1. TODD BERTUZZII've been thinking about that paragraph ever since WI interrupted my lovely Cape Breton vacation last summer with the "Bertuzzi" text that announced his arrival in Calgary. And now, we've had a whole goddamn amazing season with the Toddster to reinforce everything I wrote two years ago.
The Wings decided they needed a boost at the deadline, so GM Ken Holland made deals for the Flyers’ underachieving Kyle Calder, and professional asshole Todd Bertuzzi. Yeah, yeah, I can hear you now: “Gee Duncan, haven’t heard that one before. Can’t you just leave the past behind with Todd? It’s a new day!” Thing is, with Bertuzzi I don’t think there will ever be a new day. Forget about Steve Moore and that he’s proven to be an irresponsible human being. Todd Bertuzzi is a selfish player, and it only gets worse in the playoffs. He takes bad penalties. Horrible, horrible penalties. He says things to the media to draw attention to himself, even if he says he doesn’t want the attention. He promises victory to crowds of Minnesota Wild fans, and we all know how that turned out. He sulks when things don’t go well, then takes more penalties. Forget “motivation” and “something to prove,” because a dog like that has to have his bone. Detroit will have an easier time winning this series if Bertuzzi can’t return from his concussion.
Dude's a cancer. He's actually regressed since his Detroit year. (Remember, the Wings lost in Round 2, and won the cup the next year sans-Todd.) And Calgary will have a chance at winning the series if he gets hurt in Game 1.
So he's Reason 1, this time, why the Flames will lose, instead of win.
But, going back to my format of two years ago, I have further reasons why the Hawks will beat the Flames.
(And, to get this out of the way now: I AM a good Flames fan. I hope I'm wrong about all this, and that Calgary wins 16 straight games all the way to the Cup. I'll watch every game this playoffs and live and die by every play. It's just, I've just watched more than a few games this year, and over the years, an it just doesn't help to SAY things are going to happen if you don't think they're really going to happen.)
2. No Robyn Regehr.
I've made no secret of the fact this is who I consider the actual lynchpin of the Flames, and the guy the team most needs to win. Never mind the regression of Dion Phaneuf this season and Cory Sarich being hurt — Regehr sets the tone, sets the example, and shuts down any player as well as anyone in the league. With the multi-line attack Chicago has to send at Calgary, this is a serious situation.
3. No reason for optimism with Kipper.
Too many games, too long a stretch now with these troubles. It's bad when I'm thinking "maybe" to the idea of starting Curtis McElhinney after he has one good game against the Oilers in Game 82.
4. Anders Eriksson.
It's like a sick joke.
5. Darryl Sutter.
This story, which WI linked to earlier, again shows the Flames' GM to be little more than an arrogant prick. It's completely unnecessary, and I'm sure it's his downfall. He thinks he's so much better at being a hockey GM, and smarter about hockey than anyone in his presence, that he refuses to believe he could ever be wrong. Guess what, asshole: That shitty attitude radiates through an organization. It leads to Bertuzzi and (maybe) Jokinen screwing up chemistry on and off the ice because of his decisions, yeah, but day to day it also gives coaches and players the wrong attitude. I wrote an entry way back this year calling for him to be fired mid-season, that I wondered if I would regret after the Flames went on their annual mid-year run to put them in the playoffs. Now I don't think it looks so crazy, right? I realize this is a hell of a thing to be talking about in a playoff preview, but I figure: better now than after they lose in the first round, and it's "easy for me to say now."
Now, hey — I'm going to be watching, because it's not IMPOSSIBLE that the Flames pull it off. Hell, five out of six geniuses on Rogers Sportsnet think it's, in fact, probable. So here's what I'll be hoping for before puck drop tomorrow night.
HOW THE FLAMES MIGHT WIN
1. If Keenan's tactics are perfect
Aside from the Kipper-pull in Game 7, Keenan was pretty much pitch-perfect in his moves against San Jose last year. The optimistic Flames' mantra of "forget about the regular season, the playoffs are totally different" is, to be honest, basically true. You can establish and learn things during a seven-game series that you can't playing a team four times over the course of 82.
2. If Kipper plays like he did in that Detroit series, or like he did 03/04 or 05/06
Uh, I don't think I need to explain this further.
3. If the Flames break up Olli Jokinen and Jarome Iginla
Give it up, boys: This isn't working. Iginla-Langkow DOES work. Protect Jokinen on the second line, give him Cammalleri to work with, then maybe we have something.
4. If Dion Phaneuf gets dumped by Elisha Cuthbert after they lose Game 1
Could happen. Kim might be feeling uppity after her best-ever acting performance on the last episode of 24. Perhaps the ego-hit will remind him he's not god's gift to defence and Dion will remember, you know, why he ended up on the cover of the video game in the first place.
5. David Moss
This guy really has become a fantastic player this season. He's earned every second of ice time and made the most of it, and pretty much all of that has been under the radar. I'm starting to think he could be one of those playoff breakout guys. His game is perfect for the post-season — high-percentage plays, north-south, go-to-the-net. If he elevates his scoring to elite levels, and the Flames get best-possible contributions from Iginla, Cammo, Jokinen and Langkow, they might have something.
6. Adam Pardy
And this is the other one. By no means is Pardy a "difference-maker", but he has come an awfully long way this year. And if he can take up half of Regehr's minutes, and be full value for them, perhaps they can get through. Perhaps.
So, I'm going Hawks in five, with the Flames winning Game 3 at home. And god, I hope I'm wrong. Five years later, I still go to bed at night dreaming of '04. I want that back.
WI helpfully put these on the record for me earlier, before the games tonight started. But just to elaborate on my texting brevity, here are my picks round-to-round. And, no, I'm not happy about who I'm choosing to win the Cup.
WEST: San Jose def. Anaheim, Columbus def. Detroit, Vancouver def. St. Louis, Chicago def. Calgary.
EAST: Boston def. Montreal, Washington def. Rangers, New Jersey def. Carolina, Pittsburgh def. Philadelphia.
WEST: San Jose def. Columbus, Chicago def. Vancouver
EAST: Boston def. Pittsburgh, Washington def. New Jersey
San Jose def. Chicago, Boston def. Washington
San Jose def. Boston
But I'll be cheering for Boston, because the player outside of Calgary I'd most like to see lift the cup: Andrew Ference.