Just because I have a blog and I can, here’re my picks for the Eastern Conference in the 2010 NHL playoffs. Please feel free to comment below. I’ll hit up the Western Conference tomorrow.
(1) Washington Capitals vs (8) Montreal Canadiens
You might think this is based on the fact that I’m from Montreal and a lifelong Habs fans and that I’m putting fandom ahead of logic – but in truth, this has nothing to do with my personal affiliation. In fact, I think the Canadiens stink. This isn’t about them.
Yes, the Capitals finished first in the conference and have one of the best pure-scorers in the game in Alexander Ovechkin, but he is exactly why they won’t win this series… and if somehow they do, he is the reason they won’t go much farther than that.
Ovechkin is Eric Lindros 2.0, but with better hands. He is scores a ton and is fun to watch because he’s fast and looks like he’s having a good time – but on the other hand he is a complete and utter douchebag, and he’s the captain.
Teams can’t build their identity around the greedy “superstars” with giant egos and expect to get away with it: let’s call Lindros “exhibit A” and Terrell Owens will be a fine “B” to prove my point.
Yes, there are plenty of talented douchebags who win, but that’s why Mario Lemieux was the captain and Jaromir Jagr wasn’t; that’s why Derek Jeter is the heart of the Yankees and not Alex Rodriguez; even Dominik Hasek couldn’t win till he was playing second fiddle to Nick Lidstrom & Steve Yzerman in Detroit.
As for the Habs? Let’s go with a seven-game squeaker based on the Ovechkin theory and that Jaroslav Halak will outplay Jose Theodore.
Canadiens in 7.
(2) New Jersey Devils vs (7) Philadelphia Flyers
Much like the Canadiens who lost seven of their last 10 and backed into the playoffs as timidly as possible, the Flyers had the seventh spot all but locked up before pissing it away and being forced into a sudden-death Game 82 with the New York Rangers – that they won in a shootout to clinch their post-season berth.
The Flyers’ biggest problem? Goaltending… and that’s just where the Devils step in.
Say what you will about Martin Brodeur’s mediocre Olympics performance, he is still the best goalie of all time – even if he does wear those horrorawful Sher-Wood pads now.
Brodeur probably doesn’t have it in him to steal a series with a team like the Pittsburgh Penguins, but all he has to do is be solid and make one or two big stops a game to get by Philly – Ilya Kovalchuk will take care of Brian Boucher.
Devils in 5.
I was not a believer in the Pens when Michel Therrien was running the show until the middle of last season – it was just that you knew in the end no matter how good the Penguins looked that Therrien’s system was going to implode.
In steps Dan Byslma and magically Pittsburgh wins the Cup.
The Pens are not the most exciting team in hockey – I’d give that title to the Chicago Blackhawks – but they are the one with the most heart, and that’s because they have a great coach and an amazing leader in Sidney Crosby.
It’s a funny thing – no matter how well Crosby does, people always want to pick on him. You hear a lot about him being a whiner and being over-rated and a lot of other crap, but at the end of the day all he does is win.
You always get the feeling when Ovechkin wins a personal award that he’s satisfied – when Crosby won the Rocket Richard Trophy (shared with Steven Stamkos) this week, it almost looked like it bothered him. He was like “hey, this is nice, but who gives a shit? I want another Stanley Cup.”
That’s the attitude you want from the guy wearing the C and that’s why Pittsburgh’s going to go very deep in the playoffs.
As for Ottawa, kudos on a great season after totally melting down in 2008-09. The Senators, in fact, could probably teach the Capitals an important lesson about humility: out goes Dany Heatley, and the Sens are back in the post-season!
Ottawa is a good team, but got a bad draw. I’d take them over Montreal, Boston, New Jersey, Philly and Washington if they were playing any of those teams – but the Penguins? It ain’t gonna happen.
Penguins in 5.