There was a time not so many years ago when I went 14-1 predicting the outcomes of NHL playoff series and was hailed, literally, from coast to coast as some kind of post-season savant. I remember it because, well, I made money by guessing right as often as I did. The next post-season, you see, CBC radio picked me up and asked me to give my selections based on my obvious, ahem, expertise at reading the tea leaves.
It was a sweet deal, a kind-of syndicated arrangement, where I did one interview and had it picked up by several CBC stations across the country. I got nice cheques from all of them. It wasn’t enough lettuce to buy myself a new car, but it was a thick stack.
Since, then, it’s quite obvious I’ve fallen down the stairs and hit my head countless times without knowing it because I haven’t been able to pick a winner — OK, I did take Edmonton to beat Detroit in the first round of 2006 — to save my life. It’s embarrassing.
For all the information I’ve got at my fingertips, despite all the years and years of experience I have watching and writing about hockey and even with the pssssst, inside dope I have, I’ve obviously got no frigging clue 25 years into this gig.
When did I get so stupid?
PICK ‘EM, EINSTEIN
I was a brilliant 1-3 in the second round, leaving me at, like, 5-7 this post-season. By comparison, Joanne Ireland at The Journal is 10-2. Is there anybody with even half-a-brain (Wanye G, Maggie the Monkey, Miss Cleo) with a record as pitiful as mine?
— I picked Vancouver over Chicago in six games because the Canucks were going to be too big and nasty for the young Blackhawks. Besides, the Canucks had Roberto Luongo. End of debate. Wrong.
— I took Anaheim over Detroit. Sure, it would be an upset, but I didn’t think all those Swedes wearing the winged wheel could stand up to the pounding they’d take from the Ducks. Close call, but Ducks in seven. Wrong.
— I went with Boston over Carolina. As I proclaimed on Just A Game with Jason Gregor, it would no contest. Men — big, angry, sweaty men, at that — against boys. Not close. Bruins in four or five. Wrong.
— Then, like having my melon ricochet off the last step of the staircase just for good measure, I predicted Washington would handle Pittsburgh. Having picked Pittsburgh to have a miserable season in a poll for Canadian Press back in October, it seemed a no-brainer. Caps win. Wrong.
While I’m not expecting another call from CBC anytime soon, I do have the chance to improve my record to 6-8 in the conference finals, and I’ll be a dizzying 7-8 when I pick the Stanley Cup final. First things first.
CAROLINA vs. PITTSBURGH
Sergei Samsonov, Erik Cole AND my go-to guy Joni Pitkanen? What’s not to like? The Hurricanes don’t get any respect, but what they will get is a ticket to the Cup final. Hurricanes in six. Bet the house.
CHICAGO vs. DETROIT
I have lint in the pockets of my favourite sports jacket older than Patrick Kane, but that’s the beauty of the Blackhawks. They’re too young to realize they have no business beating the Red Wings. They will. Chicago in seven games. It’s a lock.
— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.