April 30, 2013
The 2013 NHL playoffs promise to be as fast paced as the abbreviated season. The strike-shortened season was roughly only 100 days long and the league carries plenty of momentum into the “second season.”
The league began the season with a black eye but with a jammed packed schedule that went down to the wire, the NHL recovered nicely from a near catastrophe.
With fans back on board the playoffs will be as captivating as ever. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks dominated their respective conferences this season, but that doesn’t mean they’re destined to meet in the Finals.
Remember, it was just last season when the Los Angeles Kings were the first team in history to win it all as a No. 8 seed.
If there’s one thing that’s for certain, expect the unexpected during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals Will be the Best Round 1 Matchup
As a hockey fan, one can’t help but lose sleep over this series. Coming into the season this was an all-or-nothing type of season for both sides. After a poor start, both teams rebounded well to finish the season on a strong note.
Now, two teams under the microscope will duke it out in a series that screams seven games. The Capitals‘ Alex Ovechkin finished the year with a league-best 32 goals and needs to continue that trend if his team is to advance.
The Rangers spent a ton of money in the offseason only to be seller’s at the trade deadline. What’s done is done and the team found a way to manage the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. New to New York, star Rick Nash led the team in goals with 21, now it’s his duty to lead his team to a Stanley Cup victory.
So, who will win the series?
Capitals in seven games
The Rangers may be facing an intense amount of pressure, but Ovechkin and the Capitals have their backs against the wall.
The Detroit Red Wings Will Upset the Anaheim Ducks in Round 1
The Detroit Red Wings didn’t play consistently good hockey until a week ago, but now they’re hot at the right time.
Spoiled by decades of success, Wings fans were looking lost until recently. The playoffs seemed like a mirage, but the good organizations always seem to get their way and the Wings are in as the No. 7 seed in the West.
Now, the Anaheim Ducks are the underdog in the series even though they are the No. 2 seed. The Wings took the season series 2-1 and have too much momentum right now for Corey Perry and company to stop. Wings stars Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are carrying their team nicely right now.
The Wings won four straight games to make the playoffs and in that time Zetterberg notched 10 points.
Red Wings in six games
The Wings are too hot to lose in the first round but will run out of gas shortly after.
One Not So Bold Pick–Sidney Crosby Will be Sidney Crosby
The Pittsburgh Penguins have been without their captain Sydney Crosby since March 30 due to a broken jaw, but he’ll be on the ice in the playoffs.
He may have missed the final 12 games of the season, but he scored 56 points in just 36 games. The Penguins should be considered great without him and with his presence on the ice they are the most dangerous team in the league.
It may take a game or two to get back into the groove, but Crosby is the best all-around player in the league. Even with missing the final 12 games, Crosby only lost out on the Art Ross Trophy (most points/season) by four points. Tampa Bay Lightning star Martin St. Louis took the trophy with 60 points. St. Louis was then followed by teammate Steven Stamkos’ 57 and then Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby with 56.
Crosby makes everyone better and knowing that Penguins acquisition Jarome Iginla has only played a total of :50 seconds with Crosby, the best is yet to come.
Crosby tallies 17 playoff points—6 goals, 11 assist
The Toronto Maple Leafs Will Win Their Series against the Boston Bruins
These rivals won’t back down, but the Maple Leafs will surprise most when they survive and advance. The Maple Leafs haven’t made the playoffs since 2004 and although both teams stumbled to the finish line, the Leafs carry positive momentum because the city is buzzing.
The Bruins have looked incomplete of late and can’t seem to finish the game. They have dominated the series between the two of late, winning 9-of-10, but the tides will turn here.
The Leafs are well balanced across the score sheet. Expect Nazem Kadri, a 22-year-old center to get under the Bruins skin and light the lamp. In the end, the Bruins won’t know what hit them.
Maple Leafs in five games
Montreal Canadiens vs. Vancouver Canucks in the Finals
That’s correct, an all Canadian final is in store.
The Montreal Canadiens are almost forgotten about but the finished second in the Eastern Conference. The have a goalie in Carey Price who is made for these moments and a perfect blend of toughness and finesse. They are the team that doesn’t have a scoring sensation but rather a group of guys who pitch in at the right moment. A number of players could get hot and spell disaster for their opponents.
The Vancouver Canucks are playoff tested and feel disrespected. They’re almost forgotten about at the moment. Don’t make a mistake by overlooking them and consider them a “has been.” Remember, they have the Sedin twins. Last time I checked they have some weird twin thing going on that gets the puck to the back of the net with regularity. The Canucks X-factor is Ryan Kesler. He’s a world-class player coming off of injury. With only 17 games played this year, he’s seen just enough ice time to make a big difference in the playoffs.
This series will be a slugfest. Plenty of grit combined with a series littered with scrappy goals will make for a memorable final.
Canadiens in six games
Carey Price wins the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP
April 24, 2013
With 5 nights left in the 2012-13 NHL regular season, the final spots in both conferences are still up for grabs. 6 teams in the Eastern Conference have clinched playoff berths, as well as 6 teams in the Western Conference.
This is where the fun begins. In the Eastern Conference, it’s 3 teams for two spots involving the Ottawa Senators, the New York Rangers, and the Winnipeg Jets. Ottawa and New York sit 7th and 8th in the conference, each with 52 points. Ottawa has a game in hand on the Rangers.
The story for the Jets took a turn for the worst with their loss last night to the Washington Capitals. Winnipeg must win its final game of the season and hope for the Rangers and Senators to each lose all of their remaining games.
Out West, the game of musical chairs is much more complicated. It’s 5 teams for 2 spots. The Minnesota Wild are 7th with 53 points. With 2 games left, the Wild need at least 2 points to clinch a playoff spot. In the precious 8th spot are the Columbus Blue Jackets. With 2 games left, the Jackets sit 1 point in front of the Detroit Red Wings, who have made the playoffs in 21 straight seasons. The Red Wings have a game in hand on Columbus.
The 4th team still in the mix is the Dallas Stars. However, the stars did not align last night as Dallas lost a heartbreaker 3-2 in regulation to the San Jose Sharks. With 2 games left, the Stars need to win out, and hope Detroit loses 2 of their final 3 in regulation, and Columbus loses their final 2.
The final team will need a miracle. It’s the Phoenix Coyotes. The Yotes’ must win out and have Detroit, Dallas, and Columbus all basically lose out. Except for the Stars, if Columbus and Detroit lose out in regulation and Dallas loses 1 of 2 in regulation and earns just one point in its final game, the Coyotes are in.
7. Minnesota 53 points- 46 GP
8. Columbus 51 points- 46 GP
9. Detroit 50 points- 45 GP
10. Dallas 48 points- 46 GP
11. Phoenix 46 points- 45 GP
7. Ottawa 52 points- 45 GP
8. NY Rangers 52points- 46 GP
9. Winnipeg 51 points- 47 GP
April 12, 2012
The NHL playoffs begin tonight, considered by many to be the best playoff atmosphere of any sport. Each first round series has a compelling storyline and even the 8th seeds have a shot at advancing. So who will win each series? That is exactly what I will tell you in the following predictions. After breakind down the Western Conference yesterday (to read it, click here.), we take a look at the Eastern Conference.
(1)Rangers vs. (8)Senators
A 1vs.8 series should be a no-brainer, right? Wrong. Ottawa took 3 of 4 from the Rangers during the regular season. The Senators have a solid combination of young stars (Erik Karlsson) and veteran leadership (Daniel Alfredsson), which makes them a very dangerous 8 seed. The Rangers, though, have a great goalie in Henrik Lundqvist and that could be the deciding factor in this series.
Prediction: Rangers in 6.
(2)Bruins vs. (7)Capitals
I will point to goalies as the key in almost all of these breakdowns, and the Capitals goalie situation is in dire straits. With Thomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth out, the Capitals will be likely be relying on a rookie early on. The Capitals will get Nicklas Backstrom back to team with Alex Ovechkin, but with Tim Thomas in net and Zdeno Chara on defense, I like the Bruins to escape this series.
Prediction: Bruins in 5.
(3)Panthers vs. (6)Devils
The Devils are hot (no pun intended). They are on a six game winning streak and actually scored more points in the regular season than their higher seeded opponent. Add that with veteran goaltender Martin Brodeur and they are a dangerous team. The Panthers haven’t been to the playoffs since 2000, and will be looking to prove they belong back in the postseason. Unfortunately, they won’t get that chance this year.
Prediction: Devils in 6.
(4)Penguins vs. (5) Flyers
For many, this is the series to watch during the first round. It is always great when in-state rivals go head to head in the playoffs and this series shouldn’t be an exception. This should be a very physical series and also be very high scoring. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will make things difficult for Ilya Bryzgalov and the Flyers, who are missing a lot of pieces heading into the playoffs. However, the Flyers have talented young players who, if they can step up, will make a big decision in this series. With so many “ifs” on the Flyers side, the Penguins seem to be in a better spot in this series.
Prediction: Penguins in 7.
April 11, 2012
The NHL playoffs begin tonight, considered by many to be the best playoff atmosphere of any sport. Each first round series has a compelling storyline and even the 8th seeds have a shot at advancing. So who will win each series? That is exactly what I will tell you in the following predictions. We start with the Western Conference.
(1)Canucks vs. (8)Kings
These two teams split their season series, which is about how easy this pick is to make. The Kings have been one of the best defensive teams in hockey this season, and I am not a big fan of Roberto Luongo in the Playoffs. There are big injuries on both sides: Daniel Sedin may not be ready for the Canucks, while Jeff Carter might not go for the Kings. Both are key players for their teams and will impact this series greatly. The Canucks are the deeper team, and with injuries a big factor, I like them to advance.
Prediction: Canucks in 5.
(2)Blues vs. (7)Sharks
The Sharks have been one of the bets playoff teams in the NHL the past few seasons, and will look to continue that streak as an underdog this series. They might find that hard against the Blues, who swept the regular season series. The Blues allowed the fewest goals in the regular season and have two solid goalies ready to take the net. The Sharks were brutal on the penalty kill and will need Annti Niemi to step up big if they want to pull the upset.
Prediction: Blues in 6.
(3)Coyotes vs. (6)Blackhawks
Another weird 3vs.6 matchup where the 6 seed scored more points than the 3 seed. Regardless, the Coyotes have home-ice and a goalie who has been playing lights out lately in Mike Smith. The Blackhawks, on the other hand, are waiting to see if captain Jonathan Toews will be able to return to the ice for this series. The Blackhawks are the deeper team, yet Smith and the Coyotes have more of a chance than many people will give them credit for.
Prediction: Blackhawks in 6.
(4)Predators vs. (5)Red Wings
Jimmy Howard vs. Pekka Rinne. This series will test both these solid goaltenders and will rest heavily on their shoulders. The Predators have a lot of pressure to succeed after the moves they made this season. They can’t be excited to have to advance against the Red Wings, who are finally back healthy. A lot of people are picking the Predators to win, but while they have home ice, I think the Red Wings have a chip on their shoulders because of this sudden underdog role they are being cast in.
Prediction: Red Wings in 7.
(To read our Eastern Conference First Round predictions, click here.)
March 21, 2012
The 2011-12 NHL regular season is nearing an end, which means that the best part of the season is just beginning—the playoffs. While hockey fans know that the NHL playoffs bring an unmatched intensity from every team, just who those teams will be is the question at the moment.
With 10 games to go for most teams, there are plenty of teams in contention. Conference standings are tight but what’s the most intriguing are the incredibly close divisional races right now. One thing this season promises is that fans won’t know the final playoff standing until the waning seconds of the season.
Here’s a look at the current conference and divisional standings:
Wow! Fans are in for a treat over the next three weeks.
Eastern Conference Breakdown:
In the Atlantic Division, the New York Rangers have been on top most of the season, but thanks to some dazzling play from Evgeni Malkin and an added boost from Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins are red-hot. In fact, the Penguins are 9-0-1 in their last 10 games and Crosby has 21 points in just 12 games this season. This is the strongest division in hockey as the Philadelphia Flyers have 92 points and the New Jersey Devils have 89 points at the moment. If I was a bettin’ man, I would have to say that this year’s Stanley Cup Champion will come from this division.
Believe it or not, the Northeast Division doesn’t belong to the Boston Bruins as many thought it would. The Ottawa Senators are hot on their heels down the stretch. With the Bruins struggling lately, fans are left to wonder if the defending champions have enough to fend off the Senators.
The Southeast Division will be a fight to the finish. Currently the Florida Panthers lead the way with 85 points, but the Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets and Carolina Hurricanes are battling for a spot in the playoffs. The Panthers have separated themselves from the pack with five straight victories, but the dust won’t settle on this division until the final horn blows.
Western Conference Breakdown:
The Central Division is the best division in the conference with a surprising leader. The St. Louis Blues currently lead the entire conference with 100 points and are a league-best 29-4-4 at home this season. The Nashville Predators, Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks also currently reside in the playoffs—but things could change by the time it’s all said and done.
The Northwest division belongs to the Vancouver Canucks, which is no surprise. The division also has the Colorado Avalanche who are currently seventh in the conference with 85 points and the Calgary Flames, who are currently 11th with 82 points. That’s how close the bottom of the Western Conference is—three points separates five teams. Whoo! This is what fans love to see.
The Pacific Division is by far the most tense. The Dallas Stars lead the division with 85 points and sit in third in the conference standing. Here’s the kicker—the San Jose Sharks currently sit fourth in the division and 10th in the conference with 82 points. It’s anyone’s ballgame down the stretch in the division. Who knows how it’ll end up? One thing is for certain, it sure will be exciting.
Here’s how close things actually are—in the entire NHL, as of March 21 only two teams have clinched a playoff berth(NY Rangers, St. Louis Blues)and only one team has technically been eliminated(Columbus Blue Jackets).
What’s not to love about that? The playoffs begin now.