Wysh and I actually predicted this outcome at the beginning of the playoffs. Then we changed our minds just six games before it happened. Go team!
The playoffs would be a lot easier for us hockey writers if we didn't have to make predictions.
It's not that they're overly taxing, because they're not, especially when people are just fine with us abandoning the analytical approach and drawing our research entirely from our gut. "I just have a feeling about the Senators..." "Something tells me P.K. Subban is going to be motivated..."
It's just that this business of predicting the future leaves us wide open to being wrong in public. When you're touted as a hockey "expert" or an "insider" or in some way a knowledgeable individual and you try to predict the future -- presumably by way of your superior knowledge -- and you fall flat on your face, people tend to call you on it.
It's annoying, and it happens a lot, especially in a game as unpredictable and driven by parity as hockey at the NHL level. I mean, sure, Team A may be marginally better than Team B, but that doesn't mean they're going to win 4 out of 7 every time. We're talking about a difference of one win in a game where most goals are scored by shooting a small rubber disc at a maze of bodies from 17 meters out and hoping it goes in, either directly or after ricocheting off several humans.
Good luck, Nostradamus.
Here's the dirty little secret about this exercise in setting ourselves up to fail: the purpose of these predictions isn't to flex our knowledge of the game at all (although it's nice to boast when you get one really right). It's to establish a narrative baseline for the series you're about to watch. It's about setting up a consensus underdog, a set of expectations, an expected plotline, and then watching to see if it holds up.
When, in a sheer coincidence, the entirety of the Puck Daddy family picked Boston to beat Chicago and then Chicago won, it allowed people to say things like "Nobody at Puck Daddy picked Chicago!", thereby making the Blackhawks' victory a little more meaningful from a narrative perspective.
All that in mind, we don't kick ourselves here at Puck Daddy when we make a bad playoff prediction, which is good, because we make a lot of bad playoff predictions.
Consensus Boston? That was pretty bad. But there were others. Let's take a look at some of this year's worst:
We actually didn't do too badly in the first round. Several of us called the upsets, and while Round 1 had its fair share of wrongness (the early Conn Smythe picks were very Penguins-heavy), there wasn't much that stood out as super duper wrong.
Although I did chuckle at Wysh picking the Rangers to emerge from the Eastern Conference, and not so much because it didn't happen. It's more his explanation for why:
Henrik Lundqvist in a shortened season could mean a more effective Lundqvist in the later rounds. I think Rick Nash becomes the playoff performer he was acquired to be, and that Brad Richards somehow finds that level of competition that he’s lacked all season.
Yeah, that's not what wound up happening with Brad Richards. Instead of finding that level of competition, he found himself wearing a suit in the Rangers' elimination game.
The second round was relatively un-embarrassing as well, although this sentence from yours truly stands out as a dud:
Detroit remains a skilled team, and Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are probably good enough for a win each, but they can't run with the Blackhawks anymore.
... He said, before the Red Wings came a hair's breadth away from winning the series and took the Blackhawks seven games and a little extra.
This is where things really went off the rails, especially over in the Eastern Conference.
The Bruins will try to win this thing by slowing the pace to a crawl, playing physical hockey and scoring dirty goals. Thing is, the Penguins aren’t some offensively fancy-pants team that’ll wilt under those conditions – they can win games as brutal as Sidney Crosby's smile.
The Penguins' offense is flying and they're getting solid goaltending from Tomas Vokoun, something that hindered them at the start of the first round. They got to Craig Anderson and they'll do the same to Tuukka Rask.
I'm going to go out on a limb -- way out, you guys -- and say the difference in this series will be the one-two of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Gutsy, I know. But it's not just because they're super good at hockey. Crosby and Malkin spearhead two of hockey's deadliest lines, and I think it's going to give Claude Julien matchup problems.
Four games and two Pittsburgh goals later, Leahy, Mooney and Wysh looked like Larry, Curly and Moe. Meanwhile, Dobber predicted a Pittsburgh sweep, but, like, in their favour.
I compounded the invited mockery by picking the Kings in seven and suggesting that they would be able to slow the Blackhawks down. Yeah, that's not what happened.
Finally, the round that will live in infamy, as Boston, riding high in our minds after destroying Pittsburgh, ran the predictive table. Every single Puck Daddy writer chose the Bruins.
Every. Single. One.
I especially liked this from Leahy:
[...] The answer to those questions will be "no."
Here's the correct answer to the first question:
Really, the only Puck Daddy staffer who emerged out of the Final unscathed and looking savvy was Dmitry Chesnokov, who wisely abstained on the basis of his previous record of wrong picks:
Can I abstain? I [expletived] up every "prediction" and am laughing myself how stupid I look.
You've gotta love yourself, Dmitry. And love keeps no record of wrongs. Still, the $1 bid wound up winning you the showcase. Congratulations.
As I said earlier, I don't feel too bad about getting any of this wrong. If I'm being completely honest, the fact that this happens so frequently is one of the many reasons I love hockey.
I don't want a game that's easy to predict, nor do I want a postseason where the higher seed advances with bland regularity, like you get in the NBA. Not only does the prediction game establish narratives the real game can undermine, but it reminds us that, more often than not, hockey is impossible to predict.
That's why we watch.
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