Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Oh Boy!

Well that was a crazy first round. I went a mediocre 4 and 4 and based on my pools I am not the only one who got bamboozled. The admin of our one said that in 23 years he has never seen so many people go into the ditch after one round and in my other pool I lost four of ten players, which was about par for the course.

 While nobody I know went so hilariously out there as professional blowhard troll Steve Simmons who said THERE WAS NO WAY CHICAGO COULD BE STOPPED nearly everyone felt that while Nashville might have a shot there was no way anyone predicted a sweep. Boston was a darling and most folks picked the Habs and the Wild even though both were definitely flawed. Anyhow here we are.

  So first round 'all time' (12 years) I am 67 and 29 even with this junk performance. The second round is always the one I struggle in the most, 25 and 19. The first round survivors include the real deal and the second tier contenders and those that rode hot goaltending or luck past their first round opponent. In some cases the ride ends abruptly, in others Cinderella may go another round. I have never had a lot of success and I wish I knew the answer as to why this is the case.

 So here goes nothing, I think there are two tossups and two clearer picks. Much like last year we are down to one survivor from the short list of recent Cup winners.  A new champion? I am beginning to think that we may have a repeat Cup winner for the first time in twenty years.

Rags v Sens

I picked both of these teams to lose their first round matchups. The Rangers are one of those teams – they are good but never good enough – and I certainly don’t think this year is any different. They handled the Habs relatively easily though but then again Daneault somehow ended up first on the Hab’s depth chart up the middle and no team has ever won a Cup with such weakness up the middle.

 The Sens have a lot of guys that are easy to cheer for – Karlsson and Anderson and Clark MacArthur most of all - they also have Alex Burrows and a gross owner who is, well, he is like pretty well every other NHL owner, hell my team is owned by a grifter with a Napoleon complex as big as the chip on Theo Fleury’s shoulder. The Rags have Lundqvist who one suspects will join Price and Luongo as great goaltenders who will always be compared unfavourably to the slightly above average who had the good fortune to land on powerhouses. The last run of Cup winners – Khabibulin, Cam Ward (*spits*), Giguere, Osnotthatgood, Fleury, Niemi (!!!), Thomas, Quick, Crawford and Matt Murray – includes a handful of pretty good goalies and some very average names and yet there are those who will tell you that Carey Price is not a winner based on his resume playing on a decidedly average club. Put him on Chicago and he has four Cups.
 (Reminds me of the guy who told me that Toews was a better player than Stan Mikita because, you guessed it, Cupzzzz. Never mind that Mikita was the premier centre in the NHL for close to a decade and that he, like Toews, was an excellent defensive player. The difference with Stan is that he could actually score a bit too, four scoring titles worth, and was one of the actual best players of all time. Again, put him in his prime on Chicago now and they have four Cups and it’s not even close.  Oh well.)


 Anderson is a good goalie but Lundqvist is better and while the Rags’ D is iffy, the Sens after Karlsson are iffier. The winner of this series is going to be mulch for the winner out of the Patrick. Looks like Lundqvist will be falling short again. Rags in 6.

 Pens v Caps

Man oh man I want to pick the Caps. This is their year, it has to be it, right? There is nothing out there that frightening and then Chicago crashed and on top of that the Pens are without Letang and have that bucktoothed grinning little bastard between the pipes. All those years I picked the Pens in my pool and Fleury folded, Marc Andre if you are reading this you owe me at least 80 bucks!!!! 
 And I want to pick them, I do, so bad. But then I watched the Leafs, with a blueline that consisted of Gardiner and Reilly, both terrific, and then flotsam after that, push the Caps to the brink. Five overtimes in six games and a bounce here or there and Washington was done. They looked slow and here’s the thing, the Pens are fast. And while the Leafs are deep up front the Pens are deeper. Malkin is killing it and Crosby is playing the best hockey of his career I think, which is really saying something, and Kessel is going to go off at some point and win a game or two on his own, you just know it. Columbus was not as great as their record said but they were a good team and the Pens ran roughshod over them and made Bobrovsky look average.

 They can get Niskanen out against someone and he may do the job but who does Orpik get? Oh man.

 And while I don’t believe in a lot of the mumbo jumbo intangibles’ crap that goes on out there I do think that the Pens are in Washington’s collective head. Pens in 6.

 Blues v Preds

The Blues beat the Wild the old fashioned Steve Penney way. Got outplayed bigtime and survived due to a hot goalie and there goes Bruce Boudreau shaking his head, again. The Preds, on the other hand, laid a beatdown on the best team in the Conference. I picked the Hawks but could see the Preds pushing them and maybe, maybe, upsetting them if everything fell their way. Instead they wiped the floor with the best team of this generation. The Hawks looked old and slow and were left muttering about tactics. (Well that was noted man of character Patrick Kane. Jonathan Toews was gracious and accurate with his assessment, they just got beaten badly by a team firing on all cylinders.)

 Do the Blues have a shot? Sure they do, everyone left does I think. We are talking about 1993 or close to it unless the Pens or Caps prevail. (Still what I feel will come to pass). But at some point if you are getting pounded the wall starts to crack and then things tend to fall apart pretty quickly. I STILL don’t trust Rinne but the Preds have a beautiful blueline and depth up front and Laviolette who is a terrific coach and the class of the remaining field out west.
 Preds in 6, maybe 5.

Ducks v Oilers

 This one is the real tossup. The Ducks are on one of those streaks, like Columbus and Minnesota and the Falmes had. Getzlaf has the eye of the tiger about him, he probably looks at what's left and figures this is his last best shot. And he has a good team around him too. Perry is not what he once was but the Ducks still run three lines deep, have a good deep D and a good tandem in net. I don't think a lot of Carlyle, it's a lot harder to win a Cup when you don't just have to rotate three Dman out there shift in shift out and so I think McLellan. who did nice work in round one, gives the Oilers the edge behind the bench.

 As for YERRRRRR EDMONTON OILERS well that was a fun round eh? Other than game four, the last period of game six and after period one in game one they were the better team and by quite a bit in my opinion. (So basically in four of six games derrrrrrrr) And this is with the flu running rampant, Draisatl and Klefbom were victims and based on their play I would say Lucic and McDavid were hurting later in the series too. (Of course the Sharks had their share of injury woes, not to diminish them or their effort)

 Discipline was a problem although they seemed to get a handle on it as the series wore on and while Nurse and Benning had their moments where they wobbled they never went full Matt Greene on us (I love Matt Greene but not playing Tarnstrom over him in 06, unless the latter was hurt, man that was a dumb move).

 And scoring through the lineup except for the Nuge line which didn't score but did saw off with the Sharks' big boys. Good yeoman work although there will be some goals needed this round from that group.

 Talbot ... the man.

 This is a tough one to call. My heart says Oilers and if the Ducks' D are as hobbled as they may be then the good guys have a shot. Hell even if they are healthy the Oilers have a shot. 97 ran rampant over Kesler and Getzlaf this season so I am not too worried about that matchup.

 And the Ducks are unlikeable. Kesler is the worst and Perry is garbage and I am sure we will see Bieksa pick Desharnais off in a scrum and start throwing the, especially since Magnus Paajarvi is not available. Just the worst.

 All that said my head says Ducks. I know, I know. I hope I am wrong and it's a coin flip but they are deeper everywhere I think. Ducks in 7. :(

 Over a decade between playoff series and the day after game one I am off to Rome for a week lol. Figures. Here's hoping that I am wrong about my prediction and that I make it back to see the Oilers clinch!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Koo Koo Bananas

Just a week ago I bemoaned the fact that the first round looked like a dud. No big rivalries, nothing to see here.

 And yet, and yet, *adjusts monocle*, this has been a great first week, perhaps the best I remember in many moons. And believe me I have seen many many moons.

 Of course if you are a fan of Chicago, Minnesota (is there such a thing) , the BJs (lol) or the Falmes, you might disagree with the comment on how great it has been. The boy asked me to PVR the second Chicago game, when he got up I told him not to bother, he is young but he still should not be wasting any precious hours. And this morning when I told him that Chicago had lost in overtime his face fell and he muttered something angrily. Balancing out his disappointment is the fact that Steve Simmons pronounced that THERE IS NO WAY THE HAWKS CAN LOSE and man oh man seeing that blowhard on a losing streak like no other ... ahhhh, let me just crack open another beer.

 Now I do have a rant about narratives, you know, same as every year, but I will hold off until next post. You guys are like my kids, sure the boy gets to stay up late and watch playoff hockey and kid around with his old man, who is a totally great guy, but it means fetching me a beer now and then and listening to me drone on about when I was 12 and out with my buddies Steve and Pete and Doug and Gord and Dwayne and Norm and Dennis and Pete and Steve and Jeff and we were trying to find the ravine porn that Pete stole from Steve's Dad's huge collection and then it was given to me for safekeeping because a) when they did find my porn my parents didn't really care and b) I was excellent at the storage and the hiding (only got caught once!) and c) I liked looking at naked women with huge 70s bushes more than any of them and so DEMANDED the responsibility.

 So yeah old man yells at clouds next post. You've been warned.

 There's a guy named Tyler, he goes by Rosscreeknation online, he has been around forever, anyhow he's a great guy for a Falmes' fan and pretty astute when it comes to the hockey and a few days ago he was lamenting his pool and how he had gone heavily with, I think it was the Wild, and why did he do that in a pick em series and, well, I did the same in one pool (them and the Caps) and in the other I went Hawks and Caps and I am pooched unless the Caps come back. Funnily enough though I looked at the first pool and everyone is in the same boat. Basically we are all going to lose half our rosters.

 Why? Well because it seems that in the end we have eight pick em series, yes even with the four that may end as sweeps (and this after years where every single series went at least six and it was proclaimed that NOBODY GETS SWEPT ANYMORE).

 24 games, 11 OT, 17 decided by one goal, another 5 by two goals. We are talking bounces folks. The Wild score 3 more and allow 3 less and they are up 3 to 0. Chicago could be up 2-1, the Leafs and Caps could be up 3 or down 3.

 You get the picture.

 Anyhow first round thoughts so far .... (please note that most of these hot taeks will be obsolete by Thurday morning)

Trotz and Boudreau

What is the story here anyhow? Is there even a story? A week ago I said that Boudreau was awfully unlucky. Is his system something that is easy to take apart? Can he not adjust on the fly, which is needed in the playoffs? Is it a 'shot quality' thing? I know that for a lot of smart people shot quality is to be sneered at. I believe in it although I sure don't know how to measure it. Dennis King did scoring chances for a couple of years and while subjective I saw a lot of value in it. And we know that teams work to keep shots to the outside, they have done so for years and I suspect some would be better at it than others. But it is as simple as Boudreau and Trotz's teams shoot from the outside? I haven't seen any of the Wild/Blues but I know the Caps have had some terrific looks and just haven't buried them. Is it personnel? The problem seems to be transferrable from team to team. Or in the end is it just bad luck? (And it being the playoffs in a few days Trotz may have advanced. Boudreau though ... done again).


I figured the Pens to beat the BJs (lol) but not like this. Losing Werenski hurt of course but this one is barely even close. And Kessel hasn't even done anything yet. And without Letang.

What the hell.

Anyone betting against the Pens to repeat now? Especially if the Caps fall short. Amazing.

And I am a McDavid man through and through but nobody is better than Crosby. I don't know if he has ever been better. The King.


 They look good and could be up by 3. I love Vigneault but Julien is one of the best. I think they win this division fairly easily, not sure if they can handle the Pens. So same as everyone else. Price though. (As an aside I play hockey with a French Canadian guy, terrific guy. He missed our pool so had to pick from the dregs, it is a small pool so eighty players were gone. He went all Habs. Every single last one. ;) )


I haven't seen any of this series. I know a few data guys liked Nashville and while I leaned to the Hawks I figured the Preds for a tough out. Not like this though. Chicago has fallen apart (as much as losing two games by a goal could be considered a collapse) and this would have to be considered a huge disappointment for them. They had a great season though so maybe it is just a case of Nashville having a great week and the Hawks a poor one and it's nothing more than a blip but it has to be worrisome to Bowman to see that it's the core that is failing here. Well, everyone is but one goal from all of those stars ...

 2011 and 2012 and 2016 were about rising from the wreckage of post Stanley purges and 2014 was a bounce away from being the second of a threepeat but this year, well, are they about to join the Kings on the slide downhill? It will be interesting to see how Bowman reacts. (I would guess that based on the fact that they have invested in these guys heavily that he chalks it up to a bad week, they did win the conference after all.)


We may see Ducks/Preds in the conference final, no? Anyhow looking forward to breaking out Cryan Kesler, it never gets old and it will happen, he's a perennial bridesmaid, that dickhead.


 I cannot remember a more fun series to watch in a long time. I have been saying this for a while, barring catastrophic injury the Leafs will be legitimate contenders next season and the one following before they need to find a way to pay all these kids. They are just loaded up front and of course Babcock is being Babcock, he is such a tremendous coach.
 I figured they would maybe maybe take the Caps to six but that this would be pushing it. Shows what I know. The keys - Gardiner and Reilly. They have been absolutely fabulous. I think the Caps will come back and win this but the Leafs belong, they are certainly not ahead on a wing and prayer. Of course this fast turnaround (spring of 2015 was when they started jettisoning guys for a true tank job) only makes me that much more bitter about Kevin Lowe and the rest of his crew. Fucccccccccckkkkkk.


 Much like the Leafs it's all kind of gravy right now and even if the Oilers get swept the next three games while disappointing the season would be a relative success. That said they are in good shape right now and if they can do what they did on Sunday night tonight (ie survive the first ten minutes) then I think they may go back to Edmonton up 3 to 1.

 Talbot has been excellent but really the team as a whole has been very very good in front of him for the most part. Klefbom has been outstanding, the other three veterans have been very good (Russell's speed has really had an impact I think, he gets to loose pucks and closes to his man so quickly), and the two kids have had their moments but compared to the Matt Greene Experience of 2006 it's been smooth sailing. (I remember that run, every time Greene was on the ice it was either a penalty, an icing, Roli making a 5 bell save or our starting goalie getting murdered because Greene couldn't FUCKING STAY WITH HIS MAN!!!!!!)

 Seriously though the two kids are doing pretty well. It's a great sign. As someone noted to me the other day (Matt Watt?) Nurse is letting the game come to him now. I think he's going to be a player. And Benning seems to be recovered from the concussion and he has a nice edge to his game as well.

 With these two, Caggiula and Slepyshev all contributing, well this is what the Oilers are going to need, especially when they start having to cut salary. Cheap quality kids help win you Cups.

 It's been a real grind of a series and the only guy who looked out of his depth, Desharnais, finally seemed to realize last game that his career may be on the line and he had a pretty nice game.

 To me though the revelations to me have been Ted and to a lesser extent Eberle. Eberle because he has this reputation and yet this series he has been grinding it out and doing the little things and backchecking his ass off. He is paid to score goals but right now only three forwards have goals so him not scoring isn't a big deal. I mean we want some ;) but he is helping the team.

 And he was out there at the end of game three. I never thought I would see that.

 But Ted? Little Ted. Money in the bank. I don't know that he has ever played better. He may be gone because he makes a lot of money but he is a hell of a player and this has been his coming out party, outplaying the big guns on the Sharks, penalty killing, just doing everything. So great.

 It is exciting. Here's hoping they come out of this round because really it is looking so wide open right now. Unreal.

 Oh and that Karlsson/Hoffman play? I have been watching hockey for over 40 years, that ranks top ten for me, amazing, just unreal.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


And let's get friendship right
Get life day to day
In the forget yer skates dream
Full of countervailing woes

In diverse as ever scenes
Proceeding on a need to know
In a face so full of meaning
As to almost make it glow

For for a good life
We just might have to weaken
And find somewhere to go

Go somewhere we're needed
Find somewhere to grow
Go somewhere we're needed
Find somewhere to go
Let's go somewhere we're needed
Find somewhere to grow
Go where we're needed

'Cause in the forget-yer-skates dream
You can hang your head in woe
And this diverse as ever scene
Know which way to go

 The boy had his first of what will certainly be many forget yer skate dreams this past season. I still have them, all these years gone past, I get to the rink, it's always a big game, playoffs or tournament or my shot in the NHL and I have no skates or in other twists, my stick is a junior stick or the wrong hand or something else is wrong with my gear that ruins the day, no gloves, no helmet. I had a buddy once, best player on our team too, he forgot his skates for a playoff game. In real life I have forgotten my pants and had to make due with these enormous arena pants, I felt like I was dragging Lauri Korpikoski around with me out there.

 (I wear a pair of thin cotton hockey pants, they were my old man's. A cardboard pad slipped into a pouch in each thigh for protection. Light as hell and pretty snug, they make my ass look fantastic. Jenn hates them, my teammates love them because they love looking at my fantastic ass. They are so light that when I wear regular bulky pants I slow down from very very slow to almost immobile out there).

 And once I forgot my helmet, that's a bad one. Went into the room of the guys who had just played and asked to borrow one, they all looked at me like I was nuts except one dude who cheerfully agreed. Brought it back to him in Cabbagetown along with a six pack, his girlfriend said the same thing had happened to him the year before.

 When I coached a million years ago we used to tell the kids that before every game they needed to make their little man, get their gear out, lay it out in order, make sure. They were good but our number one goalie forgot something key once, I can't remember, it may have been a goddamn pad or something. It was a must win and so I turned to the backup goalie and he and his dad looked pretty hopeful and I said 'give him your gear'. The poor kid, the look on him. He was pretty happy in the picture from when we won the tournament though.

 Actually lived the dream just last week, got to shinny, was half dressed and no skates to be found. Texted Jenn, I knew where they were, was home and back in ten minutes and didn't miss a shift.

 Exclaim for Capsule this weekend. I'll be making my little man tomorrow night in preparation.

 Make your little man!

 Now the forget yer skates dream is a universal one for those of us who play but if you want to get to a universal truth then let's talk about singing. Right? Who of us does not dream of belting it out, not in the shower, but in front of 20000 screaming fans or in a smokey bar somewhere? Right! This is why the karaoke is so popular. Well, lately in our house we have been binge watching Glee on Netflix. Oh yeah. And suddenly at any moment someone is bursting into song or dance. Personally I am a huge believer in the idea of a spontaneous song and dance number breaking out on the streetcar or at the bakery but we can't seem to get it right even in our house goddamnit.

 I love the thought of it though, it makes me happy. And that daydream makes me a lot less anxious than when I wake up in a cold sweat, wondering where my goddamn skates are.


 You know what makes me happy? The Oilers in the playoffs. Hard to believe it's been this long and this had better become a regular occurrence.

 Our team had a terrific year for sure. Lots of luck with injuries, last year's top six plus Sekera, Klefbom and Talbot missed 167 games with injuries. This year that same group and Larsson missed six in total.

 A huge reason, maybe the main reason the club made the leap they did.

 So here we are and it's San Jose in the first round. A tough out for sure but I think there are no easy touches in the west.

 If all things were equal I would be going with San Jose. They have the stars up front and of course Burns as well. Vlasic is outstanding. Martin Jones is good enough to win games on his own. And we know that the NHL won't be calling a lot and so they will be getting away with murder on McDavid.

 (A quick aside, the NHL doesn't need any assistance looking like asses, you can expect that if there is something smart the league will do the exact opposite. It has always been thus. Short sighted. While every other league does what it can to make sure it's stars are protected and are allowed to shine, the NHL still allows it's best players to be mugged at every turn. It really is amazing but then again it is already a fait accompli that there will be another lockout so it can only be expected from the grifters and sociopaths who run the league).

 Ok back to point. So a healthy San Jose? Yeah I would be betting on them. But ... they are not healthy and so it seems to be lining up nicely for the good guys. Thornton sounds like he may not be ready at all and Couture is not fully healthy either. Put it this way, if Draisatl and Klefbom were out or hurting badly what would you give the Oilers' chances?

 They're getting a break. And the second line is heating up at the right time. It isn't going to be easy and anything can happen but the injuries tip the scale. Oilers in six.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Soupy Campbell Conference

The time of the West being the home of the six or seven best teams in the league has passed, the balance of power is shifting east with the California teams and Chicago aging and St. Louis in transition and Dallas falling apart. With Kris Letang hurt though I think we have one team that is head and shoulders above the rest in the Caps, then Chicago and then the rest of the pack. If Washington and the Hawks fall then I think the tournament is wide open. That's parity for you and based on the last few years the days of 'great' champions may be at an end. The Pens won last year with a D that consisted of Kris Letang and five guys named Moe as well as a rookie goalie. The Hawks were once very high quality (that 2010 team - wow!) but they basically won the 2015 Cup with four D and then three when Oduya went down briefly. Gone are the days where to win the Cup you needed the proven star goaltender, the deep quality D, led by a man who could play thirty minutes in a pinch and run both ends of the rink, the incomparable depth up the middle. Not so much any more.

Hawks v Preds

I had the Preds as my preseason Cup runnerup (to Tampa!) so while everyone (in the MSM at least) is picking the Hawks to win this, and in many cases, to go all the way, I think the chances are there for an upset. Of course the Preds, like the Wild and the Blues, (until last year anyhow) have a sad playoff history facing the Hawks over the past while. It's always the same script, Preds jump out to a series' lead, have the Hawks reeling and then get run out of the rink.

 Will this year be any different? The Preds have a great top four on the blue and a nice set of forwards including a couple of game breakers. The problem is Rinne is not a guy I believe in, certainly not against Chicago. I thought Chicago was going to be like the Kings, with last year being the start of the fade but kudos to Bowman and their drafting, suddenly the lineup is sprinkled with kids, cheap and quality. The D is a bit grey but better than last year and probably better then 2015. And while Crawford isn't elite he is very good and his backup is ready to step in if he falters. (Some say the Preds might be better served by starting their own backup).

 Early this year the Hawks got by on percentages and a hot goalie but as the year wore on they were the real deal and they began to look like the team of old. That said the GD for these teams is pretty close.

 I think the Preds get closer this year and that next year we see them take that final step but I can't bet against Chicago. Too much depth up front, again. They take it in 7.

Wild v Blues

Is it just me or is this year's playoffs blah to start? There is the excitement of the return of the Oilers and the Leafs, sure, but the matchups in the first round really lack oomph and the injury to Letang even takes the shine off a possible Caps/Pens showdown. A Caps' run to that elusive Cup might cure the blahs or maybe a run by a real underdog but a Habs/Leafs showdown or Battle of Alberta or Battle of Ontario or Pens/Flyers would have gone a long way to adding some excitement. Instead we have eight generic series. Oh well.

 Minnesota had that big run mid season and so, like the BJs lol, I am a bit loathe to give them credit. They are better than the Blues though. What happened to the Blues? Well they were right to not give big money to Backes and Brouwer but losing two top nine Fs and then moving Shattenkirk out as well ... it hurt them.

 Yeo, well, I don't know a lot about him but he's not a guy who I worry about outcoaching Boudreau.

 (I love the little fat man but there has to be something there, no? Year after year his teams fall short and while a lot of that comes down to luck man oh man at some point that luck would run the other way, no? Sure the dice have no memory but come on. Anyhow that is my theory, I don't know if it's true or not but maybe he's not so good at those little adjustments over a series.)

 In any case the Wild have eight forwards at 42 points or more and a ninth, Handzal, at 39 and he played for the Coyotes most of the season. In other words these guys are loaded for bear and I don't see the Blues stopping them. Dubnyk is one of those guys that is a bit worrisome for me in the playoffs until the point he is not but Jake Allen isn't a guy I see stealing a series so whatever, I think it's a wash in net.

That goal differential though. Wow.

 Wild in 6, maybe 5.

Ducks (spits) v Falmes (spits)

 This one may actually be the most fun first round series, the bad blood is already there and one suspects that at the end of it whoever survives may be easy pickings in the second round.

 The Falmes got really really hot but that GD is pretty poor. Of course Anaheim's isn't much to look at either.

 But here is a fun fact. From January on the Falmes had a total of 4, count them, 4, regulation wins against playoff teams.

 In 43 games.

 So chew on that for a bit.

(Actually it's pretty amazing, I went through the Oilers for comparison, they had 9 over the same stretch. Chicago, 13. Washington? Well Washington had as many regulation wins over playoff teams last week as the Falmes did in 43 games. But even they only had 15 total in 43 games.)

 Anyhow ... 4.

As always the Ducks have nice depth up front and one suspects they can do some damage with their bottom six or at least their third line. Fowler being out hurts them and I certainly like the Falmes' D or at least their top 3 who bring a lot of offence as well.

 It's going to come down to goaltending I think and I like Gibson a bit more. Ducks in 6.


Tomorrow ... yer Oilers.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Playoffs Playoffs! Are Great! Playoffs Playoffs! Can't Wait!


 'oo is it ......?

 It's me!

 Every few months I write a post and think to myself  'that was great, I have to do that more often' and then nothing happens. Anyhow here we are! Playoffs! And the Edmonton Oilers are in the playoffs! (Although I expect we are all in a large van, sleeping, while the little guy from Third Rock, he's all grown up now, bounces and sways beside us. It's all a fevered dream!)

 I will write something in depth on the Oilers probably tomorrow, definitely before the series starts, hey they make it once a decade so I can probably put in the time.

 But first, the rest! I have been doing this since the blog started, so spring of 2006, the last time the Oilers made it. Me do alright in predictions, after last year in the first round I am a tidy 63 and 25, so just over 70%. Pretty good but honestly a lot of luck. Here is what I look at when I make my picks, this is a few years old but nothing has changed so here you go, if you give a damn:

First of all I do not look at how a team finished the season or at the head to head matchups. To me they don't mean a thing. Sometimes a team will finish strongly and go all the way and sometimes they will not and they will win the Cup. Every year people say 'oh they finished such and such a way' and it really doesn't matter. Same for head to head, a game in November or January doesn't tell me anything now.

 The huge thing for me is depth. Obviously injuries play a huge part in the playoffs but also year after year we see that clubs with deep rosters go farther. If you can roll four lines, as Chicago and Boston did last year for example, then you're going to go a long way. For example if Toronto had dressed an actual hockey player rather than Colton Orr last spring I believe they may have survived game seven. Certainly having someone you could throw out there who could play a reliable shift would have helped. In a similar vein as the Bruins began to get banged up their depth suffered and as the series wore on against Chicago the Hawks were able to use their superior depth to push the pace. As a result they had the puck more, Chara especially was forced to defend more and by the end of the series the Bruins were done. To me I always look for teams that run four lines deep and six defencemen as well.

 When I look at records the big thing for me is goal differential. A team that is even or maybe even in the red is a team that I always avoid. The real heavyweights are the clubs that have a big goal differential. This may seem like common sense but I look at that even more than I look at a club's win loss record.

 I don't put a lot of stock in your usual narratives, teams that 'know how to win' and all of that. Nearly every year since the end of that stretch where the Cup was always won by the Wings, Avs, Stars or Devils has had a different starting goalie lead his team to the Cup (except for when the Wings won in '08 I think) as an example. So I don't look at the Blues and think that they can't win because Miller has never won the Cup for example or at San Jose and think that they are going to fail because they're San Jose. Intangibles like this are just a lot of noise imo.

 Of course as an out I always say that anything can happen (because it can) - injuries, hot goalie, bad luck. Its hockey so sometimes that's the way it goes but generally I feel pretty good about how I make my picks.

**** Addendum 2017 - and another thing! ;) when in doubt, all things considered, if it's a coin flip, go with the team with the offensive star power. The playoffs often come down to a bounce and the team with the guys who can create something out of nothing - Chicago, Pittsburgh and such - because often there is nothing, well those teams are a better bet than the team of good solid 20 goal scorers, no matter how deep they run ****

 So there you go, maybe next year I will rewrite it, some of these references are getting dated! (this note is also regurgitated so let's just nod and smile and move on, shall we? ;) )


Prince Of Hartford Wales Conference

Caps v Leafs

It's all gravy for the Leafs now, it really is, I know a few people don't feel that way and I can see why but this was a terrible team last year and now they are in the playoffs and if they play their cards right they will be real live contenders the next two years before they have to pay these kids. Their management group makes mistakes just like everybody else but they are onto something and I would trust them over most of what you would find out there. Up front they are just stacked, it's that blue that is an issue but add a couple of good pieces and man oh man ...

Not this year though, not even before Zaitsev and Andersen got dinged and Polak came up lame(r). I was at the game last week and the Leafs barely got a sniff. The Caps are that good and this has to be their year, right? Every year we say it but it rally has to be. They're loaded up and down the lineup, they are pretty healthy, they have probably the easiest possible opponent first round, their arch nemesis is already banged up and about to go to war with a heavy duty club that is going to pound them some more, the other side of the East and the entire West isn't really scaring anybody ...

This is it, barring injury they should finally do it. A plus 81 GD? Jesus.

Caps in 5 because sweeps don't happen anymore and the Leafs have enough juice up front that one game at least they will break through. But yeah, this could be it for Washington, finally.

Pens v BJs (lol)

BJs lol. I would never bet on them to win anything, same as Minnesota or Nashville but at some point one of them has to win something you would think. Anyhow this series really intrigues me a lot. That big win streak really skews Ohio's record, I mean it is part of their season so obviously it is part of the record (I sound like people who say the Oilers would be nothing without McDavid. But um ... he is on the team) but you know what I mean? They are not going to rattle off 15 games in a row, they ahd a hot streak and they rode it but without it they are fighting for a wild card.

 That said ... they are going to give the Pens a hard time here I think and Bobrovsky gives them a chance at an upset. Werenski being out hurts them a lot but the Pens are without Letang, which will probably cost them the Cup, as well as Hagelin and Kunitz. Plus Malkin isn't 100% The problem for Columbus is they have a bunch of really good players, they really do, but so do the Pens and the latter have Crosby and Malkin and Kessel. Pens in 6, maybe 7, and they're going to be a mess once they meet the Caps.

Habs v Rags

Could there be a more boring series? Maybe if Boucher was involved. I love Vigneault and I love Julien and you think an original 6 matchup would be sexier but man this one leaves me cold. It's a coin flip though pretty well despite the people who will point at the Patrick Division and say that the Rangers deserve SO MUCH MORE respect for coming out of there. The Rags had a slightly higher GD and one more win but the Habs had to drag Mike Therrien around with them for most of these season. Now that they have an actual professional NHL coach I think they have the edge. Plus their higher end guys are better than the higher end Rangers. Plus Carey Price.

Habs in 7 in a barnburner and by that I mean you will be so bored that you will fall asleep in the barn, knocking over the oil lamp, burning you and all of the family livestock to death in a horrible inferno. I can still hear the cattle screaming, they sounded human I kid you not they haunt my dreams. You got what you deserved though for watching this series.

Bruins v Sens

OK this series might be worse than the Habs Rangers. I expect 6 2-1 games, if shit gets crazy. The Sens have a pretty nice top line but after that, yeesh. And what happened to Bobby Ryan? On the other hand, the Bruins aren't much better. And you wonder why I'm bullish on the Leafs for next season?

 All joking aside the Sens actually had a negative GD and yet somehow made the playoffs, nobidy knows how, well they were in a pretty bad division and the teams that should have finished ahead of them, the ones from Florida, were derailed by injuries, bad luck and incompetence. I think Guy Boucher is quality but he channels Wild on Jack Lemaire too much for my taste, plus the Sens are awful.

Bruins in 6 deathly boring games.