Thursday, April 10, 2008

GCHO Winner's Post - Rich H.(Jagr)

Congrats again to Jagr for winning the GCHO NCAA tournament pool. For his genius efforts (UWEC alumni - no surprise), Jagr was awarded a guest post on our fine site. The NHL playoffs was his theme and here it is. It's a good read, even if you stopped watching hockey when the Winnipeg Jets were still a franchise.

Take a deep breath hockey fans, can you smell it?? No it's not spring, it's the NHL playoffs (Playoffs = Real Deal)and they begin tonight. "16 for 16" should be the theme on the eve of the NHL playoffs. Sixteen teams striving for sixteen difficult victories is basically what separates the pretenders from the contenders for Lord Stanley's Chalice. It's a grueling proposition. Throw in sudden-death overtime there is nothing better in sports, and no, there won't be any lame shootouts ending games in the playoffs and you have the best championship tournament in sports. Period. The NHL playoffs will take you to places you didn't think you could go. Every face-off is magnified. A shot from the point could change your life. Names no one has ever heard of will rise above and become heroes. Cities will rally and dreams will crumble.

Welcome to the show. This is my Stanley Cup Preview!

EAST MATCHUPS

(1) Montreal vs (8) Boston ~ Montreal won the reg season series 8-0

Oh, the nostalgia- so thick and rich you could drizzle it over pancakes. Two original six teams, bitter historical rivals meet in the playoffs for the 31st time. This may have been an exciting matchup during the Hoover administration, but not this year. For those of you who weren’t paying attention, the Canadians swept the Bruins 8-0 in the regular season, and the majority of those games weren’t anywhere near close, so there’s no evidence on which to predict the Bruins will win at all. But in all seriousness, do they even have to play this series? Give the Habs a bye. Montreal in 4.

(2) Pittsburgh vs (7) Ottawa ~ Sens won the reg season 3-1

A series rematch from last year (queue the dramatic music) which the Sens bounced the Pens in 5. This one still stings (yep I’m a Pens homer). To put it all in perspective, think back to your senior prom. You worked hard all year and got the hottest girl at school as your date. But come prom night you drink too much whiskey, and end up throwing up in the bathroom while she gives your buddy a hand job on the dance floor. That's what it felt like last year- the ‘guins losing to the Sens in the first round. But you learn from these things. You get a new haircut, go out and get ripped at the gym. Next year you're sleeping with half the population at your University while she's turning tricks at the community college down the street and he's selling silverware out of his parent’s garage. Such is life. The Penguins personnel are stacked this year. Captain Sidney Crosby is arguably the best player in the game right now. And at only 20 yrs old, he is bound to get better. Net minder Marc-Andre Fluery (23) had a stellar .921 sv% and is peaking at the right time. On any other team Evgeni Malkin (21) would be a franchise player, finishing second in scoring with 47 goals and 59 helpers. Add in the veteran leadership of Roberts, Gonchar and Sydor and the addition of Marian Hossa at the trade deadline and the Pens are poised to make a Cup run. These kids are for real. Everyone is calling this one a walk in the park for Pittsburgh…and so am I. Pens in 5!!


Sidney Crosby says "I'm the hottest thing on ice since Katarina Witt."

(3) Washington vs (6) Philadelphia ~ Reg season series tied 2-2

The Flyers might have been the adorable underdog story of the season, having elevated themselves from abject bottom-feeders to real contenders. Unfortunately, they went and ruined that early on by returning to their proud history of being professional hockey’s sordid sideshow. Meanwhile, Washington snuck quietly up from completely miserable to actually kind of good, and then exploded at exactly the right time with one of the most lovable playoff pushes ever. There’s no series that can be painted as good guys vs. bad guys more readily than this one. Remember what you learned at a youngster good always triumphs over evil. Caps in 7

(4) New Jersey vs (5) New York Rangers ~ Rags won reg season series 7-1

New York vs. Newark. This subway series is one of the marquee series of the first round. This might be the most hard fought, "hand to hand combat" type series of them all. Both clubs are scrappy, wear-you-out type teams built for long, grinding series. I give the skill forward and overall defensemen edge to the Rags but you'd have to give the goalie advantage to the Devs. Lundqvist is a great goalie but Brodeur is one of the best of all time. I've never gone wrong in picking the Devils. Devils in 7.

WEST MATCHUPS

(1) Detroit vs (8) Nashville ~ Wings win reg season series 5-3

Nice lil' story that Nashville made the playoffs. I'm happy for the less than one percent of Tennessee who understand what hockey is all about. But that's where it ends. The Wings are a puck-possession team blessed with all kinds of skill and speed. After locking up the top spot in the West, the Red Wings have had their eyes on the playoffs for the past three months. Detroit is making its 17th straight playoff appearance and has far too many weapons on both ends of the ice for the Pred's. Wings in 5

(2) San Jose vs (7) Calgary ~ Flames won reg season series 3-1

The Sharks have been one of the top teams in the NHL over the last three seasons, and this year has been no exception. Unless you've been living in a cave the last month and a half (Osama is that you?) San Jose's run during the tail end of this year has been epic - 11 game winning streak, going undefeated in regulation during the month of March etc. But regular season success doesn't mean jack when it comes to the playoffs... Calgary is very inconsistent but plays a physical game, has a great tender in Kiprusoff, and a guy named Jarome Iginla. If Kipper gets hot they could ride his coattails to a series win… but I don’t see that happening. San Jose in 6

(3) Minnesota vs (6) Colorado ~ Wild won reg season series 5-3

This series has more subplots than a week in the life of Britney Spears. The Av's (in the immortal words of Joliet Jake) have "put the band back together" and the old chemistry has returned with Sakic, Forsberg and Foote. The Wild (Team of 18,000) have flown under the radar all year and are still portrayed by the uninformed as a trap team. While they still do play a solid trap (read: good defense), they can score and can skate. Want proof? They've scored more goals than the Sharks on the season. Ok one more, but it's still more. The Wild will win this series for the following three reasons. (1)Jose Theodore - Yes, I know he's been very good this year, but he's not a playoff goalie. Colorado's run-and-gun style is fun to watch, but it will result in many odd man Wild rushes that will leave No. 60 yearning for Paris Hilton. (2)Senior Discount - There are too many old farts on Colorado's team. A playoff team can get by with one or maybe two older leaders, but this team is riddled with them. And it's a virtual lock that Foppa will miss at least a game in this series with some sort of ailment. (3) The Bible - If you take a look at Leviticus 4:3 it says "Never shall a group of triumph over those from up North ." Ok, I'm reaching a bit on that last one, but I truly do believe the Wild will win this series. They're just a better defensive team, and that goes a long way this time of year. Wild in 5

(4) Anaheim vs. (5) Dallas (North Stars South) ~ Stars won series 5-3

This one appears easy to call on the surface. Defending Stanley Cup champs; late season re-adds of Selanne and Neidermeyer, playing their typical bruising game against a team more know for its first round meltdowns since their cup win. Dallas filled the net in the regular season, scoring the second most goals in the conference. This series may turn on Sergei Zubov's health. If he plays and is effective, Dallas could very well win this series. My call? Ducks in 6.

1 comment:

Goldy said...

This man knows his hockey! Excellent rundown. Even if you are not that big of a hockey fan, the NHL Playoffs are fun to watch. An overtime play-off hockey game is pretty darn exciting.