III Communication’s Official Guaranteed To Be Right Playoff Predictions
Obscene Alex and J.R. can’t agree on the utility of explicit language; can they agree on the outcome of this year’s playoff series?
Conference III Picks:
Avalanche (1) vs. Wild (4)
J.R.: Unexpectedly good goaltending and a boffo shooting percentage propelled the Avs to full-on shock status as the winners in Conference III. Eventually, that’s all going to cool and the Avs will tumble down the proverbial mountain — the only question is when. The Wild have been awfully streaky, but were good enough to be a Solid No. 4 all season long (“Solidly Number Four: The Minnesota Wild 2013-14 Season Yearbook” will be available at Edina-area Waldenbooks next week). Feels like this is going to be an up and down series — think 6-4 one game, 1-0 the next. Avalanche in 7.
Obscene Alex: Nearly worst to first is the story this season for the Avs and behind it is Patrick Roy’s touch in turning around their goaltending along with some good old fashioned puck luck. A strong offense even without Matt Duchene, who didn’t skate Tuesday, and strong goaltending from Semyon “Domestic Abuse (ALLEGEDLY)” Varlamov will face off against a Minnesota team characterized by a strong defense any goaltender can play well behind, even Ilya “Space Cadet (DEFINITELY)” Bryzgalov. The young Avs will stumble at times, but in the end I don’t think the Tame have what it takes. Avalanche in 6.
Blues (2) vs. Blackhawks (3)
J.R.: This is going to be brutal as one might expect with these two old rivals. Both teams have had to deal with late season injuries. Chicago gets the Big Two back and Ken Hitchcock predicts all of his injured charges will play in Round 1, which — if you want to deconstruct it — means they are all coming back in the first four games, because otherwise he couldn’t make such a statement in good faith. Is Ryan Miller enough? Nope. Hawks in 5.
OA: Both teams are beat up, but one team at least managed to finish out 5-5-0 while the other took a giant dump at 3-7-0, plummeting towards the end of the season from playing a wild card into playing Chicago. Oh, how far you’ve fallen, St. Louis. I don’t know for sure who returns in time for game one for the Blues, but it sounds like both Toews and Kane will be ready for Chicago. Unless the injured Blues rear up like Lazarus from the dead, they are in trouble. Can Miller save them? He’s a big game goalie, but he can’t score goals. Blackhawks in 6.
Ducks (1) vs. Stars (4)
J.R.: The Stars moaned and moaned about having to play in the Pacific Division for years. They get out of the Pacific Division and make the playoffs…but essentially become a Pacific Division team. Which is good, because the Stars have been running roughshod over their old colleagues. Nobody wants to play the Stars (mostly because of Walt and Jessie) and everybody seemingly wants to play the Ducks. For good reason. Stars in 5.
OA: Can the Stars continue their 14-3-4 dominance of the Pacific? Will the Ducks’ ridiculous PDO stay as high as it’s been this season? This matchup is underdog vs. Western Conference leader. David vs. Goliath. Benn and Seguin vs. Perry and Getzlaf. Kari Lehtonen vs. who the hell knows, but if Benn and Seguin cancel out the Mighty Ducks’ dynamic duo, the depth scoring that the Stars saw in their end-of-season run continues, and the two teams’ defenses balance each other out, it may come down to the netminders. Hiller has been terrible lately. Rookie Frederik Andersen has just returned from an injury. John Gibson had two strong games, but is also a rookie. Meanwhile, Lehtonen has stepped up his game down the stretch. [Dang] the Ducks. Stars in 7.
Bonus Picks: North vs. South
Sharks (2) vs. Kings (3)
J.R.: The Sharks are California’s Conference III-est team and if the NHL ever expands so far westward that someone has to move to the Central, San Jose makes the most sense culturally for reasons I don’t really have time to articulate, because I haven’t actually though this through very much. Sharks in 6.
OA: Dustin Brown’s Dirty Diving Team vs. the Perennial Playoff Failure. No matter what happens, this series will be close and it’s hard to predict, but I say the Sharks make it out of the first round, get eliminated in the second, and finally blow up their team in the offseason. If nothing else, hopefully someone finally returns the favor and gives Mr. Brown a solid knee-on-knee hit. Sharks in 7.
Bonus Picks: The Leastern Conference
Bruins (1) vs. Red Wings (4)
J.R.: Fartnoise. Bruins in 5.
OA: Another team facing injuries in the postseason, Detroit will be without Henrik Zetterberg for possibly the entire first round. Promising youth in Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar has filled the void for Detroit, but Jimmy Howard has looked shaky at times this season. The Bruins have the goaltending and the defense to overcome the Dead Things, but Detroit has too much pride and veteran experience to be swept. Bruins in 5.
Lightning (2) vs. Canadiens (3)
J.R.: Have you ever been to Tampa? It’s awful. It’s Florida’s most charmless city and that takes work in a state that includes Jacksonville. Ybor City is cool, I guess. They have good Cuban food. Anyway, Ben Bishop is hurt. Montreal in 6.
OA: Never mind having a player involved in a drug bust – it’s tough to win without your #1 goaltender. If Bishop is out, gravy and cheese curds win, but if not, all in on ketchup. AMERICA, [HECK] YEAH! If I have to make a pick, though, I’m guessing Bishop won’t play for at least two games (he’s already reportedly out for the first game), Carey Price rebounds from a poor performance in last year’s playoffs, and the Canadiens take it in 6.
Penguins (1) vs. Blue Jackets (4)
J.R.: I hate the Blue Jackets. Penguins in 4.
OA: Can Marc-Andre Fleury exorcise his playoff demons? Can Nathan Horton continue to score goals from the couch? When will Evgeni Malkin return? The Penguins have too much offense to not make it out of the first round, but where they go from there is up in the air. Or on the golf course. Penguins in 5.
Rangers (2) vs. Flyers (3)
J.R.: Thank God these two teams are meeting in the playoffs as they never get any attention. The real winner is NBC. Rangers in 6.
OA: The Flyers are a good team, but they won’t go far in the playoffs until they finally solve their goaltending problems. If you think Steve Mason is the answer to those problems, you’re high on cheesesteaks. Rangers in 5.