Sigh. I realize that the puck has already been dropped in two playoff games, and that I am therefore late with this year’s hogging (that’s hockey blogging for you noobs). What can I say? Yesterday I was otherwise occupied, and today, being a member of the Cultural Elite in good standing, I had to teach my graduate seminar (this week, the moment of Black British Cultural Studies—strangely relevant to my response to Ms. McArdle in ways I may or may not have a chance to explain in the near future!). Furthermore, I am keenly aware that Scott of the West has all the truly juicy matchups with real contenders and plucky pretenders, like Phoenix-Detroit. Phoenix-Detroit! The mind boggles. The Coyotes, a franchise left for dead last I looked, compiled a 50-25-7 record this season, 107 points, by far their best season since leaving the wilds of Winnipeg for the deserts of Arizona. We’re talking about a franchise that has not won a playoff series since 1917, when they were known as the Vancouver Millionaires.* And their reward for all their hard work? They get to play the hottest team in the league, a Western Conference dynasty and perennial Cup contender that apparently decided to win every single goddamn game after the Olympic break. Go Coyotes! If you live in this world, you’re feeling the change of the guard. Unless the Red Wings sweep, in which case, never mind.
The Eastern matchups are not so interesting. Here are my perfunctory picks, about which I am not sure I could care less:
Washington (1) v. Montreal (8)
I saw only one regular-season game this year: in November, I watched the Habs beat the Caps 3-2 in D.C. It was a curious experience: as you may know, much of the metro population of Washington, D.C. did not know they had a professional hockey team in the area until this time last year, and more than one wag suggested that the Verizon Center was urging fans to “rock the red” in last year’s playoffs because so few “fans” knew what color the home team would be wearing. So I was surrounded by 15,000 people in Ovechkin jerseys, is what I’m saying. OK, one woman had a Backstrom jersey and some young man was wearing Semin’s shirt. But that’s about it.
What in the world am I talking about? The Habs were quick and deft that night, and took a 3-1 lead into the final five minutes, whereupon the Caps realized that they were a world-class team, scored a goal, and hit a crossbar. That’s not gonna happen again. Caps in 5.
New Jersey (2) v. Philadelphia (7)
Yes, the Flyers have matched up well against the Devils all year. But (a) they don’t deserve to be here, and (b) Brian Boucher, their third-string goalie, will make point (a) for me emphatically. The Devils will wrestle with their special devil-demons—Spirits of Postseason Collapses Past—but will nonetheless move on in six. Also, you heard it here first: this may be Martin Brodeur’s last hurrah. Devils in 6.
Buffalo (3) v. Boston (6)
Sabres in 5. Please, get these weak-sauce excuses for Bruins off my radar. Bruins, Flyers, Canadiens—your early-May tee times await. Let’s move on to the second round with the real teams ... which brings me to....
Pittsburgh (4) v. Ottawa (5)
Oh mighty Moloch, please please please let the Pens beat the Sens, just this once. OK, I know they’ve met twice before in the first round, three years ago when the Penguins were just baby birds who were thrashed in five, and two years ago when the Penguins swept in four. But just this once, please please. Because there’s no way I’ll get to see Crosby, Malkin & Co. in Ye Olde About-To-Be-Demolished Igloo unless they manage to squeak by in round one. I can’t get down to Pittsburgh for a game until May, and since the Pens are 0-10 against the Devils and Capitals there’s no way they’re getting out of the second round, so my only chance to see playoff hockey in the ‘burgh this year rests on this series.
All the Penguins fans I’ve spoken to say the same thing: last year, an 11th-place team canned its coach, caught a fire, and stormed into the playoffs. They were almost stymied by the incendiary young Capitals, but outlasted them in a scintillating 7-game series; they then walked blithely through the overmatched Hurricanes in the conference finals, then were almost stymied by the wily old Red Wings, but outlasted them in a scintillating 7-game series. This year, the defending Stanley Cup champs are good sometimes, very good sometimes, and not very good at other times. And they’ve been that way all year. They speak of “finding their game,” as if they left it someplace and can just pick it up whenever they want. They’re ripe for the plucking, these flightless birds, is what I’m saying. But still, I hope they keep playing long enough for me to see them in person. And I will not be surprised if they don’t. Pens in an agonizing 7. After that, the flightless birds will very likely be roadkill.
* This is not true. The true history of the Winnipeg Jets is available in a Wikipedia near you. The last time they won a playoff series was 1987, a mere 23 years ago.
Off topic, but it cannot go unremarked upon on this blog that the wingnuts are outrunning satire again. Now, Obama is lying about going to Malia’s soccer game, because apparently he was having secret meetings with Vladimir to direct the murder of the Polish government. They figured this out using Mapquest and by not understanding that school soccer is a Fall sport.Posted by on 04/14 at 11:44 PM
It’s strange that hockey’s never really caught on in Alaska. I grew through several pairs of hockey skates in the old country, but never whacked a puck in my life.
Basketball was our big sport, and I still have scant comprehension of hockey’s flow.Posted by on 04/14 at 11:53 PM
I was sad because Fleury was shaky and the Pens will be lucky to get to round 2 until I watched the San Jose game.Posted by on 04/15 at 01:19 AM
What? They’re knocking down the Civic Arena?
I’ma start reminiscing here in a second; many times have I walked*, ran, crawled, danced, and floated around those unimodally curving halls. I’ve even been in there when they opened the roof.
Perhaps the Pens will start scintillating? Stranger things have happened.
*captchaPosted by on 04/15 at 09:23 AM
"Also, you heard it here first: this may be Martin Brodeur’s last hurrah. Devils in 6.”
Actually, we heard that nearly a year ago, during Marty’s divorce proceedings. (He was putting his puck in the wrong five-hole--his wife’s sister’s.)
His original plan was to retire at the end of this year, but apparently the divorce means that we will have to watch him lose in the second or third round of the playoffs for two more years.
captcha: “through,” which is what the Devils will manage this time, before singing ”Aud Lang Syne.”Posted by Ken Houghton on 04/15 at 09:54 AM
rm @ 1: that’s nothing. This morning I learned that Obama claimed to attend his daughter’s soccer game but really traveled back in time to murder Vincent Foster. To what depths will this man not go?
San Jose does indeed inspire wonder. Pens look as shaky as I feared. Flyers are most vexing. But at least the prairie dogs took game one....Posted by Michael on 04/15 at 02:50 PM
Pens look as shaky as I feared.
Yeah, I did not mean to lay it all on Fleury.Posted by on 04/15 at 04:24 PM
No disparaging the Vancouver Millionaires, mister.
Until the Canucks win the cup this year, they are the number two brightest of bright spots in British Columbia hockey (after the ‘55 Penticton Vees World Championship Team,, of course).Posted by on 04/15 at 05:19 PM
I would like to point out that Montreal split the season series with the Caps 2-2, with one game ending in overtime and one in a shootout. It’s not automatic for the Caps, whose record is inflated by getting to play some of the league’s worst teams over and over again. Also too, Montreal 3 Washington 2 (OT).Posted by on 04/15 at 10:25 PM
I believe on some thread back i supported the NHL west this year. That is all.Posted by on 04/15 at 10:40 PM
Wow. Ovechkin really did not get off a shot in the whole game, even in the extra period. Impressive team D from the Habs.Posted by Nell on 04/15 at 11:55 PM
Once again Buffalo asks the question, How far can goaltending carry a team? Historically the answer has been Not Quite Far Enough. I can see them making it out of the second round, but they don’t really have a guy who can get hot and score a lot of goals, and at some point they are going to run into a team that has a guy like that.
Still, it is lovely this time of year in the Queen City of the Lakes when the Sabres are in the playoffs. Every third person you see on the street-- men and women-- is wearing some item of Sabres apparel. We are still pale from the winter, and still blinking a bit in the springtime sunshine, but the daffodils are in bloom and Miller is in goal, both reasons to be optimistic. People identify Buffalo with the Bills, but it is really a hockey town at heart.Posted by outside counsel on 04/16 at 08:40 AM
the Caps, whose record is inflated by getting to play some of the league’s worst teams over and over again
True dat. Also true about the final score.
So far, it looks like the Sabres are the only home team to bring their A game. If this keeps up, the second round will be teh suXor.Posted by on 04/16 at 08:54 AM
I always enjoy the talk from teams about finding their game. The Lakers have said the same thing in the NBA, with decent success so far.
I think teams like Pitt and LA, although in different sports are certainly aided by the longer first round of the playoffs, which has only existed for a short time. They can probably find their game, before they are matched up with a team that actually has a chance to beat them.Posted by Mark on 04/21 at 07:46 PM
MTL 2, WAS 1. Bring on the Penguins.Posted by on 04/28 at 09:56 PM
Pundit accountability moment:
Bruins, Flyers, Canadiens—your early-May tee times await.
FYI, the Yankees are at Fenway this week and the Celtics are playing LeBron in the playoffs but they might as well be minor league lacrosse compared to the Bs.Posted by jfxgillis on 05/02 at 01:31 PM
Hope that you can make it to the play offs.Posted by boarding school on 05/23 at 01:31 AM