My beard starts today. And I'm doing it for charity (completely serious!). You can too: Raise money for the Mario Lemieux Foundation, which supports cancer research, by growing one for the team. Go HERE, for info on how to join the Pittsburgh Penguins Beard-A-Thon, and start raising money.
Now for the much anticipated NHL Playoff WINNERS from EC:
PENS v. Tampa
Obviously, the heart looms large here. And that's what we're going with. First goals will be huge in this series. If Tampa gets on the board first, they'll go into their stupid little 1-3-1 trap, which could result in a snooze fest. Sans 87, Tampa obviously holds the edge up front with St Louis, Stamkos, Vinny, and a now healthy Gagne. But I've got a lot of faith in our 2 top D-pairings. Orpik / Letang and Michalek (BEAST) / Martin form one of the best blue lines in the NHL. It's weird going into a playoff season saying the Pens will rely on their D. But I think we can. Add in quality defensive forwards like Staal, Duper, Talbot, and I think we have enough to hold Tampa's top 2 lines at Bay. Everyone pitches in on the offensive end with TK and Kuni leading the way, and I think we'll be alright.
But the main reason I'm going with the Beloved: Fleury. Carey Price and Tim Thomas hand-job givers will tell you different, but no goalie was better in the East the 2nd half of the season. Provided we don't pound Roloson with pucks to the gut the entire series, and maybe pick a couple of corners, I think this is the huge edge that will eventually win the Pens the series.
James Neal. Take a mulligan, my friend. Your account with Pittsburgh opens now. Do it.
Pens in 6. WINNER.
Washington v. Rangers
I will be rooting for New York, simply for a healthy hate of the Caps and their whiny owner Ted Leonsis. Washington will be without Alexander Semin, who never shows up this time of year, but I must admit I like (hate) the additions they made at the end of the year. Arnott and Knuble are veteran studs. If there was another guy on this team I might actually like, it would be Brooks Laich.
I would have given NY a better chance with Ryan Callahan in the line-up, and maybe Queen Henry can stand on his head. The coaching edge is also huge here, with Tortarella over BBQ Bruce. So I would not be surprised if the Rangers won this series, and we'll be pulling for them. But if I have to put $$ on it, I'd say...
Caps in 7. WINNER.
Philly v. Buffalo
Buffalo in 6. WINNER.
Boston v. Montreal
The Prime Minister of Canada won't be able to help.
Bruins in 5. WINNER.
Vancouver v. Chicago
I think this will be competitive, with all the pressure on the Canucks. I'm not taking anything out of the fact Chicago backed into this. The slate is clean. But while the Hawks have a lot of quality, the salary cap dealt them a serious blow to their depth. Bolland and Brouwer are also questionable, adding to their lack of depth. If the Canucks get by this series, it could launch them into a long Stanley Cup run. I'm apologizing to my Chicago friends, and saying they will...
Canucks in 7. WINNER.
btw: I'd love this dude on my team...
San Jose v. LA
Great spot for the Shark. They're not the favorite. And the loss of Kopitar will be too much to overcome for LA. The Shark finally has a proven G in net with Niemi. I love Patty Marleau (said in Pierre McGuire voice) and Big Joe Thornton. Logan Couture has added even more scoring punch. The Kings will try to make this into a scrap fest early with Ryan Smyth, Dustin Brown, and Wayne Simmonds, but they simply don't have enough. What the hell happened to Drew Doughty this year?!
The Shark in 5. WINNER.
Detroit v. Phoenix
While I don't care for the Swedish SCUBA team of Zetterturd, Franzen, and Holmstrom...I respect their game. I'm also a fan of Lidstrom and Datspuke, and appears the latter is healthy.
Detroit in 6. WINNER.
Anaheim v. Nashville
This is the year they get to the chopper. The Predator behind Pekke Rinne finds a way to win a playoff series. They were close last year, but this year it happens. I love Corey Perry and that line with him, Getzlaf, and Ryan is top notch. But too much reliance on them will be their fall (apologies to Teemu).
The Predator in 7. WINNER.
btw: not giving credit to gbvh on this one for the headline. He won't read this anyway, and I would've eventually have thought of that myself :)