Welcome one and all to one of the more infrequent features here on this ol' blogeroo. Back at the start of the year, Troy and I predicted the standings for each of the divisions one by one by one by one by one by one, and now we're going to look back at how things have changed in the past 50ish games, and make some more 100% guaranteed predictions.
And so, without further ado...
Ottawa is the class of the east so far which is probably not a stretch for most people and I see them holding onto that spot. The Atlantic division should be a tight battle between Philly and New Jersey but when it comes to these two teams I will always pick New Jersey. As far as the Southeast I see Washington making a move and taking first place in the division leaving Carolina out of the playoff picture.
I see Montreal being pretty secure in 4th spot (BTW, my Canadians currently have the second best record in the east, huzzah!). Next I see Philly holding down 5th, and Pittsburgh continuing some strong play and taking 6th. In a huge turnaround from last year I think Boston can hang on to 7th and I see the Rangers beating out the Islanders for the final playoff spot because well.....they're the Islanders...and they suck.
Next I see Carolina in 10th followed by Buffalo (who knew losing Briere and Drury would hurt so much...oh yeah...everyone knew that). Florida should take 13th and Toronto, who really should start selling will finish in 14th leaving the basement for Tampa.
If you are lazy like me, here are my predictions in listical form.
2. New Jersey
15. Tampa Bay
Well this conference has been oddly surprising in a lot of ways, which is a bit out of the norm for these usual dual and predictable 15 teams.
One team that hasn't surprised has been the Ottawa Senators, with the Sabres two big guns walking away last year, there was a huge power void that needed to be filled, and as expected, the Sens filled it, quickly and effectively. On the other end of Ontario, we have the Leafs, who I said were going to compete for 10th, but it looks like they will be trying to make a big push for 12th as the year goes on...way to go JFJ!!! The Habs have been a pleasant surprise this season, as they currently sit 4th in the East. I predicted that they would be able to sneak into the playoffs, but over the past few years this team has notoriously struggled down the stretch, so I would be shocked to see them in the Top 4, but they should be a solid 6th place. The biggest surprise to me has been the Bruins, who I thought were going to be competing in the Steve Stamkos derby, but they have been very respectable thus far. I guess a return to the playoffs is likely for the long-struggling franchise. I thought that the Sabres had enough depth to make it into the post season, but I guess I was wrong.
As for the Southeast, they are a mess, as expected. I don't think that anyone expected Tampa or Atlanta to be THIS bad. Right now Carolina is leading the division, even though they have as many points as the 9th place New York Rangers. Yet again, requests to change the playoff format will be coming thanks to this horrible division. I expect the Capitals to make a push to topple the Canes only to come up short, leaving them out of the playoffs.
So who will make the playoffs then? The simple answer: The Atlantic Division. At time of writing a mere 6 points separate the first place Flyers from the last place Rangers. Now I must say, I am shocked that the Rangers are in last place, I thought that they were finally out of their underachiever mode, but I guess they are back in old form. Still, I expect them to outlast the Islanders and cling to the last playoff spot. As for the lead in the division, it really is between the Flyers, Devils, and Penguins, and I'm going to take a bit of a controversial pick and go with the Pittsburgh Penguins. If they are able to stay within striking distance over the next month and a half, they should explode when Crosby gets back and fly into the lead, leaving their rivals to dog it out for the 4th and 5th spots.
I guess that shapes it up to look something like....
5. New Jersey
8. New York Rangers
10. New York Islanders
15. Tampa Bay
Ahh now things get interesting, the Wiki-wiki-Wild-Wild-West. Things, as predicted, have been completely wild and unpredictable as two of the three divisions are completely up in the air, as all teams are able to compete on any given night. And don't look now, but the Central Division has shown some signs of life.
As usual, the Detroit Red Wings are running away with the Central Division, to the surprise of...well just about nobody. But what has been surprising has been the competitive nature of the other teams, especially the Columbus Blue Jackets, who could just make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Chicago shocked the world by coming out strong, but a few key injuries (surprisingly not to Martin Havlat) have left them near the bottom of the league, don't worry Blackhawk fans, your day is coming, very, very soon. The Nashville Predators are one of the most surprising teams in the league, as you never seem to know if you well get the slumping franchise, or the red hot overachievers. Lastly, we have the Blues, who came out strong, but have struggled a bit, before the season I thought that they would make the playoffs, but I think that I stand corrected.
Perhaps the most surprising team this season has been the Dallas Stars. I really didn't think that they had the offensive talent to be near the top of the league, but Brendan Morrow is back and Riberio is playing so well it must be driving Habs fans nuts right now. Not surprisingly, the Ducks and Sharks are battling it out to lead the division, however, it has been surprising just how poorly all of the Sharks that aren't named Joe or Evgeni have been playing this season. I expect more things out of Michalek, Marleau, et al. as the season wears on. Also, we have the Kings, who I honestly expected to be a dark horse, but yet here they are sitting last in the league. Lastly, there are the Coyotes, who most people expected to be last in the league, yet are proving to be a dark horse. I wouldn't be surprised if Ilya Bryzgalov sneams them into 8th, but I have a feeling that they may get bumped by a few teams that I have yet to mention.
And then there is the Main Event, the Northeast Division. The division leader has been changing between any of four teams on a given night, as the Cancucks, Flames, Wild, and Avalanche are all caught in a true dog fight. The Oilers have been, pretty bad. But the other four teams more than make up for it, as they really are making me feel like every game they play counts, as only one of them can lead the division, and they are all very close to being bumped from the playoffs. I think that all of them are going to tough it out until the end, and all four of them are going to sneak in.
So after all is said and done, this Conference will look like this...
4. San Jose
11. St. Louis
15. Los Angeles
Surprise surprise, the big bad Red Wings are running away with the Western Conference once again. The scary part is this year the other teams in their division are actually decent for the most part meaning that Detroit actually deserves their record. Second place in the conference is a bit of a toss-up between California rivals San Jose and Anaheim, and Dallas. With the return of Neidermayer and Now Selanne, I have to give the edge the Ducks. Third place in the conference is basically impossible to pick as all 5 teams in the Northeast are within 8 points of eachother. That is sick. I'm gonna flip a 5 sided coin and pick Calgary to take the division and hold third place in the Western Conference. I can see San Jose sneaking into 4th place letting Dallas settle for 5th. Minnesota is tied for third in the conference in wins so I see then clamping down on 6th spot. Here's hoping that Luongo can be strong and help Vancouver take 7th spot leaving 8th for Columbus.
Again, for us lazy folk,
4. San Jose
13. St. Louis
15. Los Angeles.
And now as a special bonus, added treat we have a round by round prediction of the....
EASTERN CONFERENCE - First Round
Ottawa vs NYR
Last year the Rangers throttled Atlanta and we cannot forget that this team has a lot of playoff experienced players so they won't just roll over. Ottawa is the better team though and should take this series. Ottawa in 6.
New Jersey vs Boston
Boston has had quite a turnaround this year but it really hard to bet against Brodeur in the playoffs. I could see this series being a battle of attrition. New Jersey in 7.
Washington vs Pittsburgh
How sweet would this series be? Another Crosby/Ovechkin battle. And just like at the WJHC in 2005 I see Crosby coming out on top. Pittsburgh is the more experienced of the two teams and I think that would propel them past Washinton. Pittsburgh in 6.
Montreal vs Philadelphia.
This would definitely be an interesting series but I think Montreal would pull it out. I could see Montreal's youth being the key. Montreal in 5.
Ottawa vs. New York Rangers
Fun Fact about the Senators in the Playoffs #1: All four of their playoff series's from last season lasted five games. Ottawa in 5.
Pittsburgh vs. Boston
This should be an interesting series, as Chara will get very familiar with Crosby, and it should get very, very intense as a result. While last year was Sid's first trip to the Post-season, this should be his first trip to the second round. Pittsburgh in 6
Carolina vs. Montreal
The first of many "Revenge" Series's that I see happening this year. If you recall in 2006, Montreal destroyed Carolina in the first two games of their opening round tilt, scoring 6 goals in each game. Then all of a sudden, Saku Koivu takes and injury to his orbital bone, Carolina takes the next four, and goes on to win the Stanley Cup. I see things going a little different this time around. Montreal in 6.
Philadelphia vs. New Jersey
Speaking of revenge, these two teams are no strangers to each other in the playoffs, having met a number of times this millennium. While it's hard to bet against Martin Brodeur in the spring, I think that the Flyers are just a little too deep, and seem to be clicking to much right now. Flyers in 7.
(Reminder - Second Round Match-ups feature highest remaining team vs. lowest remaining team)
Pittsburgh vs Ottawa
Last year Ottawa rolled over Pittsburgh in the first round and I for one did not see that coming. This year would be much closer. Crosby and Co. now have another year of experience under their belts but I don't think they have enough to break through. Ottawa in 7.
New Jersey vs Montreal
The thought of a NJ/Montreal series makes me cringe. Montreal won in New Jersey last week for the first time since the Big Bang. This one would hurt. New Jersey in 5.
Ottawa vs. Montreal
Fun Fact about the Senators in the Playoffs #2: While they have played Toronto in the playoffs many times, they have never met their closest geographic rival, the Montreal Canadiens. In fact this is the one All-Canadian match-up of any two Canadian teams in the same Conference that we have never seen. Ottawa in 6.
Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia
Now this is another series that we have seen many times, as the cross-state rivals hook-up one more time. This should be an interesting clash of styles as the stylin' n' profilin' Pens meet the rough n' ready Flyers. All I ask is that Downie, Jones, and friends stay away from Crosby's head, if the Pens can protect their Captain they should be fine. Pittsburgh in 6.
Ottawa vs New Jersey.
These two teams are not the same as when they last met in the playoffs. New Jersey has lost a lot of depth, and Ottawa has gained a lot of experience. Ottawa in 6.
Ottawa vs. Pittsburgh
Fun Fact about the Senators in the Playoffs #3: While the Senators have made the playoffs for each of the past 10 seasons, only 5 teams have been able to eliminate them, the Sabres (97, 99, 06), the Capitals (98), the Leafs (00, 01, 02, 04, 05), the Devils (03) and the Ducks (07). Ottawa in 6.
Detroit vs. Colorado
Remember that "Revenge" bit that I talked about awhile ago? Well here we have it yet again, as these two once bitter rivals square off once more. Sure Claude Lemieux is gone, but I'm sure some of the hatred remains. These teams have met 5 times in the playoffs, with the Avs holding the lead 3-2. Interesting fact about these series, 3 times the winner of that series has gone on to win the Cup. Detroit in 6.
Anaheim vs. Vancouver
Here we have revenge once more, as we get the Canucks looking for a shot at redemption from their second round loss last season. Expect them to come up short once more. Anaheim in 4.
Minnesota vs. Dallas
While this is a first time playoff match, there is still quite the story as the former North Stars return to Minnesota, their original home. I expect this series to be nothing short of phenomenal, two fast skating, tight checking teams with great goaltending. This is were legends are made. Minnesota in 7.
San Jose vs. Calgary
In the late mid-to-late 90's the Sharks were known for causing playoff upsets. One of their best, and most surprising, was against the Calgary Flames in 1995. In 2004, the Calgary Flames made an improbably run to the finals, upsetting the top three seeds along the way. One of those teams was the San Jose Sharks. Going into this match-up the Sharks are the favourites. Look for the trend to continue. Calgary in 7.
Detroit vs Columbus
So lets see, the stacked and experienced Detroit team versus a young inexperienced Columbus team. Hmm, tough call. Although we know if any big team is susceptible to upsets, it's Detroit. I really don't see that happening this time however. Detroit in 4.
Anaheim vs Vancouver
If this series goes longer than 4 games, it's Luongo's fault. Anaheim is the shiznit this year and Vancouver will have a tough time keeping up with them. Anaheim in 5.
Calgary vs Minnesota
This would be a rather defensive series but interesting nonetheless. If Kipper can find himself it could be a walkover. Calgary in 6.
San Jose vs Dallas.
This would easily be the best series of the first round but I give the edge to San Jose. Even though their uniforms are ugly. San Jose in 7.
Detroit vs. Calgary
Last year, the Flames and Red Wings met in a first round series that seemed destined to be a classic, but ended up being rather underwhelming. This year though, I think we may get our classic between these two. Keenan knows how to win and to motivate his teams well, plus Kipper should get back on track in time. Calgary in 7.
Anaheim vs. Minnesota
That's right, I think that both second round match-ups in this Conference will be rematches of last years first round. Can't say that I remember that ever happening before. Last year, the Ducks rolled over the Wild, and completely outclassed them along the way. It should get a little better this year. Anaheim in 6.
Detroit vs San Jose
Anyone remember this series waaaaa back? Early 90s? Young upstart team beats experienced Detroit team. Good times. Completely different this time. San Jose beating Detroit would certainly not be an upset. Infact it's hard to say who the underdog is in this series. Bit of a pick 'em but I like San Jose. San Jose in 6.
Anaheim vs Calgary
Anaheim is an amazing team and unfortunately I don't give Calgary much of a chance in this series. Anaheim in 5.
Anaheim vs. Calgary
And my revenge theme continues, as we look back to a rematch of the 2006 season, when the Ducks upset the Cup-Contending Flames in a very physical series. While I expect another intense series between these two teams, I am very curious about one question. Will Oilers fans cheer for Calgary or Chris Pronger? Anaheim in 6.
Anaheim vs San Jose
This would be the sweetest series since the Big Bang. I hate the idea of two of the league's best teams being from the state of California but that's where we are. This is a tough call and I think it's San Jose's turn. I've been liking them for a while. San Jose in 7.
Ottawa vs. Anaheim
Fun Fact about the Senators in the Playoffs #4: Last season was the first time that they had been able to defeat a team in the playoffs that had previously defeated them, and they did it against both New Jersey and Buffalo.
In another quirky bit of hockey trivia, there have been eight occurrences when we have had a finals rematch the following season. The defending champions have won seven times.
Anaheim in 6.
San Jose vs Ottawa.
How much would it suck for Ottawa two lose two Stanley Cup Finals back to back to Californian teams? It would suck a lot....and unfortunately that's what I see happening. San Jose is so good. So...so good!! So is Ottawa but playing in the East kinda softens a team up, just like living in the Caribbean make me a pussy to cold weather. San Jose in 7.
Wow this turned out to be one of the longest posts ever....hope you enjoyed the marathon nature of this one! And as always, we can look back in the spring to see how right I am :)
Until next time,