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Van Smack's Stanley Cup Pick

Take it to the bank.

April 11, 2018 - 1:11 pm

Lace up the skates. Buckle the chin strap. Throw away the freaking razor. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are here. Get ready for two months of absolute savagery. The fiercest postseason in all of sports, as 16 teams bracket up and face off for the right to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup. 

You know this is a big time of year in the Jungle. You know this is a hockey house. And you know that I walk around every spring shouldering an incredible responsibility -- The Gift of Pure Hockey Infallibility. 

It's not something I take lightly. Yes, it was gifted to me, but with great power comes great responsibility. I don't just roll out of the rack on Playoff morning, strap on a blindfold, and throw a steel-tip at a dart board. I put in the hours. I may have not Conn Smythe game, but I've got 4th line grind

Because every year, the Cup demands it. Especially when there's so much at stake. You've got Syd the Kid gunning for the first three-peat since the Islander's dynasty of the early 80s. The Vegas Golden Knights might the greatest story in sports. They've already done something nobody thought possible;  ripping 51 wins as an expansion teams and carrying the Pacific Division's 1-seed into the madness. Stevie Yzerman shoved his chips into the middle and made some power moves at the trade deadline for Tampa Bay, making them dangerous as hell. And you've got Alex Ovechkin and the Caps are right back in the thick of it, the NHL's leading sniper ready to prove that this year won't be like every other playoff flameout. 

But as much as I like how all those teams are playing, there's one thing I like even  more: Smashville. The Preds. I LIKE CAT FISH, MATE.

Because Smashville has unfinished business. The Preds came within 61 minutes and 35 seconds of hoisting their first cup when they made that run out of the 8-hole last year and turned a country music city into a hockey town. And if you don't think seeing the Penguins partying in their house did something to that team than you don't know this crew. 

Because the Preds have the look of a champ. They've got the firepower. They have the depth. And just as important, they've got the scar tissue. Sometimes you need to have your heart ripped out before you can get over and win.

There’s process to these things: Wayne Gretzky used to always talk about having the Islanders handling and how they have to watch it as part of the process of winning it all.  That’s the Preds. And that's what last year was. 

But this group is different. And by different, I mean better. Pekka Rinne came back even better between the pipes and that dude was unconscious last year in the Playoffs. Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson can light the lamp. P.K. Subban and Roman Josi are monsters at the point. No team has better depth at center ice. Or on the blue line. GM David Poile built a monster. Head coach Peter Laviolette has these guy's dialed in and they’re starving. That's why this year's gonna end with one of the all-time great parties on Broadway after the Preds win 16 the hardest way. 

Now don't @ me because I'm picking the betting favorite. Don't @ me because I'm rolling with the President's Cup winner, the team with the best regular season record in hockey. Because the betting favorite never wins the Cup. And ask the Caps what those President's Cups have done for them, other than help book early tee times and earn more cabana time in the sand. And as good as Nashville's been this year, nobody's going to have a harder road, especially with Winnipeg waiting in round 2. 

But this is Smashville's year. This time is going to be different. And like one of those good ol' country and western songs, sometimes you need to have your heartbroken first. The Preds have been there and done that. And now they're coming home with the Cup.  Write it down now, thank me later. Because while I’ve been wrong about many things, picking the eventual Stanley Cup winner isn’t one of them. I have never been wrong there, and I never will be. It’s a gift bestowed upon me from the hockey gods. I don’t know why they selected me; I don’t even question it. I just know it’s true and I honor and respect the hell out of it. So you should too.