It's tough. Needless to say, I'm happy the Leafs got into the postseason just to get the monkey off their backs and end this idiotic streak that has lasted since 2004.* Hell, I'm just happy to legitimately care about a Stanley Cup playoffs since 2004. However, the fact that the Leafs are facing the team that has completely owned them for the last several seasons is more than a bit deflating. Literally any other opponent would've been preferable. Even the Penguins, since while they also would've easily dispatched the Leafs, I at least could've talked myself into believing that maybe, just maybe, if Reimer played out of his mind and Crosby was still injured, the Maple Leafs might've had a shot.
* = "it's been so long since the Leafs made the playoffs that…" is already a pretty tired meme but man, it really is kind of mind-boggling. May 2004 was a long time ago. I had just graduated from university. LOST wasn't on the air yet. Barely anyone knew who Barack Obama was. This blog didn't exist. My prime method of witty online dialogue was clever MSN Messenger user names.
But against Boston, there is no hope. The Bruins are, roughly, 64-3 against Toronto over the last few seasons and while I'm making a comic exaggeration, it's not that far off. The fact that they played so often as divisional opponents made things worse. Every time the Leafs seemed to get a bit of momentum in past years, a game with the Bruins would always be right around the corner and boom, 5-1 loss.
I am not so foolhardy as to believe that this could magically change in a postseason. I'll take the Leafs' playoff appearance as a bright spot and a sign of hopeful good things to come, but this series will not be competitive. Bruins in five.
* Canadiens over Senators, seven games
God, like couldn't the Leafs have faced either of these two stiffs? The level of disinterest in the Ottawa Senators never fails to amuse me. For weeks, the media has been teasing the idea of a Leafs/Canadiens playoff series that would've literally shut Canada down for a day had it gone to a seventh game. A series between the Habs and Sens, however? Nobody cares. If the Stanley Cup playoffs are an episode of Models Inc., the Senators are GET THAT CAT OUT OF THE WAY. This series will go the limit simply to irritate me.
* Rangers over Capitals, seven games
Seems like the "Washington is RED HOT and peaking at the right time!" crowd is forgetting that the Caps proceed to peak early every year and then come up short in the playoffs. Capitals fans, you've already experienced the best part of your season and you didn't even realize it. This is solely a pick based on one team, since there really isn't any reason to pick the Rangers given their pretty blah season, but what the hell. Maybe that hypothetical poor soul who's always wanted to visit New York City can take in a hockey game while they're trying to get out of the rain.
* Penguins over Islanders, six games
Man, I really wish the Blue Jackets had made the playoffs so the possibility of a Jackets/Isles final was still on the table. That would've been the single funniest thing to ever happen in pro sports. I might've rather seen that shrug of a matchup rather than a Leafs appearance in the Cup finals, based on sheer comedy alone. Anyway, I'll give the Islanders six games due to a) concerns about Crosby and b) some residual Isles/Pens magic from 1993 but yeah, Pittsburgh is going to dominate this.
* Blackhawks over Wild, five games
Congratulations Minnesota Wild! After spending $196 million on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, you bought yourselves….squeaking into the eighth seed and earning the right to get hogtied by Chicago. Well done, Wild! Money well spent!
* Kings over Blues, seven games
The Kings were my preseason pick to win the Cup (albeit half-assedly) so the least I can do is pick them into the second round.
* Ducks over Red Wings, five games
I'll see your "the last time the Leafs were in the playoffs…" jokes and raise you a bunch of "the last time the Red Wings weren't in the playoffs…." references. The last spring that didn't feature a Wings playoff appearance was 1990. Ye gods. I was eight years old, obsessed with the Dick Tracy movie and didn't even know what the Detroit Red Wings were. Anyway, Detroit kept their playoff streak alive but yeah, they're not going anywhere. I'll pick Anaheim to win the entire Stanley Cup tournament if they start airing this Chris Traeger clip from Parks & Rec on the scoreboard every time a player scores a goal. Quack quack quack.
* Sharks over Canucks, seven games
If you ever needed (more) evidence that I'm an idiot, consider this. I'm predicting the Sharks AGAIN despite ALWAYS picking them to get at least to the conference finals and EVERY YEAR watching them choke it up. I am a FOOL who can't stop picking the Sharks or WRITING IN CAPITAL LETTERS to express strong EMOTION. Anyway, I predict San Jose wins after Vancouver uses a gordian knot solution to the Luongo/Schneider controversy and playing both goalies at the same time. Like, they'll just play with three forwards, one defenceman and then two goalies just skating around the net, hovering like vultures and arguing over who gets to drink from the water bottle first.