The first round of the playoffs is over. Eight teams have been eliminated, just in time for their reject players to join the World Championship roster of their respective countries.
While the Columbus Blue Jackets have long reserved the best tee times, eliminated teams must wallow in their misery with noon tee times.
Let's take a moment to remember these teams. We'll also look forward to the teams that will be joining them for drinks in the clubhouse after the second round.
The Eastern Conference Water Hazard
The Pittsburgh Penguins: Marc-Andre Fleury was flat out awful. It got to a point where Ty Conklin started telling people, "Hey, even I could have stopped that last one." Fleury made Jason Bacashua look like Ken Dryden. And yet Dan Bylsma looked at his abysmal goaltending situation and thought, "You know what, it could actually get worse if I played Brent Johnson." Meanwhile, the babbling idiot in the other goal had an equally awful series. Then, Ilya Bryzgalov's backup, Sergei Bobrovsky, let in so many goals high glove side that I thought the Penguins were using a video game cheat. I've seen Pro Beach Hockey Games in ESPN 2 that featured less scoring than some of the games in this series.
The Boston Bruins: All fucking year long, people told me we didn't need offense or a goal scorer because of the Boston Bruins winning the Cup. (You know, because Brad Marchand didn't come out of no where and produce at almost a point per game in the playoffs.) And then the Bruins fucking tank it in the first round. So appropriate. Ironically, the Bruins were upset by the team that authored the book on choking in the first round, the Washington Capitals.
The Ottawa Senators: Everyone had the Rangers pegged as a first round playoff exit until they saw the Rangers were playing the Senators. Immediately, everyone realized not even the Rangers could fuck this one up. The fact that the Sens made it is a testament to how shitty the East is. Game 7 might have been the last for Daniel Alfredsson, who faces either retirement or fossilization in the offseason.
The Florida Panthers: The team loved to tell everyone we were underestimating them, only to prove all of us correct: the Panthers are a mediocre hockey team playing in a really shitty division. They lost to a very average New Jersey Devils lineup. If the Panthers played in the West, the NHL would institute the running clock rule after the other team built up a 10 goal lead. The Panthers have followed the Buffalo Sabres plan of overpaying mediocre 2nd liners. When you open a pack of hockey cards, it seems like you get a billion duplicates of random, no-name guys. The entire Florida Panthers roster is made up of those no-name guys. I swear I'd have like 13 extra Marco Sturms if I still collected hockey cards.
The Western Conference Sandtrap
The Vancouver Canucks: Look, I know everyone had to pretend they were surprised the Canucks lost in the first round after going to the Finals last year. But I still wish the Blues could have played the Canucks in the first round out of all the teams in the West. You can count on Roberto Loungo singlehandedly spotting the opposition 3 wins in the course of a playoff series. Although there were no meltdowns this year, he was pretty average. The Canucks were the Titanic and Duncan Keith's elbow was a North Atlantic iceberg. The Canucks sank early, and Daniel Sedin is crying harder than he did the first 40 times he saw Titanic.
The Detroit Red Wings: What's the second best thing to the Blues winning? Sex. What's the third best thing? Beer. What's the fourth best thing? Watching the Detroit Red Wings lose. Dear God, there's nothing I love more than watching the Wings tank it. The Wings went down in epic fashion to an illegitimate franchise that thinks they're in contention to win the Sprint Cup. I'm hoping Lidstrom retires, mainly because he is still one of the best defenseman in the NHL at the age of 93. It's really annoying to play against him.
The San Jose Sharks: After having so many elite teams in the playoffs, the Sharks have failed to get any further than the Conference Finals. Gee, this seems awfully familiar. My prediction for the Sharks this summer is that their owner will fail to land an NBA franchise. In a fit of childish rage, he will sell the team, trading the best player out of pure, unadulterated spite. And you know what? The end result will probably be as successful as the current roster in their pursuit of the Stanley Cup.
The Chicago Blackhawks: I don't even have to be a smartass to make fun of the Hawks for losing: they thought they could win with Corey Crawford in goal. That's pathetic by itself.
Warming up at the driving range: Predictions for Round 2
St. Louis v. Los Angeles: Admit it. After watching Vancouver, Detroit and Chicago get eliminated, the first thing that crossed your mind was, "Gee, how the hell are the Blues going to fuck it up this year?" Enter the Los Angeles Kings. In the last week, everyone has jumped on the Kings bandwagon because they beat an overrated team in the first round. Since the Blues make all goaltenders look like Patrick Roy, I'm giving the edge to the Jonathon Quick and the Kings in 6 games. We're about to find out why this "scoring by committee" bullshit never works.
Phoenix v. Nashville: Two illegitimate, bastard franchises duke it out to go to the Conference Finals. These fans don't deserve teams this far in the playoffs.There are two main reasons people say I shouldn't be bitter about the red headed step children of the West playing for a Conference Finals berth. First, "It's great for growing the game." Fuck growing the game. If you want to grow something, buy a damn Chia Pet. Hardcore fans who sell out arenas every year, good or bad, deserve a playoff run. Secondly, "They've been through so much ownership turbulence." Join the club. We have ownership issues, too. Hell, we were once sold by a fucking pet food company and didn't send any representatives to the entry draft. We were on the verge of relocation to Rat Fuck, Canada. It seems to me these fanbases need about 20 more years of shitty mismanagement and playoff disappointment before they deserve to get this far. (Hint: You can jumpstart the process by hiring Mike Keenan.) Preds in 6. And I'm going to stab my eyes out watching it happen.
New York Rangers v. Washington Capitals: Despite their best efforts, one of these incompetent teams will advance to the 2nd round. I've got my money on the Capitals, who have apparently decided to stop drinking and start taking playoff hockey seriously. I hate myself for picking the Capitals to win anything in the playoffs. My confidence level in this pick is equal to the confidence level I'd have asking a Mean Girls-era Lindsay Lohan for her number at a bar.
Philadelphia Flyers v. New Jersey Devils: An interesting matchup. One fan base is pure shit, and the other fan base lives in pure shit. I wonder if NBC will play up that angle. On paper, the Flyers should win this series. But in reality, their goaltender is batshit crazy. I'd pick the Flyers to win, but I just don't trust Bryzgalov. There is no good reason the Devils should win this series, but I'll begrudgingly pick Devils in 7 because of excruciatingly bad goaltending in Philly.