(please, skip ahead to the very end and spare up both the embarrassment)
At the time it seemed inevitable that they'd both eventually break through and face off for the Cup, but by 2013 or so, after years and years of disappointments and choke-jobs by both teams, it seemed somewhere between improbable and impossible. Now, a decade later and out of nowhere, here it is. Hockey's funny that way. If it was San Jose matched up against virtually any team from the east besides Pittsburgh, I would be right there in the shark tank with them. There are a lot of things to like about the Sharks...their fanbase, their style, their suffering...and I fully expect most of the hockey watching world, on an emotional level, to be rooting for them to beat the Penguins in these finals.
Well, let them. My emotions are firmly with my team, these players, these Penguins. Oh, and this guy.
I haven't missed a finals pick in five years, and only twice in the ten years I've been doing this. True, this one's a lot harder than most, because, obviously, I'm totally incapable of impartial analysis. I mean, it seems like the Pens' speed ought be able to wear down the Sharks' older lineup...it feels like Evgeni Malkin is due to break out and score some big goals...you'd think that Pittsburgh ought to be able to score some goals on Martin Jones, after getting the best of Henrik Lundqvist and Braden Holtby in the previous rounds. But like I said, hockey is funny, and the only thing you can be sure about when making predictions is that things could turn out the exact opposite of how you think they will. The Sharks are a great team, and I fully expect their huge defense and terrifying power play to give me heart palpitations and nightmares over the next two weeks. But I'm gonna stick by my record and emphatically say Penguins in seven.
Buckle up, baby...this is gonna be a blast!