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.
Organized Sports makes its long-awaited, triumphant return with everything you need to know about who will (possibly, maybe, probably not?) be victorious in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the best postseason in sports. Said playoffs begin tonight in earnest (well, they actually begin in the hockey hotbed of Tampa, Florida, but who’s counting?), so here are the Fully Reconditioned predictions.
This year is the debut of a new format, with divisional playoffs before the conference finals, with the top three teams in each division, and then two “Wild Card” teams making the playoffs rather than the top eight from each conference. It’s a slight return to the way things used to be, but with a modern twist, which also results in one of the divisions being named the Metropolitan Division. Said division contains such gleaming metropolises as Columbus and wherever the fuck the New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils play. One day I will view their shimmering spires.
It also means that there was an actual incentive to win the divisions, keeping the regular season slightly more meaningful than it has been in the past. That being said, the real season begins here. Predictions and sour feelings about the author’s hometown St. Louis Blues after the jump.
Round 1 Predictions – Atlantic Division
(1) Boston Bruins vs. (4) Detroit Red Wings (Wild Card)
Last year’s Stanley Cup runners-up, the Bruins of Boston, were this year’s President’s Trophy winners for the best record in the league. They’re a deep team, successful from the netminder out, and feature one of the best lineups in the league from top to bottom. They have the ability to run four lines, wear other teams out physically, and are looking to make another deep run with much of the same nucleus that has already won a Cup once in this decade. The Red Wings are a fading shadow of what they were in the mid-aughts, benefiting from a move to the weaker Eastern Conference this year—they wouldn’t have sniffed the playoffs in the West. Still, they have enough experience and skill to at least attempt to make the series interesting.
Prediction: Bruins in 6
(2) Tampa Bay Lightning vs. (3) Montreal Canadiens
The Lightning are a surprise success this year, mostly due to the phenomenal play of young goaltender Ben Bishop, a former Blues prospect who’s outplayed all of the goaltenders he couldn’t seem to overtake in the Blues depth chart. The Lightning’s second-best offensive player, Martin St. Louis, forced a trade out of town to get away from GM Steve Yzerman, but that didn’t slow the Bolts down a bit. The Habs too are successful due to an unexpectedly proficient netminder, Canadian Olympic star Carey Price. This series is hard to pick, but I’ll have to go with the team with more firepower in a squeaker.
Prediction: Lightning in 7
Round 1 Predictions – Metropolitan Division
(1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (4) Columbus Blue Jackets (Wild Card)
Sidney Crosby, as much as I would not like to believe it, is the best player in the NHL by miles, and with an entire healthy year he proved yet again what he can do. The Pens are deep, too, and should be atop just about everyone’s list when it comes to teams that can come out of the East. The Blue Jackets also lucked out with a move to the Eastern Conference, just like the Red Wings. It’s cool that they made the playoffs, and it’s good for a franchise trying to rebuild, but they have no chance in this one.
Prediction: Penguins in 4
(2) New York Rangers vs. (3) Philadelphia Flyers
Neither of these teams are as good as they should be proportional to the amount of coverage they get, and neither will challenge for the Cup—this is a series to see who’ll get beaten by the Penguins later on. Henrik Lundqvist hasn’t been his usual solid self as much as in the past, so I’ll take the Flyers in a slight upset, though these are two even teams that will be shown on TV a lot before losing in the next round.
Prediction: Flyers in 7
Round 1 Predictions – Central Division
(1) Colorado Avalanche vs. (4) Minnesota Wild (Wild Card)
The Minnesota Wild got the Wild Card, so should maybe we change their name to the Minnesota Card? Lol lmao. They made big signings and have succeeded with the help of hometown heroes Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, and they’re a physical team that, where they don’t match teams in skill, will definitely overmatch them in cheap shots (ask the concussed TJ Oshie). Or, maybe they won’t match up in cheap shots, because the Avs are coached by A1 psychopath Patrick Roy! The Avs overachieved a bunch this year, and maybe it’s due to Roy’s coaching, who knows? I think they’re the most likely #1 to be knocked off in the first round, but I’ll still take them to move on.
Prediction: Avalanche in 7
(2) St. Louis Blues vs. (3) Chicago Blackhawks
For most of the year, my hometown St. Louis Blues were the best team in the league, playing solid defensive hockey and getting scoring from three forward lines and two defensive pairings. With two weeks left in the season, they seemed a lock for the President’s Trophy, so tops in the West was all but guaranteed. Then they lost six in a row to close out the season, scored only six goals in their last seven games, and lost out on the President’s Trophy, tops in the West, and tops in their division, moving from a situation where they’d play either the Wild or the Stars in the first round to one where they’ll lose to the defending Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks, who as a St. Louisan I hate but know they’re the better team when it counts. Bandwagon Blues fans were hopeful all year, but the real St. Louis hockey fans know that this disappointment was always on the way. Oh yeah, the Blackhawks are good as always. What else is there to say? Sigh.
Prediction: Blackhawks in 5
Round 1 Predictions – Pacific Division
(1) Anaheim Ducks vs. (4) Dallas Stars (Wild Card)
If the Blues fail as I expect them to, I will be rooting for the Ducks to win the Cup in Teemu Selanne’s final year. They’re a really good team, particularly offensively, and they hit hard. They shouldn’t have any trouble with the Wild Card Stars (Wild Stard?) in the first round.
Prediction: Ducks in 5
(2) San Jose Sharks vs. (3) Los Angeles Kings
Remember in the mid-2000s when the Sharks were really awesome in the regular season and always disappointed in the playoffs? I think my hometown Blues are now that Sharks team. The Sharks may still be, too, because I think the Kings, who always turn it on come playoff time, will take them down with their usual mix of timely scoring, physical play, suffocating defense, and nerve.
Prediction: Kings in 7
That is EXACTLY how it will go. In fact, you should* go put all of your money on it, and thank me** for it when the first round is over.
**don’t kill me