Playoff Predix

L'horreur, l'horreur: Les Canadiens sont morts. --Un Habitant

Minnesota North Star forward Bobby Smith redirected a Steve Payne pass; Montreal goalie Denis Herron let the puck slip out of his glove; Al MacAdam jammed-it into the net, and 1:26 later the Canadiens had fallen for the first time in five years.

And so the task of the predicter waxes difficult. The sure bet failed, in one fell swoop of a series. But the semifinals march on, part of the National Hockey League's Long March, which will end one day, reportedly.

1. MINNESOTA vs. PHILADELPHIA: Fresh from one of the biggest upsets in recent NHL history, the North Stars figure to suffer some sort of a letdown. Gilles Meloche has performed superbly in the fabled crucial position of goaltender, while Minnesota's defense has played beyond its earthly ability.

No one yet believes the Flyers are the finest in hockey--but this series may enhance Philly's claim to the label. Feisty coach Pat Quinn will match wits with GlenSomnor, and win. Flyers in five.


2. ISLANDERS v. BUFFALO: By the time it ended, Bob Lorimer had a gash over his right eye, Terry O'Reilly a purple welt under his; Bob Nystrom still wondered where his contact lens went and vowed to avenge Brad McCrimmon for a scratched cornea. No, the face-smacking, bone-crunching, degrading, "If you can't beat 'em in the alley beat 'em three out of four at Boston Garden," generally nasty, brutish and protracted quarterfinal Thermopylae betwixt the New York Islanders and the Boston Bruins was not a good series for eyes.

But the I's took it, four games to one, and for a change have an aura of quiet confidence in the playoffs.

The rejuvenated Sabres, rested (cold?) after sweeping Chicago, have other ideas. Under ex-Hab coach Scotty Bowman, they look to vindicate themselves after a series of playoff disappointments. With the Canadiens gone, dreams of a Cup at the Aud will be hard to resist. Nevertheless, Islanders in six. Or maybe not.

The record so far: 9-3, 750.