<Disclaimer: These picks were made prior to the start of the round. My apologies for the delay in blog publishing though. I assure you my thoughts have not been waived by the action on the ice so far. If you want to debate it with me, come at me bro!>
Ah the Stanley Cup playoffs have hockey fans around the globe screaming in excitement, jumping for joy and crying in agony. The opening round of the playoffs are always the most exciting. All 16 teams...and their fans...feel they have a shot at the cup. Energy, excitement and hope ring out across the land...from sunny Anaheim to mild Calgary to windy Chicago.
But now we enter round two. Round two of the playoffs often feels like the forgotten middle child in a 5 person family home. You kind of forget they are there...and sometimes for good reason. This round has often seen more blowout games and quick series than any other round in the playoffs. I expect this year to be no different. Perhaps one series will add some intrigue...but given the weak fan base of both of those teams outside their playing cities, will anyone care if one series goes the distance? I expect most fans would rather jump into the DeLorean and move into the future so we can get to the conference finals.
Let's take a quick look back at the opening round. #TwineTime struggled a bit with predictions. I must have drank too much Molson Canadian because I went full steam ahead with the Go Canada mentality. Overall, I went a marginal 5-3. Quick points:
- Hmm so the East went chalk with the favorites all winning. The West saw 3 of the 4 series result in upsets. Wait, didn't someone say that would happen? Yup, point the finger to this guy! <pats himself on the back since nobody else will> But will we see the opposite happen in round 2?
- Does the 2015 West look a lot like the 2014 West? Hmmm, (3) Chi vs (WC) Min and (1) Ana vs a (3) as well. Weird how that played out?
- Winnipeg was completely dominated in their series with Anaheim and while the #WhiteOut was impressive, Perry, Getzlaf and company sure didn't find it intimidating. Will the #CofRed be any different?
- Oh Ottawa....how I loathe you sometimes. What happened? Perhaps the Sens just used up all their magic in just squeezing into the playoffs. I will say the series was very close and could have gone either way but the luck (the magic if you will) just wasn't on the Sens side vs. Montreal.
- Tampa Bay gave me a serious heart attack. I thought they would run over the Wings...not the case. They barely survived. The Bolts will need to step it up if they want their playoff run to last longer than 4 or 5 more games.
- Chicago looks like...well...Chicago. Good effort Nashville but the 'Hawks look in prime playoff form right now.
- We go WILD for the Wild! Great job Minny, I wasn't so sure you had it in you. Your series vs. the Blues was the one I wavered on the most mind you. Damn that quarter for coming up heads...I gave that quarter to Tim Horton's to buy a playoff doughnut after the Wild advanced!
Bring on round 2....
(1) New York Rangers vs. (2) Washington Capitals
Lots of talk over how good the Rangers look to make the Cup final and many have them still as the favorite. I disagree here...a lot! The Rangers eliminated the Penguins in 5 games, sure, but were they impressive? King Henrik perhaps but the story was really more on the lack of offense from the Penguins, the story of their entire season really, than the Rangers outplaying the Penguins. Each game was close and Fleury stood on his head the entire series. Had Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz and co. actually been able to produce, this could be a much different series. As for the Caps, they looked impressive in one game and mediocre the next vs. the Islanders. They need to find the consistency in their game. We know Ovi will come to play and factor into each game. But can Holtby be the backstop to a Washington upset? The Caps are infamous for tanking in the playoffs, especially at this stage, but this could be the year. I think the Rangers look very prone to the upset. This series should go the distance. Can Ovi and team knock off BOTH New York teams?
#TwineTime pick: Washington over New York - 7 games
(1) Montreal Canadians vs. (2) Tampa Bay Lightning
A 2014 playoffs rematch. And a rematch players and fans in Tampa would like to forget. Last year there was lots of hype around Tampa but Montreal smoked them out in a sweep and the series never really got the traction people expected. Hop into the DeLorean again and welcome to 2015. This will be a MUCH different series. Neither team impressed me in the opening round but both came through when it mattered and found ways to win. That is what championship teams do...they win when they need to, even if they are outplayed for 60 minutes. Credit both teams but this battle is going to come down to two things: play of Price vs Bishop and avoiding the big penalties. Price looked average against Ottawa, not something we expected. Bishop, at times, looked absolutely horrible vs. Detroit. Which of these two will find their A game first? Also, these teams do not like one another. Expect a hard hitting, violent series. The winner will not escape unharmed in this one. But which team will show the better discipline when it matters most? Sure defending a teammate and standing up for yourself is expected and encouraged but there is a right and a wrong time to do that, especially in a playoff series. I think if the Bolts can pull out a win in Montreal and head home at least even in the series, they pull this one out. With New York and Washington more than likely going the limit, if one of these teams can pull out a 5 game (or sweep again?) series win, it will only help them in the long run.
#TwineTime pick: Tampa Bay over Montreal - 6 games
(3) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (WC) Minnesota Wild
Congratulations once again Wild, you knocked off the favored Blues team and made the second round of the playoffs. Your reward? Your playoff rival Chicago Blackhawks! The Wild enter the series 0-5 in Chicago in the playoffs. Not exactly a record that gives you confidence. With the 'Hawks holding home ice advantage in the series, the Wild will be forced to find a way to win in the United Centre to have any shot in this series. I will say I have often criticized the Wild as being a less-than-exciting shall we say team to watch. However, I actually really enjoyed watching them battle the Blues. They were impressive! Unfortunately, this series will come down to sheer star power: Chicago has it, Minny doesn't. Toews, Kane, Hossa, Sharp...the same list I gave for why Chicago would knock off Nashville in the opening round applies once again. And now they have a playoff series under their belt for the year. When this 'Hawks team gets rolling, can anyone stop them? Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk was able to keep the Blues attack at bay but unless he has the series of his life, the Wild are going to be in trouble. I am not sure Parise, Vanek and Granlund can provide the offense needed to win this series. I expect a similar route to last year's matchup with Chicago winning both at home and Minnesota taking game 3 at home. The difference will be the pivotal game 4. Chicago wins that game and series over. The Wild pull it out and tie the series (as they did last year) and who knows what will happen. Can the Wild reverse last year's playoff disappointment?
#TwineTime pick: Chicago over Minnesota - 5 games
(1) Anaheim Ducks vs. (3) Calgary Flames
The #CofRed was alive and well in the opening round. I was fortunate enough to attend Game 4 in Calgary and celebrate a nice Flames victory on the Red Mile after the game. It was unreal and something I had yet to experience in my hockey fan lifetime. However, the celebrations along 17th might be hard to come by this round. The Ducks are no Canucks! Anaheim looked great in their opening series vs. Winnipeg. Yes, the Jets led many games and had numerous chances to win but they didn't. The Ducks never lost focus, poured on the intensity when needed and the Jets just could not match it or survive it. This is a fast team with high offensive output from its stars, namely Perry and Getzlaf. The Flames were successful in roughing up Vancouver, pushing them around, skating faster and creating better chances. This will be 100% more difficult this time around. Hiller looked great but, at times, even had Flames fans squirming in their seats. A strong goalie can backstop a championship and Hiller (or Ramo if needed) would not be the goalie I would put my faith in for a long playoff run. Johnny Hockey and my fav Flames player Michael Ferland were great to watch in the opening series win but they may find themselves overmatched this time around. I mentioned the Wild's horrible record in Chicago...well Flames fans may want to just run and hide now. Calgary has not won in Anaheim since 2006. 2006! NINE YEARS!! Seriously...that's a real stat! Yikes! The Flames will need to win at least once in Anaheim and sweep the home games to have a shot. You think many in Vegas are willing to jump on that bet?
#TwineTime pick: Anaheim over Calgary - 5 games
Alright puck heads, there you have it. The #TwineTime predictions for Round 2. Enjoy the action and please feel free to share your thoughts with me (good or bad). At the end of the day remember we all love this sport and playoff time is when we come together and chirp, cheer and cry as hockey fans....#becauseitsthecup