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Eastern Conference Playoff Spots

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Bear with me, hockey fans… In my last blog, I made a couple football predictions – I said the Colts would beat the Jets 24 – 17 with a late pick thrown by Sanzchez:  Colts beat the Jets 30 – 17 with a late pick thrown by Sanchez.  I also said the Saints would win on a late field goal, 31 – 30:  The Saints won on a late field goal, 31 – 28.  Damn.  I should make this a football blog.

Now that my back has been sufficiently patted, I’ll move on.

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Dennis Wideman, a member of my fantasy hockey team, was minus three when he got hit in the face with a puck last night.  He celebrated by returning and moving to minus four.  I’m celebrating by publicly chastising him on my blog.  Dennis Wideman sucks.

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Spots 6 – 13 in the Eastern Conference standings are separated by three points right now (55 points to 52 points), with the Senators in 5th, ahead of the pack by five points (60).  Unfortunately for Ottawa, they could be on the wrong side of the line come playoffs. 

If we bring them into the mix, because lets face it, they are in the mix, that means there’s nine teams vying for four spots.  Here’s the who’s out/who’s in predictions, according to my dumb self:

5th, Ottawa Senators, 53 games played, 60 points

As I just alluded to, I don’t like the Sens team this year.  They’ve got one of the best lines in the NHL with Spezza and Alfredsson, but that’s really the only leg they’ve got to stand on.  Mediocre goaltending, suspect D, and just not enough firepower to get it done (also, they have to play essentially shorthanded when Kovalev is on the ice notgivingafuck for a living).  They’ll be in the battle for the eight spot in April.

6th, Philadelphia Flyers, 51 games played, 55 points

Didn’t I just write about them being a scary low seed?  Apparently they made a push.  Philly is definitely one of the teams who’ll stick, and with the return of Emery, I think they’re looking at the five seed, just high enough to “upset” a then-staggering Buffalo or New Jersey.

7th, New York Rangers, 52 games played, 55 points

I remember thinking the Rangers would finally be one of the leagues top teams this year, but with Torterella proving himself to be more of a yeller/motivator than a guy focused on strategy and keeping his team level, I’m not sure what to think.  I can see them getting into playoffs as a seven seed, and, anytime you have a legitimate goaltender in playoffs, you’re going to stress out your opponent.  Maybe they can pull it together by then.

8th, Montreal Canadiens, 53 games played, 55 points

I’m calling them “in”, but if I’m wrong anywhere, it’s here.  I think we knew they’d be a team fighting for a playoff spot this year, so every night matters.  That means they need to stay healthy to squeak in – either way, the Capitals are going to ROLL OVER them if they earn this spot.

9th, Boston Bruins, 51 games played, 54 points

The Bruins will make the playoffs, probably as a six seed, and why not: proven goaltending, some good d-men including shut-down defender and Norris winner Zdeno Chara, and enough pieces up front (when healthy) to put the puck in the net.

10th, New York Islanders, 52 games played, 54 points

My Isles need to fight tooth-and-nail to win every possible point on every possible night, cause it’s a long-shot.  Coaching and goaltending are keeping them afloat right now, so two things have to happen down the stretch for them to have any hope (barring trading for Kovalchuk or someone else substantial):  The d-corps will have to play way over their collective head (after Streit, their D are basically all 5th/6th d-men on most teams), and the young guns (Tavares, Okposo, Bailey, Moulson) need to find some way to keep/improve their pace as the point-getting gets tougher after Christmas….  It always does.  Here’s to hoping!

11th, Florida Panthers, 52 games played, 53 points

Losing David Booth buried the Panthers this year.  They’ve actually got a pretty squad over there – not many teams can afford to have a 30 goal guy miss the season (while banking six million of your teams money), especially not perennial strugglers like Florida.  Their hopes hinge on him returning sooner than later.

12th, Atlanta Thrashers, 51 games played, 52 points

Only Carolina and Toronto give up more goals than the Thrashers, and they’re talking about trading the major cog in their offensive machine in Ilya Kovalchuk.  They need Kari Lehtonen to be who he can be ASAP if they’re to have any hope.  Which they don’t have much of.

13th, Tampa Bay Lightning, 51 games played, 52 points

Tampa’s a good team.  I mentioned my “Tocchet is a bad coach” theory before, and after a little roster evaluation, I’m even more certain of this.  Lecavalier, St. Louis, Ryan Malone, Stamkos, and Tanguay can all play, while they’ve got some good role players, average d-men and good goaltending.  I see them battling for that 8th spot with Ottawa and Montreal come April.

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That’s all folks!  Agree?  Disagree?  Let’s hear it!

Comments

23 Responses to “Eastern Conference Playoff Spots”
  1. Char says:

    As a Bruins fan, I do hope you’re right. Maybe it was Dennis Wideman who broke a mirror; I’m getting damn sick of watching one player return onty to see two more go down.. Sigh…

  2. greg says:

    do we get the western playoff race analysis tomorrow?

  3. MikeB says:

    Spezza Alfie and Cheecho haven’t played together at all this year that I can remember.

    The surprising thing about them is that they are deeper scoring wise this year then any year in the recent past. For a team that lacks star power talent (outside of #11) there isn’t much going on and they are being very productive. As someone that watches almost all their games this is the most complete the team has played since reaching the cup finals.

    Making the playoffs would have been a huge surprise for the sens at the beginning of the season, but after dismantling Chicago (which it was, that game wasn’t close at all) and beating Boston, anything less then a quick first round exit is going to be disappointing for this team.

  4. jtbourne says:

    Yeah, I’m really looking forward to having to write about the Coyotes :) And on Wednesday, I have to write a “lost-bet” blog. Should be a fun week.

  5. jtbourne says:

    Ah, admittedly, I assumed it was Cheechoo who plays with them, but the point remains the same… I’m just not buyin’ it from Ottawa. Which sucks, cause honestly, for whatever reason, they’re in my top three favourite NHL teams. I love when they’re good.

  6. The Franchise says:

    Pffffft……..Ottawa missing the playoffs? You failed to mention Fisher, Michalek and a surprising Regin as secondary help. Beating Chicago, Boston (x2), Montrreal and the struggling Rangers on their recent streak is not proof enough that they have the mojo for a playoff appearance.

    You want to talk about lack of secondary scoring dooming a team? What about Montreal, watching their second/third line skate is worse than watching paint dry.

  7. Alix in SJ says:

    They’ve got one of the best lines in the NHL with Spezza, Alfredsson and Cheechoo

    I haven’t been watching Ottawa this year, but isn’t their top line Spezza, Alfredsson, and that-other-guy-from-the-Heatley-trade, Milan Michalek?

    I thought Cheechoo was the flash in the pan jar of peanut butter down on the fourth line

  8. jtbourne says:

    You could be right. Like I said, Montreal and Ottawa will likely be battling for that eight seed. Still, I’d take Montreal’s D and goaltending over Ottawa’s “depth” at forward.

    By the way, Sensquatch rules. Thanks for the pic!

    PS, I just checked, Milan Michalek has 23 points. There’s your depth guy (he will be good, I know, but come annn…)

  9. The Franchise says:

    how productive was Fisher without Alffie? About as productive as the Habs powerplay without Markov. The point being, if you want to intertwine the success of either team to their star player it has to go both ways.

    While I would be shocked to see Ottawa finish up near that 5th/6th seed, they are not the fodder your seem to dismiss them as.

    You’ll take the Habs D over the Sens? Outside of Markov I can’t think of Habs dman I’d take to replace Phillips, Volchenkov, Karlsson (some nights at least) or Kuba (when healthy)…… Hamrlik? please, Gill? is there a slower more out of position dman in the game who gets by simply by playing the ‘i-am-as-big-as-chara-hopefully-therefore-i-can-play-like-chara’ game. Mara? hahahaha…..sigh….

    Price, Halak, Elliot and Leclaire (ugh…Pascal)…….none are elite, none are ‘Raycroft’ bad- give an edge either way but not by much.

  10. jtbourne says:

    Haha, okay, okay, Ottawa’s better, fuck :)

  11. The Franchise says:

    Better than the Coyotes? ;)

  12. Officer Koharski says:

    I think the Bruins are a paper tiger this season. On paper they look legit, but something is wrong there. I think it’s perhaps the coaching. I am also not a fan of Thomas, his temper does not do him any favors. I feel when he throws his inevitable fit, all he’s doing is erasing the confidence his teammates have in him. A goalie should have icewater in the veins, he should be the rock.

    The Isles are a long shot but probably the best feel-good story in the east. McDonald/Hillen are blowing my mind right now. Maybe they are playing over their heads but you saw them paired in overtime, shutting it down. Also Hillen/Gervais had a great 5 on 3 kill. And to think I was left wanting when Gilroy signed across town.

    Realistically I don’t think the Isles will make it but I’m definitley hoping for it. It all depends if DP/Rolo can keep up the wall and the wunderkinds to keep scoring. A lot of Ifs but it’s possible.

    The Rangers are a mess, they might slip into 8th but I don’t see them winning any series. They’re too inconsistent in every area, the scoring is hot and cold, the defense looks about as effective as the Washington Generals, and while Lundqvist is undeniably great, he has fatal flaws in his game that can be exploited in a series. Like the fact that he ALWAYS goes down on a shot. He’s good at sucking up rebounds but if you shoot high on him and can get the puck back, you have a lot of net to shoot at.

  13. jtbourne says:

    Right – those d-men (Hillen, Macdonald) might be 5th/6th on other teams (every team?), but they won’t be in years to come.

  14. Will77 says:

    Its crazy that the Isles could go from being weak on defense, to having a pretty awesome dcorp if Hamonic, deHaan, and Kohn pan out to go along with Streit, Hillen, Macdonald. Hillen/deHaan/Mac/Kohn would be a dynamic skating defense. And while points after christmas are hard to come by, the Isles have been one of the NHL’s best since then. Rob Shremp is another example of Snow pulling some huge ‘minor’ moves. Streit, Roloson, Moulson, and Shremp are making him look like a freakin genius.

    Want to talk about the Coyotes? How awesome is this:
    http://www.nbcwashington.com/blogs/niteside/Face-Off-At-Flip-Cup-82565542.html

  15. Neil says:

    I agree with most of your analysis but also agree with some of the posters that Ottawa might deserve a bit more respect, their #1 goalie has been either injured or terrible for much of the year, Spezza underperformed and then got hurt, Alfie got hurt, Cheechoo should never have been invited over in that trade (a 3 million dollar cap hit for a guy who doesn’t score or grind), and the Sens are still managing to get it done (albeit in a brutal division in a conference where half the teams are stuggling to stay above 500). One thing that people tend to miss with Ottawa is that they play a pretty defensive style of hockey now, certainly not the Sens of old.

    The Flyers are looking scary and I gotta think Emery is better than Biron back there.

    I agree with Koharski that the Rangers are a mess, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they don’t get in or get in just long enough to get manhandled by someone in the first round.

    I think the Isles will get it done.

  16. Josh says:

    Justin,

    I haven’t seen you comment on the Patrice Cormier hit from the Q a couple weeks back, and on the Devils subsequent backing of him. If you haven’t seen it, here’s the link

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAoFY0owFXc

    Clearly one of the most disgusting instances of intent to injure on a hockey rink I have ever seen – would love to hear your thoughts.

  17. Peter says:

    The Sens are actually more than they may appear. They are no longer the Euro-heavy team that would fade come spring time. This team has a lot of grit but the skill level is also apparent with Alfie, Spezz, Kovie (when motivated), Michalak (he’s been hurt but still near 20 goals) and this Danish kid Regin has some game also. Fisher may actually be the second-line center they always thought he was. If not, he can go back to third line next year and be usurped by Regin. Footsoldier forwards with a little skill include Foligno and Neil.

    Their D isn’t overwhleming with big names but Phillips and Volchenkov are a formidable shut down pair and the other guys play their roles (Kuba and Picard on PP) while the rookie Karlsson is going to be a good one. The jury is still very much out on Minnesota native Brian Lee, however.

    In nets Brian Elliott (4-0 last week) may be for real, which is good news because Leclaire (nine shutouts 2 yrs ago) can’t stay healthy.

    The Flyers’ D seems like their weak link. Not a believer in Matt Carle and Timonen is overrated. They’ll need to add a D-man (preferably a top-4 guy) by the deadline or they’ll be the same playoff team we see every year – one filled with exciting tough and skilled Canadian forwards let down by their D or goaltending.

  18. jtbourne says:

    You don’t believe in Matt Carle? You should. I can be talked into Ottawa as a playoff team, easily, but I can’t be convinced they’re better than Philly.

  19. Peter says:

    I didn’t mean to imply that the Sens are better than Philly but the Flyers had a lot more expected of them this season.

    Matt Carle was a perennial tease his whole career before he got to Philly.

    You have to be objective now that you’re a writer Justin, and that includes guys you played against in college and those from Alaska. Carle’s 2-for-2 in that department.

    BTW, congrats on the new career and blog.

  20. jtbourne says:

    Thanks, and you’re right about being objective. I’m just saying: Perennial tease his whole career? It’s his fourth season in the league, and he’s compiled 113 points as a defenseman (125 including playoffs). He’s plus 17 this year, and not even on the first powerplay unit (Pronger and Timmonen). What more would you like from him?

  21. Peter says:

    Good call on four years being too short for a perennial tease.
    He started with such promise then got in Wilson’s doghouse
    then was traded to the disaster that was Tampa last season.

    The plus-17 helps playing with Prongs but we’ll see how he fares
    down the stretch and in the playoffs. If he can get through that and
    still be a firm top-4 guy then I’ll be a convert. Sound fair?

  22. jtbourne says:

    We have negotiated a deal, sir. Good talk.

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