Really enjoyed the first round of the playoffs. Too much actually. Despite not having a dog in the hunt I've been watching game after game, staying up past my bedtime, accompanying my viewing with a few drinks here and there so that after two weeks I look like Doug Gilmour in those famous pictures from back in 93 except I have my teeth, plus I'm getting fat and I'm a borderline alcoholic. Other than that we look EXACTLY the same, all pasty and exhausted like.
Giving the kids shit the other day for getting up with the birds my wife made the mistake of telling them that their rising early was making us tired (a bald faced lie anyhow - we stay in bed when the two oldest ones get up, they're pretty well ready to go out into the world now, plus the inlaws are here to do the heavy early morning lifting, we even had morning sex the other day, God how I love and miss morning sex) and our eldest chirped that maybe Daddy shouldn't stay up half the night watching hockey if he was so tired.
Smartass. Oh well, apple, tree and all that.
Part of the enjoyment of this spring is that the kids have been watching games with me and the boy especially has been getting into it. He asks a thousand questions which makes me a little mental until about my fourth drink when everything starts getting soft around the edges and he's still figuring it out but I can use the PVR to slow it down for him and he digs it. Seeing as one of the strongest memories I have from being a kid is watching HNIC with my Dad, staying up as long as possible until sleep took me away and he lifted me into his arms and carried me to bed, its something that I enjoy a lot, even as he asks me for the umpteenth time when the team with the foxes on their shirts are going to play Team Canada.
And part of the enjoyment stems from the fact that the hockey has just been wonderful. After watching terrible horseshit for 82 games (with the Olympics breaking the monotony long enough to remind us what really good hockey looks like), watching this opening round has been like some sort of sexual reference that I can't just come up with. It feels good though. Use your imagination. There. Isn't that nice. Or really dirty, depending on what you are into. Pervert.
No lead has been safe. Excellent goaltending. Bravura performances by Crosby and Halak, Chara and Henrik Sedin, Datsyuk and Zetterberg, Craig Anderson and Joe Pavelski. Scares thrown into San Jose and Chicago and Vancouver. The upsets in the East and the game seven tonight where the Habs try and finish the Caps, which will absolutely finish my hockey pool.
Five and two after the first round with the Flyers, who I thought about going with on a hunch, and the Bruins prevailing over my picks.
So here's round two picks for the West along with a few thoughts on the series just completed.
San Jose v DetroitSan Jose had their way with Colorado everywhere but on the scoreboard, thanks to Craig Anderson, some bad luck and, dare I say it, for I know I invite derision, the fact that some San Jose players just don't get their shit together in the playoffs.
I know I know, territorial advantage favoured Thornton and its a small sample size and so on and so on but here's what I think. Luck plays a factor, sure, I get that but at some point that luck should even out, should it not? At what point after repeated annual poor performances do we say that there is something there. This was the Colorado Avalanche who were basically the Edmonton Oilers with goaltending. A couple of very good young players surrounded by young players who are either not ready for primetime yet or who are just shitty plus a handful of vets who were ready for the glue factory years ago.
And Thornton, Heatley and Marleau scored a total of one goal. Huh?
Now maybe they'll tear the cover off of the ball against the Wings but I'm thinking if they couldn't score against the Avs they're going to get their asses handed to them by Datsyuk and Zetterberg. One of those guys will get Pavelski and one will get Thornton and the Pavelski matchup will be a good one to watch and Thornton is going to get his ass handed to him.
The Wings had a tough tough first round matchup against a solid Yotes team and I think they've got more than enough to take out the Sharks who have a lot of talent but by my eye don't have the defence or goaltending that Phoenix did. Of course they have the edge over the Coyotes up front but I'm thinking they are going to spend most of the time defending. And Thornton was a minus four against the Avs. He's going to get eaten alive and a lot of Sharks are going to lose their jobs with this club this summer.
Wings in six.
Chicago v. Vancouver
This is a sweet sweet matchup. Both had good but not great first rounds. The Canucks looked pretty good taking out the Kings. Their depth up front showed through and the Sedins and Samuelsson were excellent. Luongo got better as the series went on. They could really use Willie Mitchell on the backend though and I'm not sure if they can rely on Niemi to be as bad as Quick turned out to be.
Chicago got a bit of a scare from a tough Nashville team who seem to be channelling the Oilers clubs that used to lose to Dallas every year. Tough, fast, hard skating but they always fall short. What a terrific young defence though. And Rinne played very well. They blew it though. A goal lead and Hossa in the box and they not only lost the lead but did nothing on the PP. Epic failure.
Chicago didn't look great to me. Niemi was solid enough and while I think they'd be in better shape if Jonsson returned, the addition of Campbell will help. The Hawks really didn't look in sync for most of the first round, not sure if it was nerves, but they looked slow and uncertain at times. Key mistakes by guys like Kane and Brouwer led to goals and a few of the kids looked a little overwhelmed.
Having said that I'm picking them over the Canucks in what will be the best series of the second round. I think it goes seven and while I would not be surprised to see the Canucks take it I think the Hawks just have superior depth up front and on the back end. They can throw out three lines that can attack and defend very well and this is with Brouwer struggling and Byfuglien playing on the blue. I think the Canucks are a little bit weaker up front and a little weaker on the blue line and that will make the difference. If Luongo is on the top of his game which is entirely possible then the Canucks will do it but I'm going to go with the Hawks in seven.