Organized Sports is a recurring sports column named for a seminal DC avant-hardcore song by the equally stupid and brilliant (to me, “equally stupid and brilliant” pretty much just means “brilliant”) band Void. Take from that what you will.
Hey NHL, why don’t you give us non-full-time bloggers a little time to write something up between rounds? You’re not giving me enough time to reflect on the first round and “what it all means” and NHL is violent and blah and floob and deebsquob! But there’s no time for that. Time to see how poor my predictions for the first round were and move on to my picks for the second.
Grading the First Round – The Western Conference
(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (8) Los Angeles Kings
Prediction: Canucks in 5
Actual Result: Kings in 5
The Kings rode a hot goaltender on their end and a weak one on the other to a first round upset of the President’s Trophy winners for the best regular season record. I didn’t think the Kings had it in them, but they obviously did, especially Jonathan Quick in net and Dustin Brown, who laid hit after hit on the forecheck and added some offense to boot. Roberto Luongo is most likely done in Vancouver; he said he’d waive his no-trade clause if asked to make room for the better, less nervy Cory Schneider waiting in the wings. When he does get traded, I will say he is no Luonger with the Canucks.
(2) St. Louis Blues vs. (7) San Jose Sharks
Prediction: Sharks in 7
Actual Result: Blues in 5
A thoroughly inaccurate prediction, but one that I, a Blues fan, made in order to keep myself from getting my hopes up. Instead of a long, hard-fought series in which the more experienced Sharks won in the end, the Sharks got thoroughly outplayed in every aspect of the game, but particularly on special teams (the Blues’ power play dominated) and in net (Brian Elliott, in relief of the injured Jaroslav Halak, is earning every bit of that contract extension). It was also very nice for David Perron to score the back-breaking goal in the deciding game (on a nice deflection from an Alex Pietrangelo point shot) against the team of Joe Thornton, the man who made Perron miss more than a year after knocking him out with a cheap shot.
(3) Phoenix Coyotes vs. (6) Chicago Blackhawks
Prediction: Blackhawks in 6
Actual Result: Coyotes in 6
Well, at least I got the number of games right. Though the Ky-yoats were the higher seed, they had a worse record than the Blackhawks and were definitely the underdogs in the series, and legitimately were outplayed everywhere but in net, where the boringly-named Mike Smith stood on his head to steal each and every one of these games. Chicago fans are surely realizing they won their Cup in spite of Joel Quenneville rather than because of him.
(4) Nashville Predators vs. (5) Detroit Red Wings
Prediction: Red Wings in 7
Actual Result: Predators in 5
Though the Predators were the higher seed, this still felt like an upset in a series that was far more hard-fought than the final result would indicate. I said in my prediction that this would be a battle of styles, pitting the great goaltending and tight defense of the Predators against the Wings’ puck possession and transition offense. I thought Hockeytown’s favorites would prevail and beautiful hockey would as well, but it was not to be; playoff hockey is returning to its pre-lockout roots and the old adage of defense winning championships seems to be sadly true, at least in the case of this particular series.
Western Conference Average Grade: F
Grading the First Round – The Eastern Conference
(1) New York Rangers vs. (8) Ottawa Senators
Prediction: Rangers in 5
Actual Result: Rangers in 7
It took seven games for the Rangers to rid themselves of the pesky Senators in a battle of teams that were thoroughly unimpressive to watch. The Rangers cruised in the regular season and seemed like a decent Cup favorite, but after this series, who can really know? My prediction was a little off, but much better than most of the others I made.
(2) Boston Bruins vs. (7) Washington Capitals
Prediction: Hockey Pedroias in 6
Actual Result: Capitals in 7
The Welkers on Ice have failed in their Cup defense, and Boston fans reacted just as one would imagine as the Caps’ fourth line winger Joel Ward (who happens to be black) slipped an OT winner past Tim Thomas, for Obama. I will not miss the Bruins one bit.
(3) Florida Panthers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils
Prediction: Devils in 7
Actual Result: Devils in 7
This series happened, apparently, and Martin Brodeur is still in goal for the Devils.
(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5) Philadelphia Flyers
Prediction: Penguins in 7
Actual Result: Flyers in 6
This is the series that led every pearl-clutching non-hockey fan to decry the violence of the game even as it gained the highest ratings of the bunch, but what it really exposed was how stupid fighting and cheap shots look when they’re coming from sore losers. Sidney Crosby and his merry band of hypocrites exposed themselves for what they are, and in the process turned a team from Philadelphia of all places into the lovable good guys. Mario Lemieux is ashamed, as well should he be.
Eastern Conference Average Grade: C
Overall Average Grade: D
Round 2 Predictions – Western Conference
(2) St. Louis Blues vs. (8) Los Angeles Kings
This Blues-Kings series will be known by only me as the series between the teams located in the cities I’ve inhabited this year. It will be known by everyone else as a battle of tough, defensive-minded teams who play close to the dirty edge and depend upon great goaltending. The Blues are the better team overall, but the Kings have the better goaltender in Jonathan Quick and he is hot right now. All that being said, it’s time for me to man up and pick my home team over my temporarily adopted home team and say the Blues take this one with authority.
Prediction: Blues in 5
(3) Phoenix Coyotes vs. (4) Nashville Predators
Mike Smith of the Phoenix Coyotes may be THE hot goalie of the playoffs thus far, having singlehandedly won his franchise its first playoff series since the Yotes were known as the Winnipeg Jets (not to be confused with the current Winnipeg Jets, who used to be known as those who listen to Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax in Atlanta). The Predators, though, may be the hottest team, firing on all cylinders in their opening series and perhaps ending this era of Detroit Red Wing dynastic aspiration. I think the lower seed is the better team and will take this series easily.
Prediction: Predators in 5
Round 2 Predictions – Eastern Conference
(1) New York Rangers vs. (7) Washington Capitals
Having watched all of these teams I have come to the conclusion that man, the Eastern Conference just isn’t that impressive. The Rangers took 7 games to beat the lowly Senators, and the Capitals have abandoned their exciting, high-flying style in order to grind out wins with Alexander Ovechkin mostly on the bench. There was a time when I would have picked the Caps to beat the Rangers (with the caveat that Henrik Lundqvist might steal the series) but since the Caps no longer fly high (and benefited from playing a very low-hanging Bruins team that forgot how to score) the Rangers should take this one.
Prediction: Rangers in 6
(5) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils
The Flyers put up a ton of goals against the Penguins, but also let in a bunch even though they took the series. Will they be passionate enough against the Devils to repeat the performance? I say yes, though I’m not that confident about it.
Prediction: Flyers in 7
Got these picks in just under the wire. Round two, everybody. Round. Two.