PLAYOFFS 2008

April 9, 2008

Few things excite me more than the NHL playoffs. I won’t go as far as saying the Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to win (I mean, the NFL Playoffs demand perfection and it’s damn near impossible to make the MLB playoffs), but when you’ve got four seven-game hockey series, each a war in its own right, you can’t tell me they NHL Playoffs aren’t the biggest grind of all.

Are the Wings ready for it? Yes. Undeniably.

They might get beat — hell, it might even be in the first round to the NASHVILLE PREDATORS (although this thought makes me want to vomit) — but it won’t be because they’re not capable, or because they’re not ready. I’m so sick of the typical accusations (too old, too soft, too Euro, yada yada yada), and this year they’re out in full force.

This team comes to play every night. Mike Babcock just doesn’t mess around. Ever. He’s an absolute dick and it’s essential. The Red Wings win due to their puck-possession system and their skill, but ultimately, they win because they work harder than the other team.

Which gets to the physicality nonsense. Watch Datsyuk, at 5’10, go into the corners, and see who comes out with the puck. Same with Zetterberg. Watch Holmstrom, Franzen, Cleary in front of the net getting the shit beaten out of them and tell me this team isn’t physical. We’re not goons. We don’t get rattled. We don’t force shit just for the sake of it, even though Brad Stuart and Niklas Kronwall can hit with the best of them.

Teams try to pound us into submission and it doesn’t work (see: San Jose and Anaheim last year). Anaheim is a massive, towering team, and the Red Wings almost beat them last year — and without two of their top defensemen. They lost that series due to a defensive foible in the closing minutes of Game 5; had they won that game, they would’ve been one game from the Finals. So it wasn’t the Ducks being the toughest team in the league (which they are), it wasn’t our ability to play that game … it was that we just got beat.

Nothing rattles this team. They lost 11 of 14 games in February and didn’t flinch.

They’ve got solid and potentially great goaltending. Hasek doesn’t have to be the 1998 version of himself on this team, and that’s more than capable. (Also, remember Chris Osgood did have the best goals-against-average this year).

They’ve only lost in regulation once in the last nine games of the season. They allowed the fewest goals total this season. They’ve got two of the top six scorers in the league, some of the best defensive forwards in the game, and one of the deepest defensive corps in the league (and defense wins you championships). Their coach is an absolute asshole and makes sure the team plays every shift, every night. They’re deeper, faster, and grittier than they’ve been in years.

Injuries will, of course, always be a concern — but this applies to everyone. A Stanley Cup championship is as much a product of luck as it is hard work.

So, yeah, the Wings could get plastered. They could get embarassed by the Predators. But it will simply be because the Predators played better. All these comments about the Wings faults on paper are such bullshit, and frankly I’m tired of it. And at least our coach has a neck.

PREDICTION: Wings in six.

Yes, I can put the Ocho’s picture up even if I don’t think they’re going to win their series.

OTHER PREDICTIONS:

(2) San Jose v. (7) Calgary – SAN JOSE IN SIX
(3) Minnesota v. (6) Colorado – COLORADO IN SIX
(4) Anaheim v. (5) Dallas – ANAHEIM IN SEVEN

(1) Montreal v. (8) Boston – MONTREAL IN FIVE
(2) Pittsburgh v. (7) Ottawa – OTTAWA IN SEVEN*
(3) Washington v. (6) Philadelphia – PHILADELPHIA IN SIX**
(4) New Jersey v. (5) NY Rangers – NEW JERSEY IN SIX

* = I realize this is a ballsy pick. Truth be told, I don’t see  much in Pittsburgh’s D. This will come down to whether MAF can handle the playoffs last year — he looked shellshocked last year. But then again, OTT will be playing potentially w/o Alfredsson, and who knows what’s going to show up in net for them either.

** = This is a really hard series to call, to be honest. I think Philadelphia is a more structurally good team, especially on defense (tho Mike Green is a stud for the CAPS). It’s hard to deny the momentum of Washington and the absolute unstoppable force that is Alexander Ovechkin, but for some reason I don’t see them advancing. But, yeah, I hope I’m wrong. I love this team, and I love AO.

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