First, a look back at my preseason predictions. In the East, I had Pittsburgh, Ottawa, Washington, New York, Montreal, Philly, New Jersey and, er, Toronto. So that's six out of eight correct, which is pretty good unless you factor in that I missed the #1 team overall and put in the ridiculous heart-over-head Leafs pick. In the West, I had Detroit, San Jose, Calgary, Dallas, Anaheim, Chicago, Minnesota and Vancouver for another 6/8 performance. So overall, I think we can conclude that I'm the best hockey prognosticator of all time. Which means that this picks will be BANG. ON.
San Jose over Anaheim: The battle of California! Screw you, Kings! Sharks in five.
Detroit over Columbus: Good on the Jackets for finally making the playoffs, but while it would be cool to see Rick Nash go nuts, Detroit should take this one pretty easily. Red Wings in six.
St. Louis over Vancouver: The Canucks conduct their usual playoff bed-shittery. The Blues have been impossibly good over the last three months. I mean, this was a team that was neck and neck with the Leafs in the lottery race at the end of 2008, but since then they've been kicking ass and taking names. Blues in seven.
Calgary over Chicago: Arguably the hardest series to pick in the whole first round. I've stuck by thinking Calgary is a solid team all season, so no reason to stop now. Flames in seven.
Boston over Montreal: Don't worry Habs fans, the 125th anniversary is just around the corner! Plenty of time to build more unrealistic expectations around your team! Bruins in five.
Washington over New York: Ovechkin wins his first playoff series and theoretically does something amazing in Madison Square Garden that gets the New York media's attention for about five minutes. The Rangers, somewhat impossibly, scored the third-fewest goals in the NHL this year and still made the playoffs. Bizarre. Capitals in five.
New Jersey over Carolina: On the bright side, one of the two teams I least want to win the Cup will be out in the first round. On the down side, one of the two teams I least want to win the Cup will be guaranteed to advance past the first round. I'll go with Brodeur in this one. I also love that Paul 'Scapegoat' Maurice was fired from Toronto and is now instantly back in the postseason with the Hurricanes. This is what happens when Maurice deals with a non-idiot as general manager. Devils in six.
Pittsburgh over Philadelphia: Battle of Pennsylvania! Penguins come all the way back from their disappointing start and put Philly to bed. Penguins in six.
San Jose over St. Louis: The Sharks end the Blues' cinderella run, albeit not without a fight. In my preseason picks I actually had San Jose over the Rangers in the finals, so why get off the bandwagon now? Sharks in six.
Detroit over Calgary: Wings douse the Flames in order to set up the Western Finals that we're all expecting. Red Wings in six.
Pittsburgh over Boston: Upset! As consistent as the Bruins have been all season, I honestly cannot see them as a legit Cup contender. I don't know what it is. I see them as the new model of last season's Canadiens; a team that overachieves by taking the top seed, wins a round, but then gets dusted by one of the actual contenders. Penguins in six.
Capitals over Devils: In my opinion, these are the two best teams in the East and here they are in the second round. May be a minor heart-over-head pick since the Devils always play spoilsport by beating the lovable underdogs, but I find myself really rooting for Ovechkin and company. Capitals in seven.
San Jose over Detroit: As I said, I'm not getting off the Sharks bandwagon anytime soon. This series is almost guaranteed to go seven, and in the end I think the Sharks can do just enough to knock out Detroit in a classic matchup. On the bright side, their hockey team losing is only about the 31st or 32nd worst thing to happen to Detroit in the last ten months. Sharks in seven.
Washington over Pittsburgh: First of all, Gary Bettman would cream his jeans if it was actually Crosby vs. Ovechkin in a major playoff series. Second of all, it's interesting that a lot of hockey fans have semi-turned on Crosby, at least when it comes to favoring him against Ovie. It would somewhat hilarious to have Crosby pull the full heel turn and do something just pathetically unsportsmanlike or whiny in this series, thus turning him from the next Gretzky into the next Bobby Clarke. Capitals in six.
San Jose over Washington: There's a chance that the Sharks could be petered out by their epic series with the Wings, but given that the NHL schedules roughly a month between the end of the conference finals and the Cup finals, they should have time to recover. The Cup goes to a warm-weather city for the fourth time in the last six years. On the bright side, at least these Capitals put in a far better showing than the last Caps team to make the Finals, back in that season when they literally didn't show up against the Wings. It's true --- in game two, the Wings were just standing on the ice shrugging their shoulders, looking over at the empty opposing bench. In Washington's defense, Adam Oates threw a pizza party the previous night and things got a little crazy. Sharks in six.
Bonus prediction: the Leafs don't manage to trade up for the #1 overall pick, unless the Isles win it. Then all bets are off. The Islanders are one of the worst-run franchises in sports. It's possible Brian Burke might be able to acquire the #1 pick for Jason Blake, Vesa Toskala, a signed Dave Ellett jersey and a bag of magic beans.
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