Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Race for the Cup

I watched the TSN Playoff Previews show and I can't say that I disagree with any of the predictions put out for the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. I have to say that it hurts me to say this because there's a deep internal struggle that I feel between what my heart wants and what my head thinks.

My head totally agrees with Montreal being beat by Washington, Ottawa being beat by Pittsburgh and I even have my doubts about the Vancouver Canucks making it past round one. My heart doesn't want to see it happen, though. I don't want to see all the Canadian teams get beaten out in the first round and to end up with the typical all star dogfight that generally comes out of the playoffs.

But it's going to happen. Inevitably, there's going to be the Crosby-Ovechkin saga playing out again, the Brodeur-Miller fight for the best goalie, the Toews-Kane line out to kill, and the debate about whether or not the Sharks will tank once again in the first round and whether the old warhouse Detroit Red Wings still has it.

There is the potential for a couple of spoilers. There are some surprise teams that nobody really expected to see in the playoffs at all that have the potential: Phoenix, Nashville and LA. Phoenix has made the most surprising leap of all in the standings, a considerable feat given the fact that at the beginning of the season, they didn't even know if they would be able to play. They were giving away seats to fans and the summer-long smackdown between Bettman and Balsillie kept everyone guessing right up until the end. Nashville, a place known more for its country music than for professional sports, also made a surprise rise in the standings. And LA has shown a lot of promise with young stars like Doughty and Quick.

There are 3 factors that come into play in the post-season: statistics, superstitions and confidence. Statistics is the most logical way to smartly predict which teams will place where in the finals. But they don't say it all. You can't possibly compare the 82 regular season games with the pace of a quick-fire, high pressure tournamant series. Given those circumstances, the most cool, calm and collected teams have been known to crack.

Superstition is also a huge factor. If you follow the logic that the team with the most regular season wins (Washington) always gets booted out of the first round, or that you can't paint your captain with the Cup before you win it (Chicago) and then the beards (everyone over the age of 23 who can do more than dirty mustache line), well, it's all up in the air.

EA Sports has predicted that the final Stanley Cup showdown will be between Chicago and Washington with Toews lifting the Cup at the final. But there is a lot of hockey to be played between now and then and so far, the stats and the confidence factors both play on their sides, but superstition does not. There are four rounds to go and anything can happen.

Including my heart winning over my head.

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