First, how did we (me) do with our (my) semi-semi-finals picks? Also known as the quarterfinals? Well, I swept the Wales picks and bombed out on the Campbell picks for an overall record of 5-3. Not good enough to get crunch time minutes, not bad enough to get sent down to the minors.
I nailed Rangers in 5 exactly, just missed with San Jose and Philadelphia in 6, and transversed Montreal and Pittsburgh. Shoulda picked Montreal in 7, not Pittsburgh.
And congratulations to the Caps for trying hard despite not being quite good enough. I wanted you guys to win not only because the Flyers are a scourge on the universe, but also because a Pens/Caps series is basically a guaranteed win. The Capitals deserved to make the playoffs this year, mainly because they went back to red, white and blue from black, navy and copper. I don't know what graphic design conference voted on black jerseys with copper numbers in a font that was impossible to read, but thankfully they're gone. On to the picks!
(1) Montreal Canadiens vs. (6) Philadelphia Flyers
Two different styles square off here. The Canadiens like to play actual hockey and the Flyers are more into back alley goonerism. Montreal had the best power play in the league this season and the Flyers are not afraid to take dumb penalties at key moments. But it's entirely possible that the repeated flying elbows from Scott Hartnell and Derian Hatcher will convince the Brothers Kostitsyn to avoid the crease, the slot and most of the offensive zone. Especially when Philadelphia has such an incredible knack for finding an opponent's softest player and cheap shotting him so they can appear to be tough.
The Montreal power play will be the absolute difference in this series, but another major factor is how well Carey Price handles being run into halfway through "O Canada". And when the puck drops. And on his way back to the locker room after the game. The Flyers are going to crash the crease to the point that they might scrape away all of the blue paint, and outside of Mike Komisarek, the Canadiens don't have too many guys that can make them stop.
GOOD FOR MONTREAL - They are definitely more skilled than Philadelphia, as their 4-0 regular season record indicates.
BAD FOR MONTREAL - They are definitely not as goony as Philadelphia.
GOOD FOR PHILADELPHIA - Montreal plays the type of game that will allow Li'l Danny Briere to keep his nose clean in the crease, and that's how he likes to score. Untouched from close to the net.
BAD FOR PHILADELPHIA - Still, nobody likes them.
THE PICK - Montreal in 7.
(2) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5) New York Rangers
The idea of watching six or seven games with Sean Avery on the other team sounds about as enjoyable as a cross-country drive with Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott. Word is that New York plans to bring back Adam Graves for this series so he can slash Sidney Crosby and break his hand in Game 1, knocking him out for the series.
A friend texted me last night that he saw Michel Therrien at a bar chain smoking and mumbling to himself while watching the Caps/Flyers game. If he leaned in closely, my friend probably would've heard, "FuckingAveryfuckingAveryfuckingAvery..." There's a lot to love about a coach who scouts games in a bar, not an office, and there's even more to love about a coach who tells Georges Laraque to pummel Sean Avery on the first shift of the first game. And if Gary Roberts comes in to finish off the job as soon as Avery serves his five minutes, well, that wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.
Then again, Marc-Andre Fleury didn't sleep with his wife's sister, so Avery's "Suzanne sucks pussy! She's a dyke!" routine might not be as effective on MAF as it was on Marty Hanrahan. Besides, the rushing tide of Pittsburgh's ten scoring lines should make more of a difference in the series than unbridled shenaniganery.
GOOD FOR PITTSBURGH - They swept Ottawa while Marian Hossa was absolutely cursed on the goal scoring front.
BAD FOR PITTSBURGH - Booing Jaromir Jagr is already old and about to get older.
GOOD FOR NEW YORK - They have guys like Brandon Dubinsky who score annoyingly timely goals.
BAD FOR NEW YORK - Jaarko Ruutu may want to prove he can be even more annoying than Sean Avery.
THE PICK - Pittsburgh in 6.
(1) Detroit Red Wings vs. (6) Colorado Avalanche
Detroit! Colorado! Bad blood! Twelve years ago! Speaking of things that were better twelve years ago, Dominik Hasek has been benched in favor of Chris Osgood. The swinging cage goalie mask may finally be a thing of the past. In the other net, Jose Theodore had better be ready, because Detroit's offense is just slightly better than Minnesota.
For whatever reason, it is just impossible to get excited about this Colorado team. Yeah, Sakic is still there and Forsberg is back and Paul Stastny is good and Milan Hejduk used to be a 50-goal scorer, but they also have guys like Jeff Finger and Ben Guite. And if you have any semblance of an opinion on those two, they were in your vagina at some point, be you mother or girlfriend.
Detroit is still not going to win the Cup this year just because, but is Colorado really the team to knock them off?
GOOD FOR DETROIT - They are very good at playing ice hockey.
BAD FOR DETROIT - Their bad playoff karma is so strong you can actually bottle it and sell it for $8.99.
GOOD FOR COLORADO - Peter Forsberg did not get injured during his off days between series.
BAD FOR COLORADO - They were 0-4 against Detroit this year. They'll need to, uh, break that streak at some point.
THE PICK - Detroit in 6.
(2) San Jose Sharks vs (5) Dallas Stars
The 1, 2, 5 and 6 seeds advanced in both conferences. Ain't that a kick?! And how appropriate that as the seconds ticked off in Dallas' first round win, Chris Pronger was cooling out in the box for cross checking?
A guy at work here is a lifelong Sharks fan. For the Sharks' lifespan, not his. When Calgary went up 2-1 in the last series, he was absolutely convinced the Sharks were done. He watched Game 7 like a 13-year old watches a horror movie. Hand over the face, one eye peeking through a small slit in the fingers. You might say that Sharks fans are never too optimistic about their playoffs chances.
Dallas fans, on the other hand, should be ebullient that the Star offense came out of hibernation against the Ducks. They won their first series in five years and Marty Turco won his first series ever. To repeat: Marty Turco just won his first series ever. Against the worst offensive team in the playoffs outside of New Jersey. So maybe he hasn't proven himself just yet.
Joe Thornton versus Marty Turco. In the playoffs, that's the Resistible Force against the Moveable Object. Both will bend furiously, but which one will shatter into pieces?
GOOD FOR SAN JOSE - They won in round one without Nabokov being fantastic.
BAD FOR SAN JOSE - Ryan Clowe can't carry them forever.
GOOD FOR DALLAS - They are actually in round two.
BAD FOR DALLAS - Marty Turco.
THE PICK - Dallas in 7.
***UPDATE*** - Lifelong Sharks Fan just told me that he DVRed Game 7, but didn't watch it until he heard the final score. Said he wasn't going to watch if they lost. Now that is one tormented fanbase!