So, to preface again, these are not the picks of who I think will win; rather, this is who would give me the most pleasure if they won. Lots of good teams to pick from, but only a few will be my favourites for the first round.
Washington defeats Montreal
Please - who would choose to only watch Ovechkin for one round, when they could ask for two-times, three-times, or even four-times as much? No one, (except for maybe Montreal fans). Just for the sake of watching Ovechkin dominate for more games than usual, I hope Montreal takes this series deep. This way Ovechkin could possibly score 8 goals in the first round alone. Washington is outstanding, they're physical, fast, potent, deadly - they're like the Ebola virus on senior citizens. I don't care about the Montreal Canadiens, it doesn't matter what they do so long as they allow the Capitals to stomp them each period, each shift, each game. I'm looking forward to it.
Philadelphia defeats New Jersey
Most people might think - man, nobody wants to watch this series. Nobody. And I would be among them - but I don't totally dislike Philadelphia. In fact, I like the character and mentality that this team continues to carry with them for over 40 years. The Broadstreet Bullies is an awesome moniker, and somehow they've been able to carry it with them through different decades and generations of the same franchise. That's really incredible! And this year they're no more pleasant to play against than they ever were. Are they Stanley Cup favourites (as the Hockey News predicts?) no. That doesn't mean watching Chris Pronger, Scott Walker, Dan Carcillo, Scott Hartnell, Ian Laperrier, and Ray Emery basically try and break the jaw bone of any player that comes within 10 feet of them won't be awesome television.
The only thing better than watching the Flyers lay the smack-down on the unsuspecting opposition is watching them lay the smack-down on members of the New Jersey Devils. I don't like them - I don't like them at all. It's mostly because they are good - but even moreso because they're so awful to watch that people in New Jersey won't even watch them win the Stanley Cup.
Buffalo defeats Boston
Boston has faced a lot of adversity this year, they've been the subject of the wrong end of head-hits and their players have had severe concussions and even a history of broken necks. They've stuck together and suffered through losing one of their top scorers due to the salary cap in Kessel (although they've been handsomely compensated for it). I like Chara, I like Tim Thomas, I'd like to like Tuuka Raask (or however you spell that mess of vowels), and think that Bergeron is an incredible come-back story (not unlike what Gary Roberts did, and on a much lesser scale, what Erik Cole did). There are a dozen reasons to like Boston - but I really like Buffalo instead.
Buffalo has some incredible players, have a history of incredible players, but no Cups. They're a great hockey town, they've got a super coach in Lindy Ruff, and haven't been able to pull it all together in one playoff drive. They missed the playoffs the past two seasons (one because their free agents left them for more money and the other due to injuries) but they're back and they're awesome. Ryan Miller is the real deal and watching him work is like watching a magician pull rabbits, doves, and your card out of thin air. I'm rooting for the team that shows me the most magic. Boston has no magic, Buffalo has the wizard.
Pittsburgh defeats Ottawa
First of all - Ottawa is garbage. Now, I'm not saying that the Leafs aren't garbage, but I am saying that the Sens are garbage. They're no more threatening in a playoff series than a pillow is in a go-to-sleep party. I like Jason Spezza ... and maybe Volchenkov, but basically, there's nothing on that team to bother watching. The Senators playing the Penguins is like the Raptors (if they make the NBA playoffs) playing the Cavaliers. The only reason to watch is because the best player in the league is on the opposite team.
Crosby does neat stuff (I like the spin-a-rama moves that he does - Cory Perry uses them too). I don't really care much about Malkin, and I'm still astonished that M.A. Fleury was a Stanley Cup winning goaltender (although, Osgood was, too) but I like Staal, Goligoski, Gonchar, Letang, Kunitz, Guerin, and oh yeah, Mr. Alexei Ponikarovski. The Pens have a bad case of the Ponikarovski, and I think they're going to give it to Ottawa.
So those are my favourites, the teams that I'd like to see advance. My experience has been that my "favourites" are generally losers, but .. they can't all lose, can they? Let's hope not. I'm looking forward to picking the next round, too - I just don't want to have to pick a "favourite" between New Jersey, Ottawa, Montreal and Boston. Nobody wins if those teams move on.
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