Lighthouse NHL playoffs picks & pulls

[Note: This post was for Round 1. A review of these 1st-round picks appears here. Some 2nd-round picks from myself and at least one other contributor (in comments) appears here. And here is the 2nd-round review and 3rd-round picks. Thanks for reading.]

Whether we're in the playoffs or not, I love this time of year, period. The Finals have to feature two teams I truly, truly detest for me not to watch the hoisting of the Cup at the end, and every possible episode in between.

There is a three-page rider in my pre-nup that specifically addresses the period from mid-April to early June, and without that brilliantly worded clause provided by my toll-free attorney, I'd be an even poorer man today.

NHL Playoffs Blog Coverage, Schedule and Scores - SB Nation

I have this tradition on the opening evening, before the first game starts: Close the windows, turn on the stereo [note: a pre-iPod audio device] and play at ear-splitting volume track 9 from Tool's "Undertow" CD [note: a pre-iPod storage unit for recorded media]. I don't even know what the song's name is, I just know that ever since that "album" [note: a pre-i -- awww, whatever] came out, this track featured the perfect slow-build-to-hyperspeed intensity that matched the adrenaline-fueled, two-month journey of the NHL playoffs. ... and brought out my inner teen

Anyway, just because the Islanders are out doesn't mean I'm not invested (in fact, as dual-citizen bigamist fan, I'm very invested). But with a thousand previews out there, I'll keep this brief(ish) and fan-craze focused. I'll just make a pick and divulge my underlying rooting biases -- so that you know why I'm frequenting St. Louis Game Time until the bitter end, or lighting incense in the basement to bring about a Capsitals sweep of the Rangers.

I'd love to hear your rooting interests for any and all series, as it's fun to hear people's reasons for "staying with it" after all is lost for their own team.

Note: I'm putting this up as a FanPost (that's the right-margin section of this site where everybody can post their own mini-blogs); that way it stays on the main page longer and preserves my stupidity as each series progresses.

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Boston (Stanley Cup of Chowder) vs. Montreal (Habs Eyes on the Prize)

Head says: Boston has the better team, top to bottom. Tim Thomas has more crunch-time mojo. Montreal has been thoroughly uninspiring, even during their late "run" to retain a playoff position. This year, finally, the Bruins are for real. Boston in 5.

Heart says: Montreal has historically owned too much of this rivalry. Last year would have been perfect to do a 1-v.-8 upset to turn the tables, but it fell heartbreakingly short. 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. If the B's lost this series, could their fans ever recover? On the other hand, Boston fans have become obnoxious in most sports. I'd hate to see the bandwagoners spoil loyal Bruins fans' party. Still, down with the Habs!

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Washington (Japers' Rink) vs. Short Island Smurfs (Blueshirt Banter)

Head says: Tortorella didn't get enough time to make the Rangers as dangerous as they could be under his tutelage. 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 says: I'd like to see the Caps deliver while their window is open, so I hope they at least win a series or two. But 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.

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New Jersey (In Lou We Trust) vs. Carolina (Canes Country)

Head Says: Holy hell, what to make of this one? Will the Devils find that switch again? Will the Hurricanes finally cool off? Picking this series makes me nervous. The head says the Devils will pull it out like they usually do, but damn, Carolina was firing the final month plus. Maybe the Devils were just subconsciously in half-speed mode -- like the end of last season, which did not end well -- knowing the playoff war that lay ahead. Carolina in 6, after which Peter Karmanos says they wouldn't have won under Laviolette.

Heart Says: I have little feeling or sentiment for either of these teams. In general, I like it when southern hockey succeeds and pisses off the self-righteous, so there's that reason to root for the Hurriwhale. But I also still have a soft spot for Brent Sutter, even if he has no feelings whatsoever for the present-day Islanders franchise. It should be a great series, but I have little historical attachment to either, which in the first round means they probably don't make my radar much. Versus doesn't care much about this series, and for once I can empathize.

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Pittsburgh (Pensburgh) vs. Philadelphia (Broad Street Hockey)

Head Says: Egads, forget Montreal-Boston, this one will be epic, the way a 4-v.-5 should be. The Battle of Pennsylvania is in effect, y'all, and somebody's getting wrecked ... or something. These teams are widely expected to destroy each other. Not sure how Pittsburgh will respond to inevitable adversity the first time they face it under Bylsma. But 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 Says: Okay, confession time. Ever since Mario Lemieux became a Penguin, I've had a soft spot for that franchise. Although I loved every moment of the Islanders' 1993 upset, years later I actually felt guilty -- yeah, I know! -- for cheering on the demise of what I didn't realize then would be Lemieux's last best shot at the Cup. It actually haunts me that the magical run brought an end to Super Mario's Cup cupboard. There, I said it. I'm fully rooting for the Pens.

Western Conference

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San Jose (Fear the Fin) vs. Anaheim Ducks (Battle of Cali)

Head says: Wow, Anaheim rediscovered its game after the trade deadline. Did all those for-the-future moves introduce enough fresh blood to remind the Ducks what they're playing for? And here is San Jose, regular season juggernaut with playoff ghosts lingering in the background. Still, they're too strong. Sharks in 6.

Heart says: 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 at Battle of California and Fear the Fin. 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.

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Detroit (Winging it in Motown) vs. Columbus (The Cannon)

Head Says: I'm sorry to say that Detroit has seen this movie before, and it's name is Nashville. As much as I will cheer the Wings' inevitable demise, I don't think it happens here. The BJ's inexperience will fail them. Wings in 6.

Heart Says: My Blues interests date back to a time when Chicago was the hated rival and Detroit was just a poorly attended Norris Division doormat. But is there any reason whatsoever to not wish the Wings a fiery collapse amid carnage and woe? Uh, no. First-timers Columbus vs. cap-fudging Detroit? Make it happen, Hitch.

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 Vancouver (Nucks Misconduct) vs. St Louis (St. Louis Game Time)

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). I've watched them tear up the league down the stretch with a paper-thin margin of error each game. The stats say they shouldn't do it, but the spirit says they can. For their fans, they can avenge 2003 -- the year Doug Weight called his best shot at a Cup (before Carolina) -- when they had a 3-1 series lead on the Orcas before the flu bug decimated the Blues and turned them into, well, Canucks.  This time, it's Blues in 7. (If I picked anything else, I'd never be welcome at SLGT again.)

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Chicago (Second City Hockey) vs. Calgary (Matchsticks and Gasoline)

The inexperienced up-and-comers vs. the struggling Keenans. Mikka is not Mikka 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.

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, I hope they meet the Blues afterward, and I hope their roster is torn apart by the Flames first.

Well, that's it. That's where my head and my heart lies in the first round. If you'll be watching -- and I think you're crazy if you'll watch Isles hockey but not this -- then I'd love to hear what you think. Analysis or pure rooting partisanship is equally welcome.

Meanwhile, I'll revisit these before Round 2 to make fun of how wrong I was.

<em>Submitted FanPosts do not necessarily reflect the views of this blog or SB Nation. If you're reading this statement, you pass the fine print legalese test. Four stars for you.</em>