2011 NHL playoff predictions: 2nd Round

NHL Playoffs 2011The first round of the NHL Playoffs are officially over, and what a first round it was! I have to say it was the most exciting round of playoffs in any sport that I’ve watched in recent memory. When it came to my predictions, I did pretty well, getting 6 out of 8 series correctly; I even got a few series down to the number of games played. Let’s hope I can continue the trend. Here is my 1st round winners and losers, and below that, my 2nd round picks:

Called it: Vancouver (in 7), San Jose (in 6), Detroit, Nashville (in 6), Washington, Tampa Bay

Missed it: Philadelphia, Boston

Western Conference

After the grueling first round series against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Vancouver have to regroup quickly as they go head-to-head against the Nashville Predators. The Preds dangerous team who have just come off their first ever franchise playoff series win, are well rested and itching to get another series win under their belt. That being said, the Canucks are too strong of a team and are riding on their high from the game seven victory. It will be a tough one but I predict Canucks in 6.

I’m hesitant to pick the Sharks, who are going up against the perennial playoff powerhouse Detroit Red Wings, but I’m going to go with my heart and say the Sharks can pull out this victory. The team will have to dominate the series early and get Detroit on their heels, which is a tough task. If all goes well I say San Jose in 6.

Eastern Conference

The most exciting series in the Eastern Conference for me is the Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning. On the offensive side, it’ll be great to see Ovechkin/Semin go up against Lecavalier/Stamkos/St. Louis, so hopefully there will be no shortage of goals. I’d like to see the Caps take the next step and I think against the aging Roloson they can make him work for his wins. I say the Capitals in 7.

I spent the last seven games cheering against these Boston Bruins, but as with my Habs rooting, I’ll go for the team I hate less, yet again. Facing the not-so-impressive Philadelphia Flyers, the Bruins should take the experience they gained from the first round series and carry it onward to a victory over Philly and its revolving door of goalies. Bruins in 6.

NHL playoff predictions: 2011 edition

NHL Playoffs 2011It’s that time of year again. The NHL playoffs are about to begin and I must give you my predictions. Hopefully these ones actually stick this year. The match-ups look like they are going to be great and given how close the teams in the Western Conference were I think it may be a toss up.

Let me know what you think of my picks and share your own!

Western Conference

Vancouver vs. ChicagoThe Vancouver Canucks are my pick in this match-up but I wouldn’t count out the Blackhawks in this one either. Throughout the season the two have been relatively equal, with the Canucks taking an overtime victory and therefore the extra point. In the west, this is the match-up I’m most looking forward to. Canucks in 7.

San Jose vs. Los AngelesI’m taking the San Jose Sharks over the Kings even though they tend to disappoint me in the playoffs. The Kings, while young and exciting, are not quite in the Sharks territory yet in terms of experience, so I think they will take this as a learning experience and be back next season to compete. Sharks in 6.

Detroit vs. Phoenix As much as I’d like to see the Coyotes take this one, it’s always a tough choice to go against the Detroit Red Wings. This franchise is always a strong contender for the cup and this season is no different. Wings in 5.

Anaheim vs. NashvilleEven though the Ducks have the NHL’s leading goal scorer in Corey Perry, the Nashville Predators are my dark horse choice this season. If they can get by the Ducks this round I see them at least in the Western finals. Predators in 6.

Eastern Conference

Washington vs. New YorkThis first round matchup suits the Washington Capitals just fine. I’m often disappointed by cheering for them in the playoffs but unless the Rangers pull off a shocking upset I’ll take the Capitals in 6.

Philadelphia vs. BuffaloWith the Flyers coasting in to the playoffs I think the Buffalo Sabres can pull off the upset. It won’t be an easy series, especially in Philadelphia, but I think the Sabres have played hard down the stretch and with Ryan Miller between the pipes, anything can happen. Sabres in 7.

Boston vs. MontrealThis series is the most exciting one in the NHL for me. There is so much bad blood between the two teams it’s sure to be a great one. With the exception of one thumping the Montreal Canadiens have handled the Bruins pretty well this season, so I think they’ll continue that in the first round. Canadiens in 6. (note: I am not cheering for the Habs, I just believe they will win.)

Pittsburgh vs. Tampa BayAnother exciting series is shaping up in the middle of the Eastern Conference. It’s a tough one to call but I think the Tampa Bay Lightning have a chance to overtake the Crosby/Malkin-less Pens. Lightning in 6.

(Graphics thanks to NHL.com)

Leafs and Skills? Yes indeed!

A couple Sundays ago (Nov. 14.2010), the girlfriend and I went down to the Air Canada Centre to watch the Leafs Skills Competition. I received a couple snarky comments on Facebook and Twitter when I mentioned “Leafs” and “Skills” in the same sentence, but I have to say it was definitely skill-filled, and entertaining. Of course the main point of the whole day was to raise money for charity, and they ended up raising $90,000 that will benefit the MLSE Team Up Foundation and the NHLPA Goals And Dreams Fund.

Sitting in the lower bowl, which is a rarity for me at the ACC, we got to watch eight skill testing events + other entertainment, which included crazy guys dressed up in old school goalie outfits skating around the rink, body-checking each other to victory; a kids hockey match which was exciting and hilarious to watch as they couldn’t stay on their feet; and the best of all was the human bowling event, featuring the blue crew (aka hockey cheerleaders) – check out the video (shot on my iPhone 4):

In terms of the actual competition, a couple highlights were Kris Versteeg’s goal in the freestyle shootout challenge. He lifted the puck, hit it up twice, then reversed his stick and batted it in the net, past the goalie (a minor hockey goalie); I wish I caught that one on video! My other favourite highlight was from the hardest shot challenge where (I believe) Nik Kulemin’s shot registered about 139 km/h, which if possible, would’ve rocketed him into first place all time for any competition.

I can’t wait for next year! Did you go? If so, let me know what you thought of the event and do you plan on going again? If didn’t go, here are a few of the random pictures I took:

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No pressure South Africa only the world is watching

Today marked day one of FIFA World Cup 2010. Host country South Africa played to a 1-1 draw against the powerhouse Mexico (not) to kick things off on an exciting note.

I occasionally watch the Toronto FC here and there, and every four years when the World Cup rolls around I become a temporary fan. Soccer is a bit too slow for my liking; kind of like football (North American kind). I tend to drift in and out consciousness for both, but when it’s on the world stage, there’s a whole other kind of magic.

My immediate family background is British (Mom) and Caribbean (Dad). Since my Dad’s country (St. Vincent & the Grenadines) fairs worse than Canada, I tend to stick with England as my team of choice. England is kind of like the Maple Leafs because they’re generally on the cusp of greatness, but it’s been an eternity since they’ve won.

As the tournament ramps up I generally get more and more into the sport, especially since I have an allegiance to one team. I’m excited for England’s first match tomorrow against the United States. I’m not sure if I’ll head out or not, but either way I’ll be wearing my Rooney jersey and cheering them on. I think they’ll win, but if they don’t it will mean a lot of trouble, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near a pub in England if they lost.

Since I normally do this I figured I’d give my predictions on the winners from each group. Much of it is based on little to no knowledge, which means I should do well. The two teams from each group that I pick to advance are bolded.

Group A – South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France

Group B – Argentina, Nigeria, Korea Rep., Greece

Group C – England, USA, Algeria, Slovenia

Group D – Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana

Group E – Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon

Group F – Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia

Group G – Brazil, Korea DPR, Ivory Coast, Portugal

Group H – Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, Chile

(And they say there are too many teams in NHL playoffs.. geez.)

2010 playoff ads: a cut above

Two major North American sports, hockey and basketball, are in the middle of their respective playoff series’ right now. If you’re watching them even semi-regularly you’ve likely noticed the league commercials promoting the playoffs for each league..

First up is the NBA‘s ads. The playoff ones are new versions of ones it had been airing throughout the season, focusing on one theme and highlighting different quotes from players/coaches. As soon as I saw them I immediately thought of the Allen Iverson “Practice” remix that’s all over the place. The ads are memorable and really well done, focusing on actual interviews; nothing (that I know of) is scripted so it means more.

The one I chose (below) centres around players talking about focus:

The NHL playoff ads took a different angle, but are no less impressive. These focus on the 2010 playoffs and watching history be made. They don’t look at current player accolades, but instead show past footage of players like Patrick Roy and Wayne Gretzky (below). These are players who stepped their games up in the playoffs and cemented their super-stardom in the post-season. The commercials ask, “What if there was no (insert quality from chosen player)?” while rewinding the video.

Check it out for yourself:

Both ads are incredibly memorable and it’s hard to pick a winner from the two. The NBA ones are more modern and play off peoples’ connection with music and a pop culture reference (Iverson tirade), so that sticks in the viewer’s mind. The NHL ads focus on nostalgia and cause fans to relive the games great moments and wonder what the game would’ve been like without those players.

I’d have to give the slight win to the NBA’s ads simply because they’re something I’d search out to watch on my own, whereas the NHL ones I like, but only really when I see them on TV.

Which one is your favourite and why?

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