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2014 NHL playoffs mulligan: SI.com staff reconsider their picks

San Jose Sharks skate onto the ice through a giant shark's mouth. The Sharks chewed up more than a few playoff brackets with their epic collapse vs. the Kings. (Getty Images)

By Allan Muir

In our playoff preview before the first round, six SI.com staffers including yours truly, dutifully filled out their brackets and cast their beady eyes into the crystal ball, squinting through the swirling mists in an attempt to discern the sleeper team and MVP of the postseason as well as the poor soul who would feel the most heat if things went awry.

So how did we do? Well, those who picked the San Jose Sharks to reach the Stanley Cup Final certainly deserve a mulligan. So we've replaced the divots, teed up the crystal balls again, and taken another hack at it by recasting our brackets.

Here's Take 2. Fore!

Second round breakdowns: Bruins-Canadiens | Penguins-Rangers | Blackhawks-Wild

Ducks-Kings

Allan Muir

Original bracket picks (shanks in bold)

Eastern Conference: Red Wings over Bruins, Canadiens over Lightning, Penguins over Blue Jackets, Rangers over Flyers.

Western Conference: Avalanche over Wild, Blackhawks over Blues, Stars over Ducks, Kings over Sharks

Conference champs: Penguins, Kings

Stanley Cup: Kings

New bracket (for second round through final)

Eastern Conference: Bruins over Canadiens, Penguins over Rangers

Western Conference: Kings over Ducks, Blackhawks over Wild

Conference champs: Bruins, Kings

Stanley Cup: Kings

All things reconsidered: Neither of my first-round gambles paid off--my plans were unraveled by the suspect defenses in Detroit and Dallas--and that requires some re-thinking of my ill-conceived bracket. In the West, the Kings will grind the Ducks into freeway meat, setting up a Western Conference showdown with the Blackhawks, who'll barely break a sweat against the Wild. I still like Los Angeles to emerge from that one because of Jonathan Quick. Despite Thursday night's loss, the Bruins looked more than capable of handling the Habs (Corsi! Fenwick! PDO!), putting them on a collision course with the Penguins. The second annual date won't go any better for Pittsburgh, sending the B's on to represent the East in the Final. I'll stick with my L.A. pick for the Cup, but that series will be a black-eyed, busted ribbed beauty.

Brian Cazeneuve

Original bracket picks (whiffs in bold)

Eastern Conference: Bruins over Red Wings, Lightning over Canadiens, Penguins over Blue Jackets, Rangers over Flyers.

Western Conference: Avalanche over Wild, Blues over Blackhawks, Ducks over Stars, Kings over Sharks

Conference champs: Bruins, Ducks

Stanley Cup: Bruins

New bracket (for second round through final)

Eastern Conference: Bruins over Canadiens, Rangers over Penguins

Western Conference: Ducks over Kings, Blackhawks over Wild

Conference champs: Bruins, Ducks

Stanley Cup: Bruins

All things reconsidered: I’m comfortable with most of my picks so far, but the Blackhawks-Wild second-round match-up is a surprise, especially seeing Minnesota defeat Colorado. The Hawks were banged up going into the St. Louis series with both Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews coming back from injury. Both have had a few extra rest days, which should suit them well. I am really impressed by the way Minnesota shrugged off some disappointments in its first series. A resurgent Dany Heatley has been a surprise, but the Wild must figure out its goaltending puzzle. The team has been off the national radar screen for most of the season, but if Minnesota can get through this series, there will be an ever-growing audience trying to say the name Nino Niederreiter.

Sarah Kwak

Original bracket picks (dribblers in bold)

Eastern Conference: Bruins over Red Wings, Canadiens over Lightning, Penguins over Blue Jackets, Rangers over Flyers.

Western Conference: Avalanche over Wild, Blues over Blackhawks, Ducks over Stars, Sharks over Kings

Conference champs: Bruins, Sharks

Stanley Cup: Bruins

New bracket (for second round through final)

Eastern Conference: Bruins over Canadiens, Rangers over Penguins

Western Conference: Ducks over Kings, Blackhawks over Wild

Conference champs: Bruins, Ducks

Stanley Cup: Bruins

All things reconsidered:  I was wrong—way wrong. My bracket went down in the West. But if I could see into the future, I’d probably be a lot richer. That’s why they play the games, right? To make me look bad. I still think the Bruins will make it to the end. Though the Canadiens could put up a fight, Boston is the all-around better team, and has enough experience and offensive grit to get through Montreal’s stifling defense and beyond. With the Sharks, my original pick to make it out of the west, flaming out in the black hole of their reputation, I’ll throw my support to the Ducks, who can score, bang and bruise their way through the West.

Michael Blinn

Original bracket picks (hooks in bold)

Eastern Conference: Bruins over Red Wings, Canadiens over Lightning, Blue Jackets over Penguins, Flyers over Rangers

Western Conference: Avalanche over Wild, Blackhawks over Blues, Ducks over Stars, Kings over Sharks

Conference champs: Bruins, Kings

Stanley Cup: Bruins

New bracket (for second round through final)

Eastern Conference: Bruins over Canadiens, Penguins over Rangers

Western Conference: Kings over Ducks, Blackhawks over Wild

Conference champs: Bruins, Kings

Stanley Cup: Bruins

All things reconsidered: I’ll take 5-for-8 in the first round any day, especially when my three bad picks came out of incredibly close series. On the hole (to continue in our golfing vein), my ultimate prediction still stands, especially in the West where we’re headed for a second straight conference finals showdown between the Blackhawks and a Kings team that turned it up to 11 against the Sharks. In the East, Pittsburgh is definitely a contender, but that’s all they’ll be this season. Columbus exposed some serious flaws in the Penguins’ game in round one, and the Bruins will take advantage of every single one of them. My Conn Smythe pick, Patrice Bergeron, may not have put up the gaudy numbers that others did (including teammate Tuukka Rask), but he’s among Boston's leaders in many stats - fancy or otherwise.

Sam Page

Original bracket picks (lost balls in bold)

Eastern Conference: Bruins over Red Wings, Lightning over Canadiens, Blue Jackets over Penguins, Rangers over Flyers

Western Conference: Wild over Avalanche, Blackhawks over Blues, Stars over Ducks, Sharks over Kings

Conference champs: Rangers, Sharks

Stanley Cup: Sharks

New bracket (for second round through final)

Eastern Conference: Bruins over Canadiens, Rangers over Penguins

Western Conference: Kings over Ducks, Blackhawks over Wild

Conference champs: Rangers, Kings

Stanley Cup: Rangers

All things reconsidered:  I felt so good about my bracket just a few days ago. But that's what I get for counting on the Sharks not to choke spectacularly. Of my three attempts at picking the underdog who had better fancy stats, the Wild paid off, while the Jackets and Stars disappointed. Still, using the same principle, I think the Ducks will get trounced by their in-state rival while the Penguins struggle against the Rangers. The Canadiens are the wild card now, as they played much better in the first round (56.2% Fenwick) than they did during the regular season (48.4%).

Gabriel Baumgaertner

Original bracket picks (flubs in bold)

Eastern Conference: Bruins over Red Wings, Canadiens over Lightning, Blue Jackets over Penguins, Flyers over Rangers

Western Conference: Avalanche over Wild, Blackhawks over Blues, Ducks over Stars, Kings over Sharks

Conference champs: Bruins, Kings

Stanley Cup: Bruins

New bracket (for second round through final)

Eastern Conference: Bruins over Canadiens, Penguins over Rangers

Western Conference: Kings over Ducks, Blackhawks over Wild

Conference champs: Bruins, Kings

Stanley Cup: Bruins

All things reconsidered:  My darling Blue Jackets, you almost fulfilled such promise. I’m still proud of my audacious gamble to take Ryan Johansen and Co. in the Eastern Conference. Why? They exposed the Penguins’ vulnerability and proved that the East is, indeed, wide open. Now we get the Penguins and Rangers, two talented if schizophrenic teams, and the Original Six bloodbath between the Bruins and Canadiens. Be excited. As for the Western Conference, Minnesota altered virtually all of our brackets, but racing up and down the ice isn’t a savvy prescription against the Blackhawks. The Wild’s surging offense actually gets an easier test against Corey Crawford than it did against Semyon Varlamov, but Darcy Kuemper (if he’s healthy) or Ilya Bryzgalov has the unenviable task of staring down a confident Chicago offense. Yikes. And, perhaps the most exciting series of all, the Kings and Ducks! A short venture across the 5 freeway, get ready for a gnashing, angry tilt between two of the Western Conference’s best.

 

 

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