As a slight change from last time, I will just be putting both of our thoughts in normal old boring font. I think it's much more readable that way and for whatever reason Blogger didn’t want to post any different colours or even italics.
What a difference a few months make in the Northwest Division!!! When we wrote this earlier Predictacular, Minnesota was running away with the division and Vancouver was in dead last. Since then, just about every team has taken turns leading the division at one point or another. Right now, Vancouver is in first and Edmonton is in last. Kind of strange is it? This is exactly why the NHL needs to change its schedule. While these divisional games make for some great hockey, it really is not fair to all of these teams. They all deserve a shot in the post season, however they have to spend a ton of time beating up on each other and therefore will end up with lower points as a result. Meanwhile, Nashville and Detroit get to feast on the other Central Division suckers, and Anaheim and San Jose can to take turns pummeling LA and Phoenix. Not really all that fair now is it?
Anyway, I am standing pat on the 8 teams I think will make the cut, although I am going to change the order around a bit. Call me crazy, but I still think that Calgary has the best team in the Northwest and Vancouver's lack of depth will catch up to them around crunch time. I have been impressed with the play of the Central Division bottom feeders (Chicago, Columbus, and St. Louis) since they all changed their coaches this season, so I'll give them some love too.
Biggest Surprise: Columbus...Hitchcock has them playing well.
Biggest Disappointment: Edmonton...they'll turn around though!!!
The Western Conference is almost the exact opposite of the East. Everything is a surprise here. At our quarter season predictions Vancouver was a tough call as to whether they would be in the playoffs and now they're leading their division. What a tough division to be leading too. Five teams, separated by 6 points. I think in the end though Calgary will rise to the top and will be leading the division by season's end. The Pacific division will be a battle to the death between Anaheim and San Jose and I see Anaheim pulling it out. In the Central division Detroit's reign is finally over and Nashville will dethrone them and take the division. The good thing for Detroit though is that the other three teams in their division are weak enabling them to rack up the points and secure 4th place in the conference while teams like Vancouver and Edmonton, while perhaps better, have to play against much harder competition which lowers their point totals.
The bonus though is that these teams will be ready to go come playoff time. To prove my point look at last year's first round. Edmonton beat Detroit in 6. Edmonton had been playing playoff hockey for 2 months while Detroit coasted in.
Biggest Disappointment: Phoenix and Columbus
Biggest Surprise: Vancouver
5. San Jose
14. Los Angeles
15. St. Louis
Anyway, here is how I see it going down in the West.
5. San Jose
The Sabres continue to make absolute jokes of this conference and all who dwell within it. With two solid goaltenders, a very underrated defense corps and the leagues best offense, they really are a step above everyone else. Last time I talked about how disappointing the play of Philadelphia, Boston, Carolina and Ottawa was changing the face of the conference. Out of these four teams only Ottawa has really been able to step it up over the past 20 odd games, so they get some bAs for Vancouver, I'm going to jump back on their bandwagon. In the
beginning of the season I said that Luongo would make all the difference and
I will stand by that. I don't see them taking the division but I see no
reason they can't steal the 8th spot away from Minnesota. Anyway, here is
how I see it going down in the West.ias love from me. I have been super impressed with Montreal this season, and I could see them making some real damage this year, but alas I am getting ahead of myself. In the SouthLeast, Atlanta continues to be impressive, Tampa is really dropping the ball, and expect some mega changes coming soon, ohh and Florida and Washington are just sort of there as usual. New Jersey should remain the class of the Atlantic, more by default than any other reason.
So just like the West, I am not changing any of my playoff teams, but the order should change a bit. I have hoped on the "Atlanta Wins Their Division" boat, and I still think that Pittsburgh will sneak into 8th place. We have only just begun to see what Crosby is capable of, and I see no reason why he can't get this team over the hump.
Biggest Surprise: Montreal...one of the biggest success stories of the year. And to think they are stuck with Kovalev and Samsonov stinking up the joint
Biggest Disappointment: Philadelphia...Forsberg the "Most Complete Player in the World", please...
In the East there are a few surprises and a few constants. The surprises, to my great enjoyment, includes the play of Montreal. This is my team but their excellent play is certainly unexpected. At least to this level. I thought they would compete but not dominate as they are. Except for Buffalo. But can you blame them? I guess in reality that's really it for surprises. Philly, Washington, Tampa, Florida and the Islanders all still suck, and New Jersey is leading the Atlantic. I could have called this 5 years ago. Except for maybe Philly. They really should be better than this. Young talent but too much size and not enough speed. Did they get
New Jersey will win their division and as my mortal enemy Glen stated, it will basically be by default. Atlanta will continue to lead their division as well and of course Buffalo is two wins away from clinching the conference. (Hyperbole?....Perhaps....but damn they're good). The first three seeds in the division are spoken for and Montreal will take the last remaining home ice spot. The only movement will be in the bottom four playoff teams. Ottawa will be there, as will Carolina. The Rangers should be ok leaving the 8th and final spot a toss up between Toronto and Pittsburgh. Do I go with my desire to see Canadian teams do well? Or do I go with the "Sidney Crosby is amazing and I can't wait to see him in the playoffs" theory. Tough call.
But I'm going with Sidney.
Biggest Disappointment: Philly.
Biggest Surprise: Montreal.
2. New Jersey
6. New York Rangers
12. Tampa Bay
13. New York Islanders
This is how I see it shaking down in the east. (I'm hoping I'm cool enough to use the term "shaking")
2. New Jersey
I guess the theme of this entry for me is sticking to my guns. Out West, I am standing by my prediction of San Jose over Anaheim in a 7 game Western Conference Final. Both of these teams are just too good, and as I mentioned earlier, they both have a spare goalie to trade if they really want to get better. I am giving the Sharks the edge because I think that Pronger can only cover Thornton or Marleau, leaving the other to get them.
Out East, I will change things up a bit. In my previous predictions I have called Buffalo winning the conference, and I see no reason for this to change. However, I have called both Ottawa and Carolina as the team for them to beat. I am changing this call to Montreal. They are playing really well and all they need are Huet to string together a few good weeks, something that he is more than capable of doing. And think about it, in the past four seasons we have had a different Canadian team make it to at least the third round of the playoffs (2002: Toronto loses in the East Finals, 2003: Ottawa loses in the East Finals, 2004: Calgary loses in the Cup Finals, 2006: Edmonton loses in the Cup Finals), so it is Montreal's turn this year. Vancouver will have to wait their turn. Ohh yeah Buffalo should win in 6.
In the finals, I am sticking with Buffalo in 6, because really, why change now?
The West Final will be between San Jose and Anaheim and I see Anaheim taking this because San Jose had nothing against Pronger last year. He's just that good.
I see the conference final coming down to Buffalo and Montreal. And although my brain tells me to go with Buffalo my heart says Montreal. And I will follow my heart. If you know anything about Buffalo as a professional sports city you know they never will anything. (Four straight Super Bowl losses) Although this may be the year that changes. But I will stay with Montreal.
This gives us a final between Montreal and Anaheim. This would be a pretty sweet final and again I will go with Montreal for no other reason than I want them to win. Probably a stupid reason but meh. So there it is.
So that's the end of that one. If you take my predictions and your student loans down to Vegas than I take no responsibility, unless you win, then I want half. We shall revist these in 20 or so games and see if Troy can find any more creative ways to copy off of me.
Until next time,