Here we are. Playoffs start today, with several games tonight and tomorrow, including brain-melting series like Pittsburgh/Philadelphia and Detroit/Nashville. Even my own San Jose Sharks snuck in that last week of the dreary regular season, and have at least an even shot of taking down the St. Louis Blues starting tomorrow night. Looking back at my 2011-12 predictions for the season, I was able to correctly prognosticate 13 of the 16 teams that made the playoffs, though I don’t believe there’s much chance of my preseason wish for a San Jose/Washington Stanley Cup final coming true – though both did make it in, “and you never know what can happen in the playoffs”, right?
One thing I’m noticing is the increasing popularity of playoff hockey pools. I got asked to be in two this year and accepted. One benefits a relative of mine who’s struggling with cancer right now; another benefits a far less lofty cause, and provides the winner with multiple craft beers from around the country. Folks are deservedly treating the NHL playoffs with the “second season”, March Madness-like respect they deserve and are choosing brackets, predicting upsets and are wagering real cash money on their picks. Here are mine:
New York Rangers over OttawaBoston over Washington
New Jersey over Florida
Pittsburgh over Philadelphia
Vancouver over Los AngelesSan Jose over St. Louis
Chicago over Phoenix
Nashville over Detroit
Boston over New YorkPittsburgh over New Jersey
Vancouver over San Jose
Nashville over Chicago
Pittsburgh over BostonNashville over Vancouver
Stanley Cup Finals
Pittsburgh over Nashville
I won’t go into too much detail except for to say that Pittsburgh might be the most deep, unstoppable team I’ve seen since the Colorado Avalanche Stanley Cup team of a decade ago. Even if Sidney Crosby gets his face torn off by the Flyers this week and is concussed right back onto the bench for the rest of the playoffs, the Penguins will come out of the East rather handily. I’m also a big believer in the Nashville Predators, hailing from that hockey hotbed of Tennessee, with an arena right around the corner from the Grand Old Opry. Pekka Rinne is my favorite goalie in the NHL – a consistent, Brodeur-like superstar not subject to the whims and fates of the calendar the way most goalies are – a huge complaint of mine when you see 30-year-old Mike Smith (who?) working miracles in Phoenix all of a sudden, or Ilya Bryzgalov play one week like Patrick Roy and the next like Homer Simpson. Not Rinne and his amazing defense. Those boys are going to give Pittsburgh the fits in the finals, only to lose in 6 games.
And for those of you bummed at the increase in music and sports posts on this site, please sit tight. I’m going to work on a more-balanced attack in coming weeks, as well as an increasing frequency. One thing that’s helped is my folding up shop on my beer blog due to lack of drinking – not easy to write about beer if you’re barely drinking it, right? Keep your dial right here and I’ll be back real, real soon.