Articles

The Season – East Predictions

In Hockey Hits on April 11, 2011 by geespotting

THE SEASON

…Alright, so, a long, long time ago, I predicted the top 8 in the East. How did I do? Here is a look at my predictions, and their actual placement in brackets

MINE

1. Washington (1)

2. New Jersey (out of playoffs)

3. Boston (3)

4. Philadelphia (2)

5. Pittsburgh (4)

6. Buffalo (7)

7. Tampa Bay (5)

8. Montreal (6)

…I had the Rangers in 10th spot, and they grabbed that final spot from the ‘Canes to make the playoffs. So…prediction time!

(1) WASHINGTON VS. (8) NEW YORK RANGERS

2 years ago these teams met in a matchup that many had as pretty lopsided in the Caps favor. The Rangers stole the first 2 games in Washington, and had a 3-1 lead, before the Caps came back for the 7th game win. I expect it to be just as long once again. First of all, whether it was on purpose or not to have guys like Ovechkin & Backstrom have reduced ice time and miss games down the stretch is not an excuse for their seasons. Ovie’s numbers were down, and Backstrom was maybe one of the biggest disappointments of the season, dropping from a top 5 scorer to out of the top 30. The Caps have decent depth, but, there are question marks on the back end w/ the likes of Green, Poti & Wideman all suffering from sort of injury. Up front, Alexander Semin’s health has also been a concern, and likewise of the aging Jason Arnott. Washington has 3 young goalies too, and how they perform will also be questioned. As for the Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist is having one of his best seasons ever, and will have to pull a Halak in order for New York to get through. The Rangers defence is better than it was a couple of years ago, and up front, there have been some surprises in the elevated play of Dubinsky, Callahan and Anisimov. The injury to Ryan Callahan will hurt however, as he provides instant firepower, and can play in all situations. In the end, I like the Caps to get through, and that has to be in big part to their coaches. Bruce Boudreau and his staff implemented a new defensive style at the start of the season, which was put in place to allow this team to move up a pace in the playoff race. It took some time, and some struggles, but, the team was one of the hottest down the stretch in winning the Conference once again.

CAPS IN 7.

(2) PHILADELPHIA VS. (7) BUFFALO

…This series is garnering the most ‘upset’ attention as we near the start of the playoffs. I think it should be another long one, and once again, injury concerns and goaltending come to the forefront as to who will ultimately win. Like in any playoff series since the Bernie Parent days of the ’70’s, goaltending is a huge issue for Philly. Bobrovsky has had a very good rookie season, but, has struggled down the stretch. Can a Brian Boucher, or even Michael Leighton repeat what was done last year? It will have to be done if the Flyers are to move on. Chris Pronger should be ready to play in the playoffs, but, w/ an extended time away from the game, will it actually be a playoff ready Pronger. Know where I am coming from? That issue remains a huge one in Philly. Otherwise, the Flyers seem to be healthy, and another deep team is key for a deep run. As for the Sabres, it looked like once Derek Roy went down early in the season, their post season aspirations would go down with him. Ryan Miller was nowhere the same goalie that he was a year ago, and Buffalo’s defence was nowhere the same after losing some key d-men in the off-season. But, they found a way to get into the playoffs, and it was some surprises up front that allowed them to get there. Rookies Tyler Ennis & Nathan Gerbe excelled, as did Drew Stafford, who had 4 hat-tricks this season. Thomas Vanek might have had his best season ever, and was healthy too. I do like the Flyers and their depth however, and there are some injury concerns in Buffalo w/ Ryan Miller. No upset on this one.

FLYERS IN 7.

(3) BOSTON VS. (6) MONTREAL

…If you are a true hockey fan, then you are looking forward to this one! With all of the leadup and followup to the Chara/Pacioretty mashup, it only adds to one of the best rivalries in all of sport. The Bruins aren’t as big and as bad as they were in the 70’s, but, they are close. They have an interesting mix of skill and toughness that has a lot of people seeing them heading to the Finals. Goaltending is not an issue, as Tim Thomas and his Hasek-like style have been lights out this year. The backup, Rask, is pretty good too. On defence, the addition of Tomas Kaberle will help in a number of capacaties, as he can kill penalties, run the PP, and eat up a ton of minutes…and that only helps big Chara. Up front, Beantown has some added depth w/ the likes of Krejci, Bergeron, Horton & Lucic. For the Habs, Carey Price has to do what Jaroslav Halak did last year. It just might be the best goalie battle of round one. Montreal (as usual) has some injury concerns on the back-end, but, P.K. Subban has seen his game improve in the 2nd half, and adding James Wisniewski gives them a bit more punch on the PP. Up front, the Habs seem healthy, and for underachieving players like Gomez & Cammalleri, this is a time for redemption. They did it last year…can it happen again? Well, just for the sake of ‘anything can happen’, this is my one big upset of the playoffs. It really doesn’t look good on paper for Montreal in a series against the Bruins, especially after a 7-0 debacle to end the season series, but, I will take Montreal on a Steve Shutt backhand to elude Gerry Cheevers for a series clinching winner!

HABS IN 6.

(4) PITTSBURGH VS. (5) TAMPA BAY

…So, this one might be easier to predict if Sidney Crosby plays. Just the sheer prescence of Sid might be enough to put it in the Pen’s favour, but, it really seems doubtful that he will play, and if he does, his impact may do little. That being said, I like Marc-Andre Fleury better than anything that Tampa will offer up. Sorry Dwayne Roloson. He has has had some big games this season, but, has followed up w/ a stinker the next night. I don’t like his consistency at age 41. On defence, Pittsburgh added players like Michalek and Martin to help them defensively in the wake of losing their PP performer Sergei Gonchar. The fact that Krist Letang has developed into one of the best d-men in the league has helped them in moving on w/o the Gonch. The real issue for Pittsburgh will be scoring w/ both Malkin and Crosby hurt. It is hard to see a Chris Kunitz or James Neal pace the way for the team as they move through the playoffs. As for Tampa, I mentioned the question marks in goal, and their own d-core is probably among the weakest of the playoff bound teams. Victor Hedman is better, Pavel Kubina is decent, and Matthias Ohlund is older. Up front, we know about the firepower that is St. Louis, Stamkos, Lecavalier & Gagne, but, beyond that, Tampa has to plug in a lot of pluggers. Again, I like this to be a long series, but, for some reason, I can see the Pens rolling out 3-2 wins, after being beaten 5-1 the game before. And I like their experience in a series that will give them the last home game…and the series win!

PENS IN 7.

…So, there is a glimpse at the East. Tomorrow I will tackle the West w/ a look back at my season predictions and a look ahead to the playoffs. Wednesday will mark the Cup predictions! I love them awards, so, my award predictions will come up this Spring too, just before the NHL announces their nominees.

Back tomorrow!

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