Sunday, March 9, 2008

Standings and Predictions

I figured I'd post my predictions after watching a few games this weekend. Note that this is not the result for which I hope but rather what I expect.


1. New Jersey Devils
2. Montreal Canadiens
3. Carolina Hurricanes
Pittsburgh Penguins
5. New York Rangers
6. Ottawa Senators
7. Boston Bruins
8. Philadelphia Flyers

I considered putting Pittsburgh at the top, but I don't think they can expect Fleury or Conklin to withstand 22 shots a period for the rest of the season without losing some games they should win. Montreal will be battling for that top spot and the rookie Carey Price is the key to where they'll fall. The Caps seem to be self-destructing after making a great second half run under a new coach. Cristobal Huet, acquired at the trade deadline, is a better goaltender than Olaf Kolzig and he's put them in position to win a number of games but the Caps have failed to take advantage. With Carolina going 7-2-1 in their last 10, it's hard to imagine Alexander Ovechkin making his playoff debut this year. Ottawa continues to tumble and I expect them to continue to do so. While they suffer from a variety of injuries right now, including Heatley and Alfredsson who are playing a two-man game of musical chairs, their problems seem to run deeper. They've at least selected a goalie and Martin Gerber has played well but his team hasn't done much to help him. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the New York Rangers. After dipping deep into the free agent pool and signing both Chris Drury and Scot Gomez, the Rangers were surprisingly inconsistent throughout most of the season. Jaromir Jagr is having one his worst seasons in awhile but the team has found some passion as of late and Henrik Ludnqvist, fresh off of a 29 shot shutout, has his team currently in 6th and 8-0-3 in their last 11.


1. Detroit Red Wings
2. San Jose Sharks
3. Colorado Avalanche
4. Anaheim Ducks
5. Dallas Stars
6. Calgary Flames
7. Vancouver Canucks
8. Minnesota Wild

The Red Wings are starting to get healthy and it's showing as they've now won 3 in a row. Nicklas Lidstrom returned today and earned 2 assists in Detroit 4-3 win over Nashville. However, Detroit was up 4-0 and allowed Nashville to score 3 in the third on 13 shots. While a win is a win, Babcock, Detroit's coach, can't be happy. They've brought back heart and soul winger Darren McCarty and perhaps he'll re-introduce them to their heart. The Sharks, in my opinion, are probably the most dangerous team in the West. Acquiring a guy like Brian Campbell was absolutely monstrous for them. They needed a guy to run the powerplay, Campbell has 25 points with the advantage, and a guy who could move the puck quickly to the forwards and aid the transition game. They also have a workhorse in net and have only lost 2 out of their last 8. If they can continue to get second line scoring, especially from Patrick Marleau and Jonathan Cheechoo who've both recently their game again, they could finally secure that first round playoff victory they've been pursuing. The Avalanche are the hottest team in the West right now behind Jose Theodore who has been on fire as of late. Peter Forsberg got on the board yesterday with 2 assists and the Aves have shown the ability to beat the best teams in the league. The Ducks are still my pick to win the cup, but they'll only do it if Getzlaf can get it going offensively and they can learn to play their trademarked physical style without taking so many penalties. They're the most penalized team in the league and it continues to cost them games. Losing Corey Perry, who'd been struggling for awhile, still hurts but it should open a spot on the top line for Teemu Selanne which could reinvigorate an offense that's been anything but stellar lately. Dallas is starting to show cracks in the foundation and Brendan Morrow, their captain, challenged them in the media over the weekend after losing to Colorado. Tonight's game against the Avalanche will tell us quite a bit about the heart of the Stars and the fate of the West. The Flames, Canucks and Wild are all stuck in a battle for the Northwest division with the Avalanche. The Wild are a bit inconsistent and still need to find some offense but the Flames have been great lately and, as always, as goes Luongo so go the Canucks. All three are great defensively and have good goaltending so I would expect all of them to make the playoffs above the teams battling for that last spot.

If this turned out to be the final regular season standings the first round matchups would be:


Flyers at Devils
Bruins at
Senators at Hurricanes
Rangers at Penguins


Wild at Red Wings
Canucks at Sharks
Flames at Avalanche
Stars at Ducks

I'm not sure any of this could be classified as "easy" matchups and there are a number of dark horse candidates scattered throughout the league. The biggest question is which of these teams is built for the high intensity, high impact nature of the playoffs. My answer is, and will be through the rest of the season barring a major injury, the Ducks.

No comments: