Last minute playoff pool advice (snicker)
By Ian Cobb
This is a tough National Hockey League playoffs to approach in terms of selecting a winning pool.
It could be the concussions but I believe I haven’t seen such a wide-open field heading into the final 16 in a long, long time.,
Parity has arrived in full over-coached splendor.
I’ve been poring over stats, analyzing Corsi (no, that’s a lie, I haven’t, at all) and absorbing all the gripping commentary from the hockey illuminati, broadcast regularly from Toronto, and I am here to tell you my fellow playoff pool junkies – you’re on your own!
I haven’t got a bloody clue as to who will likely finish in the finals which makes me as qualified as any other ‘expert panelist’ you’re hearing on TSN or CBC or elsewhere.
So without further adieu, here are my deeply contemplated predictions for the upcoming NHL playoffs, with some advice for poolies as to whom to select.
New York Rangers V Pittsburgh Penguins
This won’t even be a series. The Rangers are going to roll over the punchless Penguins like that giant robot killing machine in the opening of Terminator. Despite having Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Pens will fall to the Rangers in five games. Good choices for poolies: Derek Stepan, Rick Nash, Chris Kreider, Martin St. Louis, Keith Yandle, Carl Hagalin, Mats Zuccarello. Remember that Rick Nash has tended to soil the bed during the playoffs. Dark horse: JT Miller.
Montreal Canadiens V Ottawa Senators
I would love to see the Sen-derella story continue but I also expect the Habs to figure out a way to solve the incredible Andrew Hammond (The Hamburgler). The Sens have relied on a couple of talented youngsters who I think will falter when the going gets tougher. Even with Max Pacioretty out for the first game (at least), the Habs have the depth to out-last the ‘plucky’ Sens and they also have Carey Price. I see them winning in six games. Good choices for poolies: PK Subban; Pacioretty (if he returns); Tomas Plekanec; Brendan (the little swine) Gallagher; Alex Galchenyuk, David Desharnais. Dark horse: Dale Weise.
Tampa Bay Lightning V Detroit Red Wings
Everyone plus a few dogs are picking the Bolts in this one because they all have embarrassing man crushes on Steven Stamkos. While the Canadian sniper is among the best in the game, I think the flagging Red Wings are gonna win one for the Gipper (Mike Babcock) and for old time’s sakes. The Wings have had an off year but they still have cup experience and pride. That will teach the Lightning a lesson in seven games. Good choices for poolies: Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Tatar, Nik Kronwall, Gustav (puckhog) Nyquist and Justin Abdelkader. Dark Horse: Drew Miller.
Washington Capitals V New York Islanders
Like Stamkos, the man crushers are like 12-year-old girls when Alex Ovechkin’s name comes up. Whoop-de-do I say. All teams have to do is make sure there is no ice or a black hole at the top of the left faceoff circle and his magic powers are halved. The Isles are an up-and-coming squad led by a future Art Ross winner in John Tavares. I like their line-up depth over the Caps as being enough to overcome a hot Braydon Holtby. Isles in seven games. Good choices for poolies: Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Ryan Strome, Anders Lee, Frans Nielsen, Johnny Boychuk. Dark horse: Casey Cizikas.
Anaheim Ducks V Winnipeg Jets
If the Jets win one of the first two games in California, consider the Ducks toast. The sea of white in Winnipeg, on top of the already ravenous and savagely witty True North crowds, will propel the Jets past the top seeded Ducks. Size, speed and four line depth is going to be enough, along with the resurrected play of Ondrej (the Giant) Pavalec for the Jets to roar to a six game series victory. Good choices for poolies: Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Blake Wheeler, Brian Little, Michael Frolik, Mark Scheifele, Tyler Myers, Mathieu Perreault (if he isn’t injured). Dark horse: Adam Lowry.
St. Louis Blues V Minnesota Wild
The Blues almost have to get something done in this year’s playoffs or there will be shake ups. Recent failures in the playoffs is sure to be a motivating factor. Despite Devan Dubnyk (nod to the Clovechoks in Fairmont Hot Spring) and his marvelous resurrection as a NHL goalie this year (Arizona traded him for a bag of pucks so they could tank properly), the Blues are too big and hungry for the Wild; Blues in seven games. Good choices for poolies: Alexander Steen, Vladimir Tarasenko (he helped me win the regular season pool – whoop whoop), David Backes, Jaden Schwartz, TJ (the rat boy) Oshie, Kevin Shattenkirk. Dark horse: Patrick Berglund.
Vancouver Canucks V Calgary Flames
This will be the series that revives the bar industries in Vancouver and Calgary. This is the one series I am completely at sea on. Both teams appear equally poised to carry regular season momentum into the playoffs. The Canucks have more experience and a bit more goal scoring, while the Flames have been running on a ‘screw you’ attitude, similar to the Phoenix Coyotes the year they made it to the final four. As much as I love the resurgent Flames chances, I am falling to the side of experience on the blue line and the re-emergence of the Sedin twins as defence shredders. I think the Canucks goaltending is a bit better, too. Canucks in six games. Good choices for poolies: Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Radim Vrbata, Nick Bonino, Chris Higgins, Alex Burrows, Alex Edler. Dark horse: Shawn Matthias.
Nashville Predators V Chicago Blackhawks
This will be another excellent series. The Hawks are expected to get Patrick Kane back, which will be a shot of rocket fuel to a recently lackluster offence. Nashville relies on Pekke Rinne and its defence, while a rookie leads it offensively, along with a ‘going gets tough fader’ like Mike Ribeiro. Chicago had to be dancing when the LA Kings blew a tire and failed to qualify for the playoffs. With changes a certainty in the off season, the Hawks have to win now, especially with LA out of the way; and they will. Hawks will win in seven games. Good choices for poolies: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marion Hossa, Brandon (Happy) Saad, Duncan Keith, Antoine Vermette. Dark horse: Andrew Shaw.
As for the remaining rounds, I haven’t got a clue.
My best guess as to which teams make the finals: Chicago and NY Rangers. Cup winner: Rangers. King Hank leads the way as MVP.
Good luck poolies and I am sorry if you take my advice.