It’s that time of year; EVERYBODY on this side of the border has an opinion on the playoffs.
Your boss, your brother, your bus driver, and your mailman not only know which team is going to hoist the Cup come June, they seem to have the time and the energy to tell you why. You’ll hear numbers, trends, injury reports and line combinations as each of the passionate hockey fans in your life attempts to sway your opinion.
Yeah, you’re a hockey fan too, but you don’t have the time to be breaking down the Predators penalty kill or handicapping Sergei Gonchar’s chances of improving the Pens’ power play after missing 20 games this season. So rather than rely on science and statistics, here’s anecdotal analysis that will at least shut your pals up when you stun them with your bizarre analogies in predicting the first round winners.
Colorado vs San Jose = The Colour of Money
A young Tom Cruise (the Avalanche) stars as an upstart, pool hall hustler opposite the man who originally defined the role as Fast Eddie Felsner. The veteran shark Paul Newman (pardon the pun, but, yeah, the Sharks) takes Cruise under his wing and helps him perfect both the art of the game and the art of the hustle. So how does this apply to the NHL playoffs? Look, everyone wants to find a reason to pick the Avs to upset the Sharks because of San Jose’s dismal track record in recent postseasons. Take this opportunity to talk them into it. Just like Newman took down Cruise head-to-head at the end of the movie, the Sharks’ veteran talent will prove much for a young Avs team that’s just happy to be in the dance. Yeah, I know that Cruise’s character dumped the match to cash in on great odds, but the bottom line is Fast Eddie moved on, and Vincent Lauria went home.
SHARKS IN 5
Nashville vs Chicago = Youngblood
Just like Rob Lowe’s character in the classic cult film, Chicago has the look and the talent to be the best in the biz. Problem for Dean Youngblood is the same one that the Blackhawks may run into with the Predators – toughness. Youngblood wants to play the pretty game, and the tough, physical play of Racki (the Preds) throws him for a loop. The Hawks are a heavy favourite because of their skill, but the will of the Preds threatens to make this series more about bump and grind hockey. Just like Youngblood, the Blackhawks will eventually fight back and beat the Preds on the scoreboard and in the alley, but they’ll pay a physical toll to win this series.
CHICAGO IN 6
Los Angeles vs Vancouver = Top Gun
Sure, you can get a quality, in-depth preview on this series on this website, but stay with me on this one. The Canucks are loaded with a bunch of talented flyboys – the Sedins, Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler, Mikael Samuelsson, Christian Ehrhoff and Roberto Luongo, just to name a few. All of them deserve to be here and any can play the hero on any given day, but we all know who the headliner is. Maverick represents Roberto Luongo – no one questions his ability, but just like Maverick, some are questioning whether he can flip the switch after losing his wingman, Willie Mitchell (aka Goose). If he can’t, the Kings (like the MIG pilots in the flying flick) have the Canucks in their crosshairs and will pounce on every opportunity to shoot down their Canadian counterparts. But just as Maverick came through in the clutch, Luongo will do his best work under pressure. Vancity survives the Highway to the Danger Zone and flies into round two.
VANCOUVER IN 6
Detroit vs Phoenix = Rocky
Don’t expect to see Shane Doan running through parks and up a long flight of stairs to get ready for the rumble with the Wings, but this matchup screams of Sly Stallone’s classic flick. Playing the part of Apollo Creed are the mighty Red Wings, the two time defending Western Conference champs. That, of course, leaves the Coyotes as the scrappy young Italian, Rocky Balboa, who appears ill equipped to step into the ring with the powerful puncher, Creed. Make no mistake, Detroit wins this series, but Phoenix will hang in there much better than most people expect, just like Rocky went the distance before losing a decision to Creed.
DETROIT IN 6
Montreal vs Washington = Speed
Yes, this has to do with a series being fast in a couple of different ways, but it also has a little bit to do with the plot (No, really, there was one. I promise.). As the title suggests, this series will be played at a fairly frantic pace; both the Caps and the Habs like to fly up and down the ice. However, there’s a movie tie-in here as well. You know all along that Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves and the Capitals) is going to emerge victorious and he’s going to do so in thrilling fashion. But there is a little part of you saying, could that crazy Howard Payne (Dennis Hopper and Habs head coach Jacques Martin) actually pull this off? Pop quiz, hot shot, do you smell an upset? In both cases, the answer will be no, but the Canadiens could put up a minor fight if Jaroslav Halak goes Olympics in this playoffs. Montreal won the season series, but as the movie’s title suggests, this one is probably over quickly.
WASHINGTON IN 5
Philadelphia vs New Jersey = Braveheart
How many times have you watched and still find yourself thinking that the Scots will find a way to win? That’s how I look at this battle of division rivals. The Devils are the English: long time powerbrokers under the rule of Lou Lameriello, who like Longshanks (King Edward I played by Patrick McGoohan) is as effective as he is unlikable. Just like William Wallace and the Scots, the Flyers have won battles along the way (Philly won the season series 5-1) and have plenty of appealing characters that make them the team you want to see advance. But just like the nobles conspired against Wallace, the Flyers fatal flaw conspires against them. As much as I’d like to see Brian Boucher recapture the form that saw him backstop the Flyers to the Eastern Conference Final in 2000, goaltending will ultimately be Philly’s undoing in the series. Though picking the Devils feels like cheering for Canada Revenue, we all know how Braveheart ends.
NEW JERSEY IN 6
Boston vs Buffalo = Die Hard
Just like John Maclean (Bruce Willis) isn’t supposed to be in the building that terroists have targeted during a Christmas party, there’s reason to believe the Bruins shouldn’t even be in the playoffs. Boston scored fewer goals than any team in the NHL this season, and the B’s best offensive player, Marc Savard, is still sidelined with a concussion. But Maclean beat the odds, and Boston can too. Lindy Ruff looks as calm as Hans Gruber did during Maclean’s improbable upset, and just like Gruber, Ruff will have an excellent plan in place. However, the Bruins have that refuse to die mentality that sent Gruber and company packing on Christmas Eve, and as well as Ryan Miller has played this season, it’s been three years since he tried to pull a postseason heist. It’s an upset that will have Bruins fans screaming “Yippie kai yay!”
BOSTON IN 7
Ottawa vs Pittsburgh = March of the Penguins
Yeah, I know. The Senators are a Canadian team and as such, we’re supposed to find a reason to back them. But do you really see the Sens knocking off the Sidney Crosby and the defending Champs? Do you really want them to? March of the Penguins is a nature flick that follows the Emperor Penguins (rather appropriate, I thought) through the process of leaving the ocean and embarking on a long, arduous journey to their ancestral breeding grounds. You get the symbolism: these Penguins are waving goodbye to the regular season and beginning the tough trek to the promised land known as the Stanley Cup. Just like many of the flightless birds don’t make it to the breeding grounds, these Pens may not return to the Cup this time around. That said, they’re not falling by the wayside in the first quarter of the journey.
PENGUINS IN 5