When I used to play poker in college, we had a rule: If you're out of the game and you don't have any chips left, you can watch, but you better "shut the #$%@ up." Too bad it doesn't work the same way in hockey. We're out of the game, but we have no intention of shutting up.
The first round (and the best two weeks of hockey watching of the year) start tonight and we're taking the opportunity to opine on the Western Conference series and pick the winners
So without further ado, here's Brandon, Art, Pat and myself...
Please do tell us how wrong we are in the comments.
Sharks in 5. (I hope I'm wrong)
Brandon: I want to give the Avs a chance. And in the playoffs, goaltending can carry you a long way. But I don't think they have the fire power to keep up and San Jose won't melt down...yet.
Art: It's been a great run for you Colorado and you really have done well for yourselves when absolutely no one I know picked you to finish even close to a playoff spot, but it ends here. It's not even a matter of San Jose's talent compared to Colorado, it's that the hockey gods just aren't cruel enough to have Sharks fans see their team lose in the first round this year...
Pat: I'll be painfully honest here: Colorado is here solely because of Craig Anderson, and that is why they won't advance past the Sharks. A career backup, Anderson's minutes this year have skyrocketed past his previous career highs. It was only a matter of time until his game began to fade, and unfortunately for the Avs it came as they finished the regular season. Without Anderson running on all cylinders, the Avs don't stand a chance against the Sharks.
Brad: A very good home team in Chicago against an excellent road team in Nashville. I fear for the Hawks' goaltending, and I fear Barry Trotz and his seeming lack of neck, but mostly I fear for the Predators penalty killing against a stacked Chicago team. Nashville might be able to defend and goal-tend their way to a decent showing.
Give me Chicago in a close 6.
Brandon: I'm a homer, obviously. But even a homer like myself understands there's a glaring question mark in between the pipes in Cristobal Huet. But just like in the Avs-Sharks series, I doubt that question mark will play a role this early in the playoffs, nor will the absence of Brian Campbell.
Art: I feel for Nashville. They make the playoffs consistently now and every year they get a very tough draw in the first round but every year they seem to make things interesting and this year with the Hawks having issues in goal and no Bryan Campbell on the blue line, it could be very interesting. Hell, I'll go with the upset here.
Pat: I'll be the first to admit I don't know much about the Predators, other than Shea Weber's ridiculous slapshot. I don't trust Chicago at all, and I seriously doubt their goaltending let's them play past the second round, but I think they'll handle Nashville.
Brad: It feels like this one could go either way in a hurry depending on how they start. The Kings will suffer a little from not having been there before, but they have some nice veterans too. This is why they got Scuderi, right? Vancouver has questions on the blue line and the Kings are tired of talking about Quicks' struggles down the stretch...I've gotta go with Luongo here, though I hate him so.
Canucks in 7. I'm hoping for a good one.
Brandon: Just like the Avs, the Kings are playoff newbies after missing the playoffs last season. Well actually, the Kings haven't chartered this territory since 2002, but you get my point. They've also played less than inspired hockey in the weeks leading up to the playoffs, just like the Avs.
Art: It's now or never for the Canucks and Roberto Luongo. As much as I like the Kings young talent and think that the worries about Jon Quick are maybe a little overblown, the Canucks have more talents and depth at each position than the Kings and will be right at home playing nothing but west coast games. maybe next year LA, this year is for Vancouver.
Pat: I almost want to pick Los Angeles here. They aren't great at any particular area, but they're solid everywhere.i actually get the feeling that Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar could take control of this series at any point and really shake things up. But I can't disregard the great trio of Sedin and Luongo. The Kings might take two games, but the Canucks just have too much to handle.
Brad: Oh, poor Phoenix. You deserved so much better than this. The Wings won 16 of 21 after the Olympics and don't look ready to slow down any time soon. For all Dave Tippett's success there, he still brings his old Stars bane (Detroit) with him to his new team. Can the Coyotes drag the Wings down into the muck and maybe get a series lead?
Wings in 6. Or worse. Please prove me wrong.
Art: Illya Bryzgalov would be my Hart trophy pick if I actually had a vote and honestly I think he gives the Coyotes more than a punchers chance here... Yes Detroit has been really good here but is Jimmy Howard playoff ready? I'm not so sure myself. While the home ice advantage won't mean much int he stands, it will mean something in terms of matching lines - something Coach Tippett can do fairly well.
Red Wings in 5. Apologies to Dave Tippett. And my wall. Because I'm not done head bashing. Be right back...
We'll let you guys pick the East. I could talk about those teams, but I would be lying through my teeth or repeating the thought's of others. I haven't watched them all season long, but I'm looking forward to doing so now...