Monday, April 30, 2012

Hopeless Hopeless Hopeless

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Four and four in round one and a cunt hair (as an old pal of mine once used to say) from being two and six and man oh man dull matchups abound or maybe not? Anyhow you will have to trust me that these were my round two picks even if we're three days in now but I can be trusted, you'll believe it when you see my Nashville/Phoenix pick. And my impression is that with these picks I'm pretty well with the consensus anyhow, same as I was first round. Anyways I'm long gone in both pools, done in by that smiling buck toothed bastard Marc Andre Fleury, should have known not to trust anybody who let Patrick O'Sullivan get the better of him. Also eat it Vancouver. Thanks a million. Philadelphia/Jersey The Flyers pounded the Pens despite their own goaltending woes and now they have another opponent with iffy goaltending. Discussed on Twitter as to whether or not Flyers are one and out with Bryzgalov hurt and/or lousy but the reality is they will not face another team with the offensive firepower of the Pens. Wings, Blackhawks, Bruins - all out. Pretty well everyone left does not score or does not play their players who can score (I'm looking at you Dale Hunter) so while its likely they will not score eight goals a game against the non Fleury goalies they also don't have to face Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Letang and company again. Now ... does this mean that they cannot be stopped? Of course not. But this is a club with admirable depth up front and the field is flawed and they probably have the best player left as well in Claude Giroux. Jersey's no pushover of course but they're looking like the Flames or Stars of the last decade more and more - a good team, they'll give you a battle, but they aren't beating you. Just not good enough. Flyers in six. Rangers/Capitals Capitals beat the Bruins in what turned out to be a pick em and the Caps are playing 'playoff hockey' which seems to mean benching Ovechkin and Semin essentially. Fans and the talking heads love it (or most of them anyhow) and its hard to argue with a win in round one except of course this club was a bounce from going out and I'm always of the mind that you may want to play your best platers but I NEVER PLAYED THE GAME so what do I know. Oh well. Now they get the Rangers who don't score a lot but defend a whole ton and all of a sudden they are starting to go in for Brad Richards and he's a guy who can score enough and create enough to get that extra goal or two they need above one goal to win. Will be interesting next year if Hunter stays and just as interesting if he goes and his replacement decides that playing Ovechkin a lot is not a great idea as well. Someone is going to get a very good player, probably for 75 cents on the dollar, if this is the case. Rangers in 6, less if Holtby comes back to earth Blues/Kings I'd love to see a Flyers final with one of these two clubs just because these are two franchises with a long history and no Cups to show for it. I was figuring Kings in seven before Pietrangelo was hurt and if he is done then so are the Blues. Even if he plays and plays well I will go with the Kings. Better goaltending and while the Blues have better scoring than their season suggests (Perron, McDonald and Steen all have nice ppg numbers but were out for parts of the season) the Kings can bring offence from the blue and have the guys up front who can flat out score - Kopitar, Brown, Carter, Penner, Williams all can snipe if they get the chance, I think that flat out talent carries the day. Kings in seven. Preds/Yotes Well ... I have this one wrong by the looks of it but I figured the Preds. Phoenix got by Chicago thanks to the latter's shit goaltending (both of the Dane's OT goals were fireable offences), pisspoor officiating that seemed to go the Coyotes' way and an awful lot of luck. Sooner or later that shit evens out but two games in they've got the Preds in a bad bad position. Nashville HAS to win the next two pretty well, the way Mike Smith is playing they can't get into a position where they have no margin for error. Unfotunately for them they are there now pretty well. Anyways my original thought was Nashville in six but it looks like we're looking at another round for the Yotes

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Chaos

First round almost over and what has happened over the past two weeks is a pretty good reflection of my own life these days. Work is inducing sleeplessness, which is rare for me as I tend to leave that shit at the office. Jenn is finishing a two week stint in Qatar and while her folks are here and have been a massive help its still a world upside down and that's even with the kids being alright with the whole situation. They've been great and my workload at home is actually cut down, other than being the only go to guy for the little ones, as the inlaws cook and clean and take care of the chores. But you get into a routine over fifteen years (!) and thrashing about in an empty cold bed doesn't appeal much at all. She's coming in tomorrow night after just over two weeks away and its going to be wonderful to hold her in my arms. She had her doubts about the whole thing originally (the trip not being with me smartasses, I know you're thinking about it) but I convinced her it was the thing to do, its not like we'll ever go to Qatar, its about 150th on our list of places to go I would think, and she's glad she went. A fantastic experience. Of course while I said it might be once in a lifetime they have already asked her to return in the fall ;) so maybe not 'once in a lifetime'. Having said all of that her absence coincides with the first round this year and without having to share time with her (or the TV) I have been watching hockey every night for two weeks, with the exception of one night when only Jersey and Florida were playing. My life can get dull enough without looking for boredom. The first round ia always the most exciting I think and this year has been no different although its really spun into 2003 or 2006 territory as half of the top seeds are already gone and two more might fall tonight. If the Rangers lose then its either Florida or Philadelphia as the top seed left in the east. Crazy shit and like those years (or 93) while it seems like the Blues or Flyers would be good to go the reality is that when things start to go off the rails then anything can happen. As Bob Cole might say EVERYTHING IS HAPPENING!. Of course a Rangers' win would set up a probable New York/Philadelphia meeting and if the Blues and Nashville were to meet then really it would be a bit more of a return to normal because lets face it part of the intrigue and 'WOW IS THIS HAPPENING FACTOR?' is the fact that if the Rangers and Devils lose then we are looking at a group of eight teams with only one of them having won the Cup before. Throw in that on top of that so many of these clubs have gone years and years without even a sniff at any success and that Phoenix (likely to be moved this summer) is in the mix and we're really looking at an Isle of Misfit Toys feel to the whole exercise. I wouldn't say that to the fans of the Preds or Kings or any of these clubs though, God knows they've suffered enough. Its really a 2003 vibe though, when New Jersey and Anaheim met in what was the most boring, anonymous, who cares capper to a dull postseason that just about wrapped up the deadpuck era. Two teams nobody cared about playing awful hockey. If you saw any of the Coyotes' series we may be seeing some more of this shit soon, my God its awful, collapse around the net and hook and hold and tackle and hope Stephen Walkom is reffing and of course all four teams in the west play a defensive style, I saw some ridiculous stat the other day where a .940 save % was the lowest of the western teams remaining or something like that. Amazing. When it comes to hockey I'm a traditional man in at least one thing and that's the makeup of the league. If they could turn the clock back to 1970, throw in the Canadian franchises added since and call it a day I'd be happy. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I can be an awful snob and hockey doesn't belong in half of the places where NHL franchises are now in my opinion. What can I say, I grew up in a two channel universe lol. So that stretch of years where teams from new Jersey and Tampa and Carolina and Anaheim won the Cup, well yrcch, especially since three of those years it was a Canadian team that got beat out. I like my franchises old and musty, just like me, and so when three of the four past Cup winners were Detroit, Chicago and Boston, the last two ending considerable droughts, well I was happy, and the Penguins victory felt right too, a '67 club with a lot of history. Hell even the opponents the last four years have fit the bill. So this year I'm casting about for someone to cheer for and options are limited. The Blues and Kings have been around a long time with no success and so if one of them were to go all the way that would make me happy. And of course the Kings are loaded with former Oilers and some famous names so they are an attractive choice. Would be nice if they were in purple and gold though. ;) And out east there's the Flyers, a likeable group of players for the most part and while they have a loathsome portion of their fanbase the internet has proven without a shadow of a doubt that every club has their supporters who are bigoted and foolish and stupid, so what the hell. Go Flyers! I have a feeling though that we're looking at Coyotes and Panthers, which will make my wife happy because I won't be watching that shit. More to come - thoughts on the first round and also absolutely pointless playoff predictions (2 and 4 and dead in my pools already. Fack!).

Monday, April 16, 2012

They've Come Undone

Less than a week ago we completed our hockey pool, one of two I am involved in, the one I won last year, going four Canucks, three Bruins and Ryan Malone. I picked first this year, took Crosby, waited two dozen picks until my name came up again and went with Letang and another Pen.

In my under fifty pool (select six forwards and four D from all players with under fifty points, Crosby exempt) I went Canucks, Pens, Blues mostly. In my regular pool I went Pens and would have gone Canucks but they were snapped up so I went Blues instead.

One of the fellows was teased without mercy. He went Giroux first and then Briere and as players got snapped up he ended up with seven Flyers in his eight picks. All in. He has six of the Flyers top nine forwards and Timmonen and has thirty points already, sixteen more than the nearest guy. Only bad thing for him is the series may be over in four. Doesn't matter, if Philly makes the conference final he wins going away.

As for me I'm five days in and probably done in both. Fack.

What did I say last week, anything can happen? True enough and while a few folks picked LA and Philly there weren't many and certainly nobody who foretold three cob leads in those series. The first round is always wild and wooly but this one has been the wildest in years, never mind the garbage. We're talking 2006 all over again when the top four western seeds were eliminated in the first round.

Of course quality usually does tell so while Boston and New York are in battles, as are St Louis, there is still a good chance that the favourites will advance. If not though ....

Some quick thoughts:

Philly is one of the biggest surprises this round. Was on twitter and asked if they were going to be one round and out with their goaltending. Reaction was mixed but I think they really could be much like Chicago in 2010. So much talent everywhere that they can survive goaltending that is pretty average (actually Niemi had a lot of great moments in that run, I seem to remember he'd follow a poor game with a couple of good ones). A lot of folks said well they won't get to see goaltending as abysmal as Fleury and this is true but they're not going to face a team with the talent the Pens have in Crosby, Malkin, Neal and Letang either. Certainly not in the east. And the Pens are a decent defensive team too. Flyers have just torn them apart. It stands to reason that while the Pens can score three or four on them, its probable that a club like Boston or New York doesn't have that firepower.

One other thing. I actually like these Flyers. Hard to believe. But they have some great pros like Timmonen and Briere and some real characters like Hartnell and Bryzgalov and Jagr and then there is Claude Giroux who is just a joy to watch. Can this be the team I cheer on after the Hawks invariably go out, done in by Oduya and Crawford? May be. If the Oilers aren't in it (LOLOLOLOLOL) I invariably pull for the teams with some history. Long droughts help too.

And never mind the douchey fans. If there's one thing that the Internet has taught me its that every fanbase has its crew (and yes some are larger than others - I'm looking at you Vancouver) of fans who are stupid, ignorant, ridiculous, thinskinned and disgusting.

When I was a young man I moved to Toronto and for years after I loathed the Leafs. They were horrible but it was the fans - Vito from Woodbridge - who intensified how I felt. Of course because I was young most Leaf fans I met were the same and if you know how young men are, well, many are wonderful, many, erm, well I would support the draft if it were an option.

The Tucker/Corson/Green/Domi years didn't help but with the coming of the Internet and blogs and chatroom and Twitter I discovered that all fanbases had their morons, including my own (a fairly high quotient unfortunately) and so while I don't like the Leafs that much I don't feel the same as I once did.

So yeah Go, erm, Flyers. Maybe. We'll see.

The Pens have fallen to pieces and nobody saw that coming and the same goes with Vancouver. The Carter deal was a masterstroke. It gave the Kings a topnotch line and then a pair of Richards and Carter that Sutter could toss me out on and they'd still do damage. Throw in old pros Jarret Stoll and Dustin Penner and suddenly the top nine doesn't look so bad. The D is solid and of course Quick is excellent and maybe the Kings have something here. As for the Canucks well Gillis has done a tremendous job there, he has, and its obvious that they miss Daniel Sedin terribly. But the antics of Kesler and Burrows have picked up again and that sort of shit, well that hurts the team, it does. Refs don't like being made fools of and its never ending with these two and if they get swept well I think we'll see big changes this summer, same as we saw in Philly last year. Maybe they'll move some guys to get younger and prolong the window like Philly or maybe they will do the same but bring in guys who fit the cluster. The window isn't closing but at some point they risk becoming Ottawa or San Jose. Kesler is a tremendous player and Burrows is very good as well but I think Gillis may think enough is enough and move some core guys.

And the calls for Luongo to be moved or Vigneault to be fired? lol Now I think Schneider is quite good and moving Luongo, if they can, is not a horrible move but blaming him for their failure to score isn't too bright. And Vigneault is a tremendous coach. Fire him. If I were the Oilers I'd snap him up in a minute.

One last thing. The NHL has always been bush and that was understandable back in the day but revenues were over three billion dollars this past season, right, and yet its still run the same as when the Norris family owned half the league. Its a garbage league, always has been. The Phoenix fiasco, the entire southern strategy, the lockouts, the endless tweaking of the rules, the Bettman smarm, the awful officiating (I don't think I've seen so many terrible calls/non calls as I have in the Chicago/Phoenix series), it just goes on and on. The hijinks of the past week though, well, it just goes to underline what a joke the league is. Now hockey has always been vicious and playoff hockey even more so and I for on, don't mind tough hard hitting hockey. For example the Brown hit on Sedin, even Neal's hit on Couturier I had no issue with. Nor did I take issue with Shaw's collision with Smith, especially considering the latter's dramatics.

You know what else I didn't mind? Carkner assaulting Boyle. Seriously. Boyle is one tough guy, punching some kid finesse player in the head over and over again. You want to play that way then stand up for yourself. Because what he did was pure rat stuff, Burrows, Cooke, J Ruutu stuff.

Just want to get that out of the way so folks don't think I'm some kind of pantywaist ;)

But here's the thing. The league has let this get out of control. If you're Bitz or Craig Adams or Hagelin or Asham then you'll get the book thrown at you because you are a scrub or you are fairly anonymous. But Weber deserved a suspension and Neal does too. So for that matter does Burns. It comes back to the NHL - it always does, after all this is a league that just fined Konopka and the Sens five times what Weber got because he got picked up cursing by a mic.

So cursing gets punished more than an attempt to injure.

Typical NHL garbage.

I have no problem with the hitting, the scrums, even the fights. I don't jump out of my seat when they fight but spare me the handwringing when Crosby and Giroux go at it because they have had concussions. Who fucking cares? They're grown men. Its hockey.

But the idea that a dirty play, outside of the rules, is somehow ok, well no its not. Sure Howe and Messier and nearly every great of old played outside of the rules at times.

But if Neal knocks Giroux out of the playoffs or Weber does the same to Zetterberg then they should pay in a big way, just as Keith should have paid for what he did to Sedin. Give them X amount of games for intent. Three, four, five. Whatever. And then tie the rest of the suspension to the result of the action. Zetterberg and Giroux ok? Give them the base suspension. Even a game if that's your thought on it. Buddy is out with a concussion? You're out too. He misses ten games? So do you.

But this is the thing with the NHL that makes everybody crazy. Its like the games. Taylor Hall gets pulled down time and time again, no call because he's a kid. What the fuck? Its a penalty. Call it. A scrub knocks out a guy with a headshot? Suspend him. A star does the same? Suspend him. Why? Because he's cheated.

Don't take out the hitting. Use your discretion. Keep the game hardnosed and tough. It can be done. Just don't tell me that Neal going after Giroux's head or Weber driving Zetterberg's head into the glass or Keith elbowing Sedin is part of the game. (And I like all three of these players btw). Because its not.

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One last sad note. The death of Randy Starkman deserves a mention. I have very little time for mainstream media because, ironically, most of them are unprofessional. Petty biases, ignorance, stupidity, awful writing ... the sins they commit daily make up a long list of bullshit. There are good ones out there of course but they are the minority.

Starkman's passing has shaken me up, mostly because he is not much older than me and one week he was fine and the next week he was gone, leaving his wife a widow and his daughter to live the rest of her life without a father. Its awfully close that sort of thing.

Here's the thing. Starkman was a pro. He was a good writer. He obviously had passion for what he was covering. I followed him on Twitter and have read him for years and he loved amateur sports and knew it inside and out. He struck me as a man of integrity and as a guy with a good sense of humour and he was excellent at what he did. Its a very sad day.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Luck



I don't have a high opinion of Steve Tambellini. I think if he fell out of a boat he'd have a hard time hitting water, he is such an incompetent. But he's lucky.

He's lucky he's fallen into a situation where the media, for the most part, either acts as Pravda and Tass for the Oilers or actually thinks that a guy like Cam Barker is a quality NHL defenceman (Stauffer/Spector) or, even better, think that a random group of WJC teenagers would be better suited to play NHL defence than, you know, six fully grown men who are actually seasoned NHL defencemen.(your 'hall of fame' reporter Terry Jones) He's also lucky that much of the fanbase believes that the best thing for the franchise is to lose badly year after year although with the talent that the Oilers are accumulating who can argue with them?

lol well that's a story for another day, right?

So while the majority of moves other than the annual trip up to the podium seem to point to Tambellini and Lowe's incompetence the fact is that the guy has a lot of rope apparently. Plus he is lucky.

I have talked about luck a lot in these parts. Luck isn't everything, its not the only thing but its a big thing. Being in the right place in the right time, right, although in my experience when you talk about luck its bad luck that you have to worry about. Good luck may happen when you play a game or if you win the lottery but generally good luck refers simply to the fact that your genes are what they are or the fact that you are Canadian and not in a country where poverty and starvation and war run rampant. Its bad luck that can effect you, that can turn your world upside down, that is a lot more common. The drunk driver, the fall down the stairs, the ankle catching in a rut in the ice shattering a leg, the cancer that spreads unnoticed before its too late.

When you are younger you tend to dwell on luck a lot and, because generally younger people are dumber (!), they tend to think that good luck is just that, luck.

I certainly did. And yes that statement about young people is a generalization but really its mostly true. And that's fine. When you're young you lack experience and its when you make mistakes and do shit that's wild and crazy. I was a madman and while it still lurks below in some dark, murky, stinky place down there, that part of me is largely in the past. And its a good thing, right? A wife, three kids, a career, a mortgage and all that. Its best that I got all of those benders and sleeping around and bad decisions (oh god I made more than a few) out of the way.

Now here is the funny thing. I remember as a young dude lamenting my bad luck with women and the reality is it wasn't bad luck. I was a dink. I was immature and foolish and the odd time I found someone I almost immediately blew it. My bad luck was not bad luck but deserved.

And so as I got older I found a beautiful spirited girl and I got a chance at a career and I did something with that. Maybe I got an opportunity but I shoved the door wide open and used my head and worked hard and as a result I am where I am today.

Now having said that I know that I am lucky that I won the genetic lottery (so far) and was born in Canada and that my kids were all born healthy and I am also quite aware that it could all tumble down today or tomorrow when something happens that I have no control over. I don't have that much hubris. I have enough friends and family members who have had their lives turned upside down to know that things can turn on a dime.

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So this is the important thing to remember while we celebrate that the Oilers will pick first for the third time in a row and, for the third time in a row, there is a consensus number one guy to pick.

While the drop of the ball this year was lucky in that we got that first pick and that that pick is an easy one the reality is that its not luck that got us here. Its sheer incompetence. The incompetence that gives an over 35 goalie a four year deal, that spends to the cap thinking you have a contender and finishes dead last, that sheds quality players year after year without adequate replacements, that wastes a year of development for the three Swedes, that trades their best defenceman for a guy, who while quality, is a type that could easily be had for less, that misunderstands the little ins and outs of the CBA.

Watching TSN last night Jennifer Hedger remarked out quickly things can turn, referencing the Oilers being a goal away from the Cup and now picking first overall for the third year running.

That's not luck folks or a sudden downturn in fortune. That's a special and historic level of incompetence.

And while I am excited that this club is going to feature four forwards who are astounding talents, wonderful and dynamic, the idea that Tambo is the man to build around these guys leaves me cold. After all he is the guy who got us here in the first place. And neither he nor his lucky tie nor this feat should be celebrated in any way.

Because building around Hall and Eberle and Ted and Yakupov is not going to require dumb luck, a dopey grin and platitudes mouthed when a ping pong ball falls the right way. Its going to require a shrewd and tough negotiator with a plan for the short term and long term.

I'd fire Tambo today honestly. But its not going to happen. Keep your fingers crossed that what has passed so far is not a true indication of his ability and, failing that, that he truly is the luckiest man to have ever walked the earth. Because if he's not then we could be truly fucked.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

West


The West is an odd one this year. If Daniel Sedin is healthy and you believe in the Canucks, which I do, then I think we're looking at them and then the rest. But if you don't believe in them, if Sedin is out for any length of time, if they fall short for whatever reason then it really is an absolute free for all with nine points separating Nashville and the Kings, fourteen between the Blues and LA.

1)Vancouver v 8)Los Angeles

The Kings went on a good run after Sutter came on board and the Carter trade was a fine one but they haven't the depth of the Canucks at all. Will they be a tough out and take their pound of flesh? Probably. They have some size and some skill and Quick is quality but they are top heavy up front and thin on the wings. If Carter is healthy and Stoll and Penner can contribute offensively then things might be tight but Vancouver is too good a team to fall here. Canucks in 6

2)St. Louis v 7)San Jose

Are the Blues for real? Damned of I know. I don't know if I've seen them play all year. Hard to argue with results or with Ken Hitchcock though. Balanced scoring but no gamebreakers. Great GD mostly on the back of an absolutely unbelievable GA total of 165. Only three other teams even under 200. I am leery about teams like this because while they play a tight checking closed down style which is successful I think come playoffs suddenly everyone plays this style, well nearly everyone, and these guys, like LA, can stop other teams but they don't score a ton. Without that game breaker and with little margin for error, I think they aren't going all the way. But I do think they get by San Jose whose window is closing a la Ottawa, another very good team that never did win it all. The Sharks can score, or at least the top of the lineup can, but the secondary scoring is iffy, so is the goaltending, and they seem to be a team that often gets shut down in the post season. A recipe for a Blues series win in 6. Maybe even less.

3)Phoenix v 6)Chicago

Chicago is my darkhorse pick if (and this is a big if) they get goaltending and a little more team defence. They're a better team than Phoenix, even with the odd slump they hit this season, and it sounds like Toews is going to be able to play. Phoenix reminds me of the Blues, although they do have Whitney and Vrbata; they don't score a ton, they play that grinding style, they have little room for error. The Hawks are more high risk/high reward, their GD is basically the same as Phoenix but both GF and GA are way higher. I think they tighten it up and with their firepower they take the Coyotes down. Won't be easy and the Hawks are still waiting for their next wave of kids to get back to where they were a couple of years back but they have enough to move on here. Too many stars. And real stars. Hossa and Toews are two of the best. Six games.

4)Nashville v 5)Detroit

So little to choose from between these two teams. The Wings are starting to fade, with their 102 points and +45 GD in the league's toughest (ok second toughest)division. lol. But they do not intimidate like they once did and the end is coming I think, though it may be a few years away. Nashville impresses a lot of people with that goaltending and Weber and Suter and a deep and balanced lineup. Hard to bet against Datsyuk and Lidstrom but I think Nashville does take this in 7.

Monday, April 09, 2012

The East


I had a nice record last season when it came to playoff predictions and, most importantly, won my pool!

I really have an all or nothing approach when it comes to hockey pools. I pick two teams, load up, and hope things fall right for me. I have a decent winning percentage when it comes to these, maybe I have won two out of maybe a dozen and lost on a tiebreaker a third time but of course its all luck. I went Vancouver/Boston last year and if Luongo doesn't slide over in time and the Habs get a bounce then I would have been dead last.

Claude Julien would have been fired and who knows what else would have happened in Vancouver and Boston. Instead Boston broke a near forty year drought (crazy!) and Vancouver nearly burned to the ground. If Dan Hamhuis is healthy ....

What have I learned after nearly forty years of watching playoff hockey. Not much except:

- the more depth the further the team is likely to go. And I'm not talking injuries here. I'm just talking about depth up and down the lineup. For example when the Oilers went to the final they had Moreau and Dvorak on the fourth line quite a bit. That's depth. Chicago and Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Detroit, Anaheim, Ottawa, Boston, Vancouver ... for the most part these clubs all had quality everywhere in their lineup. No Darcy Hordichuks on their fourth lines. Guys who could play a regular shift and not get killed or at the very least kill penalties and contribute that way. So yeah I always go with the clubs that have a lot of depth.

- injuries will kill you (duh!) - you might get through a series early on but all it takes is one or two guys to go down and other guys to get bumped up the depth chart to knock you out. Toews being a possible no show could kill Chicago and while a lot of folks like Philadelphia their injury list going into the playoffs probably means an early exit for them.

- anything can happen. I know! I know! Fantastic analysis! Groundbreaking! Nearly every year regardless of where the stats and trends and common sense point us there is at least one major upset. Injuries, a hot goaltender, a team going cold at the wrong time, just plain luck and no way of knowing where it might happen.

- I've learned to not try and be too smart, to ignore my hunches. They always get me nowhere. When I try and get cute then usually I lose. I think it was last year I figured the Rangers to knock off the Caps. My reasoning was basically 'I've got a feeling about the Rangers'. Nice.

So here we go. This year I think there is one team out west that is, if healthy, head and shoulders above everyone. And then its a free for all. Out east I think its a three team race. So first the Prince of Wales:

1)NYR v 8)Ottawa

The Rangers are one of the three teams I really like. Great goaltending obviously. I like Tortorella a lot. I like his team. They're deep everywhere. Scariest thing to me is while they have a lot of guys who can score they can't score as easily as the other big boys in the conference - Pittsburgh and Boston. (I'm discounting Philly because of their injuries). However they definitely have the easiest route I think. Ottawa can score and Anderson is a guy who can steal a series but I think the Rangers just grind their D down on the cycle. Get by that first round hump and then they probably get Jersey while the other big boys smash each other. I don't necessarily think they are better than the Bruins or Pens but I think they have the easiest road to the conference finals and that counts for a lot. Rangers in 6.

2)Boston v 7)Washington

The Bruins are being discounted by nearly everyone but I can't see it. Start with six twenty goal scorers, so much depth up front and on the blue and Tim Thomas in net and I think they're poised for a good run. Ideally for them the Panthers win their first round series, that would mean the Rangers get Pittsburgh or Philly and an easier road for them, but more likely they get the heavy duty second round matchup. I see no reason why they won't get by the Caps. Backstrom's return helps but the Bruins GD is +67 and the Caps is -8. Bruins in 5.

3)Florida v 6)New Jersey

Florida is one of the worst teams to win a division ever, never mind make the playoffs. Some people see Jersey as a darkhorse, I don't. Brodeur is not that good anymore. Certainly not to get them through more than a round. But they are definitely good enough to get by the Panthers, who just have such am 'Isle of Misfit Toys' vibe about them, I keep expecting Yukon Cornelius to show up behind their bench. Devils in 6.

4)Pittsburgh v 5)Philadelphia

Everyone expects this to be really tight and if the Flyers were healthy I would expect the same if Bryzgalov (who also happens to be injured) was fantastic but the Flyers are not healthy at all and I expect Bryzgalov to not be good enough, lets just put it that way. Two things that do not matter - end of season records and head to head regular season records, imo. I think Pittsburgh is the better team top to bottom and while this series will be superb and vicious I expect the Pens to win it and to do so a lot easier than a lot of folks think unless they lose some guys to injury, which of course is possible. But the Pens GD is +61 and that is without Crosby mostly and without Letang quite a bit and with those guys back I think they are the class of the conference, if they can survive. Pens in 6.