Blue Jays make first round NHL playoff picks

Mark Buehrle. (CP/Frank Gunn)

At heart, Mark Buehrle is a fan of the St. Louis Blues through and through, but the 12 years he spent with the White Sox softened the intense dislike the native of St. Charles, Mo., used to feel for the Chicago Blackhawks.

“It’s weird because it’s a big rivalry,” says the Toronto Blue Jays left-hander. “For a couple years in Chicago, the White Sox and Blackhawks did events together, the guys came out to the field and threw stuff from on top of the dugouts, taking BP. Being a Blues fan and hating the Blackhawks growing up, and then getting to meet them, all those guys are cool, it was a toss-up when I was there.

“I’m still more of a Blues fan, but I ended up a fan of both, which kind of seems illegal.”

Legal or not, there are no mixed feelings over which team Buehrle will be rooting for when the Blues and Blackhawks meet in the first round of the NHL playoffs. It’s St. Louis or bust, but the fan in him is nervous.

“I don’t have that confidence in the Blues,” he says. “It seems the last two years, getting matched up against L.A. and getting knocked out, I don’t know. I want them to win because I’m from there and I know some of the guys on the team, but against Chicago, I’m not too positive on that series.”

His pick to win the Stanley Cup then?

“I’d probably say Boston,” Buehrle replies. “Tuuka Rask is pretty damn good. A little easier path in the Eastern Conference, but it’s hockey playoffs, anything can happen.”

Despite the unpredictability, Buehrle still shared his first-round picks with Sportsnet, going head-to-head against all-star reliever Brett Cecil and first base coach Tim Leiper, two fellow hockey aficionados on the Blue Jays.

Cecil has more faith in the Blues than Buehrle, naming them as his Stanley Cup favourite, although his teammate’s concerns gave him some pause. He likes the Bruins to win it all, too, as does Leiper, though in the end he stuck close to home and made the Anaheim Ducks his pick to hoist the Cup.

Their picks, in full, are below.

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins vs Detroit Red Wins

Buehrle: Boston. “Detroit’s a good playoff team, but Boston to me is one of the best teams in the NHL.”

Cecil: Boston. “Tuuka’s on a roll and obviously they’re team is really good.”

Leiper: Boston. “They’re just good, they’ve been there.”

Tampa Bay Lightning vs Montreal Canadiens

Buehrle: Montreal. “If Tampa Bay had Ben Bishop in there I’d pick them but with him being iffy, I’m going to have to take Montreal. But if Bishop is in there I think they’re going to advance.”

Cecil: Tampa Bay. “I’m going with my second hometown team.”

Leiper: Tampa Bay. “Stevie Yzerman, Nepean guy, I got to go Tampa Bay.”

Pittsburgh Penguins vs Columbus Blue Jackets

Buehrle: Pittsburgh. “Sidney Crosby is going to take them to the next round.”

Cecil: Pittsburgh. “I’d say Columbus, but I’m going to try and get them right this year.”

Leiper: Pittsburgh.

New York Rangers vs Philadelphia Flyers

Buehrle: New York. “That’s a toss-up. We’ll go with the Rangers just because of home ice.”

Cecil: New York. “They’re both really good teams. I think Henrik Lundqvist is the better goalie.”

Leiper: Philadelphia. “Just the history, grittier team. Rangers not a good playoff team.”

Western Conference

Colorado Avalanche vs Minnesota Wild

Buehrle: Colorado.

Cecil: Colorado.

Leiper: Colorado. “Minnesota is out after one round.”

St. Louis Blues vs Chicago Blackhawks

Buehrle: St. Louis. “St. Louis is obviously my team, I’m going to pick them but I think Chicago is going to win just from previous experiences.”

Cecil: St. Louis. “I’m going with Buehrle’s team.”

Leiper: St. Louis. “That’s a good one. Early exit for Chicago.”

Anaheim Ducks vs Dallas Stars

Buehrle: Anaheim. “Dallas snuck in, they’re on a roll right now, but Anaheim is the better team.”

Cecil: Anaheim.

Leiper: Anaheim. “I’m from Orange County, I’ve got to go with Anaheim.”

San Jose Sharks vs Los Angeles Kings

Buehrle: Los Angeles. “I’m taking the Kings just because of what they’ve done to my Blues the past couple of years.”

Cecil: San Jose.

Leiper: Los Angeles. “I’ve got to go with the goaltending, Jonathan Quick. Neither team can score so I’m going with the goaltender.”

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