April 30th, 2013

Mark!

My Equally Valid Opinion: 2013 PLAYOFFS ROUND ONE PICKS

Whew! That "shortened" season still felt long enough to me. Every injury, every winning and losing streak, and every decision at the trade deadline was amplified by the constricted space around it. Drop five games on a road trip in a regular year? Not a big deal. But that's ten percent of your games this year. Making the playoffs isn't just a job-well-done scenario -- it's survival. I wish we could have part-season lockouts all the time now.

The Also-Rans

New Jersey Devils (called 4th, finished 11th)

Here's the weird thing about the Devils: they only scored 112 goals, tied for second-last in the league, but they also only let in 129, better than any other non-playoff team except Columbus. In a normal year I'd call that good old-fashioned New Jersey hockey and expect Brodeur and Hedberg to step up their games down the stretch to drive the team back up into contention. This is another reason to like The Shortening: stall-and-defend tactics don't work. Every team in the playoffs is there because they went after the puck on a regular basis, except maybe a couple of guys near the bottom of the seeding. We'll get to that.

Tampa Bay Lightning (called 6th, finished 14th)

Good news, guys! Next year you won't have to worry about losing to Washington over and over again. Thanks to realignment, you can lose to Detroit over and over instead! No, but seriously, with the two top-scoring players in the league (Marty St. Brodeur in particular reminds me of Alfredsson's '07 campaign) and some actual goaltending in Ben Bishop (you're welcome!) these guys shouldn't miss the playoffs again next year. I'm not even sure how they missed them this year. They were fantastic out of the gate, and then they just fizzled. Too many one-goal losses. See ya next year, Bolts.

Philadelphia Flyers (called 7th, finished 10th)

Oh, there's the disappointing deflation from trading all their stars away two years ago. It just took longer than I thought it would, that's all. I also like how Ilya Bryzgalov completed his transition from "media darling" to "standoffish clubhouse distraction." Can you imagine if they still made the playoffs in spite of it all? Every road game there'd be a fan with a "No Napping!" sign behind the goal.

Florida Panthers (called 8th, finished dead last)

If it's any consolation, fans will actually come to watch you play in Quebec City. Also of note: the nickname "Jose Three-Or-More" fully applies this year (his GAA was 3.29).

Phoenix Coyotes (called 2nd, finished 10th)

Same as above only with "Seattle". But come on, what were you expecting? Your top three scorers were Doan, Vrbata, and Keith Yandle. Try to draft somebody useful this year, alright?

Nashville Predators (called 5th, finished 14th)

Last year: "We're signing Shea Weber to a massive deal because we're here to play!" This year: "what do you mean we're not getting any playoff revenue??" Next year: "How come we keep losing to the Jets?!" Eeesh. I still say it should've been the Preds who got shuffled east, nut I'm not a hotshot league geography planner guy. (There's probably an actual name for that job, but I'm too lazy to look it up.)

Edmonton Oilers (called 8th, finished 12th)

No playoffs? No problem! They didn't finish close enough to the bottom for a reasonable shot at another #1 draft pick, so now they can take someone they want, like a defenseman, and work at improving their standing for next year. Sooner or later at least one of these kids has to become the franchise star they're supposed to be, right? Can we get Wayne Gretzky to appear in a swirl of storm clouds and order them to rediscover their place in the Circle of Life? Hell, at this point the Oilers would probably settle for Jari Kurri in a Tim Hortons cup.

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