Well, another year gone by, and another year without Maple Leafs hockey in the post-season. I can’t say I’m terribly surprised, although I did expect this year would finally be the year that they would end the curse and crack the top eight in the Eastern Conference. Of course, it took a monumental collapse – the largest in the history of the franchise – to take them out of contention for that final spot, but as sure as the sky is blue and the sun will shine, the Leafs found a way to pull it off.
This year was doubly disappointing because of the expectations. The weight of expectations just crushed that team in the final third of the season. None of the other teams I cheer made any kind of noise either. The Jets only needed to finish strong to find a spot, and yet they couldn’t find a way to beat mediocre clubs. The Ducks, despite being pushed on by the legendary presence of Teemu Selanne and the threat that he may retire – this time for real - could not overcome the epic collapse they experienced in the first third of the season.
Three different teams who all hold a special place with me, all took different paths to the same place: failure. The lone bright spot on this season is the even worse failure of the Montreal Canadiens. If the Leafs are going to be bad, it somehow feels more tolerable if the Habs are also struggling. Likewise though, when the Leafs do finally right this godforsaken ship of their’s, I hope the Habs are right there with them. It’s a crying shame that empty arenas in New Jersey and Florida are going to play host to playoff hockey, while the forever rivals stand by and watch, with hybrid fairway woods in hand.
So without further ado, I figure I should commit my predictions to the permanence of the world wide interweb. My predictions on placement during the season were not very accurate. My apologies to the Senators, Panthers, and Coyotes – all of whom were much better this season than I predicted. While seven of the eight teams I picked to make the playoffs in the West were successful (Anaheim and Phoenix combined for the error), only five of my eight predicted teams in the East were accurate. The Lightning, Sabres and Maple Leafs were all unsuccessful, while the Devils, Panthers and Senators took their spots. Hopefully I can do better than 75% accuracy with my playoff predictions:
Rangers over Senators in 6
Bruins over Capitals in 6
Devils over Panthers in 5
Penguins over Flyers in 7
Canucks over Kings in 6
Sharks over Blues in 6
Blackhawks over Coyotes in 6
Predators over Red Wings in 7
Eastern Conference Champions: Penguins
Western Conference Champions: Canucks
Stanley Cup Champions: Penguins
Round 2 predictions to follow Round 1….
What say you? The Penguins are in tough against the Flyers, but if Crosby stays healthy, I don’t think the Penguins can be stopped. They know how to play when it matters better than any other team, and some of the other favorites have some major question marks as a result of concussions – like Nathan Horton and Daniel Sedin for Boston and Vancouver respectively.