If I'm going to be so bold as to make Round 1 playoff picks, I should at least own up to them and laugh at how wrong I was.
In this case I think, "That's why they play the games" means not so much that games aren't decided on paper, but rather those who think they know what will happen shall be smacked upside the head by reality.
Foolish or no, it's still fun to guess. For the first round in each series I made a rational pick ("Head") and a pick based on rooting interests ("Heart," aka "Rangers suck and will be swept!"). For winners and losers, I was about average: I missed
the lone upset (whoops, technically Carolina's win was also an "upset," although obviously I didn't see it that way), and the one unlikely upset pick I did make was foolishly straight from the heart. My reasoning, however ... a bit unsound. We'll start with the Decent, then proceed to the Ugly:
Chicago vs. Cal and Gary (4-2)
Head Said: "Miikka is not Miikka anymore. Khabi is still Khabi. The Flames are wounded and slumping. Olli is an unknown -- always has been, always will be. Hawks in 6, with a return of Iron Mike Meltdown."
Heart Said: "While I cannot in good conscience root for Hawks -- ever -- I did want them to return to respectability and re-establish the Hawks-Blues rivalry. I hope they win, and I hope they meet the Blues afterward..."
Reality: Send me to Vegas, baby, I am a genius! The Head nails it! Average Miika, great Khabi and a whiny Keenan! (The heart was a bit off -- particularly that "meet the Blues" part.) Alas, you'll soon learn, "Hawks in 6" was as close to prescient as I would get.
Washington vs. New York (4-3)
Head: "Washington has the firepower and decent enough goaltending to make this one smooth. Capitals in 6. Avery Sideshow resumes by the end of Game 2."
Heart: "This is the one spot where rivalry hatred overruns any sanity for me: Washington in a sweep, with the Rangers booed off the ice in Games 3 and 4."
Reality: No sweep, and the Avery Sideshow (rivaled only by the Torts sideshow, it turned out) didn't return until Game 5. Oh well, we can't always get what we want. Regarding "decent enough" goaltending, though: I was thinking that even if Jose imploded, Varlamaov could step in. So there's that, I guess.
New Jersey vs. Carolina (3-4)
Head: Carolina in 6, after which Peter Karmanos says they wouldn't have won under Laviolette.
Heart Says: "In general, I like it when southern hockey succeeds and pisses off the self-righteous ... It should be a great series, but I have little historical attachment to either, which in the first round means it probably won't make my radar much. Versus doesn't care much about this series, and for once I can empathize."
Reality: It took 7, but I have to say this wasn't half-bad (haven't heard from Karmanos yet, though): It was a great series, and it did have trouble making both my and Versus' radar (they didn't even switch to Game 7's 3rd period after the Caps game ended!). Despite my lack of feeling for either team, every minute I did see was excellent. I'm still speechless at the way Game 7. That is the kind of turn that haunts you for a generation.
Boston vs. Montreal (4-0)
Head: "This year, finally, the Bruins are for real. Boston in 5."
Heart: "I want Boston to win this one, both to get some ammo back on their historic rivals and to remind Montreal that it could use Mark Streit right about now. ... On the other hand, Boston fans have become obnoxious in most sports. I'd hate to see the bandwagoners spoil loyal Bruins fans' party"
Reality: Great success! (Granted, hardly a unique choice. And I should have said "sweep." And the irritation level of the Boston fan will be monitored closely, but so far so good.)
Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia (4-2)
Head: "...The Flyers' goaltending is a wild card, and their failure to seal home-ice advantage Sunday at home against the Rangers is a bad sign. I could go either way on this, but goaltending and home ice tells me Pittsburgh in 7."
Heart: "... There, I said it. I'm fully rooting for the Pens."
Reality: So, uh, yeah. I got the winner right and that's about it. I suppose Fleury was a big difference by making huge saves at pivotal moments, and you might say it would have gone 7 if not for the Penguins' wild Game 6 comeback. But picking the home team in seven games of a 4 vs. 5 is pretty unmoving. I suck.
Detroit vs. Columbus (4-0)
Head: "I'm sorry to say that Detroit has seen this movie before, and it's name is Nashville. ... The BJ's inexperience will fail them. Wings in 6.
Heart: "...Is there any reason whatsoever to not wish the Wings a fiery collapse amid carnage and woe? Uh, no."
Reality: Wow, even worse than anticipated. Columbus never even had a lead! They "pulled a Thrasher" in their playoff virgin experience, which sucks. At least the Columbus fans had fun.
San Jose vs. Anaheim (2-4)
Head: "...San Jose, regular season juggernaut with playoff ghosts lingering in the background. Still, they're too strong. Sharks in 6."
Heart: "At last, a true Battle of California! I don't care who wins, I just want it to go long so I can gawk at the banter ... Actually, I take that back: Anaheim had their glory, and San Jose's playoff flop reputation is as much built on chance as it is on reality. Go Sharks, but long series, please."
Reality: What was that about the playoff flop reputation? Okay, in truth, this was the Hiller Show, but I still got it dead wrong. I feel shame.
Vancouver vs. St. Louis (4-0)
Head and Heart: Irrevocably Intertwined. "I've watched St. Louis fight all season long through an Islanders-level of injuries (their total is smaller, but it does not include players like Freddy Meyer). ... The stats say they shouldn't do it, but the spirit says they can. This time, it's Blues in 7."
Reality: The less said about this, the better. Although for a sweep, every game was really close. (Wow, that sounds lame ... but still! It was close!)
And that is all. Tomorrow: More brilliant picks for Round 2 and a new Islander of Yesteryear...