Stanley Cup 2014, II: Worst. First Round. Ever.

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My bracket is nearly worthless.  Woe is me.  I should have gone with my gut instead of thinking that the numbers meant anything.  Hockey is a strange beast, one that often defies the logic of mathematics or science.  Sure, when they say the team that has the puck more often is more likely to win, that sounds reasonable, but man, just look at Sunday‘s games, there’s no rhyme or reason.  Perhaps a blind coin toss would have been better than an “educated” guess.

nhl_bracket_2014_r2At least last year I had hope and apparently a decent amount of luck.  Now I’m stuck in 445,364th place (8% percentile) with little chance of moving up.  Verdammt!  Why did my Cup winner and hometown team not only have to lose in the first round, but be the 4th team ever to be reverse swept. 😡

Why you heff to be med?, indeed.  Frustrations aside, the hockey was really terrific.  Forget the negative hyperbolic title, the uncertainty, lack of safe leads, forced games, and all around terrific spectacle made for a memorable first round.  Hell, I’d go out on a limb and say, objectively, it was the actually best first round ever.  Let’s take a look:

Bruins vs. Red Wings:  I really hoped beyond all hope that the Red Wings would pull off the upset.  After Game 1, I was really really hoping that would continue.  However, it was not to be.  The juggernaut Bruins looked as such while the upstart Red Wings streak of skill and luck abruptly ended in a blazing four-game slaughter.  It’s a shame, my overwhelming dislike of the Bruins led me to pick against them out of principle, instead of doing what was clearly the smart thing to do.  Does that make me Ned Stark?

Lightning vs. Canadiens:  As for this, well, clearly I didn’t see that coming either.  I really should have, given the crucial injuries to the Lightning, who basically dressed the Syracuse Crunch for this series.  Game 1 was close, with a single defensive lapse being the difference; Game 4 was close too, ending in a desperate rally crushed by what I have to consider one of the worst penalty calls of the playoffs thus far.  The other two weren’t so tight.  Too bad.  My Atlantic Division bracket is dead.

Penguins vs. Blue JacketsHell of a series!  The deepest playoff run by Columbus in their history, where they won their first two playoff games ever.  Both in overtime.  Both after coming back from down at least 2 goals.  In fact, the first four games of the series were 4-3 decisions with the loser blowing a 3-1 lead, not to mention the near rally in Game 6 to make it 4-3 too!  Crazy.  The Jackets were never going to defeat Pittsburgh’s star power, but for a second the thought might have crossed my mind.  Forget the Penguins; everyone in the hockey world was rooting for #Lumbus this year.  What a great season they had, finally.  The best days are still ahead.

Rangers vs. Flyers:  There’s always a series I end up paying the least attention to.  I guess that’s what happens when you’re commuting during game time / watching the other simultaneous Eastern series instead.  I didn’t even see the fan brawl at the end of game six.  I heard Marty St. Louis was pretty good though. And Lundqvist too.  What’s he, like 5-1 in game sevens now?  Way to be, King Henrik.  Oh, right, I picked the Rangers to go to the Cup final.  At least that pick is going strong! Haha haha ha ha… oh I made myself sad.

Avalanche vs. Wild:  Alright I know I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but this series was ridiculous.  Late leads blown (what else is new), overtime heroics, controversial calls, etc.  The home team won every game, except seven of course, and even that was nearly a Colorado win.  Like I said, the advanced stats pointed toward the Avalanche’s demise, yet I couldn’t pick against them. It’s not like they helped pick my other series too… (facepalm).  Good for Minnesota though.  The acquisitions of Parise and Suter (as well as Moulson, Pomniville, their goalie carousel) are beginning to really pay off.  How good was Parise in game six?  Real good.  I might as well root for the Wild in round two.  I mean, I’ve got nothing else to lose.

Blues vs. Blackhawks:  For the Blues, this almost couldn’t have been more reminiscent of last year.  After Game 5, this comparison made the rounds.  Oof.  That hurts.  The Hawks would of course finish the series in six, but scoring 5 instead of 2.  Double oof.  Auf wiedersehen Sabres-west, you played okay, then fell apart.  Kinda like the Sabres!  Chicago, I really really didn’t like you after the Seabrook/Backes incident, but I suppose you’re not so bad as a whole.  What a fun series to watch this was.  Action-packed, slightly controversial, late comebacks, plentiful overtime. Really, the proto-typical divisional playoff matchup.  If only it could have been a Conference Final instead.  Hopefully this happens year after year after year.

Ducks vs. Stars:  I don’t understand how the Ducks won this series. Maybe the Stars collapsed into black holes, maybe the luck just went the Ducks’ way, I don’t know. Both teams clearly played their best hockey at home (in Dallas’ case in game six, their best 55 minutes…) There was a little bit of old Pacific rivalry residuals as well as new bad blood, especially with Corey Perry spearing nether regions and an injured captain’s wounds being targeted. I was clearly pulling for Dallas though. Like Columbus, they have some bright days ahead. As for the Ducks, well, a team from California is making the Western Conference Final, so that’s pretty good for my state of residence. Speaking of…..

Sharks vs. Kings:  In my prediction I wrote that this series would be “historically” awesome.  Well… it was absolutely historic.  Only if you’re a Kings fan, was it awesome.  As if the Sharks needed a bigger hill to climb in their struggle to shed the choker label.  I don’t even know what to say.  The Sharks were so dominant in Games 1-3; the Kings made taking Games 4-7 look easy.  When San Jose put up 13 goals in against Jonathan Quick in the first six periods, I thought the series was over.  I should have learned not to sleep on this Kings team.  Not after 2012, not after 2013, and not now.  Holy crap they’re good.  It’s almost not fair.  I bet we’ve got a repeat of last years Western Conference Final coming up.  I hope not, but what can you do with these almost-dynasties running around.

So many long series, such frustration.  Maybe it would be better if I didn’t make a bracket and just enjoyed the hockey.  Now that it’s shot, I can do as I damn well please in the later rounds.  Let’s roll the dice and draw a fresh hand from the deck:

Boston Bruins  Montreal Canadiens

A1. Boston Bruins vs A3. Montréal Canadiens:  Well, this will be fun.  I can only hope for a bloodbath.  This storied rivalry knows no lulls and there’s no chance this one goes quietly. Boston ran over Detroit, while Montréal ran over Tampa Bay.  The Habs have noted Bruins-killer Thomas Vanek, whilst the B’s have noted Canadien neck-breaker Zdeno Chara.  Whomever gets out of this series will be limping into the Conference Final.  The Bruins are the favorite, but my hatred for them has never been higher (except Iginla, he’s still cool). Canadiens in six.  And why not?  I’ve got nothing to lose at this point.  It’s a dumb move, yet there’s no way I’m picking the Bruins for anything. I hope they lose painfully.  For the next two weeks, I’ll be speaking French and wearing as much bleu, blanc et rouge as I can find.

Season Series:
2013-12-05; BOS 1, MON 2
2014-01-30; MON 4, BOS 1
2014-03-12; BOS 4, MON 1
2014-03-24; MON 2, BOS 1 S/O
BOS: 1-2-1 — MON: 3-1-0

Pittsburgh Penguins  New York Rangers

M1. Pittsburgh Penguins vs M2. New York Rangers:  With Columbus out of the picture, I once again care absolutely nothing for the Metropolitan Division.  I’ve got the Rangers going to the Cup Final and I stand by that pick.  Pittsburgh isn’t as good a team as their record suggests and if their stars continue to under-perform against a solid Rangers team, then it’s lights out.  Lundqvist had a terrific bounceback in game seven against the Flyers, and if he’s in the zone, good luck Penguins.  Rangers in seven.  I think this will be pretty evenly matched.  And once again, I think Fleury & Co are destined for a second round exit.

Season Series:
2013-11-06; PIT 1, NYR 5
2013-12-18; PIT 4, NYR 3 S/O
2014-01-03; NYR 2, PIT 5
2014-02-07; NYR 4, PIT 3 S/O
PIT: 2-1-1 — NYR: 2-1-1

Chicago Blackhawks  Minnesota Wild

C3. Chicago Blackhawks vs C4. Minnesota Wild:  Hey, who would have thought these two would meet again this year?  And in the second round?  Raise your hand.  I can wait.  Now, Minnesota clearly achieved something great in their franchise’s history by advancing for the first time since 2003, while Chicago is where they should be, where they’ve been almost every year since 2009.  As usual, I can only hope these new division rivals get heated and intense in their matchup.  Hopefully it will be a bit closer than it was last year.  Probably not.  Blackhawks in six.  Yeah, I gave the Wild another win this year, but that’ll be it.  If the Hawks do somehow find themselves on the losing side, well… that would be cool!  I love fresh faces in the final four and right now we’re looking at a strong possibility of the same four teams again this year. Blech.

Season Series:
2013-10-26; MIN 5, CHI 3
2013-10-28; CHI 5, MIN 1
2013-12-05; CHI 3, MIN 4
2014-01-23; CHI 1, MIN 2
2014-04-03; MIN 2, CHI 3 S/O
CHI: 2-0-3 — MIN: 3-1-1

Anaheim Ducks  Los Angeles Kings

P1. Anaheim Ducks vs P3. Los Angeles Kings:  Excuse me while I wipe the tears away to write this. …  For the first time in history (somehow), the Ducks and Kings will play each other in the playoffs.  Really, it’s never happened before.  Like the Sharks/Kings series, this one will be good. Maybe historically awesome!?  It can go one of two ways: 1) whomever wins is too beat up to reach the Cup Final or 2) whomever wins will cruise their way to another Stanley Cup.  I don’t see it shaking out any other way (which I guess would be to lose in the Cup Final).  The Ducks are here despite nearly reaching seven with Dallas and putting up typically bad possession numbers. The Kings became the fourth team to win a series after being down 0-3.  This is an easy pick, folks. Kings in five.  Then again, that season series might indicate another future.  Gah, I don’t even know what to think anymore.

Season Series:
2013-12-03; LAK 3, ANA 2 S/O
2014-01-23; LAK 1, ANA 2
2014-01-25; ANA 3, LAK 0 (Stadium Series)
2014-03-15; ANA 2, LAK 1
2014-04-12; ANA 4, LAK 3 S/O
ANA: 4-0-1 — LAK: 1-3-1

And finally, my homemade bracket with new pairings.  The lack of re-seeding makes life in the later rounds much easier and there’s something more aesthetically pleasing about the logos moving on in order instead of scrambling every round.  I might just continue to leave the seed numbers off too.  It’s not like they change at all.  We’ll see.

playoffs-2014-2Let’s keep it interesting.  All series to seven!  Blown leads!  Comebacks!  Line brawls!  The Bruins, Penguins, Blackhawks and Kings losing badly!  I want it all!

(and I want it in two weeks)

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