the Fifth Line: Reading the Future

There’s a sidewalk sandwich board that appeared out of nowhere near the D’Agostino’s on Addison. It offers up the services of the “Southport Psychic” for a low introductory price.

My initial thought was to wonder from whence this mysterious sign appeared. But then I thought, maybe I could use some of this psychic stuff to seem like a brilliant hockey prognosticator. Not that I want to pay anybody to say some words and make predictions for me. I could probably do this myself, right? Right.

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My first prediction is that Pierrre McGuire will know exactly where you played junior/college hockey — even if you’ve never played hockey.

I found a dusty old deck of tarot cards I didn’t know I had, so now I’m going to plumb its mystical depths to make insightful readings for each division. I can already envision my future as a highly-paid giver of predictions and hot takes…

Central Division

Okay, I’ve googled how to do a three-card spread, reading the cards to tell the past-present-future of the divisions. I’m going to start with an easy one, since I know the Central best. Let’s shuffle and go. We start with…

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Dreamy.

Past: the Empress represents, um, beauty, I think? So I guess this deck of cards really likes Patrick Sharp? The card also represents abundance– oh, I get it. The start of the season was a time of plenty for the Central division. Every team seemingly improved in the offseason, and the division was a cornucopia of potential playoff teams. That gave way to…

Present: the Seven of Cups (reversed) indicates a time of illusion, chaos, and deception. Everything looks tempting — seven cups, seven teams, any one of which could be good enough to make the playoffs. Thirty-some games is plenty of time for a team with poor possession numbers (Colorado) or suspect defense (Dallas) to make up the points necessary to make the playoffs, right? Not so. The reversed card says this optimism is little more than a drunken haze that we’ll shortly wake up from, leaving us with a pounding headache and…

Future: the Hierophant is the symbol of the status quo, and tells us that the late season standings will look a lot like the present. No matter how the top four juggle their positions, it’ll be the same four teams: Nashville, Chicago, Winnipeg, St. Louis. As seen with the above card, anything else is an illusion. Even if the Avalanche somehow manage to grab the last wild Card spot, they’ll repeat last year’s early exit. Or maybe it means that Patrick Roy will start dressing in the Pope’s robes. I’m still new to this tarot thing.

Pacific Division

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Get ’em, Steve-Dave!

The Central’s reading went pretty well, so I’m going to keep going. Shuffle all the cards back in, and stare at the Pacific division standings. Form the question in my head. Visualize the dirty gritty play of the Ducks as they fight and have their way with the rest of the division. And we start with…

Past: the King of Coins shows up to remind us of the dominance and success of the Pacific teams. Anaheim is again in the running for the President’s Cup. The Kings have won two Stanley Cups in three years. San Jose is always a lock to make the playoffs. The Canucks are a once-dominant team whose aging core still propels them to winning. Which is an interesting contrast to…

Present: the Tower, a manifestation of utter chaos. While the Ducks sit atop their perch, leading the league standings, spots 2-5 are a jumble. A hot mess. All four teams are within two points of each other, and none of them can seem to grab a ring and haul themselves up. It’s so chaotic, they’ve left an opening for the fifth team from the Central to steal the last wild card slot. Unlikely, but still possible. Chaos will reign in this division until…

Future: the King of Wands (reversed) shows up, because of course these cards can’t help themselves. The LA Kings are the reigning Cup champs, after all. But this reversed king means that someone’s going to be really fucking disappointed. Los Angeles may be on the outside right now, but everyone expects them to assert their place as a playoff team. San Jose is desperate to not bomb out of the playoffs. Vancouver is still clinging to the hope that the window hasn’t closed on their postseason hopes. At this stage, Calgary thinks won’t be happy if they miss the playoffs. These goals all seem reasonable, but expect to feast on the tears of at least one of these teams come season’s end.

Atlantic Division

Gonna keep going. What do you have for us in the Atlantic, oh wise and knowing collection of cards & ink? Flip one and…

Past: the Eight of Wands (reversed) is the harbinger of stumbling and tripping over your skates even as you try to surge forward. The Boston Bruins were the class of the East last year, but faceplanted in the playoffs against and inferior division rival. They continued to stumble out of the gate this season, losing swagger as injury and inconsistency plagued them. But while Boston has righted themselves, the Maple Leafs continue to stumble all the way down the standings, only cushioned by falling atop the animated corpse of the Sabres. As for now…?

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Oh, how the roles have reversed since the early season.

Present: the Chariot seems a little too on-the-nose. I mean, this is some obvious reference to the Detroit Red Wings leading the Atlantic, right? I guess it could also refer to the other three teams in playoff spot, too. Tampa taking control despite Ben Bishop’s stats falling back to earth, Montreal skating strong even though their possession numbers are below water, and Boston overcoming every possible obstacle to cement their position. But, really, it’s about the old dynasty in Detroit making a case that the window hasn’t yet closed and as long as they have Coach Babcock, it may never close.

Future: the Hierophant is back! This is another division that isn’t going to change much over the next thirty games. The teams that made the playoffs last year are the teams making it this year. Florida was fun to cheer for, but they’re too young and too reliant on defense and goaltending to progress to the playoffs. Boston was fun to cheer against, but once they were healthy, they were too skilled to remain on the bubble. Toronto tanks, Buffalo is the league’s worst team, and all ends as we expected it to.

Metropolitan Division

Huh, that was weird, getting the same card. At least, it was statistically unlikely. Am I messing with supernatural powers beyond my ken? Or is it just probability mixed with the human need to assemble random and unrelated stimuli into a cohesive narrative? Probably the latter. Anyway, one last division. Focus on the standings, visualize the Metro teams, and…

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“Sorry, Sid, didn’t see you there.”

Past: the Knight of Cups rides in– wait, did I have this reversed or upright? Crap, I wasn’t paying attention. Upright, the Knight is a shining symbol of everything good and successful, so I’m going to guess that’s some kind of reference to Sidney Crosby and the Penguins. He’s the face of the league, and his team always wins the division. And if it was reversed, that works, too, since the upside-down Knight is about unfulfilled promise and disappointment (Pittsburgh’s recent playoff record). I’m totally not making this up as I go along.

Present: the Page of Coins marks a new beginning and a changing of the old guard. The Islanders have supplanted the Penguins atop the Metro division, the Rangers have been more successful in the playoffs, and the Capitals are flourishing under a new coach & GM alongside Crosby’s foil, Alex Ovechkin. What will all this chaos and upheaval lead to?

Future: le Roi en Jaune

Huh, that’s not one I recognize. Seems kind of like the Emperor? Weird. A figure in tattered yellow robes, with a strange mask on his face. The more I stare at the card, the more the details amaze me. I see men in Blue Jacket uniforms, laid out on an icy battlefield, a grand guignol of casualties as far as the eye can see. I see Voracek, the Destroyer, with a bloody stick in defeat. He has conquered the goal, but his defenses lie in ruins. I see industry and government, brought low by the combined forces of New Amsterdam. I see all the East brought low by this division, the and the skyline of all its cities fade out, fade in, and when I see them again, they bear a new name: CARCOSA. Lundqvist’s face is a mask, but his mask is his face — he wears no mask. No mask! Okposo is the Phantom of Truth, and when the Yellow King claims him, all ice arenas will become gateways to terror. The King will remove our ability to direct or escape this waking nightmare.

Maybe I should put these cards away. Maybe have a drink, lie down for a bit, and watch some hockey. It’s just a silly deck of cards. There’s no way to see the future with them.

-J.

-J.

The entity known as -J. would be at home in a place like Carcosa or Night Vale, but instead lives near a far more dreary place -- Wrigley Field. He is the patron Addisonian of whisk(e)y and tabletop games, and is often adorned with a waistcoat & his ridiculous mustache.

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