In hindsight, I should've known that I'd do a better job at predicting the Stanley Cup playoffs if I threw all manner of actual analysis to the wind. My trick this season was to pick the playoff matchups based on the powersets of the NHL Guardians which....ended up being surprisingly accurate. I nailed six of eight first-round matchups, with the only flaw being that one of those incorrect predictions involved my Stanley Cup finalists, the Blackhawks. Of course, in real life, the Hawks were an #8 seed and big underdogs against Vancouver, but damned if Chicago didn't defend their title with pride and take the Canucks to a seventh game overtime. Over in the East, my pick of the Lightning also nearly paid off as Tampa Bay took Boston to a seventh game in the eastern finals and only fell by a 1-0 score. Imagine if this stupid nonsense had actually been correct? The NHL Guardians would've taken over for Paul the Octopus as the most bizarre sports prognosticator in athletic history.
So that leaves us with our finals of Vancouver vs. Boston. With both teams suffering through a combined 80 years without a Stanley Cup (Boston not since 1972, Vancouver never), these finals will bring long-awaited satisfaction to one desperate fanbase. I also love the fact that Montreal and Calgary both won Stanley Cups the year after those cities hosted an Olympic Games, and now Vancouver has a chance to win a Cup a year after their Olympics. As it happened, my preseason picks (based on, y'know, actually thinking about things) forecasted a Stanley Cup final of Vancouver vs. Pittsburgh, so given that it ended up as the Canucks against a team in black-and-yellow jerseys, I'm calling this a win for myself. And since I picked the 'other' black-and-yellow team in October, I might as well continue riding that train. Bruins in six.
BONUS PICK: The Canuck vs. The Bruin. The Canuck Guardian wins this hands-down. Both have precognitive abilities, so one of the Bruin's big weapons is already canceled out. His other big trick is a "petrifying roar," but I'd argue the Canuck can counter that as well due to his sonar blasts. Also, if the Bruin's plan is to stand there and roar at the Canuck to try and intimidate him, that might not work so well.
Canuck: (summons a giant whale)
Bruin: Ah nuts, I'm wicked fahked.
So yeah, the Bruin doesn't bring much to the table in this matchup. To recap, the Canucks have the more powerful Guardian, the Olympic history and the fact that they're the better team. All the Bruins have is that in the preseason, I picked...Pittsburgh to win the Stanley Cup. This doesn't bode well.
As for my NBA playoff picks, they were perhaps even more offbase. My Finals predictions of the Bulls over the Lakers, uh, didn't realize come to pass. I had both the Heat and the Mavericks going out in the second round, but lo and behold, they're our two finalists. It's almost like I don't know anything about basketball whatsoever, ha ha ha! (Groan)
Back in February, part of my reasoning in picking Green Bay to win the Super Bowl* was due to the fact that a Packers victory just seemed too perfect from a storyline perspective. The Pack were directly or indirectly involved in every major NFL storyline and beat several of those big stories (Mike Vick and the Eagles, the surging Falcons, the surprising Bears, and Ben "No Means No" Roethlisberger's Steelers) on the way to the title, while Green Bay's success in and of itself underlined the tragic comedy that was Brett Favre's final NFL season. This NBA Finals put me in mind of what the 'story' of this NBA season would be depending on who won the championship.
Obviously, LeBron going to Miami was the biggest basketball news of the year and for the Heat to actually win the title following all the controversy, all the questions about James/Wade/Bosh would play together, etc. would seem fitting in this Year Of LeBron. But, on the other hand, the Heat's run isn't exactly a heroic story. Unless you live in Miami, you hate this team, and therefore a more natural end would be to see the Heat hoist on their own petards and suffering a humiliating Finals loss. And, given how a big part of the LBJ story is how he turned his back on Cleveland, wouldn't it be fitting if LeBron was beaten by a team like Dallas? The Mavericks were the joke of the NBA 15 years ago before Mark Cuban bought the club, drafted a headline star in Dirk Nowitzki, and Dirk stuck around through thick and thin to finally get the payoff of winning the NBA title with his only team. Had LeBron stayed in the Cleve, Dirk's journey could've been his a few years down the road.
Let's look at the Mavericks' journey. They knocked off the Trail Blazers (good comeback story from a Portland team not expected to do much this season), beat the Lakers (retiring Phil Jackson and emphatically ending the latest Laker dynasty) and then topped the Thunder in the Western finals, underscoring the fact that young Oklahoma City is still not quite ready for primetime. Now, the last thing left is for Dallas to beat the Heat, avenge their controversial loss to Miami in the 2006 Finals and stick up for the idea of being loyal to the team that drafted you.
I've got to say, I like this story a bit more. And I like the story of Dirk and Jason Kidd (two of the 50 best players in NBA history) finally getting rings. Sorry, LeBron. Mavericks in six.
* = I'm required by law to remind everyone that THE PACKERS WON THE SUPER BOWL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YAHOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
EP182: Meet TV Critic Alan Sepinwall
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