Wishes for Adidas’ NHL Takeover

With Adidas being the parent company of Reebok, they’re set to assume production of all NHL jerseys for the 2017-18 season.  Last time this happened, when Reebok took over in the offseason of 2007, all NHL team jerseys were redesigned to fit the new Edge template.  With this change being forced upon each team, some took the opportunity to rebrand or refresh their looks.  Some overhauled completely (Dallas, Vancouver, and Washington for example).  Others made minor tweaks to their jerseys.  Some made basically none.

Some teams made mistakes.  A few of them, unfortunately, still live to this day.  I’ve taken it upon myself to present a few concept logo blocks with my vision for team primary logos and colors going forward.  If these changes don’t happen, I will be disappointed, but I won’t give up hope — I’ll continue adding to this collection when inspiration strikes, provided that my ideas don’t magically come to life before then.

First up, my Buffalo Sabres:

Buffalo SabresBuffalo Sabres (Away)

Ditch the silver lines, return to a real, vibrant blue, and voilà!  That’s all they need.  This look is clear, identifiable, and timeless.  If they’re going to hoist the Cup at some point, I desperately hope it’s in these.  With the Sabres scheduled to play as the home team at the 2018 Winter Classic, we may see this jersey appear as soon as then — hopefully they do the right thing and elevate it to primary duty afterward.  If not, the likely worst case scenario is it would become a full-time third in 2018-19.  If that happens, they will have earned my money.

Calgary Flames (Third)Calgary Flames (Fourth)

Fixing the Calgary Flames would be simple: return to the 1980s.  Get rid of the black.  Promote the existing third to primary and add a road counterpart.  You won the Cup in these jerseys; why wouldn’t you want to promote them?  ’nuff said.

Carolina Hurricanes (Third)Carolina Hurricanes (Fourth)

The Carolina Hurricanes need a uniform update, badly.  Their 2013 redesign was horrendous, but thankfully they kept their unique third in reserve.  I wouldn’t mind seeing them upgraded to full-time duty.  The flag logo is far better than the swirl, even though they did win the Cup in the latter, but there’s also the fact that I’m not a fan of black primaries.  What about red?  I think that looks damn hot, even if it is a (tropical) storm warning flag.

Colorado Avalanche (Third)Colorado Avalanche (Fourth)

The Colorado Avalanche have been using the 2007 Reebok transition look for a decade; they’re the last to maintain use of the “apron string” look.  It needs a change more than any other team.  Their current thirds are decent, but I’m not sold on them being a primary.  They’re just a bit too experimental, plus burgundy has always been the Avs’ color.  How about these?

Columbus Blue JacketsColumbus Blue Jackets (Away)

The Columbus Blue Jackets‘ third is a great, great look.  I love the jersey, the color scheme, and the logo.  It’s more distinct, compared to the Jacket’s current palette which features zero unique colors.  The only problem is that vintage white cannot be used as an away jersey base, so to solve I’ve made it white across the board.  Looking sharp!

Minnesota WildMinnesota Wild (Away)

The Minnesota Wild are rumored to be going forward with a green jersey, similar to their Stadium Series jersey from last season.  I’m for it.  I think they should keep their away white jerseys and use them template for the homes.  Easy.  I bet this is exactly what we see come Draft Day, more-or-less.

Ottawa Senators (Third)Ottawa Senators (Fourth)

The Ottawa Senators are in dire need of a new look, having used the same original Reebok template since 2007.  Luckily, they’ve already created a complete set that would do nicely.  The “O” logo ties the franchise back to its predecessor in Ottawa, while ditching the tired look of the three-quarter-profile cartoon centurion.  Same as with Columbus, the vintage white is normalized to pure white.  There was a rumor swirling earlier this year that something like this was in the works for the future.  It’s been quiet on that front recently, but I’d still imagine this has a very good chance of happening.

Alternatively, they’ve been sitting on this cleaner version of their original profiled Senator logo for awhile.  It’s not on their jerseys anywhere, for some reason.  If the classic look isn’t to be, why not revamp the jerseys with this badass logo on front?  Hell, I’d be okay with a return to the black primary if this is what it looks like.

San Jose SharksSan Jose Sharks (Away)San Jose Sharks2San Jose Sharks (Away2)

This is more of a thought than a hope.  The San Jose Sharks used the Reebok takeover to refresh their Shark-biting-stick logo in 2007; modernizing while maintaining the overall look.  It’s been a decade since then, and the franchise has matured to a point of ubiquity and success in the Bay Area.  It’s time to grow the logo to match.  We know it’s a hockey team, so there’s no need for a stick in the logo.  This past season the Sharks released a beautiful set of “future” secondary logos for marketing purposes, which went more-or-less unused: see the clean full-bodied shark above.  There’s also a variant with a more triangular shape and a subtle SJ at the vertex.  Either one I think would be a great primary look.

Washington CapitalsWashington Capitals (Away)

Last but not least, look at this.  The Washington Capitals have used this stunning secondary logo since their transformation in 2007.  How is it not the primary?  I get that the wordmark is an update of their original logo, but come on.  This would be an incredible primary logo.  It’s simple, easily reproduceable and identifiable, and it’s freaking brilliant.  It forms a “W.” It’s got the Capitol in negative space.  The angle in the neck invokes the Washington Monument.  It’s wonderful.  After their latest playoff failure, it might just be a decent time to re-brand.  Make this the primary now.

I have a few more wants that I’m not sure how (read: am not skilled enough) to express visually:

Los Angeles Kings

The Los Angeles Kings would do well to add purple back to their look.  I’m not sure if that requires a whole new logo or not — I’d lean toward the latter, given all of their success with their current setup.  Perhaps just a trim on the jersey?  The league needs more purple; ie any purple.

Vancouver Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks have a great set of uniforms, and it hurts to suggest changes because of their mixed history.  I like the orca logo, but the “Vancouver” wordmark needs to go.   Alternatively, promote the third to full time and go full 1970s.  Either way, that’s all I want, so there’s nothing really new to illustrate here.  The design of the jerseys and their colors are perfect already.

In conclusion, I’m surprised by how content I am with the look of the NHL these days.   Only a handful of teams need a redo on the logo, jersey, and/or colors.  For the rest, a few uniform tweaks here and there would be nice, but overall I think these aforementioned changes would be enough to make the league the best it could possibly look.  Now, if only we could make color versus color jerseys for games the norm, only then would we have perfection.


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

 I  II  III  IV  V

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)

Stanley Cup 2014, I: So It Begins Again

 I  II  III  IV  V

Standings-2014Here we go, again.  After a long, incredibly eventful six months, the 2014 NHL Playoffs are here!  This past season wasn’t the best for my Buffalo Sabres.  In fact, it was basically the worst ever.  And they didn’t even get the first overall pick for their trouble.  Thanks, draft lottery!

Oh well.  As a now third-year Bay Area resident, Sharks fandom has slowly been creeping into my blood, despite being a follower of two other Pacific division teams.  Sometimes I’m conflicted, but I just love the sport too much.  I get out to a few games a year at the Shark Tank and this year was no different.  It’s starting to feel more and more like home.  Nowhere near as much as First Niagara Center, obviously, but it’s a firm second.

Anyway, like last year I’m setting out to chronicle the long war that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Once again I’ve created myself a bracket for the NHL Bracket Challenge.  Last year I picked the correct champion and finished in 28,200th place.  Not bad, eh?  This year’s a bit trickier, so for the last few days I’ve been delving into head-to-head records, injury status, player transactions, and most importantly, advanced statistics to make a more informed decision.  After all, the fancy stats basically predicted the Kings’ 2012 run despite their low position.  Let’s hope I know how to use them!

nhl_bracket_2014_r1I had a lot of trouble with this bracket.  The first round match-ups, described below, make sense to me.  It’s the later rounds I grappled with.  And no, I’m not picking the Sharks because they’re my hometown team, that’s just how my bracket shakes out.  Not that I won’t be rooting for them.  Hopefully I’m not terribly far off.

Time to break down the match-ups, one by one.  Starting this time in the east!

Usually there aren’t any teams I really want to come out of the east.  As a Sabres fan, I strongly dislike everyone in the former Northeast Division and most of the Metropolitan.  I will admit  Tampa Bay is a team I can get behind, but the best story out here is the newly-realigned Columbus Blue Jackets.  I’ve been rooting for them for years, just because they’ve sucked for so long and I feel a strong franchise in Columbus would be good for the game.  Well here we are, they finally made it after a long five years on the outside.  Here’s hoping they win a game this time around!  And that brings us to the matchups:

Boston Bruins  Detroit Red Wings

A1. Boston Bruins vs A4. Detroit Red Wings:  Thanks, realignment!  Detroit has launched into a wild-card playoff spot in the east and play the powerhouse conference champion Boston Bruins.  This will be a hell of a series if Detroit can continue the roll they started in March, especially if their stars come back to health.  The Bruins have been so dominant all season, it’s hard to pick against them.  They’re just too damn good.  However, if there’s one team in the east that can pull an upset off, it’s Detroit.  No question. And you know what, I cannot bring myself to root for Boston, even if they’re the “easy” choice.  Red Wings in seven.  The Wings have the season series and we’ve seen how they kick into another gear for the post-season.  This is also the first time these two teams have met in the playoffs in 57 (!) years.  Here’s wishing for a complete mutual-destruction, with the Red Wings somehow surviving.

Season Series:
2013-10-05; DET 1, BOS 4
2013-10-14; DET 3, BOS 2
2013-11-27; BOS 1, DET 6
2014-04-02; BOS 2, DET 3
BOS: 1-3-0 — DET: 3-1-0

Who I like:
BOS:  Jarome Iginla, Paille
DET:  Datsyuk, Nyquist

Who I don’t:
BOS:  EVERYONNNNEEEEEE! (else, especially Marchand and Lucic.)
DET:  Everyone else.  24/7 didn’t help much.

Tampa Bay Lightning  Montreal Canadiens

A2. Tampa Bay Lightning vs A3. Montréal Canadiens:  Welcome back to the playoffs, Tampa Bay!  Last time they were here, I was still in college and they wore black.  Montréal is Canada’s only offering this year, for the first time since 1973 when there was only them, the ‘Nucks, and the Leafs.  Now that the divisonal system is back for the seeding, this A2/A3 slot will always be a Sabres rival, so I’m hoping they somehow implode too.  However, as I mentioned before, Tampa Bay is kind of a likeable team and the rivalry is barely existent yet.  I’m hoping they pull this one off despite their relative inexperience.  Montréal is always a fun setting for a playoff series, especially when things get testy.  Let’s see some unrest!  I’ve got the Lightning advancing in six.  A healthy Stamkos is far better than a Vanek who’s on his third team of the season, though Price will give Tampa’s guns a run for their money.  With Bishop out, the Bolts will need some help on the back end.  I have a feeling their 8th place offense will help them out of that problem.

Season Series:
2013-11-12; TBL 2, MON 1 S/O
2013-12-28; MON 2, TBL 1 S/O
2014-02-01; TBL 2, MON 1 OT
2014-04-01; MON 1, TBL 3
TBL: 3-0-1 — MON: 1-1-2

Who I like:
TBL:  Stamkos, Callahan, Bishop
MON:  Price, Subban, Vanek, Pacioretty, Prust, Briére?

Who I don’t:
TBL:  I dunno.
MON:  Murray?

Pittsburgh Penguins  Columbus Blue Jackets

M1. Pittsburgh Penguins vs M4. Columbus Blue Jackets:  Again with the realignment, Columbus’s also here out east.  They quietly sneaked into a spot, and now, as the first wild-card, will play the (inhales) Metropolitan Division Champion Pittsburgh Penguins.  That’s quite a mouthful…  Oh man, out of all of the possible first-round match-ups, this might be my favorite.  The Blue Jackets play their closest division rival, a rivalry that’s been on hold for years thanks to the conference alignment.  Well, here we are.  The Penguins have actually not been very good lately, and with Columbus having momentum toward the end of the season for their playoff push, this series is far from a foregone conclusion.  Bobrovsky can be rock solid and Fleury is a total question mark.  I think just due to their experience and star power I’m going to pick the Penguins in six, however I wouldn’t put it past Columbus to give them a scare like the Islanders did last year.  I kinda hope they do.  Upsets are the best, aren’t they?

Season Series:
2013-11-01; CBJ 2, PIT 4
2013-11-02; PIT 3, CBJ 0
2013-12-09; CBJ 1, PIT 2
2013-12-29; PIT 5, CBJ 3
2014-03-28; PIT 2, CBJ 1
PIT: 5-0-0 — CBJ: 0-5-0

Who I like:
PIT:  Crosby, Orpik, Dupuis, Scuderi, Stempniak
CBJ:  BOBROVSKY!  Johansen, Dubinsky, Tropp, Foligno

Who I don’t:
PIT:  James Neal.  Ugh.
CBJ:  Not sure, really.

New York Rangers  Philadelphia Flyers

M2. New York Rangers vs M3. Philadelphia Flyers:  Let’s just cut to the chase, it’s kind of a toss up.  Rangers in six.  I don’t like the Flyers, I don’t really care for the Rangers.  Philadelphia has a solid top line, while the Rangers have a solid team, plus goaltending.  Can’t they both lose?  At the very least, make it like the 2012 Pens/Flyers series.  That was a ton of fun.

Season Series:
2013-10-24; NYR 1, PHI 2
2014-01-12; PHI 1, NYR 4
2014-03-01; NYR 2, PHI 4
2014-03-26; PHI 1, NYR 3
NYR: 2-2-0 — PHI: 2-2-0

Who I like:
NYR:  Girardi, Lundqvist, Moore, St. Louis, RYAN HAGGERTY (from RPI!…who won’t be playing but is on the roster)
PHI:  I have no strong positive feelings toward anyone on this roster.

Who I don’t:
NYR:  Carcillo
PHI:  Downie, Emery

I can see it already, Columbus Blue Jackets, Eastern Conference Champions!…..someday.

To the west!

Colorado Avalanche  Minnesota Wild

C1. Colorado Avalanche vs C4. Minnesota Wild:  It’s a former Northwest Division match-up, a rematch from 2008, and the only pair in the west whose names include states! (until the Arizona Coyotes come along, that is.)  Like so many others, I predicted the Avs to miss the playoffs this year.  What a pleasant surprise they’ve been!  The games I’ve seen of theirs, they’ve been absolutely dominant, fast and tough.  The youth are incredible, though Duchene is out for a few weeks yet.  Their goaltending has also been a bit too good.  And the advanced stats agree.  Minnesota, though, they’re a bit streaky, having nearly played themselves out of contention a few weeks ago.  I have plenty of love for the Wild roster, but I’m just not sold on them in the playoffs yet.  Bryzgalov’s been terrific lately; on the flip-side, as a Coyotes fan, I’ve seen him crumple in the post-season.  While Minnesota will be playing against a team with a 27th ranked Fenwick percentage, they’re not much higher at 21st.  Avalanche in five.  They’re just too good not to move on. *knocks on wood*

Season Series:
2013-11-29; COL 3, MIN 1
2013-11-30; MIN 2, COL 3 S/O
2013-12-14; MIN 2, COL 1 S/O
2014-01-11; COL 4, MIN 2
2014-01-30; MIN 4, COL 5
COL: 4-0-1 — MIN: 1-3-1

Who I like:
COL:  Duchene, Landeskog, MacKinnon.  It’s the kids!  Also Stastny and Giguere.
MIN:  Pominville, Moulson, Koivu, HARDING.

Who I don’t:
COL:  Nothing here.
MIN:  Heatley.  Bryzgalov bothers me.  He’s adorable and quirky, obviously, but he’s kind of a locker room cancer.

St. Louis Blues  Chicago Blackhawks

C2. St. Louis Blues vs C3. Chicago Blackhawks This is why the divisional playoff format was created.  What a battle this will be.  At least I hope.  St. Louis has been, for the last two weeks or so, hot garbage.  They were my Cup pick at the deadline, but injuries have ruined their chemistry.  I like Ryan Miller in the playoffs.  I also like the Blackhawks in the playoffs.  They’ll be getting their injured stars back just in time for a deep run while basically St. Louis’ entire top forward lines are day-to-day and questionable.  This Chicago team isn’t all that different from last year’s champions and there’s no reason to believe they won’t have continued success.  If the Blues can figure it out with what they’ve got, it will be a fantastic series.  If they don’t, well… Blackhawks in five.

Season Series:
2013-10-09; CHI 2, STL 3
2013-10-17; STL 3, CHI 2 S/O
2013-12-28; CHI 5, STL 6 S/O
2014-03-19; STL 0, CHI 4
2014-04-06; STL 2, CHI 4
STL: 3-2-0 — CHI: 2-1-2

Who I like:
STL:  Backes, Pietrangelo, Leopold, Oshie, Steen, Ott, MILLLLERRRRRRRR!
CHI:  Toews, Sharp

Who I don’t:
STL:  Brenden Morrow.
CHI:  I still don’t like Andrew Shaw.

Anaheim Ducks  Dallas Stars

P1. Anaheim Ducks vs C5. Dallas Stars:  Another former division match-up, this time for the previous iteration of the Pacific.  Thanks a lot, realignment.  Dallas eked into the playoffs over Phoenix, and therefore grab the second wild-card despite being in the 5th spot in their division. They’re a great story, and really, the total re-brand helped me a lot to get over the crushing defeat of the Sabres in the 1999 Stanley Cup Final.  I wouldn’t hate it if they succeeded.  I think it’s the green.  Their uniforms look so damn good.  Also, Lindy Ruff!  Dallas is a scrappy club who play a very entertaining game.  They’re happy to be here, sure, but they just might be able to give the Ducks some trouble.  In fact, they’ve been one of the better teams in general against California.  The Ducks are damn good, but they’re kind of a one-line team and like last year, their PDO is well over 103%, implying coming regression.  Does a Boudreau-coached team ever succeed in the playoffs?  It’s hard to say.  I think I have to pick the Stars in seven.  The playoffs are another animal; the Ducks’ experience may be the deciding factor.  However, I’m following the numbers and nearly everything else is pointing toward Dallas moving on.

Season Series:
2013-10-20; DAL 3, ANA 6
2013-11-26; ANA 3, DAL 6
2014-02-01; DAL 2, ANA 0
ANA: 1-2-0 — DAL: 2-1-0

Who I like:
ANA:  SELANNE, Palmieri
DAL:  Ray “The Wizard” Whitney, Jamie Benn, Chiasson, Fiddler, can’t forget Rich Peverley.

Who I don’t:
ANA:  Corey Perry.
DAL:  Tim Thomas

San Jose Sharks  Los Angeles Kings

P2. San Jose Sharks vs P3. Los Angeles Kings:  The best for last.  I’ll be keeping a close eye on this series.  Both teams play a rough, tough style and whomever wins might be too exhausted to continue.  Mutually-assured annihilation.  California hockey has been outstanding this year, Ducks included, and I have no doubt this will be an awesome, possibly historically so, series.  As for the result?  Well I have no f*cking clue.  Flip a coin?  Sharks it is.  How many games?  Well that’s easy.  Sharks in seven.  If this doesn’t go the distance, I’ll be surprised.  And for the first time ever, GO SHARKS!

Season Series:
2013-10-30; SJS 3, LAK 4 OT
2013-11-27; LAK 2, SJS 3 S/O
2013-12-19; SJS 1, LAK 4
2014-01-27; LAK 1, SJS 0
2014-04-03; LAK 1, SJS 2
SJS: 2-2-1 — LAK: 3-1-1

Who I like:
LAK:  Regehr, Kopitar, Quick

Who I don’t:
SJS:  Mike Brown.
LAK:  Richards, Carter, Dustin Brown.  In fact, let’s just put a blanket disapproval on all Browns.  I’m looking at you too, Brown University!

Finally, here’s everything in original bracket form.  The update of the playoff format called for minor changes to my graphic, and here and there are aesthetic tweaks from the previous iteration.  I’ve done so little I feel like I might be converging toward something more-or-less permanent here.  Ha, when have I said that before?

playoffs-2014-1The puck drops tonight.  And as always, anything can happen in the playoffs.  Get pumped!