Winter sports roundup

by Michael Bérubé on April 12, 2011

It’s time once again for hockey blogging, or, as we call it, “hogging”!  As CT’s only resident hockey blogger, it naturally falls to me to explain precisely what will happen in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.  As usual, I will provide precise and preternaturally accurate predictions about the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, and I will challenge Scott “Scotty” Lemieux to do the same for the West.

OK, those of you who clicked the first link have now learned that my first-round picks last year were a jumbo package of epic fail.  But don’t forget, I’ve had my moments.  And I did say that last year’s finals would be Penguins-Hawks, and I still think that’s what should have happened in the end, so I was kind of right about that too, except for the Penguins part.  So, without further ado:

Washington Capitals (1) v. New York Rangers (8).  Is this finally the Caps’ year?  I find it impossible to root against them, given their recent playoff history, and yet I ran into Rod Gilbert last month as he was emerging from a restaurant on East 62nd Street and told him that I’d been in his hockey camp in 1970 and 1971 and still have my autographed copy of his autobiography, so I can’t root against the Rangers either.  If I lie open to the pressure of society I often succeed with the dexterity of my tongue in putting something difficult into the currency.  See my little toys, twisted out of nothing in a second, how they entertain.  I am no hoarder—I shall leave only a cupboard of old clothes when I die—and I am almost indifferent to the minor vanities of life which cause Louis so much torture.  But I have sacrificed much.  Veined as I am with iron, with silver and with streaks of common mud, I cannot contract into the firm fist which those clench who do not depend upon stimulus.   Capitals in five.

Philadelphia Flyers (2) v. Buffalo Sabres (7).  Philly comes in badly banged up, but still dangerous, and the Sabres, as ever, are talented but inconsistent.  At least they’ve gotten rid of that hideous Slug!  They moan, passing upon the clouds, horned and capricorned, the trumpeted with the tusked, the lionmaned the giantantlered, snouter and crawler, rodent, ruminant and pachyderm, all their moaning multitude, murderers of the sun.  Onward to the dead sea they tramp to drink, unslaked and with horrible gulpings, the salt somnolent inexhaustible flood.  And the equine portent grows again, magnified in the deserted heavens, nay to heaven’s own magnitude, till it looms, vast, over the house of Virgo.  Flyers in six.

Boston Bruins (3) v. Montreal Canadiens (6). The seventy-ninth matchup between these Original Six rivals promises to be explosive.  Outside it’s getting cold and if you don’t have someplace you really want to be you wish you did because it’s cold, suggesting the beginning of winter in New England, suggesting that this winter, when you have to go anywhere, the streets will trap you in a mouse-maze of painful cold, suggesting that you will need to buy a sweater or two that you don’t have the money for.  You hope at least that you’ll get a phone call from a friend who wants to talk for a long time, so that you can bring the phone near the bed and get under the comforter and talk.  Outside it’s getting cold, colder than you would expect after such a warm afternoon, when people were lying on the grass reading in the sun.  Bruins in seven.

Pittsburgh Penguins (4) v. Tampa Bay Lightning (5). It’s insane that the Penguins are still legitimate Cup contenders without their two best players.  Think of the mid-90s Bulls without Jordan and Pippen, or the early-00s Lakers without Shaq and Kobe.  And yet here they are, facing a team that didn’t show up on anyone’s preseason radar and that features Methuselah in goal.  The woman who I’m sending knows all about you.  We have spent many nights reminiscing about you and laughing about your ingenuous kindnesses and social clumsiness.  She is impressed by your poems and surmises that, as a child, you must have been force fed like farm poultry.  Of course she is drifting very peaceably now right towards you.  It’s a fine sunny day.  She and the raft look marvelous, rocking in the tide.  She is doing her impersonation of an automobile showroom.  You would enjoy it very much. Lightning in six.

Scott, I think I’ve said everything I needed to say.  Over to you.

{ 30 comments }

1

psh 04.12.11 at 2:06 pm

Michael,

Are you just not into the playoffs this year? And what is with the cryptics? I’m seeing some Irish literature, but is there also some original doggerel?

I hope the NHL playoffs live up to the NCAA hockey tournament this year. The Bulldogs (of Duluth, not Yale) executed their powerplay like the Harlem Globetrotters, but without the levity. It was gripping, thrilling. The NHL needs more of that.

2

Moby Hick 04.12.11 at 2:44 pm

It’s insane that the Penguins are still legitimate Cup contenders without their two best players.

Shhh. Talk like that will just make the Pirates feel worse about themselves.

3

Bill Gardner 04.12.11 at 2:45 pm

Lightning in six.

But it’s a just world. So it will be Pens in 5.

4

Chris Robinson 04.12.11 at 2:58 pm

Geez, Michael. When I look at your prediction for the Washington v. Rangers series, I can’t help but wonder: “What would Rod Gilbert say?” Personally, I’m picking the Rangers in six. This is because the Rangers have Lundqvist and because John Druce has retired. It may also have something to do with the accumulated delusions I have developed as a life-long blue-seater. Let’s agree to meet at MSG if the Rangers make the finals this year.

5

Michael Bérubé 04.12.11 at 2:59 pm

Are you just not into the playoffs this year?

Are you kidding? After the Rangers squeaked in at the final second by playing heroic games against the Flyers, Bruins, and Devils in the final week (also after coughing up fetid hairballs against the Isles and Thrashers, of all people)? See, I really did run into Rod Gilbert last month. And I really did talk to him about his hockey camp, and his speaking French to me at the time, and the Rangers’ playoff chances. He shook my hand a couple of times and introduced me to his wife Judy. It was a very moving experience, since he and Jean Ratelle were my favorite players when I was a lad. So I plan to watch every game, and laugh, cry, cheer, agonize, etc., as usual.

But this post is my little way of saying that my narrative prognoses and justifications might as well be drawn from random literary texts. There’s no original doggerel here — each of these is taken from a bona fide Real Literary Text(R) written by a Real Writer.™ I figured that would be the only really fun thing about this post. Now that you ask.

6

Michael Bérubé 04.12.11 at 3:03 pm

When I look at your prediction for the Washington v. Rangers series, I can’t help but wonder: “What would Rod Gilbert say?”

He would say, “Michael, what do you make of the fact that we beat them 6-0 and 7-0 during the regular season?” And I would say, “Ryan Callahan has a broken leg.”

I still think we can beat ’em, I do. The Caps have something missing, and I’m not sure what it is. But I think the something-missing won’t show up until round three.

For the record, I really really really hope the Sabres beat the Flyers and the Habs beat the Bruins and the Pens beat the Bolts. I just don’t think it’s gonna happen. Happy to be wrong, as certain bloggers say.

7

Tom Hurka 04.12.11 at 3:39 pm

Reasonable predictions, but sheesh, that writing makes tabloid sports reporters look good.

8

Virginia Woolf 04.12.11 at 4:13 pm

Tom Hurka@7: I resemble that remark.

9

JP Stormcrow 04.12.11 at 4:22 pm

Rangers/Caps and Bruins/Habs are both compelling match-ups. Rangers take Caps to 7 before losing. Montreal over Boston in 6 in a series during which Massachusetts and Quebec nearly come to war. Pens over Tampa Bay in 6 close but workmanlike games (2 shootout wins). Flyers boringly over Sabres in 5. I define a nose as follows—intreating only beforehand, and beseeching my readers, both male and female, of what age, complexion, and condition soever, for the love of God and their own souls, to guard against the temptations and suggestions of the devil, and suffer him by no art or wile to put any other ideas into their minds, than what I put into my definition—For by the word Nose, throughout all this long chapter of noses, and in every other part of my work, where the word Nose occurs—I declare, by that word I mean a nose, and nothing more, or less.

10

psh 04.12.11 at 4:27 pm

“But this post is my little way of saying that my narrative prognoses and justifications might as well be drawn from random literary texts. There’s no original doggerel here—each of these is taken from a bona fide Real Literary Text® written by a Real Writer.™ I figured that would be the only really fun thing about this post. Now that you ask.”

Thanks, Michael. I look forward to this post and Scott’s reply every year. Now I have to do some hunting to track down the Real Literary Texts that have escaped me before the games begin on Wednesday. This is one of those years in which I don’t have a strong rooting preference. We’ll just have to see how story lines develop and team character reveals itelf.

11

Tom Hurka 04.12.11 at 4:41 pm

Re #8

There can’t, thank God, be shootout wins in the playoffs.

12

Delicious Pundit 04.12.11 at 5:01 pm

Remember, if you root for the Boston Bruins, you hate these adorable schoolchildren .

Down Goes Brown is funny on the playoffs, if less lit’ry.

13

Michael Bérubé 04.12.11 at 5:48 pm

JP’s comment @ 9 is all about a Cock and a Bull.

And psh @ 10: We’ll just have to see how story lines develop and team character reveals itself.

This is basically what I’m suggesting the Capitals are missing. A certain … I don’t know what. They’ve been dogged all year by the insistence that this is the year they must Do Something, and they’re certainly capable. Why, even their defense works!

But I am so chastised by my terrible first-round showing last year (after going 11-4 in picking all series in 08-09) that I don’t have any faith in my judgment. So literature it is, at least for now.

The Habs-Bruins text is a bit hard to find, as these things go. But worth finding.

14

JP Stormcrow 04.12.11 at 6:02 pm

Tom Hurka@11: There can’t, thank God, be shootout wins in the playoffs.

Right. Shit. What is wrong with me? Carried away by the Pens reliance on them down the stretch this year. Change to Pens win 2 games that go to multiple overtimes.

The Habs-Bruins text is a bit hard to find, as these things go.

Something to be found in AGNI 51 or 52 apparently.

15

Michael Bérubé 04.12.11 at 6:06 pm

Which is easy enough to say if you have a cock and a bull and an AGNI.

16

psh 04.12.11 at 6:41 pm

OK. So Woolf, Joyce, Leyner and Lease. The latter two are new to me. Something new to investigate, between periods, as it were.

17

J. Fisher 04.12.11 at 6:58 pm

Hockey would be much more interesting if it were played on a parquet floor and involved the repeated bouncing of an orange ball. Just imagine Blake Griffin dunking in goalie pads, or Alex Ovechkin doing some pre-game head banging. That last bit isn’t that hard to imagine, actually.

And to be clear: Beat LA. Someone, anyone, in any sport, just beat LA. All of LA. The entire city.

18

Gene O'Grady 04.12.11 at 7:46 pm

After the incident at Dodger stadium last week we perhaps need a moratorium on the use of “beat” and “LA” in the same sentence.

Defeating them right now will be up to the Sharks. I await Professor Berube’s guidance on that one.

19

J. Fisher 04.12.11 at 8:11 pm

I’m not sidetracking things here (I can’t, actually; papers to grade), but I’ll respond @18. My comment, of course, was not meant to reference what happened at Dodger Stadium. So I get what you’re saying, and I respect that pov, but I think we need to issue a moratorium on statements about issuing moratoriums on statements (and language).

20

JP Stormcrow 04.12.11 at 8:19 pm

Which is easy enough to say if you have a cock and a bull and an AGNI.

And one of the best of its kind, I ever heard.

21

Chris Robinson 04.13.11 at 12:44 am

I’m not sure what the Caps are missing either. Their goaltending has been, well, as uneven as their season. Ovechkin seems to be heating up at the right time, but they have a guy like Semin who is the only player in the NHL I might be able to take in a fight (if not for my commitment to non-violence). Your other picks look pretty good to me. This is Vancouver’s year, I think. But a repeat of 1994 would be doubly wonderful. I only make picks on the Rangers, however. This is because I know the thinness of my hockey savvy. I’ve only played the street variety. The lameness of my hockey background can be gleaned from this one fact: My most cherished possession related to hockey is a photo of a young Michael Berube posing with the great Rod Gilbert.

22

Michael Bérubé 04.13.11 at 1:58 am

So you have that picture, Chris? Give it back! Besides, you can’t even tell that’s me. My father took that picture just before he and I learned that it makes more sense to take pictures of your-kid-with-future-Hall-of-Famer if your kid takes his helmet off first. By the time I attended the Canadiens’ camp in ’71. we had the drill down. Though I hadn’t yet mastered the critical “tuck in your shirt collar” technique.

23

Scott Lemieux 04.13.11 at 2:30 am

I could definitely see a countdown to ecstasy in the first round for the Rangers, even if they don’t have the firepower to be kings of the world in the long run. Lundqvist can shine like Japan and sparkle like China, while none of the Capitals goalies could be considered the pearl of Gallery Place/Chinatown. My major concern is that the Blueshirts can get really tight offensively; they need to throw out those gold teeth and see how they roll. Show biz kids, after all, don’t give a fuck about anybody else.

Meanwhile, Habs/Bruins, that’s not old school, that’s the school they burned down to build my old school! I think they’ll be bringing back the Boston Rag after the series.

24

Peter S 04.13.11 at 4:38 am

We were keen followers of the Stanley Cup around 1970.
I didn’t understand a word of this thread. :(

25

Hugh Gino Neal 04.13.11 at 11:20 am

Don’t mock the faith! Have you no respect for religion, you
unregenerate Wop? What’s it matter if the truth is that their
favoring breeze has the stink of nickel whiskey on its breath, and
their sea is a growler of lager and ale, and their ships are long
since looted and scuttled and sunk on the bottom? To hell with the
truth! As the history of the world proves, the truth has no
bearing on anything. It’s irrelevant and immaterial, as the
lawyers say.

26

Michael Bérubé 04.13.11 at 12:02 pm

So, Hugh, you’re saying that the Bruins will win game one in a blowout? Or that it’ll be more like a long day’s journey into triple overtime?

27

JP Stormcrow 04.13.11 at 1:18 pm

Or that it’ll be more like a long day’s journey into triple overtime?

Shorter Hugh Lemieux: Don’t Stop Believin’

28

Michael Bérubé 04.13.11 at 3:17 pm

Scott’s right about the Rangers’ offense — in the Thrashers game, they opened the way all the pros play the game, like they thought no tomorrow would come, and Atlanta barely touched the puck. But they couldn’t score, so they kind of wilted from that point on. And if you’re not willing to do the dirty work, especially in front of the net on the power play, you usually wind up like a castle in its corner in a medieval game. Don’t forget that these Rangers are young and impatient, and some of them haven’t learned yet not to celebrate Sunday on a Saturday night.

As for Habs/Bruins, I don’t know. Max Pacioretty is a shadow of the man that I once knew, and I can’t imagine that the Habs wouldn’t want to collect everything they’re owed. But as Sean @ Down Goes Brown notes, “The Canadiens would love to get some payback against Zdeno Chara if they weren’t being held back by arbitrary rules, like the instigator penalty and also the basic laws of physics.”

29

spyder 04.13.11 at 9:48 pm

Last year we had traditional hockey powerhouses actually battling it out for the cup. This year, we get more teams from California than Canada. California! And one from Florida! At least the Sharks vs Kings will eliminate one of them (Kings?).

And Michael, picking the Lightning over the Penquins? Do you not have tickets? Are you too busy with the MLA? Sacre bleu!

30

Salient 04.14.11 at 10:52 pm

Random fact: You are now google’s #4 search result for “rodent, ruminant and pachyderm” but have been beaten out by a recently assembled joint venture between four previously rival organs, whatever that is.

I didn’t dare check “moaning multitude” though.

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