Ironically, in a team game such as hockey, one person’s performance can often make a major difference.
So I’m predicting that theme will appear in a couple of different series decisions before this year’s Stanley Cup battle-royal is completed.
Another bold precognition I hold true is that some of those big differences will be made by smaller men. (Short-man complex? Not me.)
But I procrastinate on my predictions.
Boston Bruins will beat the Anaheim Ducks in six games for the Stanley Cup.
The series will prove to be as bruising and intense as any witnessed in many years, likely to almost boil down to the last man standing.
Don’t be surprised if even the back-up goaltenders wind up finishing the final series for their two teams.
But picking a Boston -Anaheim final is not really rocket science as the majority of hockey fans I’ve polled or listened to the past few days have either picked the same matchup or one of the two teams to win the infamous mug.
My greatest fear as a long-time Bruin fan is that since Boston ranks as an almost unanimous pick to win it all this year, does that pretty much guarantee they will not succeed?
Are the expectations of such success simply a sports curse?
If the Bruins do fall, it’s not totally unfathomable that the slaying of Goliath could happen in the opening round against the ‘never dead until on the plate’ Detroit Red Wings.
Only a fool would count out the long shot chances of a team that just made the NHL playoffs for a record 23 straight seasons. And Detroit did so with a squad absolutely decimated all season by key injuries.
For the past gazillion years of column writing, I have maintained the foolish tradition of making predictions at the beginning of both the NHL’s regular season and playoffs.
I suggest people post my predictions on the beer fridge next to their own and then laugh at the lists as part of their bonus playoff sporting pleasure.
This year, I decided to poll a couple of my buddies as well. These predictions were all gathered by Wednesday afternoon— prior to any playoff games starting.
Here is my ramble.
In the opening round of the Western Division:
Chicago over St. Louis in six games.
Colorado over Minnesota in five.
Anaheim over Dallas in six.
San Jose over LA in seven with the final game going into double overtime. (San Jose will beat the Kings despite the brilliance of Jonathan Quick and Drew Doughty. Inspiring the narrow win will be pint-sized rookie Tomas Hertl just back from missing most of the season with a knee injury— caused in a game against LA earlier this year. He will score the series winning goal.)
Opening round of Eastern Division:
Boston over Detroit in six.
Montreal over Tampa Bay in six.
Pittsburgh over Columbus in five.
Rangers over Philadelphia in seven.
Bruins will beat Pittsburgh in the Eastern Final in six games.
Anaheim will beat San Jose in the Western Final in six.
Aside from Rask and wee Torey Krug, it will be diminutive but feisty new Bruin Jerome Iginla who sparks Boston to the win.
As well, here are some predictions by others whom I asked to name the top four teams (two finalists in both the Western and Eastern Divisions) and the final round winner.
Former Capital News sports writer Al Paterson agrees with my brilliance.
In fact, we predicted every series the exact same outcome except the final when Al picks Anaheim over Boston.
Long-time hockey guru and veteran journalist John Carter (now in Renfrew, Ont.) says, “When have I ever predicted the playoffs properly? But here goes.
“East Division will have Boston over the Rangers, and in the West LA over St. Louis. Boston wins the cup over LA. Dark horses will be San Jose and Philly.”
Childhood hockey buddy, former Kelowna Buckaroo statistician, and Hockey Night in Canada guest Dan Thiessen says, “I’m picking Chicago and Anaheim in the West, and Boston and Philadelphia in the East. Anaheim plays Boston in the Stanley Cup finals. Anaheim wins in six games.”
Vancouver Island’s Cam Birge says it will be Boston facing Pittsburgh and Anaheim edging Chicago in a rough and tumble series. “Boston beats Anaheim,” says Cam.
Legendary hockey legend Howie Meeker figures Boston will edge Chicago in the finals. “But what would I know,” the 90-year old hockey genius joked.
So, there it is. There is really not much left to do now except rip this out of the paper, tape it to the fridge—or some other very important location (beer cooler, remote control stand, side of TV)-and write your own prediction and stick it next to this.
OK, somebody drop the puck!