The crystal ball for Round 2
Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs was fun.America’s Team, the San Jose Sharks, dope-slapped Nashville in five, and our nation rejoiced. We got a Game 7 between Vancouver and Dallas – holy cow, the Stars actually showed up for the postseason.We had one major upset – the Rangers over Les Thrashers, though I take a bow for calling that. And Daily sports writer Ian Cropp’s cell phone is still functioning after an unexpected flight through the news room during Game 3 – which his beloved Buffalo WON – of the Sabres-Islanders series.My most prescient prediction that Ian would think the sky was still falling even though Team Ugly Uniform still cruised in five came true. If he didn’t like that series, he’s definitely not going to like the following.The best three teams standing for Round 2 all play in the West – Anaheim, San Jose and Detroit, likely in that order. Once Buffalo gets done playing all the New York teams – the Isles, the Rangers, the Devils, and for good measure, the Albany River Rats and the Binghampton Pee Wee Bs, the Sabres will learn this fact in the finals.In the meantime, it’s time to enjoy the hockey in the Campbell Conference. The picks for Round 2:Anaheim (2) vs. Vancouver (3)OK, I picked the Minnesota Wild over Anaheim in the first round just because I really don’t like the Ducks. The franchise was named after an Emilio Estevez movie. And the Ducks only beat out the Sharks in the Pacific Division because of move “overtime losses.” (It’s a good thing that I’m still not bitter about this.)Though they’ve dropped the Mighty from their appellation – yeesh – the Ducks are legit, despite the traditional grumps who don’t think hockey can be played in the Sunbelt. Teemu Selanne has been reborn the last two seasons after being in about a four-year coma.Though he’s not likely to be elected the mayor of Edmonton any time soon, Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer are about as good as they get. Behind them is another two-headed monster with J.S. Giguere and IIya Bryzgalov in net.The Canucks nearly blew a 3-1 lead against Dallas in the first round, almost forcing the true Western final – Sharks-Ducks – to be played in Round 2. (And while we’re on the topic of the Canucks, would it be asking to much of them to wear a remotely fashionable uniform? Just asking. They’ve only been in the league since 1970. Even the Sabres have had nice unis.) Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo has been a difference maker, especially in the marathon that was Game 1 against the Stars.He can’t hold back the tide this round.Ducks in six.Detroit (1) vs. San Jose (5)We now revisit “Miracle on Ice II.” The year was 1994, and San Jose made the playoffs for the first time. Goalie Arturs Irbe stood on his head and the GLM line of Johan Garpenlov, Igor Larionov and Sergei Makarov carried the third-year Sharks past the Red Wings in seven games.I do not toss around the phrase “Miracle on Ice” lightly. But how in the deity of your choosing did that ever happen? Our second-leading scorer was Todd Elik. Other greats populating that roster were Jeff Norton, Rob Gaudreau and the memorable Doug Zmolek.Of course, Detroit came back in 1995 and tennis match-ed San Jose, 6-0, 6-0, 6-2, 6-2. The Red Wings, being the Red Wings, still have players on their roster from that era, most notably Chris Osgood (invoking Jamie Baker right now), Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Draper and Chris Chelios. OK, Chelios was still with the Blackhawks then, but you get the idea.The Sharks are the chic pick here, and it’s about time somebody freaking noticed. (I’d like to think I’ve helped turn the tide.) But let’s not forget the Wings are the No. 1 seed in the West. With the exception of this season, they’ve owned the Sharks, especially at Joe Louis Arena. They are a playoff-tested bunch unlike the Predators, who have conveniently turned into a pumpkin for the Sharks the last two years.On the other hand, look for youth to be served here – like there was any chance that I was picking Detroit. San Jose will go high on Dominik Hasek, resurrect its power play, which was an awful 2-for-30 against the Predlies, and snag a game at The Joe.Sharks in six … and the editor who hired me here in 1997, Matt Fults, will find a way to slash my tires from Utah.When not finding his inner Ulf Dahlen, Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.