Well, I have to say I have mixed feelings about last night's games. On the one hand, I was oh-so-close to all three teams I picked to advance winning their opening games....but on the other hand the spectre of the worst officiating of all major professional sports once again raised its ugly head in the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia game.
Seriously, how does this happen? How can someone be this far out of position in a playoff game? While, as coach Dan Bylsma said, this didn't cost the Pens the game it sure had a direct impact on the outcome since they lost in overtime. It was a game-changer, maybe even a series-changer. And we were told that the officials that worked this series would very likely be the ones working the finals because this series was just that big. If that's the case, heaven help us in the finals.
In any event, later in the evening we were "treated" to this:
Sigh. Game 1 and Vancouver is already making a mockery of the game. Kesler should have received a minor and misconduct for that play: it's the only way to rid the sport of these cheaters. Well, at least they lost, which led to one of the funniest tweets I have ever read in my life, from the LA Kings Twitter feed: "To everyone in Canada outside of BC, you're welcome." Loved it. Predictably, Canuck fans are going nuts today - but let's remember these are the same people who thought a billboard from Coors that said "Colder than most people from Toronto" was the Best. Thing. Ever. during the supposedly "inclusive" 2010 Winter Olympics. So, seriously, they can just get over it. Looks so good on them!
Ok, onward and upward. Here are the rest of my picks for the first-round series, all but one of which will be started by tonight:
The San Jose Sharks have to be the single most underachieving team of the past decade. They managed to get into the playoffs in a dogfight among several teams so that will help their confidence, but they didn't play all that well to get in as much as Colorado and Calgary just stopped winning. In any event, they are facing the Blues and the Blues are for real. I think this will be a short series: Blues in 5.
The Sens were one of the biggest surprises in a very long time and kudos to them for hanging onto a playoff spot when almost everyone picked them to be dead last in the East this year. However, they struggled late in the season while the Rangers coasted along, keeping their eyes so firmly planted on the Cup that they even rested players late in the year instead of trying to win the President's Trophy. Sens have had success against the Rangers this year. "Have had". It ends here. Rangers in 5 - I think this series is the one mostly likely to end in 4 but I hate calling sweeps.
Caps-Bruins. Well. Honestly, I can't see any possibility of the Caps winning this. Hunter behind the bench might have them playing a slightly tougher brand of hockey in the playoffs, but the Bruins have been on cruise control for a while. Bruins in 6 at the absolute most.
The one series beginning tonight that I really think I might get wrong is the one between Phoenix and Chicago. The Hawks have a lot of weapons and quite a few of their players are still around from the Cup win of a few years ago. However, their very best player (Toews) is coming off of a concussion and isn't even confirmed to be in the lineup when the series gets going. I also have some concerns about their goaltending. On the other hand, I read yesterday that the Coyotes have the best record in the NHL since February 1st and are full merit to have taken the #3 seed (well, that and the blown calls in the San Jose-LA game in the last week of the season). They may finally be poised on the edge of something great and, unless the NHL announces the franchise is moving to Quebec sometime in the middle of the playoffs, they should be able to roll through a round or two this year. I am taking the Coyotes in 6.
Tomorrow the last of the first-round series gets under way: New Jersey vs. Florida. Is it wrong to say I really don't care who wins this one? Because I truly don't. I don't like either team, but neither do I hate either team. Sentimentally I would love to see Florida do very well if only because even more people would ask Burke why the Leafs didn't even try to make the playoffs this year....but other than that, I don't really care. I'm going to say New Jersey in 6 or Panthers in 7. It will be won on home ice. To make a true prediction...Jersey in 6.
Good. All done for one round. Now I can relax and watch some baseball. :)