Playoffs: Round 1

It’s a wonderful time for the Canadian sports fan: March Madness came with its annual energy burst just in time to set the stage for both the NHL and NBA Playoffs.

With round one winding up in both of those leagues, here are my brief thoughts on each series:

NHL

SJ vs COL: It’s about time!  San Jose’s choking appears to be dealt with, though not before a feisty and bright-futured Avs’ squad put a decent scare into them.

CHI vs NAS: Everyone knew the Hawks would win, but did anyone expect it to take six games?  Again, the underdog put up an impressive fight.

VAN vs LA: Canada’s best chance at a Stanley Cup stumbled a few steps along the way, but in the end, the Sedins and Luongo awoke (to join a hot Samuelson), and that was just a bit more than the Kings could handle.

PHO vs DET: A lot of people saw this “upset” coming.  By pushing it to seven games, the Coyotes showed themselves to be for real.  Too bad for them that their best season ever led them to this unfortunate first-round match-up.

WAS vs MTL: Who’d have thunk it?!  Game seven!  Are you kidding me?  Halak has become a Habs’ legend in the course of one series (maybe much of this season).  Fifty-three saves in game six–awesome!  IF (not as big of IF as I once thought)… IF the Canadiens win tonight, this will go down as one of the NHL’s greatest upsets ever… and la belle province will explode.

NJ vs PHI: Can you say, “meltdown”?  What happened to the Devils?  If you’d asked a hundred hockey fans to pick which team of the sixteen would be the first to the golf course, there’s no way that more than a couple would have chosen New Jersey.  But the Flyers brought it, and the Devils didn’t.  And it sure makes that Kovalchuk pick-up look like a sad waste.

BUF vs BOS: Tuuka Rask.  He was on my fantasy team this year.  Yes, that was my WINNING fantasy team.  Not surprisingly, Halak was also on my squad for a spell–a hot young goalie can win you games all by himself sometime.  Rask didn’t exactly have to do it by himself, but he’s a major reason why Boston moved on.

PIT vs OTT: I loved seeing the Sens’ fight.  They showed themselves to be a better team than most thought.  But drawing the defending champs with an at-his-best Crosby in the first round was just too much to overcome.  While I’d love to see Montreal beat Washington tonight, it’s hard not to be hoping for an Ovechkin-Crosby match-up down the road.

That’s the ice.  How about the courts?

NBA:

CLE vs CHI: Everybody knew this one before it began.  Anything but a finals appearance will disappoint the Cavs.

ORL vs CHA: Charlotte did well to make the playoffs.  Their future looks solid.  But how good are the Magic?  They swept the Bobcats despite Howard having series-long foul trouble and Carter shooting VERY poorly.  If they can get on track next round, the third round looks like a minimum for them.

ATL vs MIL: Tied at two as I write this.  I don’t care much for either team, though the Bucks are easy to cheer for, for some reason.  The Hawks SHOULD win, based on talent.  But they’ve only played well enough to be tied so far, so we shall see.

BOS vs MIA: I expected more from Miami than one win.  Now the long off-season of Dwayne Wade rumours can begin.

LAL vs OKA: Loving this!  The Lakers spanked the Thunder last night to go up 3-2, but how many people expected even THIS much from Durant and his young Thunder team?  I’d love to see this go seven.

DAL vs SA: Those Spurs are playing well right now.  Up 3-1, they failed to close it out last night.  Hopefully, that doesn’t cost them too badly.  Game six is at home–Dallas could be done early after a very impressive season.  And I’d be fine with that.

PHO vs POR: I DO like Phoenix, but I say that this series would be quite different if Brandon Roy weren’t hurt.  That might have been enough to pick Portland.  As it stands, the Suns can shut the door in game six–we’ll see if they get it done.

DEN vs UTA: What’s wrong with the Nuggets?  I expected them to the best challenger for the Lakers–now they’ll be hard-pressed to escape round one.  That’s no knock on Utah, a VERY strong squad as well.  I just expected more from Denver, and I sense they’ll be hugely disappointed if their season ends here.

That’s a wrap.  More in round two…

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