Playoff predictions are a fine art. You can put dozens of hours into statistical analysis and go oh-fer, and another year ignore the standings altogether and win your bracket based on jersey colours alone.
Me, I’m going somewhere in-between. Stirring a wee bit of gut instinct in with hardcore hockey knowhow, I’m pretty sure I’ll bat roughly .500 in my ROUND ONE PREDICTIONS:
It’s hard to bet against Carey Price, but the New York Rangers have a stronger roster and better coaching. Give it to the blueshirts: Rangers in six.
Despite his imressive World Cup of Hockey tourney earlier this year (and a hat trick here against the Canucks a few weeks back), Brad Marchand will never get my vote. The Senators, on the other hand, have Craig Anderson and Erik Karlsson. Sens in seven.
John Tortorella may have scared Columbus into contention through the season, but it’s hard to believe he can conjure serious playoff mojo — especially when Crosby & Co. are skating the other way. Make it five series in a row for Pittsburgh. Pens in five.
Minnesota Wild fans have some wonderful things to cheer for this year, and may just get some playoff payoff sometime soon, but the Blues are just too dangerous to ignore. Tarasenko scores six goals and threatens many, many more times than that. Blues in six.
There`s been little more exciting this year than Connor McDavid`s emergence as the league`s premier scoring threat. Edmonton, after so many years of pathetic play, is finally more than just happy to be here. Still, San Jose has too much to work with at both ends of the ice; their goaltending is the difference. Sharks in seven.
Like McDavid, Auston Matthews is fantastic. However, Leaf Nation will need another couple of years before they can turn playoff towels into playoff wins. Alex Ovechkin, on the other hand, might just win his Cup this year. (Can`t you just taste that White House visit, you Big Russian?) Caps in five.
Nashville always plays Chicago hard, and Pekka Rinne can steal a few games for the Predators at any moment. I would love to see PK Subban go a few rounds just to snub the idiot Habs for trading him away. That said, the Blackhawks are still the class of the league on paper, and they`ve got enough Cup pedigree on the roster to preclude any bets for those ugly yellow shirts across the hall. Hawks in six.
We at Pucked in the Head don’t hang our heads in shame and tears just because the Vancouver Canucks had their behinds handed to them by the low-down, dirty, rotten, head-shottin’, potshottin’, ball-droppin’ Flames. Nay, we hold our heads high and own our team’s decades-long failure to bring a Cup to the west coast. At least we’re not the bloody Leafs, right?
And so, we put our heads together and prognosticate the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for your scoffing pleasure.
New York Rangers vs Washington Capitals
Jason: Kudos to the Capitals for skirting past the New York Islanders, but even with Alex Ovechkin honouring defensive assignments they won’t have enough to get past the Vigneault-led Blueshirts. Lundqvist outsaves Braden Holtby in a series whose brevity belies hard-fought games. Rangers in five.
Chris: If there’s anything to indicate that Washington can take New York in a best-of-seven, I haven’t seen it. The Rangers steamrolled Pittsburgh and then took the weekend off while the Islanders gave the Caps all they could handle. (That’s right: Eleven shots on goal is about all the Capitals could handle.) Ovechkin may be the best player in this series, but New York is deeper, and Alain Vigneault shouldn’t even need a full pack of lozenges to out-coach Barry Trotz. Rangers in five.
Montreal Canadiens vs Tampa Bay Lightning
Chris: Should be a barn-burner. The Lightning netted a whopping 41 more goals than the Habs during the regular season, but Montreal’s defence was much stronger. On recent form, my money goes to Tampa. They dispatched Detroit without a single goal from Steven Stamkos, and you can only hold that man off the score sheet for so long. Meanwhile, the Canadiens were lucky to get past Ottawa in a game six where a referee’s untimely whistle cost the Sens a tying goal in a contest they dominated. Lightning in seven.
Jason: Kudos to the Bolts for getting past the ageing wreck of a Red Wings team that barely made the post-season. I mean, the Wings have only been mired in a Mike Babcock will-he-or-won’t-he story all year long, and got to Game Seven on the strength of a handful of nobodies ruddering a ship full of greybeards. The Habs, on the other hand, have been the class of the East for a couple of seasons, boast perennial candidates for the Norris and Vezina trophies, and ride the winds of the most powerfully emotional fan support in North American sport. Individually, what’s not to love about seeing PK Subban flatten Steven Stamkos? These guys have been playing hockey against each other for twenty years already, and damned if it ain’t more fun every year. Canadiens in six.
Anaheim Ducks vs Calgary Flames
Jason: Do we really have to talk about this? Where the Canucks and Flames both exceeded expectations by just making the dance in the first place, the Ducks have been promising a deep run for years. Getzlaf, Kesler, Perry, Beauchemin, Fowler… This roster is deeper than any of the wrinkles walking into Botox clinics around the Honda Center. The Flames are hard-working, sure, but they’re just a bunch of Grade Eight boys hanging about in the corner, ogling the good looking seniors across the gymnasium floor. Ducks in two and a half.
Chris: Seeing the Flames in the second round is enough to make me want to vomit like I’d just eaten undercooked fowl. Undercooked, by the way, is exactly what I expect these particular fowl to be at the end of the Pacific Division Final. The Flames are a terrible possession team, and their luck won’t get them close enough to roast the Ducks. The Saddledome crowd helps Hiller steal one from his old team, but Ducks in five.
Chicago Blackhawks vs Minnesota Wild
Chris: Devan Dubnyk has been outstanding, but I’m not convinced he can hold off the Hawks’ firepower. Both teams have high-end defencemen that can do a number on the opposition’s top line, but the Wild lack the offensive depth that Chicago has in spades. One ray of hope for Minnesota: Corey Crawford is in net, and Chicago conceded 21 goals to a similarly dubious offensive team in Nashville. The goaltending disparity will keep the series interesting, but Chicago outscores its problems. Hawks in six.
Jason: The Chicago Blackhawks have somehow flown under most people’s radars this season. Jeez Louise, people, this team is full of all-Stars, Olympians and beauties who fuckin’ work their nuts off, and has won two of the past five Stanley Cups. As for the Wild, Thomas Vanek has been promising to do something important in the playoffs for years, but hasn’t helped a team win anything since the 2003 Golden Gophers took the NCAA championship. Maybe it’s unfair to saddle the guy with his teams’ lack of success, but damnation, does this guy ever know how to pull a disappearing act in the post-season. Ryan Suter can’t do everything, man. Hawks in five.
Pucked in the Head is proud to welcome Richard Davalos (@QuakesFan84) and his Playoff Beard Diary. For those growing facial hair, we salute you! Just… maybe not for much longer.
Who wants to go to Vegas? Twenty-one years ago the Vancouver Canucks were in this exact position, down three games to one to the Calgary Flames, but that’s right where the similarities end. Unlike 21 years ago the Canucks are the higher seed and get two of the next three at home. Unlike 21 years ago, the Canucks scored two or more goals in every game in the series heading into game 5. Unlike 21 years ago, there was no debate about who would start each game in net.
This year’s Canucks are down to their final chips. They’re staring at the dealer holding a king to their 6 and 5. There’s no choice but to double down and go for broke for a shot at playing one more hand.
I can haz Sportsnet voiceover job now please?
Seriously though, what the hell is Willie Desjardins doing? He’s trying to goad the Flames into chasing the Canucks in the offensive zone when that has never been their style. They sit back and wait for you to shoot at them, then they take the puck, drive into the zone, hold it in deep and make it a hell of a task to get it out. The Canucks are doing the equivalent of chasing cards, hoping that if they just keep making the same bets over and over again, the deck (or shoe, if you like 3+ deck blackjack) will eventually turn and put them back in the positive.
After unanimously anointing the Vancouver Canucks as round two participants in the last podcast — thereby sending the Calgary Flames into the wasteland of central Alberta golf courses — Russell and Jason break down the seven remaining series.
• Shoddy math
• Next World by the Orchid Highway
• Arbuthnit? Arbuthnet? Arbuth… Russell, anyway
• The Seven Deadly Sins
• Montreal Canadiens versus Ottawa Senators
• A little playoff trivia fo’ ya
• New York Islanders vs Washington Capitals
• Tampa Bay Lightning vs Detroit Red Wings
• New York Rangers vs Pittsburgh Penguins
• Nashville Predators vs Chicago Blackhawks
• Jason & Russell make it interesting
• Anaheim Ducks vs Winnipeg Jets
• St Louis Blues vs Minnesota Wild
• Bonus fantasy Anaheim vs Minny, StL vs Jets content
• Russell stopped listening a while ago
• William Tell Overture by Russell ArbuthNOT
• William Tell Overture by random symphony orchestra
• Thanks for listening
It’s playoff time, so we put on our tin foil hats and go a-prognosticatin’. This episode is just Vancouver versus Calgary. We predict a Canucks win. What a shocker.
• Raunchy Harmonica by Harpdog Brown
• Compound nouns
• Are you trapped in your car?
• Cream cheese
• Canucks v Flames
• Shaming Russell Arbuthnot
• The Conjugation of Radim Vrbata
• Thar be decent hockey in this here league, arrr
• Canucks favoured
• How can the Flames not miss Giordano?
• Get yer statstats out
• Official predictions
• Challenge extended
• No Money in the Till by Harpdog Brown
Pucked in the Head is proud to welcome Richard Davalos (@QuakesFan84) and his Playoff Beard Diary. For those growing facial hair, we salute you!
When it comes to watching Canucks playoff hockey, there is no difference between self-congratulation and self-flagellation. The first five minutes of the game are all “whoo GO CANUCKS GO!” and the final five minutes are “I’m not sure how much of this I can take,” *Calgary scores*, “Why do I put myself through this?”
It’s good to be watching playoff hockey and experiencing impotent frustration again. Feelings of wanting to be alone for a while after a loss, where would I be without you? Happier? Ehhh, happiness is overrated.
The team that makes the least number of defensive mistakes will win this series.
Yell at Luca Sbisa all you want, it’s completely off base. Yannick Weber was the one who decided that the best way to clear the puck from the defensive zone was up the middle, hanging Sbisa out to dry defending a spontaneous 3-on-1. There’s even less for a fan to do in that situation, other than hope that Eddie Lack makes the save. Pick your poison, Canucks fans: defensive issues or goaltending issues. One is easier to fix, provided you don’t hand a major source of it a three-year deal with an AAV of $3.6 million.
Around the League
St. Louis does it again. Is there really any other team with a bigger case of the playoff yips the last ten years than the Blues? They are 8-18 in their last five playoff appearances (including this year) and they’ve been swept twice. For a team in its prime, St Loo is underachieving at a level that could see coach Hitchcock fired outright, or at the very least sitting squarely on a scaldingly hot seat. There’s the bad luck of running into a buzzsaw every year, and this is not that. With Kevin Shattenkirk presumably back at 100%, there’s no excuse.
No suspension for PK Subban after his hack at Mark Stone’s wrist, resulting in a microfracture and putting the Calder candidate’s availability for Game Two and beyond up in the air. I was satisfied with the original five-minute major given to Subban for the infraction, but was iffy on whether it deserved a game misconduct since it was not as hard of a slash as it could have been. Then again, that’s like saying, “getting shot once is not as bad as getting shot four or five times”. I wouldn’t want to take a hack to the wrist at any strength. If the NHL is serious about removing dirty play from the game, the five-and-a-game call for even potentially injurious hits need to be doled out regularly. Suspend the infraction, not the injury.
Any fears of Anaheim getting upset by Winnipeg should have greatly diminished after Game One. Anaheim was the faster, deeper, stronger team, and the Jets looked completely sluggish in the third period. It also doesn’t help that the Jets’ captain took out Ondrej Pavelec in the pregame skate, undoubtedly affecting the Czech goalie’s mindset in the opening minutes. Regardless, the final stanza of that game was all Anaheim, and Winnipeg was just holding on for dear life. A repeat performance in Game Two and the atmosphere back at MTS for Game Three won’t be sufficient to boost the shallow Jets back into the series.
Pucked in the Head is proud to welcome Richard Davalos (@QuakesFan84) and his Playoff Beard Diary. For those about to grow facial hair, we salute you!
It’s NHL playoff time, and that means it’s playoff beard time!
The playoff beard is the primary tradition come playoff time in the NHL for players, but over the last 15 years, the beard-growing has caught on with fans who now do not shave until their team is eliminated. The refusal to shave is a tradition started in the 1980s by the New York Islanders. Those unholy, talented bastards didn’t shave until they were eliminated or won the Stanley Cup, whichever came first. The only team since the Islanders to win the Cup without partaking in the superstitious tradition was the 1994 New York Rangers, who refused to participate in any tradition started by the rival Islanders. (Sorry, Canucks fans, but we can’t just pretend it didn’t happen.) I love this tradition beyond measure, because it’s an annual reminder that I cannot grow any sort of facial hair. Hair grows faster on my nipples than it does on my face. THIS IS A BAD AND EMBARRASSING THING AND YOU’RE WELCOME FOR THE VISUAL.
When I last wrote a Playoff Beard Diary way back in 2012, the Canucks got run out of their first round series in 5 games. NHL owners then decided that they couldn’t stop throwing money at players and locked them out. In retaliation, I boycotted the NHL for two full years; a #RallyBoycott, if you will. My #RallyBoycott clearly impacted the Canucks rather heavily and they did not win a single playoff game during the #RallyBoycott. First they were swept by the dirty, rotten, stinkin’ no-good San Jose Sharks, then they went and joined my protest — they refused to take part in the post-season last year at all!
Nothing of value was missed. Now that the #RallyBoycott is over, the Canucks are in the playoffs again! I guarantee they will win infinitely more playoff games this playoff run than they did in the entire time I refused to watch NHL “action”. Enough about my undeniable powers of witchcraft and sorcery, let’s get to the games.
(Side note: WTF is this new playoff format? I feel like the Denslow Cup Bracket is easier to explain. Could Calgary really get home ice in the second round despite being the overall 8th seed out west? This is the biggest bullshit of all bullshits.)
(M1) New York Rangers v. (WC2) Pittsburgh Penguins The Penguins scraped into the playoffs despite Crosby-Malkin-Fleury being the three biggest bums on the planet. I mean, seriously, Sidney, you let Jamie Behn beat you in a scoring race? What a chu. The Rangers went on a massive run to the Presidents’ Trophy despite losing Henrik Lundqvist for an extended period of time. Thank you, Alain Vigneault. AV is, like, the king of Presidents’ Trophies now. NBC has to be happy about this playoff matchup. Every game is guaranteed to receive top billing by the American TV rightsholder.
My heart says: Rangers in 5.
My head says: Rangers in 6.
(A1) Montreal Canadiens v. (WC1) Ottawa Senators White Rock, BC native Andrew Hammond went from being a below-average AHL goalie to the second coming of Jacques fricking Plante. We’ll find out, I’m sure, that there’s some sort of red pill – blue pill scenario playing out here. Lawrence Fishburne, tell us true, now… Les Habitants are riding a Price that is very Right. (Editor’s note: GROAN.) Carey is far and away the best Canadian goaltender in the world right now. Rogers has to be happy that in the first year of their massive deal, they get five Canadian teams in the playoffs. Now about those terrible voiceovers for intros…
My heart says: Senators in 7
My head says: Canadiens in 6
(A2) Tampa Bay Lightning v. (A3) Detroit Red Wings Tampa just could not keep pace with Montreal in the final two weeks of the season. The Red Wings keep their two-decade-plus streak of making the playoffs alive, but the margin of error is shrinking. The Lightning get a very favourable matchup in the first round with a depleted Detroit squad. Stevie Y won’t be quite so beloved in Motown if he keeps this up.
My heart says: Lightning in 4
My head says: Lightning in 5
(M2) Washington Capitals v. (M3) New York Islanders The Islanders were once in position to win the Metropolitan Division, but proceeded to fart away that possibility and went so far as to lose home ice in the first round. (Editor’s note: So THAT’s what the smell at Nassau Coliseum was…) The Capitals ground out a number of wins on the back of the Great 8 and look to erase the memories of recent failures. This should be quite an entertaining matchup that’s heavy on the offense.
My heart says: Islanders in 6
My head says: Capitals in 7.
(P1) Anaheim Ducks v. (WC2) Winnipeg Jets Anaheim continues to overcome barely-existent shortfalls in net and has top billing in the West for as long as they’re alive. Winnipeg is also overcoming goaltending issues and they have shown they can win without major names in the lineup, be it from injury or suspension. Please, #SoCalSucks, come true this year.
My heart says: Jets in 6
My head says: Ducks in 5
(C1) St. Louis Blues v. (WC1) Minnesota Wild The Blues won the division nobody wanted, powering through a weak spot in early March and overtaking Nashville in the final week. Minnesota has been absolutely lights-out since acquiring Devan Dubnyk, riding him hard to their own once-unlikely playoff spot. (Editor’s note: Heh heh. #HockeyPorn.) How much more does Dubnyk have left in him this season?
My heart says: Blues in 6
My head says: Wild in 7
(C2) Nashville Predators v. (C3) Chicago Blackhawks Over the final ten weeks of the season, the Nashville Predators went from unstoppable juggernaut to invisible, milquetoast enigma. The Chicago Blackhawks were doing okay without an injured Patrick Kane for a while, then reality hit. Nashville and Chicago enter the playoffs on six- and four-game losing streaks, respectively. Someone has to win this series. (Editor’s note: Or DO they? The format this year is, like, weird, dude.)
My heart says: Predators in 6
My head says: Blackhawks in 5
(P2) Vancouver Canucks v. (P3) Calgary Flames The overall 8-seed Calgary Flames look to rekindle a rivalry that has been mostly dormant for the better part of a decade. The Vancouver Canucks appear to be worldbeaters one day, and the Worst. Team. Ever. the very next day. The team that makes the least number of defensive mistakes will win this series. Advantage: nobody.
My heart says: Canucks in 6
My head says: Canucks in 7
Premature 2nd round picks… and so on
Rangers over Capitals in 5
Lightning over Canadiens in 6
Ducks over Canucks in 6
Wild over Blackhawks in 7
Lightning over Rangers in 7
Wild over Ducks in 6
Stanley Cup Final
Tampa Bay over Minnesota in 7
Conn Smythe: Steven Stamkos
@ Montreal 4, Ottawa 2
@ Washington 5, NY Islanders 3
Chicago 3, @ Nashville 1
@ Vancouver 2, Calgary 1
Using techniques developed by my wife’s Mayan ancestors, including sacrificing several bulls under this week’s blood moon, I have determined beyond a reasonable doubt who will win the 2014 Stanley Cup. Unless the sun implodes and Stephen Harper finally reveals that he is now, and always has been, an Amway representative, the San Jose Sharks will leave greasy playoff beard residue on Lord Stanley’s mug.
Fans in Vancouver are predictably blasé about the NHL playoffs; the Canucks have missed the post-season for the first time since 2008, and YVR hockey fans aren’t exactly renowned for loving the game so much as their team. (Case in point: the Abbotsford Heat are shutting up shop at the conclusion of their playoff run after years of decreasing returns in the Valley. People out thisaway are so scared of Calgary Flames cooties they’ve refused to see professional puck for $20.)
We at Pucked in the Head believe in celebrating the game, even when our local team comes up lame. Here are Jason’s picks for this year’s post-season. He’s so concussed by the ascension of Zack Kassian and the retirements of Teemu Selanne and Ryan Smythe — not to mention the bizarre first-round matchups determined by the NHL’s new wild card system — that he’s thumbing for Stanley Cup supremacy… the San Jose Sharks (!?!?!?!)
The frenzy that is the first round of the NHL playoffs is upon us — and if the first night is any indication, the theme is defense, defense, snore… I mean, defense. I mean, really. The last time we came out of a lockout, hockey was exciting and fast-moving. This lockout has punctuated the return of the dead puck era, where neutral zone traps and left wing locks are de rigeur. Out of six teams playing Tuesday night, only the Anaheim Ducks managed to score more than one goal in regulation time. All hail Teemu Selanne and his wrist shot of doom!
If tonight’s games between the Canucks & Sharks and the Pens and Isles end 2-1 in OT, can we just fast forward to the final and be done with it?
EA Sports has used NHL 13 to prognosticate the NHL playoff results, and they’ve come up with the New York Rangers as a surprise winner of Lord Stanley’s mug over Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks in the final. Our man Jake Hall decided to sim it up as well, and he got a decidedly different result:
by Jake Hall
For fans of the Vancouver Canucks, the “official” EA Sports sim wasn’t pretty. It involved a second round sweep at the hands of the Kings — a sweep! What is this, 2012? Needless to say, I was hoping for a different outcome when I ran the 2013 playoffs through my humble PS3 in the Hall household.