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The Islanders could totally take the entire* Western playoff field out

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*okay, except for the Sharks.

I don't follow college sports, but thanks to their ubiquity in our media landscape (doesn't that phrase "media landscape" evoke images of hills and valleys with green TVs and creeks of newspapers?), I'm vaguely aware that there is disappointment with their way of ranking basketball and football teams, yes? That in football particularly, much is made of which team beat which team that beat which team, because the schedule is so limited that you have little data to go on?

I know there are other factors at work (for example, in the NHL, losing 37 games in regulation gets you SQUAT!, no matter who you beat, even in the East). But still: The Islanders are 6-2 in the last two seasons against the remaining contenders in the Western Conference playoffs. Not only that, they've outscored the Red Wings, Blackhawks, Canucks and Sharks by a combined 27-18. (Alright fine: One win over the Canucks was a shootout.) Their two losses were against the Sharks.

So yeah, if the Islanders could only make the playoffs and then make it to the finals, they'd totally win (because we all know the Sharks are "chokers" and wouldn't make it to the finals anyway, right?). Detroit hasn't even scored on them in two years. Vancouver maybe could, but their media always prints a bunch of stupid stuff to piss the Isles off. So just put me in charge of the BCS ... do a little math ... carry the three ... Islanders win!

But did I mention getting through the East first? Yeah, the Islanders were 5-11-4 this season against the East's remnants of Flyers, Bruins, Penguins and Canadiens. On second thought, I hate the BCS. The NHL should probably go with a playoff format.

Blackhawks-Canucks: The Sequel

I am of that church where I know Roberto Luongo is an elite goalie but I also know he is quite fallible, as even Dominik Hasek and Patrick Roy were. So while he can steal games, he can also implode in pivotal games and give up fat rebounds to allow Olympic gold-medal games to go to overtime so as to allow Sidney Crosby to attain his manifest destiny.

That said, I have no idea what Antti Niemi can bring. I long figured he'd carry the load instead of Huet -- but what faint praise is that, really? So Niemi is unknown. Luongo is pretty much known, but not without the ability to, in the parlance of our times, crap the bed. And the Canucks are without Willie Mitchell, while Brian Campbell returns some depth and powerplay acumen to the Hawks blueline.

My inclination is to say the Hawks take this in 6, but it's probably going to turn on which goalie does what (and which knee-jerk stories follow), which offensive stars do what special things at what special moments, and which defensemen mitigate the other team's glorious forwards for the right game or two.

Behind the bench, Joel Quenneville appears well-versed in mid-series adjustments, but he's certainly had his share of failures with good teams. I think I can trust the Hawks to stay more disciplined than the Canucks, though. Then there's that horrid Canucks PK during the Kings series -- was that for real, or a fluke and a collision with Jack Johnson finally becoming a swell complement to Drew Doughty?

So many factors to consider. For a concise insightful preview of all second-round series, check this one out at Copper & Blue. For me, Head Says: Hawks in six. Heart Says: Oh man ... do I have to pick a side? I won't be surprised -- nor pleased -- by any result.

P.S. Yes, I know at the start of the playoffs in our playoff pool I picked Vancouver over Chicago for this round. That was probably a goaltending-based decision or something. Maybe I didn't expect Campbell back yet -- yeah, that's the ticket.

Note: If you like to vote early and vote often, our other series polls are at the following links: Penguins-Canadiens | Bruins-Flyers | Sharks-Red Wings