I’ve been a fan of the Washington Capitals way too long to get overly excited at playoff time. The Caps are rolling and scoring goals like it’s 2009, and Adam Oates ability to reconnect the circuits in Alex Ovechkin’s brain has been incredible. The Great Eight is playing outstanding hockey and with the resurgence of Mike Green on defense, the Caps do resemble the President’s Trophy team that dominated a few years ago. Their defensive corps is young and too unreliable to get very far in the pressure cooker of the Stanley Cup though. Playoff hockey is so much better than regular season because of the intensity and urgency riding on each contest and as in most playoff scenarios, you should give the edge to the team with the better defense. I truly believe the old adage that offense puts butts in seats but defense wins championships.
I’m a much bigger fan of the NHL’s eastern conference, and this year’s Stanley Cup tournament is missing two of the usual stalwarts, the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils, who’ve been replaced with the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Islanders respectively. Neither of these two upstarts has a chance, but the rest of the conference seems extremely well balanced and with Sidney Crosby still out for Pittsburgh, the contest is going to be a crap-shoot. Again, I favor the strongest defensive club which in my view is the Boston Bruins.
Out west, the Chicago Blackhawks had an awesome start to the season and were on cruise control the rest of the way through. The west seems much weaker on balance this year and I like the Bruins to beat the Blackhawks 4-2 to win the Stanley Cup. A great sentimental final would pit the Washington Capitals against their former coach Bruce Boudreau and his Anaheim Ducks. Gabby certainly had the Ducks flying high for most of the season and that clearly validated he wasn’t the problem in Washington when the Caps let him go two years ago. So as much as I enjoyed watching this Caps team go on a tear in the second half, I think they survive in the first round again in seven over the Rangers who’s stellar goaltender Hendrik Lundqvist always has them in contention, but succumb in the second round. Can’t see them getting past Boston or even Pittsburgh without Sidney Crosby.
But who knows, maybe we’re in for a huge surprise and the red white and blue won’t be playing golf again in May. Let’s Go Caps!