It's spring time. Time for renewal. Time for redemption.
This year, I made some of my playoff pool picks based on the belief that some individual players who are notorious for playoff underperforming are going to break out.
Joe Thornton. This guy has a reputation for disappearing come April, but I think he's going to break out this year. Getting out of the pressure cooker of an original-6 team, and moving to the warm Norcal sun has made a world of difference. A couple of 90-assist seasons later, Thornton is ready to break out postseason style. Last night, he looked good. No, great. A couple of hail-mary tape-to-tape passes to Grier's stick. 2 assists. So far so good. Look for the Thornton and the Sharks to upstage proven playoff performer Forsberg.
Marty Turco. How can one of the perennial top goalies in the regular season go on a vacation come playoff time? Turco is just too good to keep failing. The way he moves the puck makes a huge difference. He deserved a better fate last night after the Stars pounded away on Luongo all night but couldn't break it open. I took the Stars but there's a good chance Luongo can outplay him.
Daniel Alfredsson. It's time for the Sens to put it together. They've been near the top of the East for years, but can never pull it together in the playoffs. In fact, a non-North-American-captained team hasn't won the cup in ages. But the pieces are here for the Sens this year. They have grit and skill in both Heatley and Spezza. Alfredsson has a chip on his shoulder. The Pens are incredibly young and inexperienced. Fleury looked iffy last night. I think the Sens will take care of the Pens.
Pavel Datsyuk. I lied. I didn't pick all the vanishing artists to win. Both my heart and my gut say Flames. After tying or winning the President's trophy 4 of the last 5 years, there is huge pressure on the Wings to make an extended playoff run. And on nobody more than Datsyuk. This guy hasn't scored in the Playoffs in 2002. Yikes! As the Flames and Wings found last year, 1st round pressure is hard to handle. Far better to be the underdog who nobody thinks can win. I'm thinking the Wings can't handle the pounding the Flames will dish out. Datsyuk will enter the witness protection program. Flames will run the crease and send Dom into a total frenzy, then use that to get inside his head. Flames in 7.