The Colonel's Calculations
The Colonel made his picks using a stat-based approach. First, he looked at the regular season performances of the five post-Lockout Stanley Cup Champs. Their stats average out as follows:
Wins per 5 games: 3.36
Shots For/Shots Against: 32/27
Cup winners outscored opponents in every period, but greatest goal differential to lowest was (by period): 3rd, 1st, 2nd
Teams also got a big boost if they won at least 7 of their last 10 games.
With the above factors in mind, The Colonel's first round picks for 2011 are:
Capitals over Rangers
Canucks over Blackhawks
Sharks over Kings
Sabres over Flyers
Bruins over Canadiens
Coyotes over Red Wings
Ducks over Predators
Lightning over Penguins
Big Tex's Guts
When it comes to the playoffs, Yours Truly likes to throw cold, hard numbers out the window and go with a gut call. With a minimum of verbiage, here are my first round winners and losers, and why:
Capitals over Rangers - As a passionate Rangers fan, it pains me to make this call. If the Blueshirts' oh-so-talented youngsters had more experience, if Marian Gaborik were...Marian Gaborik, and most importantly, if Ryan Callahan were healthy, this series goes to New York. Chin up, Rangers fans - this team is going to make some playoff noise...in another year or two.
Canucks over Blackhawks - This is the year Vancouver gets past Chicago. The 'Hawks have plenty of talent, but not enough Ladd, Burish or Byfuglien to beat the Canucks this time around. And let's face it: it took a truly crapulent 0-3-3 run by the Stars from 19 MAR - 2 APR for Chicago to even make it into the playoffs. I like the Blackhawks, but they're not worthy.
Sharks over Kings - No Kopitar, no Williams, no brainer. San Jose will be Vancouver's biggest obstacle on the road to the Cup.
Flyers over Sabres - The Sabres are red-hot coming into the playoffs, while the Flyers appear to have stumbled in like a drunk coming home to the wrong house. Nonetheless, this is the playoffs, and the Sabres still reside in the city of Buffalo, which was (apparently) built on an ancient indian burial ground and is thus accursed. Flyers win without even sobering up.
Bruins over Canadiens - The Habs will be one-and-done simply because A) Boston is just that good, and B) Vancouver needs to bear the burden of being The Only Canadian Team Remaining In The Stanley Cup Playoffs, a.k.a. Canada's Last Hope, for three full playoff rounds. Suck it up, Canuckleheads.
Red Wings over Coyotes - The Hated Red Wings win this series not because Phoenix isn't worthy, but because I desperately want Phoenix to win. And because Phoenix desperately needs to win a playoff round (or four). Detroit, The Destroyer Of All That Is Good In My Hockey World, in three. Yes, three.
Predators over Ducks - Speaking of teams which desperately need to win a playoff round...fortunately, Nashville gets to bypass Detroit in the first round. Jordin Tootoo goes all Jeff Gillooly on Corey Perry in Game One, and it's all downhill from there.
Lightning over Penguins - No Crosby, no Malkin, no brainer. How y'all liking that Neal & Niskanen for Goligoski trade now, Pittsburgh? As the late, great Johnny Cash said, "Well, I fooled you/I fooled you/I got pig iron/I got pig iron/I got aaallll pig iron".
So there it is, folks: statistical calculations vs. plain ol' guts. Within two weeks, we'll know which one is better. In the meantime, we got us some playoff hockey to watch. In the immortal words of Marvin Gaye, "Let's Get It On."
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