Here we sit for the 4th straight season, hours away from the opening of the playoffs and once again Edmontonians have to watch the Stanley Cup playoffs on TV. No live games in our city. No chance of “Shirts off for Horcoff” chants in the streets. No chance the boss allows you to show up late because of a series clinching victory the night before. No playoff games sucks, even for the media.
Covering the playoffs is akin to how the fans cheer during the playoffs. It is more intense, fun and exciting. Sure, the quotes can be more cliché than ever, but after one or two games a few players get a good hate on and the mental mind games begin.
The playoffs are like the Olympics, but longer, especially in a Canadian city when their team wins a few rounds. Only Vancouverites will have a chance to rekindle their Olympic spirit, because the Canadiens and Senators are big underdogs.
“We simulated the entire playoff 2,001 times using the current season rosters and statistics. Home ice advantage is taken into account. Average wins and losses per series are indicated in the bracket.”
Keep in mind that through all of their calculations they didn’t produce one upset in the first round. LA has the best chance at an upset at 30.9% while Detroit, 26.9% and Colorado 23.9% are next.
Before I get to Sheldon Souray and Steve Tambellini’s upcoming press conference later today, here’s my picks for the first round.
Everyone is scared of the Sharks and their inability to win in the playoffs, but the Avs are too young and the Sharks are flat out better. Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle’s Olympic experience will lead this team past the Avs, and in fact, they will win the Cup this year. Sharks in five.
I like Barry Trotz’ team, and if they were 5th or 6th I’d pick them to win a round, but the Hawks are just too deep. The Preds will continue their streak of never winning a playoff series, but they will give the Hawks a tough series. Hawks in six.
I’m going with the Kings in an upset, although the Kings have 101 points compared to the Canucks’ 103 so is it really an upset? The Kings like to pressure the puck down low, and they have three solid lines, and the Canucks defence is their weakness. The Sedins have been unreal all year, but Michel Handzus is one of the best checking centres in the league. That will be a great match up with Handzus, Freddy Modin and Wayne Simmonds v. the Sedins and Burrows. Roberto Luongo has looked average down the stretch, but he still has a huge edge over Jonathon Quick. Kings in Seven.
No team since the 1983-1985 Oilers has made it to the Cup finals three straight seasons and the Wings won’t end that streak. The Wings have been the best team since the Olympic break, 16-3-2, and they have way more playoff experience than the Desert Dogs. The Dogs were 13-5-1 after the Olympics, and they are the Rodney Dangerfield of the NHL; they get no respect. The Coyotes are relentless on their puck pursuit, and they will make life very difficult for the Wings’ defenders. Jimmy Howard is a rookie and Ilya Bryzgalov has lots to prove. The Coyotes have home ice, and they will use it to win in seven. Dogs in Seven.
This will be ugly. I don’t care how good Jaroslav Halak was in the Olympics and down the stretch for the Habs, he won’t post a 2.00 GAA this series, and the will need to if the Habs want to win. The Canadiens don’t have the firepower to keep up with the high-scoring Capitals, and the Habs’ defence isn’t big enough to slow down Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom and the boys. Capitals in four.
I really want to pick the Flyers in this one. They won five of six in the regular season, but I don’t put much stock in that. They have to rely on Brian Boucher to win, and he’ll need to recapture the out-of-body experience he had back in 2003/2004 with the Coyotes when he posted five consecutive shutouts and didn’t allow a goal for 332:01. The Flyers have lots of talent up front and on the backend, and they will push the Devils. My gut tells me to pick the Flyers, but stupidly I will pick the Devils in six.
Ryan Miller is good enough to beat the pop-gun offence of the Bruins. Only the Flames (204) scored fewer goals than the Bruins (206) and with Marc Savard out, I don’t see how the Bruins score enough to win. The Sabres have a great goalie, but they aren’t good enough to compete with the Pens or Capitals later on. Peter Chiarelli will be ecstatic drafting Taylor Hall this summer to improve their scoring next year. Sabres in six.
Similar to the Wings, I don’t see them making the Cup finals three years in a row, but they will get out of the first round. (Since my gut tells me Philly wins, the Pens will beat the Sabres in the 2nd round, but lose to the Caps in the finals, however I’m dumb and not picking that so the Pens will lose in the 2nd round). I’m guessing Ottawa would have preferred if the Pens won the Atlantic, so they could have faced the Devils instead, and for the first time since 1996, Canada won’t have a team in the 2nd round of the playoffs. (Montreal, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto and Calgary all lost in the first round that year). Pens in Six.
Steve Tambellini has a press conference at 1 p.m. today, where he will address the season, Sheldon Souray and the first overall pick. Yesterday was a monumental day in Oiler history, when it was confirmed they will have the first overall selection in the draft, for the first time in franchise history.
This story should be bigger, but Souray’s comments, and Tambellini’s insistence to wait two days to respond to them, means it will Taylor or Tyler talk will be over-shadowed.
Tambellini and the Oilers should have had an end-of-the-season presser planned on Monday. He could have wrapped up the season, and then luckily he would have been able to address Souray’s comments Monday. This would have allowed the Oilers to focus on the first pick, and just how big of a deal it truly is.
Instead today we will hear what Tambellini’s plans are for the summer, and his thoughts on Souray’s statement.
Last year, Tambellini showed passion and fire when he announced that Craig MacTavish would not be returning, but that the players were just as responsible. He then vowed to make changes. No major changes occurred, and he chose to promote from within with J.F Jacques, Ryan Stone and Gilbert Brule.
Today we should hear what his plan is for the off-season. I’ve said it many times before that this is the most important off-season in Oiler history, and Tambellini’s tenure with the Oilers will ultimately be decided this summer.
He’s in a tough spot, with so many underachievers and he is still trying to clean up Kevin Lowe’s mess, but he knew that when he took the job, and now he needs to make the right moves to turn this organization around.
He can’t trade, buyout or not qualify any players today, but he needs to make it clear that he has a plan moving forward. Being cryptic and not straight forward is unacceptable now.
He needs to show Oiler fans that he is a better communicator than Souray suggested he is.
The SUMMER OF STEVE begins today.