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Eastern Conference Playoff Race

by chewy 27. February 2010 10:41

Back to work.

It has been a most enjoyable two weeks of Olympic hockey.  But now, it's time to get back to the NHL.  With roughly 20 games to go in the season, the first few strokes have been painted on the playoff picture.  So let's take a look ahead and who's going to be dancing in April on the East Coast:


Who's In:

Washington, New Jersey, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo can start selling tickets now.  No point dwelling on the obvious.  The only team at risk here is Buffalo, who entered the break on a stink boat, but they can't help but ride Miller's wave next week, so count them in.


Who's Out:

Toronto - The Bruins are licking their chops at the prospect of the #1 pick coming from the Leafs this spring.

NY Islanders and Florida - While both of the these teams are only 6 points out of the final spot, both squads are in a freefall.  The Islanders didn't really expect to contend this season, and the Panthers have publicly declared that they've tipped their King on the board.


Who's Left:

With five spots taken and three teams in the stands, that leaves 7 squads in the circle to squeeze their butts into 4 chairs when the music stops.  6 of those teams are within 5 points of each other, and they're all playing mediocre hockey right now.  So it may be a matter of who defaults into the final slots.  Let's start with the obvious exception…


Carolina (IN) - Everyone wrote this team off in November, and again in December when the expected recovery failed to come.  I refuse to give up on this team (sure, I'm biased, I'm a fan).  The Canes went into the Olympic break as one of the hottest teams in the East, winning 8 of their last 10 games.  They already blew their shot at the #1 pick at the draft, so they might as well hold on to their assets and keep driving for the final spot.  Don't be surprised if they get it.  The Canes finished last season as the hottest team in the league, and I believe they'll do it again.  If they don't make the cut, they'll miss by a hair.


Philadelphia (IN) - The Flyers hold a slight edge, as they're currently 2 points ahead of the pack, and the only team remaining with a winning record over the past 10 games.  As always, much depends on their goaltending down the stretch.  Expect their goal-scorers to find their way after a needed two week break.  Jeff Carter may be particularly motivated after missing his chance at an Olympic medal by Getzlaf's ankle.


Montreal (OUT) - The Canadiens' season was lost on July 1st of last year.  It's remarkable that they're this close.  Montreal has fewer games remaining than the rest of the pack, which puts them at a big disadvantage.  There may be pressure to make some moves at the deadline, but I don't see any quick fixes to this broken roster.  Maybe next year.


BOSTON (OUT) - This time last year, the Bruins were just coming down to earth after their torrid start to the 08-09 season.  It's been downhill ever since.  Contract squabbles, injuries, and cold spells have made the team an after thought in the East.  Even with key players getting healthy recently, the confidence on this squad is low.  Count them out, but just barely.


Tampa Bay (OUT) - The Lightning is a hard team to read.  There is reason for hope:  Stamkos is emerging as one of the league's best.  Lecavalier and St. Louis are rested and probably bitter over being snubbed for the Winter Games.  Their hodge-podge defense acquired last summer has had time to come together, and their goaltending has actually been a bright spot for a change.   There's also reason for gloom, mostly stemming from off ice incompetency.  Bottom line is they'll be in the hunt down to the final whistle, but will ultimately fall short.  Watch for the Panthers to play spoiler for their in-state rivals, as their final two matchups are against Florida.


NY Rangers (OUT) - If they could just score a goal every once in a while, this team might just have a prayer.  Never has a team so drastically been unfit to play the style of play of their coach.  Torterella loves the high tempo offensive attack, but outside of Gaborik, they don’t have the horses.  Maybe it's time to hand the reigns over to Messier and admit that Glen Sather was better suited for the 80's.


Atlanta (IN) - Everything is wacked up in Atlanta this year, so why not pick them to make the playoffs?  The Thrashers have low fan expectations, they've come to expect disappointment.  They've already dealt Kovalchuk, so teams may underestimate their drive.  But Atlanta has the scheduling edge among the bottom feeders.  They have 13 of their remaining 22 contests at home, the most of this bunch.  They still have some talent up front, and Pavalec no longer has to worry about his starting job.  I'm counting them in.


So here is my prediction for the Final Standings in the East:

1. Washington

2. Pittsburgh

3. Ottawa

4. New Jersey

5. Buffalo

6. Philadelphia

7. Atlanta

8. Carolina

9. Boston

10. Tampa Bay

11. NY Rangers

12. Montreal

13. Florida

14. NY Islanders

15. Toronto

A Few More Predictions

by chewy 2. October 2009 13:40

I was on the Warroom on XM 204 yesterday to chat with them about NHL predictions for the upcoming season (and to plug this very site).  3 simple questions were asked.  Here are their picks, along with mine:


1.  Which team will win the 2009-10 Stanley Cup?

2.  Which player will win the 2009-10 Hart Trophy?

3.  Give us one wacky and/or out-on-a limb prediction.


Peter Berce - Sharks, Joe Thornton, Mike Keenan hired by an NHL team

Mick Kern - Hurricanes, Evgeni Malkin, Lightning make the playoffs

Mike Ross - Flyers, Alex Ovechkin, Balsille buys an NHL team


As for my picks…


Stanley Cup Winner

Trying to predict a Cup winner in October is a total guessing game, but there are clearly a handful of teams that have a strong shot at it this season.  In the East, it's Pittsburgh, Washington and Philly.  All 3 of those teams have incredible strength up front and boast a superstar defenseman.  However, of the 3, the Penguins are the only one with a clear-cut, top-notch #1 goaltender.  In the West, there are really 4 teams that have a strong shot at making it: Chicago, Detroit, Calgary, and San Jose.  Of those, particularly with the addition of Heatley's standard 50 goals, the Sharks are the best bet.  Overall, it's just not wise to bet against the East keeping the Cup, and the favorite has to be Pittsburgh.


Hart Trophy

It seems like Ovechkin is the voter favorite, despite my belief that Malkin earned every bit of that trophy over the last two years.  However, based on last year's playoff performance, and assuming he can stay healthy, I'm going with Crosby this time around.  It's about a 90% chance that one of those 3 will get it, but I like Sid this season to win the scoring title and the MVP.


Out on a Limb Prediction

Of the predictions being thrown around everywhere, the one I find most inexplicable is how high most experts are on Vancouver this season.  I just don't see it.  I'm picking them to fall from grace and miss the playoffs altogether.  They'll miss Ohlund on defense more than most think.  Their schedule this season is brutal, as they have to work around the Olympic break with an insane month-long road trip.  Aside from Luongo and the Sedins, what on earth is there to be excited about here?  Flames may be the only team from that division to make the playoffs this year.

10 Predictions for the 09/10 Season

by chewy 28. September 2009 11:11

Here are ten predictions for the 2009-10 season.  I asked "Big Country" Shawn Lavigne of Hockey This Morning on XM 204, and here are his picks, along with mine:

(Note: updated to include Mick Kern's pick from the Warroom show).


1 - Aside from Wayne Gretzky, the first head coach to be fired this season:

Shawn Lavigne - Lindy Ruff

Mick Kern - Lindy Ruff

Me - Peter DeBoer


It's not that Deboer is necessarily doing anything wrong.  He got the Panthers within a sniff of the playoffs last season.  It's another case of a new GM in a town that needs change and needs to reach the playoffs to stay viable.  If the Panthers struggle out of the gate, Deboer may be the fall guy.



2 - Total number of Maple Leaf and Islander forwards that will outscore Washington's Mike Green this season in points:

Shawn Lavigne - 9

Mick Kern - 4

Me - 0


Not sure Shawn 100% understood the question, because there's not way that's going to happen.  Mike Green may approach 80 points this season, and there's not a prayer that any player on the Leafs or Islanders will threaten that mark. 


3 - Who will play the most games this season - Marian Hossa, Marian Gaborik, or Tim Thomas?

Shawn Lavigne - Thomas

Mick Kern - Thomas

Me - Thomas


We agree on this one.  Best case is Hossa plays about 60 games.  Until he proves otherwise, Gaborik is no lock for 60.  Then again, Thomas has never played that many games in a season either.  However, Thomas has the best shot at being healthy and he's finally an undisputed #1, so I stick with Thomas.


4 - Will the Coyotes still be in Phoenix at the start of next season?

Shawn Lavigne - No

Mick Kern - Yes

Me - No


This one is a coin flip, really.  Just so we don't have to hear about it anymore, I'm hoping it happens, or it's put to bed forever.


5 - Who will be traded first - Marleau, Kovalchuk, Giguere, Hejduk, or none of the above

Shawn Lavigne - Marleau

Mick Kern - Kovalchuk

Me - Giguere


Giggy is making way too much cash to be a backup goalie.  There are enough contending teams out there who could use an upgrade in net, or at least an insurance policy down the stretch.  Unless the Ducks become a serious threat to win the cup, there's no point in holding on to both goalies, and Hiller seems to be the guy in Anaheim now.


6 - Will the new-look Canadiens make the playoffs?

Shawn Lavigne - No

Mick Kern - No

Me - No


Again, we agree.  Too much change and most of it either more of the same, or worse.  Aside from signing Cammalleri, none of the other moves Gainey has made make the least bit of sense for that franchise.


7 - Who will be the starting goalie for Team Canada in their first game at the Olympics?

Shawn Lavigne - Luongo

Mick Kern - Luongo

Me - Luongo


The only real argument against Luongo is that Brodeur is the man until he's knocked off, and that has yet to happen.  Luongo is playing in his hometown and is as good as or better than Marty at this point.  Injury could also be a factor for either guy, but my money is on Luongo.


8 - Which Philadelphia Flyer will be the first to get suspended by either the NHL or by the Flyers organization?

Shawn Lavigne - Riley Cote

Mick Kern - the entire team

Me - Ray Emery


What's the chances Emery's going to go a full 80 games without at least a minor run in with the authorities?


9 - Who will score more points in the NHL this season - Theo Fleury, Jason Allison, Mats Sundin, or Roberto Luongo?

Shawn Lavigne - Fleury

Mick Kern - Luongo

Me - Luongo


To be fair, I asked the question before Fleury was cut by the Flames.  Nonetheless, I can't see any of those forwards playing a game this season, and Luongo's probably good for 2 or 3 assists in a season.


10 - Which event will happen first this season - Ovechkin hits 60 goals, Crosby hits 100 points, the Sharks reach 100 points, or Chris Chelios retires.

Shawn Lavigne - Chelios Retires

Mick Kern - Sharks to 100

Me - Crosby to 100 Pts


As much as I'd like to see Chelios finally hang them up, my guess is he waits til the end of the year, just in case an opportunity arises.  Ovechkin may hit 60, but it won't be until the very end of the season.  The Sharks and Crosby will race to 100, but Crosby wins.


You can track these and other predictions now and through the season at

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