Monday, April 07, 2008

Divination: Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

I don’t like making hockey predictions. I do it, of course, but I tend to think of it as one of those irritating bad habits you try to avoid but can’t always consciously control. Like nail-biting, or interjecting ‘like’ into sentences at irregular intervals. Predictions are blinding, narrowing things, because once you make them you get attached to them. You want them to come true and thereby vindicate your superior perceptions and intuitions, which means that if you’re bad at it you feel stupid a lot, and if you’re good at it you annoy everyone around you by turning any post-game conversation into a tribute to your infinite wisdom. We might laugh at the person who picks every game incorrectly, but it’s the person who’s always saying “See! See! I totally knew that was going to happen!” that we want to fucking strangle with their own shoelaces.

But this time of year everybody goes all predicty, and now that I have a personal investment in the outcome of the playoffs, I just don’t have the strength of will to defy convention. So let’s get it over with: my predictions for the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals:

Montreal-Boston: Oh, the nostalgia- so thick and rich you could drizzle it over pancakes (and shame on the maple syrup producers of Quebec if nobody’s come out with a Habs-Bruins-playoff-series-themed bottle yet). Down at RDS headquarters, everyone is having a blast going through the video archives for clips to frame these games. It’s a perfect situation for Habs fans, because we can indulge the full extent of our history-fetish without any real anxiety about the present. For those of you who weren’t paying attention, the Canadiens swept the Bruins 8-0 in the regular season, and the majority of those games weren’t anywhere near close, so there’s no evidence on which to predict the Bruins will win at all. Still, anything can happen in the playoffs, so let’s give ‘em the benefit of the doubt. Montreal in 5.

Pittsburgh-Ottawa: Some cynics in the hockey world have suggested that the Penguins might have put less than their full effort into their final regular season game in order to secure this postseason match-up. Why ever would anyone suggest that? Maybe because the Senators have collapsed from dangerous powerhouse franchise to wacky daytime soap opera, a spectacular downturn so dramatic that they went from setting win records in the first quarter to almost tanking out of the playoffs in the last. With injuries to Fisher and Alfredsson, this looks like a glorious opportunity for Pittsburgh to get some vengeance on the team that eliminated them last year. However, the thing about daytime soaps is that there’s always a surprise twist, and I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the Sens will do a little better than might be expected- both clubs have, in the recent past, been stellar examples of how a team can come together and sometimes do better when it loses key players than it was doing with them. Still, the Penguins are on a tight window with their rental players and soon-to-be-prohibitively-expensive juvenile superheros. They need this. Pittsburgh in 6.

Washington-Philadelphia: The Flyers might have been the adorable underdog story of the season, having elevated themselves from abject bottom-feeders to real contenders. Unfortunately, they went and ruined that early on by returning to their proud history of being professional hockey’s sordid sideshow- I’m surprised they haven’t started marketing Steve Downie as THE BOY WHO WAS RAISED BY WOLVES!!!!! WATCH AS HE EATS RAW SHEEP SPLEENS!!!! Meanwhile, Washington snuck quietly up from completely miserable to actually kind of good, and then exploded at exactly the right time with one of the most loveable playoff pushes ever. Ovechkin was irresistibly charismatic as a high-scoring rookie; as a nearly record-setting goal scorer, he’s like crack with an accent. Everyone’s hooked. There’s no series that can be painted as good guys vs. bad guys more readily than this one. I’m torn- personally, I want Ovie and Huey to make a deep run, but of course from the perspective of the Habs’ future, it’d be better if Philly prevails. Still, my gut (which is a sentimental trollop) tells me that good always triumphs over evil. Washington in 6.

New Jersey-New York (Rangers): I assume this is one of those matches that’s really, really serious for those in the region, but I couldn’t care less. Neither team has a particularly favorable image in the larger hockey world: the Rangers are the big-spending, big-city plutocrats who make life suck for the rest of us by buying up talent indiscriminately and then doing nothing useful with it; the Devils are the trap-monsters who single-handedly Ruined Hockey Forever. Just like all caricatures, I’m sure neither of these is really accurate, and I actually have a little bit of a soft spot for Devils fans, but I just can’t get interested in who takes this one, either personally or in terms of who would be the preferable later-round opponent for the Canadiens. For the sake of consistency though, I’ll say: Rangers in 6.

I’m not going to try to predict the West because 1) I haven’t seen enough games to have a personal perspective, so I’d just be rehashing what I read elsewhere; and 2) both of the Western teams for which I have a real affection didn’t make the playoffs.

That’s it.

Go Habs Go.


Jeff J said...

"...good always triumphs over evil."

Matt Cooke is the ultimate evil. He is the alpha dog in the wolf pack that raised Steve Downie.

Doogie said...

Just curious, but who are your sentimental favourites out West? Would I be correct in guessing Edmonton is one?

julian said...

edmonton and chicago?

i win!

cupcakes? what happened to all those promises anyway?

E said...

jeff- ultimate evil? wow. i'd heard he was a bitch, but i had no idea he achieved that standard. this is what i get for not following vancouver. okay, so it's a battle of evil against evil, so i'll just go with 'ovechkin triumphs over nearly everything'. prediction stands.

doogie/julian- that was a short-lived question & answer. you know, nobody ever took me up on the cupcake offers. [single tear]

Doogie said...

You know, I was gonna go with Chicago, too, following the youthful-enthusiasm/mind-blowing skill theme, but I wasn't sure. Good call Julian. =)

And hey, I'm always up for cupcakes. Cupcakes rock. Especially with chocolate icing. The only question is whether they'd survive a trip to northeastern Calgary.

E said...

chicago is more a hometown pride thing than anything else. i don't want to see another unfortunate generation of chicagoan children grow up hockey-less.

and i don't think any genuinely good cupcake should be shipped cross-canada, unless it's some sort of super-fast shipping that i can't afford. i guess i could send some of them hostess cupcakes with the white swirls on top, but i assume anyone anywhere can get those on their own, so it's not much of a prize. the real problem is that so many of my readers are outside of cupcake-range. (seriously, finland?)