It was brought to my attention right before the March Madness tournament this year that there are plenty of people who fill out brackets even though they know very little about college basketball. They don't know enough to pick the winners by the best team, so a popular method is to choose by which mascot can defeat the other. For example, when UCONN Huskies and Butler Bulldogs faced off in the Championship, you would have to decided who would win in a fight, a husky or a bulldog. Clearly, by this method, that would be a very close game (for the record I know UCONN won and the game was last week, I'm just using this as a for-instance. Also, I can't believe I'm writing about basketball at the moment).
I thought it would be an interesting idea to try this with the Stanley Cup playoffs. So here is how the playoffs will turnout if the teams with the most dominant nicknames win. For the record, I was 12 of 16 in predicting playoff teams including five of six division winners (everyone but Philly, I chose Pittsburgh) and seven teams in the exact position they finished (Washington, Boston, Atlanta, Vancouver, Phoenix, Calgary and Edmonton).
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
1. Washington Capitals vs. 8. New York Rangers
This first series poses a problem that will come up a few times and that is what exactly is the nickname. A capital is more of a symbol than anything else, but since their secondary logo features an eagle, I'm going to go with that. A Ranger to me brings up images of an Army Ranger. This will be a hard-fought series as both are incredibly proud. The Capitals may not be that big, but they are fierce and if you enter their territory uninvited, you will be in trouble. Plus they can fly like the wind and have amazing vision that can spot even the smallest openings. The Rangers have technology at their disposal, but if they have vision anywhere near an eagle, that's good for them. However, they definitely have an edge in coordination and teamwork as well as a number of tools at their disposal.
Result: In a series that goes the distance, the Rangers pull off the right attack at the right time and comes away victorious - Rangers in seven.
2. Philadelphia Flyers vs. 7. Buffalo Sabres
Once again, what exactly is a Flyer? Their speed and power conjures up images of fighter jets and that will go up against...a sword? A sabre is a highly finesse weapon and when used correctly, can inflict lethal damage. But can it fly? If I have a fighter pilot bearing down on me, guns blazing, I want a little more than a sword on my side.
Result: It doesn't matter who is guiding the Sabres, the Flyers, with a barrage of high-tech weapons, will make quick work of them - Flyers in five.
3. Boston Bruins vs. 6. Montreal Canadiens
A proud province versus a bad bear. Bruins are ferocious, powerful and massive and can physically dominate opponents without batting an eye. There's not much you can do to come away in one piece other than run the other way. Then you have the French-Canadiens. If there's one group crazy enough to take on a bruin, its them; remember these people burn police cars when they win the first round. They will definitely not back down from this battle and will bring plenty of reinforcements. However, they are definitely known more for their elegance than their power and will most certainly have trouble with the bruins' claws.
Result: They won't go down easy, but the Canadiens simply lack the brute strength and savageness of a bruin - Bruins in six.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 5. Tampa Bay Lightning
Lightning lives by the quick-strike attack. You can easily miss it; blink and you're done. A penguin is among the toughest animals on earth. They withstand the most extreme conditions in the Antarctic where few other animals can possibly survive, but their strength is nearly all defense while the Lightning is a powerful offensive force. Penguins can deal with freezing cold, but extreme heat is way out of their element.
Result: One of the most powerful forces of nature going up against a bird that can't fly? Easy - Lightning in five.
Western Conference Quarterfinals
1. Vancouver Canucks vs. 8. Chicago Blackhawks
Here we have English-speaking Canadians and a fictional WWII hero against an actual WWI infantry division. Johnny canuck may have defeated a cartoon version of Hitler, but the original Black Hawks were true heroes.
Result: An actual army? C'mon, no contest - Blackhawks in four.
2. San Jose Sharks vs. 7. Los Angeles Kings
A shark may be the greatest predator in the world. They not only inflict a ton of damage themselves, but they can smell something wounded a mile away. They strike fast and hard and when they have you in their grip, rarely are you coming back. A king has the respect of everyone and can control armies. However I don't think swimming is a major qualifier for being a king which give a shark a bit of an edge in the water.
Result: Royalty may have people who will do anything for them, but fighting a shark is probably not one of them - Sharks in five.
3. Detroit Red Wings vs. 6. Phoenix Coyotes
It's something that can fly, but what it is specifically isn't known. I have a feeling if it were something dangerous like and eagle or hawk, they would say so rather than covering it up with the car back story of Detroit. A coyote is a scavenger and while it may not be one to openly attack something while it is at full strength, but it knows how to survive.
Result: The Red Wings have the advantage of flight, but the Yotes are used to surviving difficult situations in the desert - Coyotes in seven.
4. Anaheim Ducks vs. 5. Nashville Predators
Ducks are simple creatures and unless you're hiding bread from them, they won't bother you much. A sabre-tooth tiger was one of the greatest hunters back in the day and even if it is one against an entire flock, ducks won't do much more than annoy it.
Result: Ducks fly together...then get eaten by sabre-tooth tigers together - Predators in four.
Eastern Conference Semifinals
2. Philadelphia Flyers vs. 8. New York Rangers
This is a tough one. One one hand you have an air attack dropping bombs on the ground, on the other you have the army launching land-to-air rockets back at them. I'm sure the ground defenses are fine, but the speed and ability to fly have to be an advantage in this series.
This is going to be a hard series to win, but you have to give the advantage to the one that flys - Flyers in seven.
3. Boston Bruins vs. 6. Tampa Bay Lightning
As vicious as bruins are, its hard to believe they can do much against lightning. They will certainly offer more of a fight than a penguin, but attempting to claw at the hottest element on the planet most likely won't end well.
Result: Much like the Penguins series lightning is just too powerful - Lightning in six.
Western Conference Semifinals
2. San Jose Sharks vs. 8. Chicago Blackhawks
Each of these teams have a solid attack and a tough defense. The advantage comes in where the fight is. A shark, as skillful a hunter as they are, won't have much of an effect on land. Once in the water however, it's the U.S.S. Indianapolis all over again. This infantry division will find out the hard way
Result: This series will come down to home ice advantage - Sharks in seven.
5. Nashville Predators vs. 6. Phoenix Coyotes
Desert dogs may be scrappy, but how will they handle a 900 pound cat with fangs? My guess is not very well. Coyotes can gang up on them and chip away here and there, but their attack is weak compared to the Predators.
Result: They will just be too powerful to handle - Predators in five.
Eastern Conference Final
2. Philadelphia Flyers vs. 6. Tampa Bay Lightning
The most explosive force nature has to offer against the very best of human ingenuity makes for a great series. Surely modern aviation technology can absorb most lightning strikes, but when is enough enough? Flyers can take hit after hit, but something will go askew somewhere.
Result: It may take a while, but lightning will eventually cripple the Flyers - Lightning in seven.
Western Conference Final
2. San Jose Sharks vs. 5. Nashville Predators
These are two of the top hunters in history. In terms of attack and defense, these teams are evenly matched. It all comes down who can go into the other team's territory and come out on top. The Sharks have home ice in the series which will certainly help. However, a tiger has been known to take down animals that rule the water while sharks aren't known to go on land.
Result: San Jose can't win in Nashville, but Nashville can steal a win in San Jose - Predators in six.
Stanley Cup Final
5. Nashville Predators vs. 6. Tampa Bay Lightning
The final matchup is intense. Lightning continues with white-hot offense while these tigers have survived some of the harshest conditions in history. They should be able to take anything the Lightning can throw at them. They should also be able to dish out a healthy attack of their own, probably the best one the Lightning have seen all playoffs. This will be an epic duel featuring two of the top forces nature has ever had to offer.
Result: Predators may have been one of the top carnivores in history, but nature eventually won over and it will happen again as an extremely lethal attack carries the Lightning to the Cup - Lightning in seven.