Where’s Jim Mora when you need him?
Okay, okay, so the reference has probably been beaten to death every single season for every sport since Mora’s famous outburst. The fact remains, however, that the playoffs are bearing down upon us. While the field has yet to be set, we do have a pretty good idea of who is going to be in the big show. We’ll be rating the potential playoff match ups on our newly patented Mora-Meter. One Mora would be the equivalent of watching the World Series of Gin Rummy played on ESPN (my guess as to what the next program to move into the Worldwide Leader instead of hockey) while five Mora’s would be a series that would lead to so much excitement that it would drive Jim Mora into a frenzy that would leave him frothing at the mouth.
So here you have it. The playoff match ups, if the playoffs started today, complete with the new and improved Mora-Meter!
#1 San Jose Sharks v. #8 Nashville Predators
Analysis: The Nashville Predators are like that kid in high school that you never wanted to hang out with, but always somehow ended up getting invited wherever you went. Over the last few seasons the Preds have been the whipping boy of the NHL, more specifically from Canadian fans, about how southern expansion just flat out doesn’t work. The bottom line is, however, that the Preds continue to put a good package on the ice and continue to make the playoffs no matter what. In this series, they’d be running up against a Sharks team that will be hellbent to prove that they can perform in the playoffs. I don’t envy anyone in the position that the Preds are in, but if anyone can pull off a first round upset, it’s them. This could be an intriguing series; however, it could just as easily be a case of the Sharks doing their thing and the Predators hanging on for dear life.
#2 Detroit Red Wings v. #7 Anaheim Ducks
Analysis: The last time these two teams met in the playoffs, the Ducks bounced the Wings en route to a Stanley Cup Championship. Can anyone think of anything more intriguing than the last two Stanley Cup Champions facing off and in the first round no less? The biggest swing in this match up is that the Ducks still play like they’re the class bully, while the Red Wings bully teams by skating circles around them. What makes this series even more interesting is the fact that the Wings and the Ducks quite simply don’t like each other. Lest we forget Chris Pronger attempting to remove Tomas Holmstrom’s head from his body, amongst other things transpiring between the two teams that cultivated the bad blood in their last post season meeting. The Red Wings always seem to be a step ahead of the NHL; however, this season, their goaltending could be their Achillies Heel and with a potent Ducks powerplay, it would make for some great playoff hockey.
#3 Vancouver Canucks v. #6 Columbus Blue Jackets
Analysis: Is it bad that there’s a large part of me that really wants Vancouver to slide down so that Calgary takes this spot? I mean, let’s be honest. I’m a Wild fan. I have no vested interest in the playoffs to mention at the moment (maybe by the last game of the season…A guy can dream, right?) so I don’t really care who wins the division, other than the fact that I just want to watch an entertaining playoff series. To me, there would be no more interesting series than a Flames/Jackets and Canucks/’Hawks series, because the teams just don’t like each other. But I digress. In this one, honestly, there’s not really any appreciable storylines to speak of, nor do either of the teams play extremely exciting hockey. On one side, the Blue Jackets are almost 100% playoff un-tested (save for a few players), while the ‘Nucks have some star players with a propensity to do a disappearing act in the playoffs. All of this adds up to a series that could prove to be pretty uneventful; though worth watching to watch how the Jackets respond to playoff hockey.
#4 Chicago Blackhawks v. #5 Calgary Flames
Analysis: As much as I would love to watch the ‘Hawks fight play the ‘Nucks, I think this series would be extremely entertaining to watch. First, you have a rematch in net of the ’03-’04 Cup Finals (Kipper v. Bulin), then you’ve got two teams with some very dynamic players (Kane, Toews and Havlat v. Iginla, Cammalleri and Jokinen) and finally you’ve got two teams with some fantastic defensemen (Seabrook and Keith v. Phaneuf and Regher). This could become the best series in the first round if it stays this way. Plus, if Phaneuf keeps playing the way he has been, you could find yourself looking at a very formidable “sloppy” second defensive pairing of Phaneuf and Leopold. Sorry. Couldn’t resist.
#1 Boston Bruins v. #8 Montreal Canadiens
Analysis: How’s this for a role reversal? The exact match up of last season’s first round, just with home ice turned around. If both teams are on their game, this could be an exciting series to watch. The problem is that both teams have battled inconsistency since the All Star Break. The biggest thing to look forward to, however, is that these two teams always get up to play one another. Look at last season’s first round. A seven-game slugfest that was probably the most entertaining series in all the playoffs. Plus, there’s also always the chance that you could hear Jack Edwards’ maniacal laugh again. That in and of itself is reason enough to watch. All of this equals one amazingly entertaining first round series.
#2 Washington Capitals v. #7 New York Rangers
Analysis: Honestly, this is another that I wish was a little different, but beggars can’t be choosers, right? This one, well, this could be interesting. On one end you’ve got the Caps’ unbelievable offens and on the other you’ve got the Rangers’ unbelievable goaltender. Coach John Tortorella has helped the Rangers find their game again; however, can he put a stop to the attack of the Capitals? On the other side of things, you’ve got the Rangers’ aneimic offense squaring off against the Caps’ inconsistent goalie. This could either be a very high scoring series or a series where you get nothing at all. Any series pitting a high powered offense against a solid goaltender, however, can prove to be a fun series to watch.
#3 New Jersey Devils v. #6 Carolina Hurricanes
Analysis: Ok. So can someone please explain to me if the Devils are just coasting to the playoffs or if something is going on and when, exactly, Lou is going to place himself behind the bench yet again? Alright. I feel better now. Now that I’ve said my piece, this could be a very one sided series if the Devils don’t right the ship and quick. The ‘Canes have had success against Newark’s finest this season, and if the Devils back into the playoffs this could get ugly quick. Looking at the potential match up, the ‘Canes match up quite nicely against the Devil and have the hot hand. Both teams have a solid defense and an under rated offense. There should be some very tightly contested games in this series and some good, physical play.
#4 Philadelphia Flyers v. #5 Pittsburgh Penguins
Analysis: The Broadstreet Bullies against the NHL’s wunderkid. I don’t see how it could get much better than this; a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference Finals. The Flyers were ran out of town by the Pens in the ECF last season, but this is also a Flyers team that has gained a lot more character since then, not in turnover of players but just in experience. The big question mark for both teams is definitely in net and, in all honesty, that could lead to a very entertaining series. These two teams are also division rivals and flat out don’t like each other. That’s good enough in my book!
So there you have it. My thoughts on the current playoff picture.
Also, coming next week will be the first intrim show of Wild Nation. Join myself and Nick in New York next week as we talk about all things Wild! We will have a time and date set for our first show sometime this weekend.