Not my actual picture
Any fool can make predictions. Just as the biggest hockey expert in the world can say "Vancouver in 5" or "Philly in 6," a man who has never watched a game in his life can say "Boston in 7" and potentially be correct.*
*Note that this man would never predict Nashville or Phoenix due to the fact he is unlikely to realize that those teams exist.
So when I make these following predictions, I do so while keeping in mind that I may not get a single one correct. In fact, I might - one day - even make such an idiotic prediction (the Wings missing the playoffs) that I will never, ever, link to this post again. (Totally hypothetical.)
I'm not going to provide cutting-edge analysis ("the Rangers are going to really miss Ryan Callahan" or "goaltending will be key if Philly wants to make a run") or provide any breaking news ("Sidney Crosby skated on one leg yesterday. Check back later for more"). These are predictions based on performance, logic, and conspiracies, nothing more.
To get my biases out of the way:
I dislike the Flyers with a passion.
Buffalo is the one team I'd like to see get a Cup.
I hope the Red Wings get swept.
I'm strongly opposed to a Vancouver run.
Oh, and I called a Pittsburgh-LA final back in October with the Pens coming out on top.
Not too many, eh?
Without further ado:
(1) Washington versus (8) New York
Ratings bonanza! Two big markets, two great fan bases, one guy named Alex Ovechkin. In an age when hockey is constantly taking a back seat, it's good to see a matchup that couldn't possibly be given the shaft by something as meaningless as a regular season basketball game.
The Rangers gave the Caps trouble two years ago, but Washington has (or should have) learned their lessons by now. That terrible losing streak during 24/7 may end up being that "defining moment" that leads to a Cup.
Caps in 5.
(2) Philadelphia versus (7) Buffalo
As long as the Flyers are in the playoffs, Philadelphia will care only slightly more about the Phillies. But on game nights, Philadelphians may DVR the baseball game in order to see which sub-par Flyers goaltender is starting that night. Both these teams are going in opposite directions; however, we've seen in previous years that hot streaks don't necessarily carry over. Pronger is a key, mostly because we're running out of pucks to use. Philly is due for a playoff letdown.
Sabres in 6.
(3) Boston versus (6) Montreal
How lucky did the NHL get with this? Boston really does have the talent to go all the way, but this will be a tricky step for them. Conspiracy says that the NHL wants American teams to advance.
Bruins in an epic 7
(4) Pittsburgh versus (5) Tampa Bay
This would have been a superbly exciting series if Crosby and Malkin were in for the Pens. Then again, Pittsburgh probably could have challenged for the conference had the two of them been healthy. The Pensblog is hilarious, and they were my Cup pick, so the choice is clear.
Pens in 6
The Rest of the Way:
(1) Washington versus (7) Buffalo
Miller Time. Sabres in 7
(3) Boston versus (4) Pittsburgh
I hope going back on my pick doesn't bite me later, but the Pens will run out of steam Bruins in 5.
(3) Boston versus (7) Buffalo
Buffalo sports tradition is too much to overcome. Boston redeems itself for 2010. B's in 6.
(1) Vancouver versus (8) Chicago
Vancouver remembers Chicago very, very well. After getting knocked out by the defending Cup champs in the last two postseasons, the Canucks will have to keep the thoughts of failure out of their minds. Really, though, Chicago wasn't very good this year.
Nucks in 5.
(2) San Jose versus (7) Los Angeles
The Kings have done better than expected after the losses of leading scorers Kopitar and Williams. The idea that they have 98 points and are the SEVEN seed is outrageous. The number is getting higher and higher every year. San Jose hasn't yet faded away (I'm sure the time is coming) and should be able to withstand the challenge.
Sharks in 7.
(3) Detroit versus (6) Phoenix
Everyone's upset special. Whenever I pick the Wings, they lose. Whenever I don't, they win. Without Henrik Zetterberg, the task does become tougher. Goaltending is a question, for sure, but Howard is capable of stealing games (if needed). By the logic that I want them to lose...
Wings in 6
(4) Anaheim versus (5) Nashville
Unfortunately, this series won't be televised in the US, so unless you have Center Ice, you'll be following the box scores. This is is pitiful, for a major sports league like the NHL to not be able to show its fans every playoff game. It makes a mockery of the sport when College Basektball receives more exposure than the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Anyway, Anaheim's top line is scary good, and of all the teams the Avs played, I enjoyed watching the Ducks and the combination of Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf, and Corey Perry the most. (Except for that Selanne hat trick and the otherwise humiliating final scores.) It's hard to imagine a team shutting them down over the course of a seven-game series. Notice I haven't talked about Nashville, yet. Exactly.
Ducks in 6
The Rest of the Way:
(1) Vancouver versus (4) Anaheim
Screw you, Vancouver. Ducks in 6.
(2) San Jose versus (3) Detroit
Very intriguing series, here. Goaltending questions abound. San Jose does it again. Sharks in 5.
(2) San Jose versus (4) Anaheim
Thornton still won't get to the Cup. The Ducks make an improbable run. Ducks in 6 (again).
Stanley Cup Finals
Boston Bruins versus Anaheim Ducks
Interestingly, and not necessarily accidentally, this is a rematch of my predicted 2010 Cup Final.
In picking this one, let's examine who we'd like to see get his first ring.
Oh, Saku Koivu? You win.
Ducks in 7.
No thanks to that Cake Eater, Banks.
With that, I again reiterate that I will likely be completely wrong. Perhaps we'll see a March Madness-like postseason, with Chicago meeting New York in the season finale.
To everyone: Enjoy the postseason.
178 days, Avalanche fans. 178 days.