Well, it's all over. March (and into early April) Madness has come to a close, Kansas was crowned as National Champions, stars rose (welcome to the first round of the draft, Stephen Curry), and some fell (stay at USC for another year, OJ Mayo).
So what now? Well, let's see... baseball is a week into the season, the NBA and NHL playoffs are about to begin, and the NFL draft is only a few weeks away - No lull here!
Ahhh baseball. My beloved Red Sox are off to a mediocre start (4-4), but I am confident they will bounce back, after all, the Tigers are 0-7 after everyone and their mother picked them for a monster year. As much as I love baseball, it's hard for me to get really into it until at least summer, when the games feel like they start to matter more.
The NHL playoffs are ready to begin, and since most of my friends are hockey-fanatics, I figure I'll write a bit about it, so here goes!
First Round match-ups:
Montreal Canadiens-Boston Bruins
I'm from Boston, but I have little faith in the Bruins. I hate Jeremy Jacobs (WHO trades a league MVP in the middle of the season?), and until he is gone I will NEVER bet on the Bruins.
Go Habs, 4 games to 2.
ACTUAL: Habs in 7
Pittsburgh Penguins-Ottawa Senators
I won't bet against Sydney Crosby, and with a supporting cast of points-leader Evgeni Malkin (second in the league behind Ovechkin), Marc-Andre Fleury, Sergei Gonchar, Marian Hossa et all, I think they will cruise past the Sens. Ottawa who started off hot, but are ice-cold as of late, with shaky goaltending, lack of scoring and playing without Daniel Alfredsson and and Mike Fisher.
There is one major reason I will root against Pitt, but we really don't need to get into that.
Pens 4 games to 1
ACTUAL: Pens in a sweep
Washington Capitals-Philadelphia Flyers
If I picked anyone but the Caps, my friends would kill me. Led by likely Hart Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin, who plays with as much HART (heh heh) as anyone in the league, the Caps enter the playoffs having won 11 of their last 12 games, which always puts a team in a great mindset going into the playoffs (refer to: Colorado Rockies, circa 2007). Plus, having Mike Green's breakout season, possible ROY Nicklas Backstom's talent, and recently acquired Sergei Federov's playoff experience doesn't hurt either. Caps possible downfall? Lack of experience in net, with Huet taking the place of Olie Kolzig (Whose only injury, I was informed, is his pride).
It will be a close, ugly, physical battle, but Ovie will lift his boys to the second round in game 7.
Caps 4 games to 3.
ACTUAL: Flyers in 7, much to the dismay of my Caps season ticket-holding friends.
NJ Devils-NY Rangers
I swear this is a matchup every single year. NJ-NY, the media tries to make it out to be a battle, but no one outside of the tri-state area cares. The Devils are good, but boring as usual, and the Rangers are good, and the aura of the Rangers stands firm. Both teams depend on their goalie to stand on his head each night, and Martin Brodeur (NJ) and Henrik Lundqvist(NY) Mmmm Henrik Lundqvist mmmm, oh sorry, I got distracted... um, what was I saying? Oh yeah, they are both exceptional in net, but you can't bet against Marty in the playoffs.
The Rangers are led by Chris Drury, who you can never bet against on a big stage (GO BU!), Jaromir Jagr, who though past his prime, is playing his best hockey of the season, and Scott Gomez, though he's been slowed by injuries as of late. On the other side of the puck, NJ is led by... um... Zach Parise? Are you serious? The little squirt from the University of North Dakota is the leading scoring on the New Jersey Devils, with only 65 points? OUCH Brodeur will definitely need to step it up, seeing as how his team was shut out a franchise-high 11 times this season.
A team depending solely on a goaltender, against a team of hard-nosed grinders who also have a good goal tender, but also scoring to back it up?
Rangers 4 games to 2 (By the way, the Rangers were 7-1, with 3 OT wins and 1 OT loss, against the Devs this year. I'm just saying...)
ACTUAL: Rangers in 5
(wait, there's a Western Conference in the NHL? You're telling me there are HOCKEY teams in Texas, Arizona and California?)
Detroit Red Wings-Nashville Predators
Detroit is probably the only West team anyone outside of the West (ie 85% of hockey fans) cares about. They are also the top seed in the West, thus Nashville is the lowest. Yes, Nashville finished 3-3-2 against the Wings this season, but that wasn't the playoffs.
Nicklas Lindstrom, Dan Cleary, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Brian Rafalski and co. were the top scoring team and the top power play unit in the leagues, will have an easy go against the the inexperienced and much less talented Preds.
Wings in 5.
ACTUAL: Wings in a suprising 6
San Jose Sharks-Calgary Flames
The Sharks have Joe Thornton, and this is their year to take it all. Evgeni Nabokov is arguably the strongest goaltender in the league, Patrick Marleau had 19 points in his final 20 games after truggling through most of the season, and Billy Guerin, an all-time fav of mine, add a certain je nes-se-qua to the Sharks.
Jerome Iginla had another stellar 50-goal season, but he doesn't have too much surrounding him, and he bears most of the Flames' scoring burden himself (Kristian Huselius, the second highest scorer on the team, has a whopping 32 points less than Iggy).
I like Thornton and company, and I know they are probably the best team in the league top-to-bottom, but if another California team is in the Stanley Cup Finals, the league will be doomed to 10 more years on Versus... I'm just being honest, and everyone knows it. For the good of the league, Joe, get the hell out of Cali and back up to Canada! PLEASE!
That said, San Jose in an easy 5
ACTUAL: Sharks in a shocking 7
Minnesota Wild-Colorado Avalanche
HEY! Two states in the Western Conference that actually SHOULD have hockey teams!
The Avs barely made the playoffs, having to go 5-0-1 in their last 6 just to qualify. Minnesota plays strong, confident, steady, if un-exciting, hockey - but in the playoffs, that tends to be what wins games.
Colorado depends on stars like goalie Jose Theodore (who has really stepped up in the final 20 or so games of the season, and is the main reason Colorado is even IN the playoffs), Paul Statsny (71 points) Joe Sakic (who is years past his prime, but is still the "emotional leader" of the team), Peter Forsberg (seriously? I thought he was still in Sweden), Adam Foote (I think I'm looking at the roster from 1999)... while Minnesota has no real stand outs, but steady scoring from Marian Gaborik, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Brian Rolston (another all-time fav of mine) but steady play all around. But I don' t think they can withstand the
Boring series, Minnesota 4 games to 2
ACTUAL: Avs in 6, and CORRECTION! I put Minnesota as my pick, which was not what I meant. I knew the Avs would win -- oops!
Anaheim (No more Mighty) Ducks-Dallas Stars
Conversation with my friend M, a HUGE hockey fan:
J: Wait! They play hockey in California?
M: Yeah, damn good hockey too
J: But... If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?
That is how I think of the Western Conference... these are supposedly the superior teams, but NO ONE CARES, and because of that, NO ONE watches the Stanley Cup Finals besides the fans of the teams playing, and a few die-hard hockey fans. Wait, the Ducks won the title last year? Really?! NO ONE CARES
That said, Dallas is on a roll entering the playoffs, and Anaheim is a dismal 4-8-2.
DALLAS in 7, 4 games to 3.
ACTUAL: Stars in 6