The first round of the playoffs had some amazing hockey. It also had 18 overtime games showing a parity in the league that is crazy in a good way. And the Sharks lost to Edmonton, deserved to, and I was really impressed by the Oilers team and their ability to adapt and stay composed, especially after the 7-0 blowout.
The Sharks, I think, ran into a combination of “too many hockey games with too little rest” after last year’s long run, plus the key injuries to Couture and Thornton, neither of whom was close to 100%. The series was close enough that if one of those players was at full tempo for the series, it’s probably a different ending. Martin Jones was the best Shark on the ice for the series, and got outplayed by just enough by Talbot to carry the series.
I did okay in the first round: 4-4, going 2-2 in both East and West. The bad news is I (like pretty much everyone) picked Chicago and so the western bracket is carnage. Washington squeaked through Toronto (another amazingly fine series to watch) by the thinnest margin, so I still have a team that might actually win the thing for me, but now they’re up against the Penguins (again).
I picked correct with St. Louis, Anaheim, Washington and Pittsburgh. I guessed wrong with Nashville, Edmonton, Rangers and Ottawa taking their series. Nice to see two Canadian teams in the second round, but did anyone believe it’d be the Senators and Oilers?
So, as is my tradition… Here are my predictions for the second round, now that we know who’s playing:
St. Louis vs Nashville: I’m not entirely sure how to predict this one. I think it’s evenly matched, and I’m not sure which team is going to grab momentum. It’s almost a coin flip to me. I guess I’m going to continue not giving Nashville the credit it deserves and pick St. Louis in six, and apologize to my Predator friends. Should be fun to watch.
Anaheim vs Edmonton: the big question here for me is how well Edmonton handles it as the pressure and physicality ramp up, and against the Ducks, you know physical play is going to be intense. my heart is now rooting for Edmonton, but I’m going to continue with my original pick in this part of the bracket and say Anaheim in 5.
Ottawa vs New York Rangers: Sorry, Canada, but here is where I think your run ends. I like the Senators team, but Lundqvist has found his game, and I don’t think they’re going to get past the Rangers. Rangers in five.
Washington vs Pittsburgh: haven’t we seen this before? Will Washington be able to get past the Penguins this year? I’m going to continue to back the Capitals to go all the way to the finals, but I’ll admit I have doubts about whether it’ll happen. It does seem strange to suggest that this might be an easier series for the Caps than the Toronto one was, but the Maple Leafs got into missing from God mode and just missed making it happen. The Penguins are simply about skating it down your throat until you stop them. But… Capitals in six. And this will be the series to watch this round.
Games start Wednesday, and with half the teams now gone, the schedule won’t be quite as insane. Onward!