NHL Picks: 2nd-round review, 3rd round guesses

So I retreated to the woods before getting my third-round playoff picks up, but I made myself promise not to change my "projections," Soviet New Five Year Plan-style, even if Chicago pulled an upset in Game 1. So much for that worry.

The Red Wings' decisive Game 1 win changed nothing, as my head had Detroit in 6 (even if my heart wants the Winged Wheel to go down), and Pittsburgh in 7.

But before getting to the rationale for my "head/heart" Conference finals picks, a quick review of where my second-round picks went wrong, and where they went right. Once again, I'm only batting 75%. As always, feel free to play along or share your rooting interests in the next round. (Pre-trash talk to Isles Official, for his counter-argument last round: Pppthhhhhttt!) 

[Reviews, picks and quips after the jump]

Vancouver-Chicago (2-4)

What I thought then:

With Sundin an afterthought and Demitra being [Playoff Perimeter Pavol], the Canucks become a one-line team who rely too heavily on a defensive orb around Roberto Luongo while waiting for counter-attack chances for their speedy forwards ... Hawks in 6.

Now: Look, ma, I got one right! Of course, that series was one very late Martin Havlat Game 4-tying goal away from turning quite differently, but we won't talk about that right now. I choose to believe karma dinged the Canucks for playing conservative in Games 3-4, which is not why hockey gods gave them a great goalie.

Detroit-Anaheim (4-3)

What I thought then:

The Ducks' discipline -- and how this series is called -- will also be pivotal. If the Ducks can get away with murder stay out of the box and Jonas Hiller continues to stand on his head, they can pull it off. Still, regretfully: Detroit in 7.

What I think now: Look, ma, I got another one right! I'm ready to gamble on hockey again! While Wings fans would whine say, with astute and hardly bandwagonly assessment, that the Ducks did get away with murder, I thought it was just seven games of typical playoff hockey. Hiller, sadly, returned to mortal human status, while Osgood continued to avoid a return of the Ozzie Choke. Bummer.

Washington-Pittsburgh (3-4)

What I thought then:

Head Says: ... Penguins in 6.

Heart Says: Honestly, as a fan, I enjoy both of these teams. I also watch teams learn and progress in their "moment." The Caps have already advanced beyond last year's sqaud, so I'll mildly pull for the Penguins and ol' Islanders captain Billy Guerin. But more than that: a seven-game series.

Now: My "head" prediction had the right team but the wrong series length. But my "heart" was right on: Long series, and each of these fun-to-watch teams gets to continue its natural evolution. I wouldn't mind seeing either East team win the Cup at this point.

While Pittsburgh outplayed Washington in this series, it still came down to a seventh game that might have gone either way but for two sweet Marc-Andre Fleury saves on Ovechkin when it was 0-0. Obviously, the Caps wilted. But I will not pretend the Game 7 slaughter suddenly changes everything about them.

Boston-Carolina (3-4)

Here's the ugly one. What I thought then:

I don't see either Tim Thomas or Cam Ward faltering: They may cancel each other out. And if they do, Boston seems to strong and too deep to fall. What the Canes did against the Devils, they should not be able to do against the B's. Bruins in 5.

Now: Um, yeah, about those TPS reports ... did I get the memo? Holy cow did I botch this. I picked the Canes to get past New Jersey in round 1, then foolishly abandoned Cam the God of Ward in round 2. I feel shame. Which brings me to more foolishness...

Conference Finals

Carolina3rd_medium           Pit-blade_medium

Carolina (SBN: Canes Country) vs. Pittsburgh (Pensburgh)

Head Says: Cam Ward scares me to death, particularly compared to Fleury, who has great moments mixed with sorrowful moments. And I'm not sure who on Pittsburgh will get to Eric Staal the way Chara was able to when matched against him. But Sidney Crosby is in top determined form, Sergei Gonchar should be healthy(ier), and add Malkin's game-changing ability to Crosby's and they ought to be able to win four games ... right?

Too close to call. This one feels destined for seven, but I'll say ... Pittsburgh in 7.

Heart Says: Like last round, I sort of want to see if Pittsburgh can get back to the finals and complete that Islanders/Edmonton-like narrative of "learning to win," which the media will surely then beat us over the head with. Revenge on the Wings would be sweet for them. I'm one of the few who wouldn't mind a Finals rematch.

But also, as I said before last round, should the Canes win:

Still, any Southern hockey success pleases me, as it goes against script and ticks off hockey's self-righteous. That's win-win there, baby.



Det-wheel_medium               Chi-feathers_medium

Norris Division Party: Detroit (Winging It in Motown) vs. Chicago (Second City Hockey)

Head Says: The Red Wings are not the Canucks or Flames. While Chicago looked excellent and exciting in the first two rounds against those two, the Red Wings are (sadly) on another plane. The only thing between the Hawks and a disappointing crash to the bandwagon is if Ugly Osgood returns. I don't count on that -- I couldn't be so lucky. Plus, Joel Quenneville is something like 0-for-25,000 against the Red Wings in playoff series, even now that Bowmanite is on his side. Detroit in 6.

Heart Says: Historically, I do not like either of these teams, the chief Norris rivals to my Cambell Conference Blues. It is like Rangers-Flyers: a choice between evils. A sudden drug scandal that suspended all of the players on each squad would be fine by me -- and worth every scar on the sport. Every positive I find in the elimination of one is undermined by the negative of the others' success. Please don't make me choose. I refuse. Lament. Ack! Make them go away.

If pushed at knifepoint, though, Chicago's revival is overdue and {gulp} good for the league. The best cheer I can muster: Don't Suck Hawks!

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