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"Fair and Balanced" is for sissies.

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The staff here at Weekend Predictions have been itching to pick some games ever since the bowl season ended in college football. But I'm sure Western Canada isn't in the mood to read updates on how spring practices are going, nor do they care about the spread in Saturday's G-Day Game (Red Team wins, but take Black Team and the points. At least the practices are outnumbering the arrests this spring....way to go, Richt!) And since the NFL seems hell-bent on not playing games this fall, we need to pass the time somehow. The local hockey team has checked out, and the NBA's Hawks look to be joining them shortly (Take the Magic to finish off the flight-less Hawks in 5 games.)

The last playoff game played saw the oddest victory celebration in Stanley Cup history: One player celebrating, 40 other team personnel unsure what was going on, 18,000+ orange-clad fans Philadelphia fans silented (a historical first), and a referee wearing a headset. Shortly after the Cup parade, Chicago sent half their roster to the rest of the NHL, cementing the NHL's new campaign slogan: If you can't beat them, wait until their cap capacity forces them to dismantle!

There's one team the Canucks wanted to face, and there's one team the Canucks want no part of. They just happen to wear the same sweaters. For Vancouver, this series will be more mental than it will be physical. Chicago's got their number....they've eliminated the Canucks the last two seasons, and split the season series this year. So hard to get a read on this's one that Vancouver probably should win easily, but likely will give them all sorts of trouble. (And, for what it's worth, the Blackhawks were 3rd-best in goal differential, which suggests that they had some puck un-luck during the year.) Chicago won't be overwelmed like the Kings were last year. This is no ordinary 8th-seeded team. And if the Canucks fall behind in the series, the ghosts of the past two postseasons will only haunt them more.

Be very nervous, Vancouver. All the pressure's on the Canucks. They'll get through, but only by the skin of their teeth. Canucks win in seven.

Sharks vs. Kings: This would be such a fun series to watch if Los Angeles were at full power. Justin Williams is out, but he's always injured. Losing Kopitar is huge, because this was their chance to earn a top seed for the playoffs. Instead, they play a San Jose team that's been the hottest team since Valentine's Day, at least in terms of games played through regulation. (The Sharks are my pick to win the Cup, by the way.) Sharks cruise in five.

Red Wings vs. Jets Coyotes: Funny how the team with revenue problems got to draw one of the teams that has a big travelling fanbase again. Haven't seen too many Coyotes games, but they don't seem to be as god as they were last year. Heard they had attendance problems, though. Wonder if the Mayflower trucks know where Arena's at? The Red Wings were the last team to play the Winnipeg Jets, and they'll be the final team to visit the desert. After maximum revenues for this series have been reached, of course. Red Wings in six.

Ducks vs. Predators: This is Nashville's best chance to escape the first round, and they're playing the best they've played all season. Unfortantely for them, Anaheim's riding a hot streak, too. The line of Getzlaf-Perry-Ryan is one of the most dominant lines in the NHL, and they'll be getting a healthy dose of Weber and Suter. This will be one of the more entertaining series that no one will talk about, a la Carolina-New Jersey a couple years ago. Nashville finally breaks through. Predators in six.

Capitals vs. Rangers: The Caps earned the top seed in the East again, but this time through defense. Probably the quietest rise in the standings in recent memory. Remember when Washington lost 8 in a row? The Rangers are all sorts of inconsistent. The shootout victories by Lundqvist saved them this season, as did Carolina choking away to clinch the playoffs on home ice. New York may steal a game, but they'll be done quickly. Capitals in five.

Flyers vs. Sabres: Buffalo had such a strange season, but they wind up in the playoffs again, just as they usually do. However, they're playing a Flyers team that's probably been the most consistent as any in the East. Tough to go against Philadelphia not reaching the Cup Final. Flyers in 6.

Bruins vs. Canadiens: Seems like these two teams face each other in the first round every other year. Should be fun for the fans in attendance. Not sure if this will be a fun series to watch on TV. Bruins games are usually a chore to watch, anyway. Hopefully we'll only be subjected to Boston's play for one round. Canadiens in 7.

Penguins vs. Lightning: It's quick to forget how much young talent the Penguins have, as they'd get lost in the spotlight that lingers over droolin' Sidney Crosby and Malkin. Suprised that they held the ship for the final three months of the season. Tampa Bay's got no shortage of offensive firepower, and still have some players that won the cup for them in 2004. Pittsburgh will be relying heavily on Fleury, whom I'm convinced is overrated, even with his performance in Game 7 at Detroit a couple years ago. Here's his chance to prove his mettle. Lightning in six.

Lock of the Quarterfinals: Padlock


Ladies, grab your gaudy hats, the Kentucky Derby is upon us!

The first Saturday in May takes us to Lexington, where we get a five-hour window to guzzle as many mint julips as possible just to enjoy a 2-minute race. (And that's just from the NCAA officials trying to snoop out another John Calipari recruiting scandal. Hey, it's the SEC...if you're not cheating, you're not trying!) Of course, where there's horse-racing, there's gambling. All money lost during the Kentucky Derby goes towards Jerry Reinsdorf's bid to buy the Coyotes. The winner, per tradition, gets to wear a bouquet of roses and gets put out to stud, and eventually winds up on an episode on Maury to determine whether or not the horse is the baby-daddy of a pony.

The losers, naturally, find their way to an Alpo factory, where they're destined to feed the dogs.....just like the Stanley Cup Playoffs do. (Transitional Journalism 101, kids.)

Raise your hand if you had all three Eastern Conference division winners cleaning out their locker rooms before the month of May.

Hello? Hello....

Ryan Miller and Martin Brodeur got eliminated by the likes of Rask and Boucher. The Capitals got dumped by the Canadiens. That'll teach Washington a lesson about stealing the Expos! (This really doesn't help in defending the Southeast Division, by the way.)

Pittsburgh is now the #1 seed in the East, and seemingly have about as easy a road to the Cup Final as possible. They have as much offensive firepower as the Capitals do, but are a lot more stout on defense and in goal. Montreal simply doesn't have enough to keep up, and the little rest they'll get won't help matters any. No Alpo truck needed here. Pittsburgh in 5.

Blackhawks vs. Canucks: The rematch all of British Columbia wanted since last May. Funny how that works. Last time, the 'Hawks frustrated the Canucks and made them look awful. The Canucks added Chicago-beater Samuelsson and the Blackhawks added perennial brides-maid Marian Hossa. Right now, I don't trust the Canucks defense or penalty-killing...two things the Blackhawks can feast on. The Sedins bring more to the table than Jason Arnott and Patrik Hornqvist do, but something has to be said about the 'Hawks only allowing one PP goal in a 6-game series. This one goes the distance. Blackhawks in 7.

Sharks vs. Red Wings: Two teams that underperformed for much of their respective series, but looked like themselves when it mattered most. The Sharks were close to being down 3-0 and 3-1 in their series with Colorado. The Red Wings were about as bipolar as a team can be. Luckily for day games this series. Luckily for San Jose...they can always depend on their early exit. Red Wings in 6.

Bruins vs. Philadelphia: I'd love to do some research about these teams, but they're just so damn boring. I actually fell asleep during one of the Sabres-Bruins games. Don't know of anyone excited about this series. Philadelphia's having trouble staying healthy, so that's gotta count for something, right? This series will cause me to sustain an upper-body injury. Boston in 6.

Oh yeah, take Awesome Act in a mild 10-1 upset in the Kentucky Derby. Icebox and Lookin At Lucky complete my trifecta.

Straight-up: 5-3

With the games: Yeah, we'll just pretend that didn't happen.


My inaugural blog has to deal with hockey, right?

I'm not a Canucks fan by real fandom lies with Atlanta. I adopted this team when my girlfriend adopted me. She's seen the two Cup runs, as well as living and dying on every movement of the puck this decade. She loves the team through and through. She's seen the ups, and she's seen the downs. In our time together, we've seen the Canucks beat Dallas and St. Louis, and fallen to the Blackhawks and Ducks in memorable fashion. But you've got to be in it to win it.

The Kings haven't been in the playoffs since before the lockout. But they've always been known for being a pesky opponent for anyone, especially in Los Angeles. The Canucks found out the hard way a couple weeks ago, when the Kings hung a snowman on Luongo. Lest we forget, Luongo's last playoff game featured him giving up 7 goals to the Blackhawks. The Kings have as decent an offensive attack as the Blackhawks did last season, and the Canucks defense is a big question mark right now.

This series won't be easy. As the Blackhawks showed last year, the young players can be immune to playoff pressure and the spotlighting that goes with it. Expect a high-scoring, tightly-played series. The Canucks take this series in six.

Sharks vs. Avalanche: It was thought that the Sharks were doing their annual choke job a month early. Luckily, they're playing a team that's not playing so great in the last couple months, either. The Avs are running on fumes. The Sharks, to their credit, like to switch up the rounds where they choke. Sharks in five.

Blackhawks vs. Predators: The Blackhawks are loaded in young offensive and defensive talent. The Predators bore you into submission. Actual factual: These teams haven't played each other since late December. This will be a lot closer than folks think. Blackhawks in seven.

Coyotes vs. Red Wings: The NHL sure knows how to ensure playoff revenue. Buy the team from bankruptcy, artificially enhance their value by having them become winners, and make sure they play a team known for having fans travel. I'm sure Wall Street will have a job waiting for Gary Bettman. Red Wings in five.

Maple Leafs vs. the Back Nine: Just kidding.

Capitals vs. Canadiens: Washington has been fine-tuning their game since they clinched their playoff spot on Boxing Day. They get the Habs, only because no one else in the East wanted to play more than 82 games. Merci. Capitals in five.

Devils vs. Flyers: The Devils have Brodeur, who has the all-time record for goalie wins, shutouts, and sister-in-law's nailed. The Flyers have Brian Boucher. Advantage Satan. Devils in five.

Sabres vs. Bruins: If you like high-scoring action, this isn't the series for you. Defense wins championships but loses TV ratings. First team to score in each game wins. Sabres in six.

Penguins vs. Senators: Aren't the 4-5 series supposed to be the better matchups in the first round? The Pens underachieved this season, while the Sens overachieved. Ottawa will steal a game, but the Pens should have a little fun before the real East playoffs begin. Penguins in five.

Lock of the Round: Deadbolt.

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