Mon Apr 12 01:26am EDT
The "wow" factor. Some Stanley Cup playoff series have them on paper, and others don't.
Granted, first impressions are made to be shattered, because what makes the Cup playoffs crack-rock to puckheads is their utter unpredictability and penchant for spontaneous, flash-point moments that turn a pedestrian series into a blood feud.
But when scanning the TV schedule for which games to watch, some battles just seem sexier than others.
With that, we rank the 2010 Stanley Cup playoff series on a variety of different entertainment variables, from star power to the potential for an upset to the prospective pest-like behavior for either seed. We rate them on a 1-to-10 scale, tally up the score and determine the must-see series for the postseason's opening round.
Star Power: 6. The Sharks have Joe Thornton(notes) and Dany Heatley(notes) and Patrick Marleau(notes) and Dan Boyle(notes). The Avalanche have Calder candidate Matt Duchene(notes) and an ancient Milan Hejduk(notes).
Upset Possibility: 2. The Avs are an aggressive young team that won't quit. But the Sharks are laser-focused on avoiding any more playoff embarrassment. If Craig Anderson(notes) doesn't decide to steal the thing, San Jose could roll.
Coach Insanity Factor: 3. If only because we haven't seen Joe Sacco handle playoff intensity.
Hate Quotient: 1. Hard to hate the Avalanche when everyone had them pegged for 14th or 15th in the conference. Their last game was thrilling but not exactly contentious.
Entertainment Value: 6. All things considered, this could be a firecracker of a series because of the way both teams play. But an upset here would be an enormous surprise, even given the Sharks' propensity for playoff floppage.
TOTAL SCORE: 21
Star Power: 7. Alex Ovechkin(notes) is the biggest star in the world, and now his mission of redemption -- for losing the scoring titles, for the Olympic flop, for losing to the Penguins last season and then watching Crosby win his first Cup -- is a major storyline in the playoffs. The Capitals are a flashy offensive team. Montreal's biggest star is the logo on the front of the jersey, but that's pretty sexy on its own.
Upset Possibility: 3. Montreal's goaltending makes them dangerous, and they could have enough scoring up front to at least hang with the Caps. Provided Michael Cammalleri(notes) can manage something more than the 2 points in 9 games he's had since the OLY break.
Coach Insanity Factor: 4. Jacques Martin is a cerebral coach, but Boudreau wears his heart (and occasional food condiments, we're sure) on his sleeve. Not insane, but capable of a snippy press conference comment or three if things aren't going well.
Hate Quotient: 2. Can't say there's much animosity here.
Potential For Goonage: 2. "Paging Maxim Lapierre(notes) ... will Maxim Lapierre please pick up the white courtesy phone ..." And let's not discount the potential for Ovechkin to blow up one of the smurfs with an open-ice hit.
Entertainment Value: 7. The Capitals play an electric brand of hockey that R.J. Umberger(notes) believes will never work in the postseason. The Canadiens aren't as up-tempo as their personnel probably warrants they should be. Know this: The two arena atmospheres will be incredible. And will Jose Theodore(notes) see action in Bell Centre?
TOTAL SCORE: 25
Upset Possibility: 6. Pekka Rinne(notes) can keep this series close, and the Predators have much more scoring depth than they've had on past playoff teams. But it would take a Chicago collapse between the pipes for this upset to happen.
Coach Insanity Factor: 6. Joel Quenneville can be a growler behind the pine. Barry Trotz once called out the arena game clock. ‘Nuff said.
Hate Quotient: 2. For the Blackhawks, it's more "fear of embarrassment" quotient. For the Predators, it's more "in search of respect" quotient.
Potential For Goonage: 2. A few agitators on each team, but it'd be surprising to see this series descend into goonage.
Entertainment Value: 5. This number does way up if the Preds push this series deep, but in comparison to other matchups, there isn't a ton of sizzle here.
TOTAL SCORE: 26
Star Power: 7. The defending Stanley Cup champions, featuring Sidney Crosby(notes) and Evgeni Malkin(notes), vs. Daniel Alfredsson(notes) and the Sens. This gets a point added for what will (hopefully) be a series with several camera shots of a concerned Carrie Underwood watching fiancé Mike Fisher(notes).
Upset Possibility: 6. The Penguins aren't nearly the team they were last season, and need Marc-Andre Fleury(notes) to find his form to challenge again. But Ottawa may not have the goaltending or the secondary scoring to knock'em off.
Coach Insanity Factor: 1. Disco Dan Bylsma is a model of cool. Cory Clouston? Not exactly Bobby Knight, either. Disappointing, for a guy from Viking, Alberta.
Hate Quotient: 2. Despite meeting in the postseason for the third time in four years, the Penguins are defending champs -- they've got swagger, not hate.
Entertainment Value: 5. Crosby and Malkin make every shift intriguing; but to beat the Penguins, the Sens aren't going to engage in fire wagon hockey.
TOTAL SCORE: 27
Upset Possibility: 7. Actually it's a 10. But would anyone consider a Detroit victory here an "upset" outside of their respective seeding?
Coach Insanity Factor: 5. After Wayne Gretzky left the Coyotes, Mike Babcock took over as the most fascinating face-maker in the NHL. Dave Tippett has worked the refs about the Wings' crease crashing in the past.
Hate Quotient: 1. Oh, who could hate the Coyotes? They're adorable.
Potential For Goonage: 1. Two teams that aren't exactly infamous for their goonage.
Entertainment Value: 8. The "Cinderella" Coyotes against the reinvigorated Red Wings? Game on! The "white out" in Phoenix should be something to behold. Plus, watch the fun if there's a controversial call that does against Detroit, as the "tin foil hat society" rails against favoritism for "Gary Bettman's Coyotes."
TOTAL SCORE: 28
Upset Possibility: 8. The injuries for the Sabres (Tim Connolly(notes), Jochen Hecht(notes), Drew Stafford(notes)) are adding up at the wrong time, and Miller was 2-0-2 against the B's. Tuukka Rask(notes) is a goalie who might Jonas-Hiller his way to a series win for the Bruins.
Coach Insanity Factor: 6. Lindy Ruff's been fined in the past for his outbursts. Claude Julien's been under fire all season, which means good things for his stress level in the playoffs.
Hate Quotient: 7. Animosity between division rivals, and there's a group of players on both teams that can punish and agitate with the best of them. We're looking at you, Patrick Kaleta. And you, Adam Mair(notes).
Potential For Goonage: 6. Liberties will be taken in this series.
TOTAL SCORE: 36
Upset Possibility: 9. The Kings are as dangerous a lower-seed as there is in either conference, with quality defense in front of Jonathan Quick(notes) and some gritty offense up front. Meanwhile, Luongo has place a welcome mat for pucks in front of his crease for the better part of a month.
Coach Insanity Factor: 6. Both Alain Vigneault and Terry Murray are candid speakers in postgame interviews. Very candid at times.
Hate Quotient: 4. The Canucks have deeper rivalries with other conference teams, but their last meeting had its volcanic moments.
Potential For Goonage: 6. Ryan Kesler(notes) and Alex Burrows(notes) are going to do what's necessary to bug the Kings' offensive players. Both teams have brawlers and heavy hitters that can raise the intensity of the series. Provided Shane O'Brien(notes) shows up for the games on time.
Entertainment Value: 9. Perhaps the most compelling of all first-round series for the on-ice product. And because it's been a few years since playoff hockey returned to Los Angeles, which means famous-for-the-NHL celebrity sightings, ahoy!
TOTAL SCORE: 40
Star Power: 8. Olympic hero Zach Parise(notes) and goaltending legend Martin Brodeur(notes) vs. Flyers captain Mike Richards(notes) and Human Elbow Machine Chris Pronger(notes). The rating gets a boost with Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) on the Devils, playing in his first playoff since 2007.
Upset Possibility: 8. It's a division rivalry between geographic foes, which means a crossover of fans in either arena and all bets being off. Also, Philly was 5-1 against the Devils this season. Also, the Devils haven't escaped the first round since 2007.
Coach Insanity Factor: 3. Peter Laviolette can bring the wild-eyed yelling on the bench, but Jacques Lemaire came here to chew bubble gum and glare intensely.
Hate Quotient: 7. For a while, this rivalry supplanted that of the Devils and Rangers, but no more. It can get to a 10 fairly quickly though.
Entertainment Value: 7. The Devils can still play a, shall we say, conservative style. The Flyers are still a Jeckel and Hyde team. But this is rivalry, and that means it'll be an intense series.
TOTAL SCORE: 43. And please note that this would be the only series without a single game on Versus. Insert sad trombone sound ...