this point. Plus, I remember back in the late 80s/early 90s my dude Aaron (he actually played for Suter) had a shirt that said, “There’s a Cup Bruin’ in Boston” and I didn’t get it, but later on I figured out that the Bruins won the Stanley Cup and I was like, “Damn, that truck stop t-shirt is dope.” I’ve learned a lot of shit at truck stops. BRUINS in 5.

Blackhawks v. Predators – The Blackhawks are my default team when I play video game hockey. Mainly because I was a big Chelios dude. There’s probably some geography here, too. The ‘Hawks are the closest team to me. In the olden times I might have made an argument for the Minnesota North Stars being the “home” team. But then they moved to Dallas, taking Mike Modano with them, and it was ovah. I’ve spent plenty of time in Chicago and Nashville, but the Chicago times were much better spent. Blackhawks gonna smash in 4.

Blues v. Wild – Back in the old Sega Genesis NHL games, Brett Hull was basically unstoppable. Dude kinda looked like Gretzky and rocked a good old Canadian Passport. The Wild are not the North Stars. Between those two things you’d think I was going to pick the Blues, but St. Louis is also the home of the Cardinals, so I can only assume all of their sports teams and fans are a bunch of assholes and that’s why I have to go with the Mike Modano-less Wild. This is going to be an exciting series, going all 7 games.

Ducks v. Flames – Theo Fleury was my fake favorite NHL player when you had to have that kind of data at least hanging out in the back pocket of your dungarees if somebody asked. I basically remember that I’d check out NHL stats in the local paper every now and then, back when I read the whole sports section because I didn’t have the internet to make me stupid and Fleury was always at the top of the charts when it came to scoring. When I Wikipedia’d the dude, it talked about him taking part in the Punch-up in Piestany, and though I had no idea what that was about, I read about it and figured that Canadian’s have fighting spirit. Besides that, the Ducks were born out of some Disney project that Taylor swears by, but to me all that means is that Big Media’s team is the Ducks and I guess that makes me Team Arsonist. Flames in 6.

Oilers v. Sharks – This is perhaps the most lopsided matchup in the playoffs. Well, it is if you remember that the Oilers is a team made up of Exxon executives who make money fucking over economically disadvantaged populations and who haven’t done an honest day’s worth of work in their whole lives AND you remember that Sharks are the most fucking apex predators in nature. Plus, having just been to San Jose a few days ago, let me assure you it’s rough and it hates oil executives. Sharks in 4 (might even be 3 if the Oilers just don’t show up for game 4).

Canadiens v. Rangers – I assume the Canadiens are like the NY Yankees of the NHL with something like 100 Stanley Cup victories. And the Rangers are my dude Bill’s favorite team. So I’m leaning pretty hard towards the Rangers. But I want to be fair and informed, so I thought back to what else I know about this game and I remembered the time I went to France back in 2003 and I couldn’t understand a damn thing anybody was saying and it frustrated the hell out of me. I hear good things about Montreal, but I also hear they speak French. Rangers in 5.

Caps v. Leafs – Yo, has anybody ever explained why it’s not the Maple Leaves? North Detroit possibly has my favorite jerseys in the NHL. But the Caps are America’s Team (in as much as their opponent is from Canada). And not only are they America’s Team, but they’re in the Nation’s Capital. This series is like eleven mini-America (US version) vs. Canada. You ain’t got a chance in hell Canadia!. Caps in 4.

Pens v. Blue Jackets – Are we still pretending that Columbus is a professional sports town? Would I be surprised if you told me they had the #1 team in the American Rugby Association? No. That they had the United States Lacrosse League MVP on billboards in town? Not hardly. But a professional team in one of the Big Four? That’s ridiculous. Plus, Lemieux’s mullet still owns hockey. Mix in Bill Crosby aka Puddin’ Pop Sidney, and this thing is all Pens, all day. Pittsburgh has three major sports teams. Columbus has college football. This won’t be close! Pens in 7 in double OT.

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