Stanley Cup Update & World Cup Preview

I was wrong.  Twice.
The Edmonton Oilers defeated the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 5 games.  (I wrongly predicted an Anaheim victory in 7 games.)  And the Carolina Hurricanes will be their opponents in the Stanley Cup Final.  (They defeated the Buffalo Sabres in 7 games.  I thought the Sabres were going to win in 6.)
And while my long-suffering uncle will be crying in his beer (yet again) because his beloved Sabres are going home empty-handed (again), I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to seeing the Oilers in the Final.  I’ve been waiting 16 long years for this and I’ll be glued to the family set for every game.
I have gotten so many predictions wrong this post-season I am relieved I’m not a gambler.  That won’t stop me from making one last prediction. 
So, who will be the first Stanley Cup champion in 2 seasons?  Will it be the Carolina Hurricanes who are making their 2nd appearance in the Final series and have never won before?  Or will it be Edmonton who have won it 5 times previously?  This will be their 7th appearance in the Final.  Will it end their dreadfully long slump?
During the third round of the playoffs, I felt that the winner of the Eastern Conference series would probably go on to win the championship.  I haven’t changed my mind although this has been a difficult decision.  Every time I’ve counted out the Oilers, they’ve won enough games to advance to the next round.  It was nice that they quickly wrapped up their series against Anaheim so they could get some much needed rest after having little time off previously and collectively suffering from an exasperatingly stubborn flu bug.  But this Carolina team looks awfully tough to beat.  They have two good goalies, both of whom have delivered when necessary.  The Oilers only have Roloson who will have his work cut out for him.  If they can solve both Ward and Gerber, once again they can prove me wrong.  But with Rod Brind’Amour playing the best hockey of his long career and rookie Eric Staal heating up the scoring race, you have to give the edge to the Hurricanes.
It will not be a quick series.  Carolina in 6.
The day after I turn 31 the 2006 World Cup soccer finals commences.  I look forward to this every four years, thanks to my late grandfather who grew up in Britain and loved watching the sport for years.  He passed on his love of soccer to me at a very young age, much to my eternal delight.  
With Canada, once again, nowhere to be found, (they haven’t qualified since 1986) I’m rooting for England all the way. 
Here are some predictions for who will survive the group phase:
Group A  – This might be one of the most competitive groups this year.  Look for Germany to finish first and Costa Rica to join them in the knock-out stage.
Group B  – A tough group for Beckham and the boys.  Will Rooney’s foot be in any shape to put some balls in the goal?  Or will they have to go on without him?  Time will tell but this will be a difficult opening 3 games for them.  I think Sweden will take the group and England will squeak through with them.
Group C  – Barring a couple of huge upsets (which are always delightfully possible), expect Argentina to win the group and the Netherlands to join them in the next round.
Group D  – Many are wondering why Iran is here.  Their presence in the tournament will certainly liven things up but I think they have no chance in moving beyond the group stage.  Portugal have been strong in recent tourneys so I think they’ll be first and Mexico will be second.
Group E  – The Americans, who have been consistent qualifiers since they hosted the 1994 Finals, have their work cut out for them this time out.  I don’t see them making it out of their group.  Look for Italy to finish first and Nedved’s Czech Republic to join them in the next round.
Group F  – Brazil are the defending champions and I expect them to finish first here.  Tough to predict who will join them.  I’ll say Croatia.
Group G  – Zidane’s last hurrah.  The 1998 champions will redeem themselves after failing to get out of their group in 2002.  They’ll finish first and the underdog Koreans, who shocked everybody by finishing fourth last time out, will be second.
Group H  – Spain shouldn’t have too much difficulty finishing first here.  I expect them to win all their matches.  I think Saudi Arabia will join them in the knockout phase.  Ukraine and Tunisia don’t have a prayer.
When the matchups are set for the knockout round, I’ll be back for more predictions.  Here’s hoping I redeem myself after my pitiful record calling the winners for the Stanley Cup.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, June 1, 2006
11:11 p.m.
Published in: on June 1, 2006 at 11:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

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