Wednesday, April 14, 2010


The West is the best, it's also the deepest. 88 points got Philly and Montreal playoff spots in the East. Out West, it gets you tied for 11th with Dallas.

The Sharks won the Western Conference's regular season again, and hope to have better results than last year. And they will. Colorado has been slipping - like a slow avalanche - since the Olympic break. They were 8-10-3 down that stretch. They were 35-20-6 before the stretch. They're young and exuberant, but also inexperienced and rough around the edges. They score a lot of goals, but they allow a lot. And San Jose has some scorers in Marleau (44 goals), Heatly (39 goals), and Thornton (69 assists).

Sharks in 5.

Yes, Nashville has a team, and they've made the playoffs for the 5th time in franchise history. But they've never advanced beyond the 1st round. Philosophical question: if a city has a hockey team, and nobody in the city goes to the games, does the team exist? The Preds may have finished 7th in the Western Conference, but they were 26th in the NHL in attendance.

The Blackahwsk are a fun team to watch. They gained some experience in last year's playoffs, and they also gained Marian Hossa. They scored the 3rd most goals, and allowed the 5th fewest. They beat Nashville 4 out of 6. They have multiple threats in guys like Patrck Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Hossa, Kris Versteeg, and an arsenal of active defensemen. Nashville has 30 goal scorer Patric Hornqvist. That's about it.

Chicago in 4.

Don't look past the Kings, an all-around steady team. Not too strong, but few glaring weaknesses. 7th in goals for, 10th in goals against. The playoffs are more about exposing an opponents' weakness, as opposed to implementing your own strengths. And the Kings just don't have many holes.

The Canucks have the NHL's points leader in Henrik Sedin (29 goals, 83 assists), his twin Daniel (29-56), Alex Burrows (35 goals), Mikael Samuelsson (30 goals) and then some. But goalie Roberto Luongo has seen better days. As much as I want to pick Vancouver, I have to pick the steady tortoise to defeat the hare.

Kings in 7.

Phoenix is another city unworthy of a hockey team. 3rd best record in the West, 4th best record in the League, and dead last 30th in attendance at 11,989. It's just a travesty that there's an NHL team in Arizona. But thankfully, they'll be eliminated by the surging Red Wings.

Detroit was 16-3-2 after the Olympic break, soaring to the 5th seed. It's as if the Hockey Gods are punishing the city of Phoenix for daring to posses the 4th seeded team in the Western Conference.

The Coyotes do have Ilya Bryzgalov, while the Red Wings have rookie Jimmy Howard. Bryzgalov has 16 career playoff starts under his belt (9-5, 1.68 GAA), Howard has 0. And that might turn this series on its head. We all know how far a hot goalie can take a team.

But I have difficulty removing my anti-Phoenix bias. I also have difficulty picking against a team that has Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Lidstrom, Holmstrom, Cleary, Draper, and Johan Franzen, whose return just so happened to coincide with Detroit's 16-3-2 run.

I'm picking Detroit in 7.


It's playoff time in the NHL. Thankfully, there's only one Southleast Division team in the mix, and it's Washington. In the East, we've got a couple Original Six teams, and some nice big markets involved.

The Capitals claimed the Presidents' Trophy for the best regular season record, a staggering 121 points. In fact, they're the first non-Original Six team to register 120+. For my money, Washington is the best team in the League. But Montreal won the season series against them, 2-1-1. But all the games were close. I have no respect for the Canadiens this season, then again, Jose "Spaz" Theodore might get all emotional and even more spasmodic up at the Bell Centre, his former home. I think Ovechkin and the Caps are too good to be defeated by a team as mediocre as Montreal, but it'll be a struggle.

Capitals in 6.

The Flyers got in thanks to an exhilarating 2-1 shootout win over the Rangers in game 82. Kudos to the NHL Network for carrying the feed, as well as the feeds to other key games down the stretch. The Devils don't score goals, they prevent them. They were the only team to limit opponents to fewer than 200 goals. The Flyers struggle to prevent goals (they've had goalie issues all season), but they can score them. So it's your basic irresistible force meets an immovable object. But the Flyers won the season series 5-1-0.

Philly has some excellent centers in Richards, Jeff Carter, and Briere. They have an adequate penalty kill, but an outstanding power play unit (21.4%, 3rd in NHL). The Devils have Brodeur, and his immense experience. The Flyers have Boucher (2.83 GAA, .898 SV%) and Emery (2.64, .905). And that's New Jersey's biggest advantage. But Philly has beaten Brodeur this season (and last season, for that matter). Marty was 1-4-1 against the Flyers, with a 3.34 GAA.

For that reason, I'm picking the Flyers in 7. I don't want to, but I have to.

As a Bruins fan, this match-up pleases me. The B's were 4-2-0 against Buffalo. Tuukka Rask was 4-1-0 against them, with a 1.43 GAA and .954 SV%. While Ryan Miller was 2-0-2 against the Bruins, with a 1.71 GAA and .954 SV%. The numbers are pointing to a low scoring series, and I believe they're right. Both these teams have excellent goalies, both have anemic offenses. Derek Roy led Buffalo with 68 points. Patrice Bergeron led the B's with 52.

The key to this series is David Krejci. If he's on, he can beat Miller. He's the best playmaker the Bruins have. Without him, the power play dies (it's already on life support), and nothing will get started. At least the Bruins look hungry. Buffalo's backed into the postseason, and they've been on cruise control for some time now.

Bruins in 8 (it'll be 7 games, along with 3 periods worth of overtime mixed in).

Yeah, Ottawa made the playoffs. They quietly compiled a solid season, based mostly to a solid home ice record of 26-11-4. Unfortunately for them, their road record was 19th in the League. This is a great match-up for the Penguins, who give up an above average amount of goals. Because Ottawa struggles to score goals. The Senators only have four 20+ goal scorers, and none of them have more than 25. They're also without Alexei Kovalev, who tore his ACL. Pittsburgh's goaltending and defense are suspicious, but they don't need them in order to advance past Ottawa.

Penguins in 5.


There was an 18.8% chance that the Bruins would win the 1st overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft. It didn't work out that way. The Edmonton Oilers, who had the worst record in the NHL, won the lottery, and the 1st pick.

The good news is that the 1st and 2nd picks are pretty close in value for this year's draft. Center Tyler Seguin and left winger Taylor Hall are the two top-rated prospects for the draft.

The top of the NHL draft has been remarkably consistent and predictable for teams this past decade. In '08, Steve Stamkos and Drew Doughty went 1-2. Both are excelling the NHL. In '06 it was Erik Johnson and Jordan Staal. In '05 it was Sidney Crosby then Bobby Ryan. In '04 it was Alex Ovechkin then Evgeni Malkin (wow). Some notable #2 overall talents:

2000: Dany Heatley
1999: Daniel Sedin
1997: Patrick Marleau
1995: Wade Redden
1993: Chris Pronger

I'd rather the Bruins draft Taylor Hall, simply because he's a winger. The Bruins have depth at center with Savard, Krejci, and Bergeron. They need wingers. But either of these players would be a fine addition to the Bruins.