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.
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
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.
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.
Go Habs Go.