The NHL playoffs are the best time of the year to be a sports fan, at least when it comes to the first round. For at least 10 days, there are four games running each night, with two upsets a day likely.
The parity of the league, and the competitiveness of the playoffs, is what makes picking a Cup winner, let alone having a successful bracket, so tricky, but it’s so much fun to do.
I’m pretty sure I didn’t take the Washington Capitals to take the Cup last year, but I did take them to win the first two rounds, including a win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Naturally, because I like it when people tell me I’m wrong, I shared my predictions with whoever would listen, and I was ridiculed for taking Washington that far. So, when they won it all, it felt really good.
How do you follow that up, you ask? Well, by taking them to win the Stanly Cup again this year. It will be really hard, but I believe in them, and they have the easiest path to the third round of any top team in the league.
But enough of that. What I want to say is that I’m not taking the Maple Leafs to win their first round series against the Boston Bruins, and I’m asking for forgiveness from Leafs fans everywhere. I’ve been down this road too many times. I’ve thought they would beat Boston when nobody else thought they would (Leafs fans don’t count, Leafs fans will believe anything), only to be severely disappointed when they ultimately lost.
Not this year. I won’t be fooled again. Well, sure, I will be fooled again in many areas of my life over and over, but not by the Maple Leafs. After all, nobody ever criticized someone for learning from past mistakes.
As for other matchups, I think the Calgary Flames will go pretty far, and beat the hot St. Louis Blues in the Western Final. Both teams are relatively inexperienced when it comes to playoffs, but they seem to be laying better than anyone in the West right now and would be fun to cheer for.
The best part about making playoff predictions is you don’t really care if you get any of them wrong, unless it’s your own team. If I picked the Leafs — in any year — to make the Eastern Conference Final and they lost in the first round, that would be the worst.
People already hate the Leafs and want to tell you so for any reason, so it will only be worse if the haters have actual ammunition.
But what about if I’m wrong about them this year? If they somehow beat Boston, that will be cause for great celebration. I will cheer, even though I’ll feel a bit guilty once they get their third win of the series. After that, I’ll pretend I believed in them all the way. I’m ready to be convinced that the Leafs are better than I think. There is no pride preventing me from jumping on my favourite team’s bandwagon.
Dillon Giancola covers Peace Region sports for the Alaska Highway News.