Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Poor Len offers strategic readjustments following NHL round 1

Poor Len Canayen here, recovering from shock after Round 1 of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. Hockey is Canada's national winter sport. [The national summer sport is lacrosse. You're welcome. Ed.] Being what eye yam, I support the NHL's so-called Canadian teams, and the Montréal Canadiens -- la Sainte Flannelle -- in particular. I was therefore pleased, after no Canadian teams made it into the 2015-16 playoffs, to see no fewer than five (5) in this year's first round. I admit my excitement may have influenced my predictions a bit. Here are some explanations and revisions.

Careful readers will notice that I cleverly picked nine (9) teams to qualify for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. Only eight such spots exist so there was obviously a fudge factor there. The Tampa Bay Lightning didn't get in; the Boston Bruins did.

In the first round, I was surprised to see les Glorieux lose in 6 games to the New York Rangers. Rangers' goalie, Henrik Lundqvist, woke up after his worst-ever regular season performance, and was one goal better than Habs' Carey Price. The real difference, though, was Montréal's lack of scoring, and a couple of defensive gaffes. Look for Alex Galchenyuk and Nathan Beaulieu to play elsewhere next year. The Rangers go on to meet the Ottawa Senators, who bounced the aging and rebuilding Bruins in 6. No surprise there. I'll be cheering for Ottawa but predict Rangers in 6.

In the other half of the Eastern Conference, I really enjoyed the series between the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs. The enthusiasm of Toronto fans, most of whom have never seen their team win a Stanley Cup, is contagious. The Leafs made it tough for the Caps, with all but one game going to overtime, before Alexander Ovechkin finally caught fire and put an end to things, in Game 6. Kudos to Toronto's goalie, Freddy Andersen, and certain Rookie of the Year, Auston Matthews. A couple of hundred miles to the west, the Pittsburgh Penguins put the Columbus Bluejackets out in 5. Bluejackets played over their heads for much of the regular season and had nothing left for the playoffs. Now it's OV vs Sid the Kid, and my bet is on the Penguins, in 7.

Further west, the really big surprise of Round 1 was seeing the Nashville Predators rout my favoured Chicago Blackhawks in 4 games straight! Chicago's goalie, Corey Crawford, was sub-par, while the Preds' Pekka Rinne was hot. My other pick in that series was the Minnesota Wild, who got dumped by the St Louis Blues in 5 games. Another case of having a better-than-expected regular season and then coming back down to earth in the second season. Also shows to go ya that (as with the Canadiens) you need more than a top-notch goalie. So it's Nashville vs St Louis next, and I'm going with St Louis in 7, just because I don't like Nashville.

Way out west, I expected the California teams to put out the Canucks -- meaning the Canadian teams, not the Vancouver Canucks, who didn't qualify -- and was half right. The Edmonton Oilers, led by the league's youngest captain and budding superstar, Connor McDavid, defeated the San Jose Sharks in 6 games. Meanwhile, the Calgary Flames were extinguished in 4 straight by the Anaheim Ducks. [Can't they do something about that name? Put the "Mighty" back in, or substitute "California" for "Anaheim", which I don't believe is a real place. Ed.] I would love to see Edmonton [also not a real place. Ed.] win the coming series vs Anaheim, but can't see betting that way unless somebody gives me good odds. Ducks in 6.

Looking farther ahead, Chicago's shocking first-round exit screws up my prediction of a Chicago-Pittsburgh final, not to mention the outcome. Unclear is the situation in the West. If the Ducks beat Edmonton, they should be able to dispose of either St Louis or Nashville, but... here it comes... in my crystal ball I see Sidney Crosby hoisting Lord Stanley's silverware one more time. Lifetime pct (after some slippage thanks to Round 1) .973.

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