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Bruno’s Monday Thoughts: Masters and Stanley Cup Playoffs

What do Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Charl Schwartzel, Dustin Johnson, Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley, Zach Johnson, Graeme McDowell and Angel Cabrera all have in common?  They have all either won the Masters within the last 8 years, or are currently in the Top 20 in the world golf rankings, and every single one of them missed the cut at Augusta this past week.  I picked Mickelson to win, so naturally, he missed the cut at the Masters for the first time in 17 years.

That’s enough about the losers though.  What an incredible performance by Bubba Watson.  He took control of the tournament after the first two rounds, had a shaky outing on Saturday, but closed like an absolute boss with a 69 in the final round.  He made the par-5s look like par-4s, never lost his confidence and consistently made clutch putts.  There must be no better feeling in the world than walking up the 18th fairway at Augusta National on Sunday afternoon, knowing you’re a lock to win the green jacket.  Two wins in three years… not bad.

Jordan Spieth could have become the youngest Masters winner in history, but it just wasn’t meant to be.  As much as I was cheering for the 20-year old, it seemed like Bubba knew he was going to take it all along, even when Spieth had the momentum on his side for a good stretch on the front nine.  I was very impressed with the way Spieth handled himself on the golf course and in the media.  He displayed great composure and acted more like a 15-year Tour veteran than a first-time Masters participant.  I can’t wait to see what this kid does in the next 5-10 years.

The Stanley Cup playoffs officially begin on Wednesday, and as always, it’s very difficult to prognosticate what’s going to happen.  Over the last four NHL seasons, 60 playoff series were played, and the lower seed won 27 times.  We hear it every year, and it’s starting to sound annoying, but it actually doesn’t matter where you finish, because all you really need is a ticket to the dance.

The Boston Bruins are the real deal.  I don’t think any other team in the East can beat them in a 7-game series.  They have balanced scoring, an amazing goaltender, a cyborg defenceman who can play 30 minutes a game, and are one of the elite defensive teams in the league.  The West is a completely different story.  I believe there are as many as six teams that are capable of winning it all.  Not too long ago, I thought the Blues were the team to beat.  Unfortunately for them, they lost several key players to injury at the end of the season and finished the year on a disappointing 6-game losing streak.  If they return close to full health by their first game against the Blackhawks, which they are expected to, then I believe they will make a very deep run.  They’re the most complete team next to the Bruins, but this might be the year the San Jose Sharks finally break through. They have two No. 1 lines, are a great defensive team, have no significant injuries, and just got Tomas Hertl back.  It’s time to lock in my pick.  I think the Bruins will beat the Sharks in 6 games in the final.

In other news, I clinched my second straight fantasy hockey title last night, which I sadly hold extremely high on my list of accomplishments.  If you’re entering a playoff hockey pool this year, I encourage you to ride players on the Bruins, but don’t be surprised if a team like the Montreal Canadiens or Minnesota Wild throw a wrench into your master plan.  Even if you start questioning your hockey knowledge after three quarters of your team gets knocked out in the first round, take a breather, sit back, enjoy the games and remember there is more to life than fantasy sports.  However, if you won your regular season championship, disregard the last sentence.  Congratulations and feel free to bask in the glory of that for as long as possible.

Anthony Bruno

Twitter: @AnthonyMBruno