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First round predictions here: https://mzrc.wordpress.com/2017/04/11/2016-17-stanley-cup-playoffs-predictions-conference-quarterfinals/

——————————Eastern Conference———————————-

(1) Washington Capitals vs. (2) Pittsburgh Penguins

The Washington Capitals defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs in six games. This should have gone seven, damn it. It was easily the most entertaining of the eight series that happened, and now I’m just sad that Toronto is out. I was more excited for them and the series was the best.

The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets in 5 games. Now, I’m not shocked that the Penguins won, but I was expecting Columbus to put up a bigger fight than they did.

Honestly, as much as the Capitals are the best team in the league….I have to pick the Penguins. After Pittsburgh beat Columbus more easily than expected and the Caps had some trouble with the Leafs, it’s hard for me to believe than the Penguins won’t beat the Caps AGAIN. And honestly, after all that’s happened in the first round – this all smells of a Pens repeat to me.

(2) Ottawa Senators vs. (WC1) New York Rangers

The Ottawa Senators defeated the Boston Bruins in 6 games, and no one cared.

The New York Rangers defeated the Montreal Canadiens in 6 games.

This is probably the toughest one to call in this round. I’m going with the Rangers but that could be wrong.

 

————————Western Conference—————————

(1) Anaheim Ducks vs. (2) Edmonton Oilers

The Anaheim Ducks swept the Calgary Flames in 4 games. I paid no attention to this series.

The Edmonton Oilers defeated the San Jose Sharks in 6 games.

I wish the Oilers would win this, but I just don’t foresee that. The Ducks will be much tougher than the Sharks were for them. But the Oilers are the only team in the West I want to win.

(3) St. Louis Blues vs. (WC2) Nashville Predators

The St. Louis Blues defeated the Minnesota Wild in 5 games.

The Nashville Predators defeated the Chicago Blackhawks in 4 games. (More later.)

Blues have got this. The Blues and the Ducks are the only ones who can stop each other, and unfortunately that means one will end up in the Finals.

————————–Chicago Blackhawks Postseason Eulogy————————–

Blackhawks, where do I even begin?

You lost in four games. To the Predators. The PREDATORS. I mean, they’re not a bad team, but you made them out to be gods. YOU WERE SHUTOUT FOR TEN PLUS PERIODS! YOU SCORED THREE GOALS.

THREE.

That’s like, comically bad.

So bad I barely watched the last game. Didn’t watch the second at all. (Part of that’s me having been at work, but that’s besides the point.)

I guess after the second game of the season happened (ironically against the Preds) and I thought “Are the Hawks just bad now?” I was right. Turns out you still won the conference, but it sure doesn’t seem like it.

It seems like the Hawks have finally hit the wall we knew they would. It was inevitable. You sign so many to such huge contracts for so long and trade away the rest and replace them with……?

I mean, yes, those contracts make sense – you want those players on your team – but eventually you’re going to hit a wall when some of them are maybe too old and then you’ve got nothing around them. With the exception of getting Panarin, there hasn’t been a major change since the last Cup that’s going to be a big difference.

How many rookies do you have surrounding an aging core? Hartman, Kero, Hinostroza, Rasmussen. The only one really worth a damn so far is Hartman.

Still only have 3 or 4 defensemen. Keith, Seabrook, Hjalmarsson. Everything else around them still doesn’t work.

The core is all getting older, and with age they will not be as good. It’s not there yet, but this just happened and they’re all signed to LONG deals. And they’re contracts that can’t be traded.

Toews, Kane, Anisimov, Keith, Hossa, Seabrook, etc. Most have deals that will get most of them into their late thirties or young forties.

They failed themselves last year, but this year it’s clear whatever they had fell apart completely.

Let’s not mince hairs. The Preds killed them. The Preds were undoubtedly the better team. No bullshit conspiracies like the refs were against them or something or that the Preds were lucky. Nope. The Hawks just died.

And honestly, as much as I want to say “trade everyone,” that just doesn’t work. You’ll be lucky to trade one player – and which one, and for what? You’d be most likely to trade Anisimov probably, but he’s not the best player the Hawks have, they won’t get enough in return to make the Hawks a real contender, and he’s one of the older ones, too. If we’re being honest, I’m not sure the Hawks are going to win the Cup again anytime soon.

Toews and Kane can be better. Panarin is great. Hossa was better this year than the previous year, but is that a trend?

We need more than 3 defensemen and we need more than two lines at best. The Hawks used to be scary to play against – not anymore.

Honestly, with all the crap that’s happened – constant trading away of favorite players (because they have to, I know), steady decline that’s probably going to continue for a while, and most importantly, I’m not a Patrick Kane apologist and I really don’t even get that excited about the Hawks because of this, I don’t even know where I am as a fan. As much as I can compartmentalize the rest of the team from Kane because they aren’t shitbags just because he is, it’s still really tough for me to root for them anyway. And I was having that trouble last year, when they weren’t doing things like losing to the Preds in four games, and before Andrew Shaw went off the deep end too. And while Shaw is gone, that’s not really it.

Last year it was just that Kane’s a shitbag (and to lesser extent, no Sharp and no Saad.) Now it’s that, plus the writing’s kind of on the wall, and I’m becoming more and more of a Leafs fan.

I’m beginning to wonder if the Leafs are actually my favorite team. I’ve been following them as closely as I follow the Hawks since 2010. I don’t get to watch that many games of theirs because of where I live and they don’t broadcast them. They’ve been bad for a long time, but in reality the Blackhawks won the Cup in 2013 – and while I was super happy about that, I had residual depression the whole playoffs after the Leafs lost in round one to Boston. (IT WAS 4-1!!) And now they’re finally becoming the team that their rebuild was for, and they’re only going to get better. Sure, they were never going to win the Cup this year, but they made the playoffs and they gave the Caps a run for their money. They really ARE the new Blackhawks. There’s a lot about the team that reminds me of the 2010 Hawks, only with three rookies and not two.

The Sharks were my second favorite team for a long time, but in 2012 when they signed Raffi Torres, they just kind of went to being a team I liked. And while they finally got rid of him last year and kind of re-elevated to being a legit second favorite, they didn’t set that in stone. Having followed the Leafs this year, using all their rookies in my fantasy team, worrying more about them making the playoffs than anything, and the series they just had, they definitely surpassed the Sharks into second favorite no matter what – and I’m not sure they haven’t surpassed the Hawks in the process.

Obviously I’ve been a Hawks fan all my life because, well, proximity. Dad has season tickets when I was a kid and I’d go to a lot of them with him even on school nights. It didn’t matter that they were bad for most of these years, but they were. When I started to follow the sport as closely as I follow wrestling, it was the year Toews and Kane started, and obviously they started to get good. Within two years they won the Cup.

The year they won the Cup is the year I subsequently started following the Leafs, and it was kind of just on accident. I watched a playoffs predictions video on Youtube by Steve Dangle, a Leafs fan, found it amusing, and I’ve been subscribed to him ever since. He makes videos about every Leafs game. You want to know how I know so much about the Leafs? Now you do. The first couple of years I was probably just watching, but it was probably their playoff run in 2013 that solidified them as third favorite. Steve started a podcast right after that playoff run and I listen to that every week since then, too. That’s where most of it came from.

The least important reason is because the Hawks may be on their way down. Maybe they aren’t and this is just a bump in the road – but it’s hard to look into the future and see major changes coming. But obviously we’ve seen many players leave – many that I love. Byfuglien and Ladd in 2010. Bolland in 2013. And most importantly, Sharp in 2015. Also Saad, but Sharp is my favorite player, bar none. And I’m not sure I’ll get over that one. Getting him back wouldn’t change it either. Losing Sharp and Saad will always be another one. But the biggest will always be Kane being a dumpster fire of a human being. Sure, he’s a great hockey player – whoop-do-fucking-do – but I just don’t think I can ever really root for this team as strongly as I used to with him here.

I can’t attack other teams for similar things and not attack the Blackhawks just because I’ve been a fan all my life. I’ve attacked Colorado for letting Semyon Varlamov play even though he beat his girlfriend, or Nashville for letting Mike Ribiero play even though he sexually harassed his nanny, if I remember correctly. I think L.A. actually got rid of Slava Voynov when he beat his girlfriend too? I’m certainly not going to just gloss over what Patrick Kane did. As someone who considers himself a feminist, that’s certainly not going to happen.

I’m never going to actively root AGAINST the Hawks, but it’s tough for me to root for them in this situation. I’ll still be happy for the rest of them if they succeed, but I won’t be as excited when they do either. I probably can’t judge what my gut reaction would be to watching them win the Cup again would be – I just know that the past two, I cried, and if they did again, I’m not sure that I would.

The only things about my Hawks fandom that I’ve always had that I’m 100% positive will always remain intact are that I will defend Corey Crawford always and I will call you an idiot if you don’t think Jonathan Toews is one of the best players in the world. (This is actually a common trend in the past two months, btw.) And I will always be able to watch previous championships happily because nothing was wrong then. And I will always still watch them – I’ll watch almost any hockey game I can find.

But I’m not sure I’m not more of a Maple Leafs fan right now.

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