Thursday, April 30, 2009

My second round picks and a perfect mint julep

The first round of the playoffs is behind us, and, as usual, it didn't disappoint. The two game 7s played Tuesday night were classics, with Washington knocking off the Rangers after falling behind three games to one, and Carolina scoring twice in the last two minutes to send the Devils and Marty Brodeur packing. I picked six of the eight series correctly, fanning on Vancouver's sweep of St. Louis and Anaheim's upset of San Jose. But upsets in the first round are to be expected. As the playoffs progress, the better teams, and the better defensive teams, usually prevail. Here's the way I see round two:
Boston over Carolina in six: The Bruins are the best team in the East and they're well rested. Vezina Trophy favorite Tim Thomas now has his first playoff series win behind him, and Phil Kessel is emerging as an NHL star. The 'Canes Eric Staal is playing great, but the Bruins have home ice and depth.
Pittsburgh over Washington in five. The glamor boys--Pittsburgh's Sydney Crosby and Washington's Alex Ovechkin--square off in this one, and I'd love to see it go seven games. But the Caps barely squeaked by the offensively challenged Rangers, and the Penguins are hitting on all cylinders. But these games will be wonderful entertainment, because the stars don't like each other, on top of everything else.

Detroit over Anaheim in seven
: This will be a nasty series between the last two Stanley Cup champions, and it's not a good draw for Detroit. Anaheim is tough, mean, and loaded with North Americans--they have only two Europeans on their roster, not counting Swiss goalie Jonas Hiller--and they led the NHL in fighting this year. The Red Wings are fast, skilled, disciplined and are loaded with Europeans--they have 13 in all, seven of them Swedes--and were last in the league in fighting. Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf fought San Jose's pacifistic Joe Thornton at the opening faceoff in their clinching game against the favored Sharks, so it's not hard to figure out what Anaheim's strategy will be against the Wings. Intimidation. If Detroit's power play can make them pay, and the Wings players are able to refrain from retaliation penalties, and goalie Chris Osgood plays as well as he did the opening round and doesn't revert to regular season form (that's a lot of ifs), the skilled Wings should prevail. Barely.
Vancouver over Chicago in six: The Hawks are a team of the future, and showed tremendous heart and fire in knocking off Calgary in the first round. But Vancouver has the best goalie left in the playoffs in Roberto Luongo, and are well rested after their relatively easy first round sweep of the Blues. Chicago will play well, but look for the Canucks to move on.

...And speaking of moving on, why not enjoy a mint julep, not just while watching the Derby, but while enjoying the NHL playoffs in HD? I've always wondered why the mint julep is generally only enjoyed one day a year, and sometimes not even that often. I think it's because it's generally served too sweet. Here's the recipe recommended on the website of Maker's Mark. If you have a couple of hours, go for it. It looks wonderful.
...Me, I prefer this one: 2 1/2 ounces bourbon
2 tsp. water
1 tsp. Breakwind Farm honey (or any honey)
crushed ice

Place water, honey and mint in a tumbler. Crush mint and mix with a spoon. Add ice and bourbon. Mix well. Serve with sprig of fresh mint. Sip. Repeat. Enjoy.

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