Oct 312008
 

1 – Alexander Semin had some choice words for the NHL’s poster boy, Sidney Crosby. The Caps forward is off to a hot start and with the team being hailed as favourites to win their division again, didn’t hold back any punches. In short, Semin believes Crosby’s overrated – and that Chicago’s Patrick Kane is the superior player. He believes that stats, in particular Crosby’s, have made him out to be a better player than he actually is. I’m never turned off by some good sound bytes, but this sort of personal trash talk doesn’t really stoke any fires for the Pens-Caps rivalry, and I also believe that the Caps needs to reach the finals before they say anything more.

2 – Adam Proteau at THN thinks Gary Bettman needs to go. I agree… as do many others. Does Bettman?

3 – I think Doug Weight‘s hit on Brandon Sutter was clean. I don’t think Weight had any other choice than to lay him out – if he hadn’t it would’ve created an offensive rush for the Canes. Sutter’s concussion was unfortunate, and I hate to say it, but it was his fault. He had his head down in a prone position, reaching for the puck in the neutral zone. What did he think was going to happen? The players have to protect themselves – I don’t think there’s an easier way to put it, and getting rid of the instigator rule is a step in the right direction.

4 – Marian Gaborik‘s been a staple in the rumour mill since the end of last year. However, despite losing him to injury, the Wild are 6-2-1 and at the top of their division… which makes you really wonder if Gaborik is worth the reported $85-100 million the Wild have apparently offered him. There’s no mistake that Gaborik’s a world-class player, and even though I am attributing Antti Miettinen‘s recent scoring surge as a flash in the pan, I don’t think the Wild need him, especially at that price. Jacques Lemaire plays a system that doesn’t require a bona fide offensive player, although it is nice to have one. The Wild are just as happy winning games 2-1 than 6-1. Gaborik has proven himself to be injury-prone and seems to be intent on testing the waters on the market, and if that is indeed the case the Wild should just trade him.

Oct 012008
 

It’s hard to find good things to say about the Islanders. Their squad, especially the blueline, was decimated by injuries, but still managed to finish 13th in the conference. One thing you could always count on the Isles to do was work hard, a trademark of former coach Ted Nolan. After disagreeing with management about the direction of the team, Nolan was let go and replaced by Scott Gordon, who led the Providence Bruins to a 55-win season last year, only to be ousted in the second round.

The Isles so-called offense is lead by Mike Comrie, whose 47 points (he did only play in 65 games) led the team, and was one of the lowest point totals posted by a team’s leading scorer. Captain Bill Guerin was only one of two Islanders to post 20+ goals (Comrie being the other with 21), and they’d be hard-pressed to top that. In fact, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if the Isles finished dead last yet again in the league in offense. The Isles have made it clear that they’re commited to a full youth movement, with veterans Miro Satan, Ruslan Fedotenko, and Josef Vasicek all leaving via free agency. However, Garth Snow saw it fit to sign 37-year old Doug Weight to provide not only veteran leadership and guidance, but also for offense, penciled in as the Isles’ number two centre. It’s a bit of a perplexing move, considering that with Weight in the lineup it leaves one less room for a rookie to make the squad, although the Isles have plenty of spare parts on their bottom two lines. The other key veteran forward on the squad, Mike Sillinger, will once again be counted on to provide a hard-working conscience on the team, as will journeymen Jon Sim, who is once again healthy, and Richard Park. If there’s any bright part of the Isles’ roster, it’d be two players: Kyle Okposo and Trent Hunter. Yes, Trent Hunter. While Hunter hasn’t regained his scoring touch since his rookie season, he’s quickly developed into a hard-hitting, hard-working, two-way player, much like Dustin Brown for the Kings. He’s a future captain of the Isles, and remains integral to any Islanders defense or penalty kill. While Hunter cleans up defensively, it’s Okposo who will provide much of the offensive punch for years to come. Okposo played just a year and a half at the University of Minnesota before the Isles pulled him out and placed him in Bridgeport, where he made the transition well enough to earn a late call-up and impress critics with 5 points in a 9 game stint. Interestingly enough, the only other Nigerian-Caucasian player in the league is none other than Jarome Iginla. After that it’s two former AHL standouts Andy Hilbert and Jeff Tambellini, who have yet to translate their AHL success to the bigs. The Isles are counting on them to provide some much needed offensive depth, and if neither player starts scoring, they made find themselves elsewhere soon.

The Isles defense is mobile, but it’s also incredibly average. While the addition of Mark Streit will help their awful powerplay (29th), Streit won’t be playing with players as talented as the Habs’. Streit will be counted on to provide some direction for a defense that seems to be going nowhere offensively, especially when considering that the Isles’ top three of Radek Martinek, Andy Sutton, and Brendan Witt are all of the stay-at-home type. The three managed to keep this team from having the league’s worst defense (23rd) and surprisingly successful on the PK (19th). It’s a hallmark of a Nolan-coached team, getting a lot out of a little, although that may not be the case anymore, the three veteran defensemen are all quite reliable. With that being said, it will be up to Chris Campoli and Freddy Meyer to round out the top six, and perhaps Bruno Gervais may figure into the mix, but they do bring some balance and puck-moving ability to the Isles’ defense.

Goaltending isn’t a problem… when Rick DiPietro‘s healthy. The 15-year contract man has been plagued by hip injuries over the years, and enters this season with big question marks, after having surgeries on both hips and a string of concussions. Isles fans have always wondered what it would’ve been like had they kept Roberto Luongo, but DiPietro is more than capable, posting one of the league’s best stats before the All-Star break (2.57, .911). If DiPietro falters, it’ll be 28-year old career minor leaguer Joey MacDonald who takes over, with just 17 games of NHL experience and had a losing record with Bridgeport the year before. Like many of the re-building teams in the league, the Isles have a decent goaltender in net, the problem is just putting the puck in the net. DiPietro can only bail the team out of one goal games (the Isles won 23 out of 40 in one-goal games) for so long before the house of cards starts to crumble.

Which version of the Isles will we see this year? Granted, they’re not going anywhere, but after Nolan departed citing “philosophical differences,” the Isles will have a new strategy in place, just when they were about to establish themselves as the league’s best blue collar team. Gordon will not have the same luxuries to work with as he did in Providence, and inherits a team that is deeply in need of an identity and star. DiPietro won’t cut it because of his injury history and the relative lack of success he’s had over the years, although he certainly boasts the right brash attitude. Okposo is now the Isles’ future and a lot rests on his shoulders, as his has made leaps and bounds in his development, putting him atop the depth chart above players like Ben Walter, Frans Nielsen, Blake Comeau, and Jesse Joensuu, although all four are also expected to make a good run at cracking the squad. It’ll be a long road ahead for the Isles, and this season, Okposo’s first full season, is just the beginning. Perhaps the lone bright spot on the team will come at the end when the Isles get the first overall pick.

Projected lineup:
Jeff Tambellini – Mike Comrie – Bill Guerin
Sean Bergenheim – Doug Weight – Kyle Okposo
Andy Hilbert – Mike Sillinger – Trent Hunter
Jon Sim – Frans Nielsen – Richard Park

Brendan Witt – Mark Streit
Andy Sutton – Chris Campoli
Freddy Meyer – Radek Martinek

Rick DiPietro – Joey MacDonald

scratches: Ben Walter, Blake Comeau, Thomas Pock

Coach: Scott Gordon
GM: Garth Snow

Predicted finish: 5th Atlantic, 15th East

Aug 172008
 

1 Montreal Canadiens
2 Pittsburgh Penguins
3 Washington Capitals
4 Philadelphia Flyers
5 Ottawa Senators
6 NY Rangers
7 New Jersey Devils
8 Carolina Hurricanes
9 Tampa Bay Lightning
10 Boston Bruins
11 Buffalo Sabres
12 Florida Panthers
13 Atlanta Thrashers
14 Toronto Maple Leafs
15 NY Islanders

Again, I’m going to have to disagree with THN over this. If the Pens had managed to keep Ryan Malone and/or Marian Hossa I’d be inclined to agree that they would finish atop their division, but they won’t. When you potentially have Miroslav Satan as your top scoring winger you’re not going to go anywhere fast. The rest of the team remains largely the same.

I have a hard time believing the Sens will finish ahead of the Rangers and Devils. Despite the fact that Wade Redden‘s game is in decline, losing him will hurt because they didn’t replace him. The Sens are still looking for ways to fill out the rest of their roster, but like so many other teams in the East, goaltending is their primary concern. If Martin Gerber doesn’t hold up, they’re slightly above average at best by virtue of their incredible top line.

The Bruins are going to make some noise this year, especially with a completely healed Patrice Bergeron. Michael Ryder will head into camp as the favourite to land the first line right winger slot, and considering the success Claude Julien had with Ryder, along with an elite playmaking centre in Marc Savard, he could be a very nice surprise. Once again, however, they head into training camp with a 1A-1B tandem of fan favourite Tim Thomas and the disgruntled Manny Fernandez.

The East is much more clear cut than the West because so many teams have holes. The Habs, arguably the best team in the East, also has a shaky goaltending situation considering how Carey Price fell apart last year. These goaltending problems also plague at least 3 of the playoff teams listed. It’ll be interesting to see how this season plays out – a lot of teams have areas to improve, and considering the mass exodus of players from the East heading West, this year could be rather different.

Aug 122008
 

The Islanders just earlier today named Scott Gordon as their new head coach for the upcoming season. The AHL coach of the year will not return to Providence to defend his coaching title, moving up the ranks for his first big league job. I’m sure Garth Snow is hoping that Gordon will grow with this young Islanders squad, and there’s no doubt this team will be going through some growing pains, although Doug Weight was signed to make the transition easier for the kids. The 45-year old Gordon beat out Paul Maurice and Bob Hartley for the job. Reading Snow’s comments, it seems like there won’t be any “philosophical differences” between the two, unlike the strenuous relationship he had with former coach Ted Nolan. Asked about what type of system fans should expect to see come October, Gordon has emphasized a defense-first system, although I wonder how he’ll accomplish such a thing without a marquee defenseman. Brendan Witt and Andy Sutton are serviceable shut-down guys, but they’re not considered top-pairing calibre players. However, they do have Trent Hunter, whom I believe is one of the most underrated two-way players in the game today. I also wonder if this means that Mark Streit will be asked to be more defensively responsible than he has in the past, which may lead to lower offensive production.

The Hockey Hall of Fame has caught fire in recent years for turning a blind eye towards female hockey players and their contributions. The US HHOF named their four inductees today, headlined by Cammi Granato, making her the first woman to be ever inducted into the Hall. Granato, arguably the most famous female American hockey player led the Americans to an upset over a heavily favoured Canadian squad at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, capturing their first and only gold medal in Olympic competition. She currently works for NBC’s hockey coverage and a partner of BelaHockey, a hockey manufacturing company that caters exclusively to female hockey players. She will be inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame on October 10 at the University of Denver along with Brett Hull and former Ranger teammates Brian Leetch and Mike Richter. Take a page out of their book, I say.

Aug 102008
 

For Garth Snow and the Islanders, their search for a new head coach to replace Ted Nolan has come down to three candidates: Bob Hartley, Paul Maurice, or the AHL’s Scott Gordon.

Hartley’s NHL coaching career started in 1998 in Colorado, whose strong QMJHL and AHL records had caught the eye of then-GM Pierre Lacroix. He enjoyed 4 very successful years in Denver, including a 52-16-10-4 record and a Stanley Cup win in 2001. He was fired the following season in 2002 after a slow start, and joined the Thrashers a month later. Although he had gone from a perennial contender to a basement dweller, it didn’t stop Hartley from winning. In 2007, the Thrashers set a franchise record with 41 wins and their first ever playoff birth. But once again, despite his success the previous season, his Thrashers were off to a cold start and he was fired by Don Waddell after going pointless in six straight games. Despite all this success, depending on who you ask, Hartley isn’t exactly an angel. In 2005, against the Lightning, Thrasher Eric Boulton elbowed Paul Ranger in the head, resulting in a concussion and a fractured jaw. Boulton was subsequently suspended for six games, but it didn’t stop John Tortorella from lambasting the enforcer, saying that “no one wants to see him on the ice.” After the suspension, Boulton pleaded innocence, and claimed that he was only doing what he was told to do, implying that a frustrated Hartley had told him to get out there and headhunt. After all, Boulton is an enforcer and that’s what he’s employed by NHL teams to do. It was never definite whether or not Hartley asked Boulton to headhunt, but Hartley was under fire for a short while and since then the Thrashers and Lightning have enjoyed quite the rivalry.

To be honest, I never liked Maurice. He did a great job in Carolina, but I thought from the beginning that he was a terrible choice for the Leafs. Despite his successes, it’s always been overlooked that he is a poor special teams tactician. Throughout his coaching career, Maurice’s teams have traditionally never been good at killing penalties. In 2001, the Hurricanes had the second-best PK% in the league, but it all went downhill from there. When the Hurricanes made the finals in 2002, they were tied with the Devils with the worst PK% for playoff-bound teams in the East, with 83.7%. In his next full years, Carolina would rank 24th on the PK. In his first season with the Leafs, they had a 17.7% PP (17th) and 78.5% PK (27th). This year, their PP was 17.8% (15th) and PK 78.1% (29th). It can be argued that Maurice didn’t have the right players to work with (Peter Laviolette hasn’t exactly gotten the Canes’ PK out of the basement yet either), but I don’t think it’s a valid excuse for a playoff contender to finish near dead last in the league. He was under a lot of scrutiny in Toronto, and perhaps a move to a less hockey-crazed city would be a good change of scenery and hopefully be able to repeat the successes he had while in Carolina.

Gordon is the least well-known of the three, but is apparently well-respected in hockey circles. The former netminder enjoyed three successful years at Boston College, and started his coaching career in the IHL before moving onto the ECHL then head coach for Providence in the AHL in 2003. The 45-year old was the winner of the Louis Pieri Memorial Award, annually given to the best coach in the AHL. Considering the recent success of promoting AHL coaches (ie. Bruce Boudreau), it could be a good idea to take Gordon over the other two.

Sep 282007
 

New Jersey Devils
Strengths:
-Martin Brodeur
Weaknesses:
-No longer have that anchor on defense.
Question Marks:
-Can the Devils defensive system work without a stud defenseman?
-Can Elias and Gionta regain the chemistry of the past couple years without Gomez?
-Can Parise improve on last years break out season.
Outlook:
The Devils success over the past decade has largely been due to having stellar goaltending and a nearly as stellar defense. But over the past 3 or 4 years they have lost Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer and Brian Rafalski off their defence and the question is, can they be just as successful without that stud defenseman? Making matters worse is defenseman Colin White has suffered a significant eye injury and when he will return is still uncertain. That is going to put a lot of pressure on an unspectacular crew of Paul Martin, Karel Rachunek, Vitaly Vishnevski, Richard Matvichuk, Johnny Oduya and Andy Greene. To make maters worse the Devils lost on of their top offensive players in Scott Gomez this summer. The Devils anchored by Martin Brodeur still should make the playoffs this year but it is far from certain and a key injury or two could see them fall out of the top eight in the eastern conference.

New York Islanders
Strengths:
-Rick DiPietro is an emerging star goalie
Weaknesses:
-No top end talent anywhere in front of DiPietro
-Lost a lot of key players to free agency.
Question Marks:
-Can the hodge podge of second tier free agents come together quickly as a cohesive unit?
-Can Rick DiPietro take his game up another notch.
Outlook:
The Islanders have lost Alexei Yashin, Ryan Smyth, Jason Blake, Viktor Kozlov, Tom Poti and Sean Hill from the team that finished last year. That is a lot of holes to fill for a team that just barely made the playoffs. They did make some decent acquisitions in Fedotenko, Guerin, Comrie, Vasicek and Sutton but it is hard to say there is a quality first line player among them. Can Bill Guerin score 36 goals with Mike Comrie as his center like he did last year when he played mostly with Doug Weight, a true playmaking center? I don’t think so. The only saving grace for this team is goalie Rick DiPietro. DiPietro is a good enough goalie that he may be able to keep the Islanders within shooting distance of the playoffs though in the end they will probably end up closer to the basement than a playoff spot.

New York Rangers
Strengths:
-Deep and talented group of forwards.
-Lundqvist is an elite level goalie.
Weaknesses:
-A serviceable but unspectacular group of defense.
Question Marks:
-How will the new lineup come together?
-Will Jagr form the same chemistry with Gomez that he had with Nylander?
-Will Sean Avery wear out his welcome and become a disturbance in the dressing room?
Outlook:
With all the big roster moves the Rangers made in the off season they sure would like to see them as prime Stanley Cup contenders this season. That should be the case, but many people thought that should be the case last year too, but instead they floundered at times, finished only 6th in the eastern conference and were ousted from the playoffs in the second round. If they have learned their lesson and can learn to play a bit more consistent and reliable hockey they should be a contender this year. Chris Drury’s experience and leadership should definitely help them out in this area. In the end the Rangers will compete with Pittsburgh, Ottawa and Buffalo for top spot in the eastern conference and likely for the chance to represent the east in the Stanley Cup finals.

Philadelphia Flyers
Strengths:
-Added a lot of talent in the off season.
-Briere and Gagne should form a potent duo
-Depth of forwards
Weaknesses:
-Questionable defence
-I am not yet sold on Biron as a starting goalie.
Question Marks:
-Can Biron be a quality starting goalie?
-How quickly can this completely revamped lineup come together as a team.
Outlook:
There is no doubt that the Flyers will be one of the most improved teams in the NHL. You can’t add Briere, Hartnell, Lupul, Timonen, and Jason Smith without improving your team. The Flyers now have a lot of depth at the forward position and are capable of putting out 3 lines which can score and Timonen should do wonders in the transition game and helping the power play. Whether they can make the playoffs or not will depend in large part on Biron playing like a quality starting goalie for 55+ games and young defensemen like Braydon Coburn, Lasse Kukkonen, Alex Picard, and Randy Jones becoming reliable defensemen. A playoff spot is not a sure thing with this newly formed team but they should be good enough to be in the hunt which is a dramatic improvement over last season.

Pittsburgh Penguins
Strengths:
-Incredible young talent
-Maybe the best offence in the league
Weaknesses:
-Defensive ability and play – lack a true shut down defenseman
-Average goaltending.
Question Marks:
-Can Marc-Andre Fleury become a consistent reliable #1 goalie?
-Can Jordan Staal and Evgeni Malkin repeat stellar rookie seasons?
-How much is left in the tanks of veterans Mark Recchi, Gary Roberts and Darryl Sydor?
Outlook:
The Penguins are arguable the most talented team in the NHL as Crosby and Malkin are two superstar talents and Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney probably form the best pair of offensive defenseman in the NHL. The Penguins are going to score goals and score a lot of them. The big question is, can they reduce their goals against. Former first overall pick Marc-Andre Fleury showed some improvements in goal last year but the Penguins were still only an average team in terms of goals against. If they can improve on that a bit (and that is partly why they brought in Darryl Sydor) then the Penguins have to be considered a top contender for the Stanley Cup.

Sep 122007
 

Based on the same forumula as the western conference ratings, here are the eastern conference ratings. As usual, if you disagree feel free to post your thoughts and if you can back up your arguement, who knows, maybe you can get me to change my mind.

Forwards Defense Goaltending Total
Talent Depth Exp. Talent Depth Exp. #1 goalie Depth Exp. Score
Ottawa 10 6 7 8 7 7 8 7 6 53.2
Buffalo 8 8 6 7 8 7 8 7 6 52.8
Pittsburgh 10 8 6 8 7 6 7 6 6 52.5
NY Rangers 9 7 8 6 7 6 9 6 6 52.2
Toronto 7 8 7 8 9 7 6 6 6 50.7
Philadelphia 8 8 6 7 7 7 7 7 6 50.3
Florida 7 6 5 7 7 6 9 6 7 49.5
New Jersey 7 6 7 6 6 7 9 6 10 49.5
Montreal 7 6 6 7 7 7 8 7 6 48.8
Atlanta 9 6 7 7 5 6 8 6 5 48.0
Carolina 8 7 7 6 7 8 6 6 6 47.0
NY Islanders 6 7 7 6 7 6 8 5 6 46.8
Boston 7 6 6 7 7 6 7 6 6 46.5
Tampa 9 6 6 8 6 6 6 5 6 46.5
Washington 8 6 5 6 6 5 7 6 7 45.2
Apr 102007
 

When writing up these first round matchups I realized that not one of them features a divisional rivalry. I am too lazy to check but I am not sure that has ever happened before. Anyway, here are my eastern conference predictions.

NY Islanders at Buffalo

NY Islanders (road) Buffalo (home)
Predicted Winner Buffalo (Good)
Fair Odds +137 -159
Overall Record 40-30-12 53-22-7
Home/Road Record 18-17-6 28-10-3
Last 10 Games 6-3-1 7-3-0
Past Games
  • 2006/10/26: Buffalo 3 at NY Islanders 0
  • 2007/01/01: NY Islanders 1 at Buffalo 3
  • 2007/01/27: Buffalo 3 at NY Islanders 5
  • 2007/03/30: NY Islanders 4 at Buffalo 6

Through some gritty play, some surprise goaltending and some luck the Islanders managed to find their way into the playoffs but unfortunately for them in the first round they are going to play the best team in the east just as they are getting healthy for the first time in a long time. In other words, it is going to be real tough for the Islanders to move on to the next round. That said, if Dubielewicz can provide quality goaltending like he has the past week I think the Islanders could steal a few games. The Islanders may not have any superstars on their team but they have some very good, hard working players like Blake, Smyth, Hunter, Witt, Hill, etc. and should make the Sabres work for their wins. But in the end, the Sabres have by far the better talent, depth and probably goaltending.
My Prediction: Sabres in 6

Tampa Bay at New Jersey

Tampa Bay (road) New Jersey (home)
Predicted Winner New Jersey (Good)
Fair Odds +129 -140
Overall Record 44-33-5 49-24-9
Home/Road Record 22-15-4 25-10-6
Last 10 Games 5-4-1 6-3-1
Past Games
  • 2007/01/18: Tampa Bay 3 at New Jersey 2 (SO)
  • 2007/01/26: New Jersey 2 at Tampa Bay 0
  • 2007/02/11: Tampa Bay 4 at New Jersey 1
  • 2007/03/22: New Jersey 1 at Tampa Bay 3

Those who read my blog will know that I do not think that Tampa is a very good team. Tampa is really just a 4 player team of Lecavalier, St. Louis, Richards and Boyle. Their goaltending is weak, they don’t have a lot of quality depth and if it werent for their shootout play they wouldn’t have been close to making the playoffs. All that said, Tampa has beaten the Devils 3 times this year including both games in New Jersey (one by a shootout) so who knows, maybe they have a chance. Plus, I am not completely sold on the Devils either. But even so, I think between Brodeur and their defensive oriented game the Devils play they will shut down Tampa’s big 3 forwards and New Jersey will get enough offense to put away the Lightning fairly easily.
My Prediction: New Jersey in 5

NY Rangers at Atlanta

NY Rangers (road) Atlanta (home)
Predicted Winner Atlanta (Some)
Fair Odds +121 -127
Overall Record 42-30-10 43-28-11
Home/Road Record 21-15-5 23-12-6
Last 10 Games 7-2-1 6-3-1
Past Games
  • 2006/11/10: NY Rangers 5 at Atlanta 2
  • 2006/11/28: Atlanta 5 at NY Rangers 4 (OT)
  • 2007/01/20: Atlanta 3 at NY Rangers 1
  • 2007/03/16: NY Rangers 1 at Atlanta 2 (OT)

This is a real interesting series between two fairly similar clubs. Both teams are using second year goalies (Lundqvist, Lehtonen) with real promising careers ahead of them. Both teams rely heavily on 4 forwards (Jagr, Straka, Nylander, Shanahan vs Hossa, Kozlov, Kovalchuk and Tkachuk) for offense with 3 of them being European and both teams have decent, though relatively anonymous group of defensemen. The Rangers have a super pest in Sean Avery and the Thrashers have gritty veteren forward Scott Mellanby. For the Rangers I really like that Lundqvist is going into the playoffs playing the best hockey of his season if not his young career and that might be the difference. But I also think that the Thrashers have a little more experience and leadership with guys like Mellanby, Holik, Rucchin, DeVries as well as coach Hartley and that bodes well for the Thrashers. This should be an exciting and long playoff series but in the end I’ll go with the team with home ice advantage.
My Prediction: Thrashers in 7

Pittsburgh at Ottawa

Pittsburgh (road) Ottawa (home)
Predicted Winner Ottawa (Good)
Fair Odds +129 -140
Overall Record 47-24-11 48-25-9
Home/Road Record 21-14-6 25-13-3
Last 10 Games 6-3-1 6-2-2
Past Games
  • 2006/11/10: Ottawa 6 at Pittsburgh 3
  • 2007/03/06: Pittsburgh 5 at Ottawa 4 (SO)
  • 2007/03/18: Ottawa 3 at Pittsburgh 4 (SO)
  • 2007/04/05: Pittsburgh 3 at Ottawa 2

In some ways this is kind of like the San Jose-Nashville series in the west where both teams are quality offensive teams but both teams have their question marks. For Nashville it was their small, soft players and for San Jose it was relying heavily on a couple of young defensemen. In this series it is lack of leadership and grit for the Senators along with carrying the heavy burden of numerous playoff failures in the past. For Pittsburgh it is depending heavily on 3 forwards aged 20 and under a 22 year old goalie and a second year defenseman in Ryan Whitney. I normally would not want to pick a team with that much youth but Crosby and Malkin are rare talents that might be the exception to the rule and Ottawa isn’t exactly a veteren laden, playoff hardened team. Ottawa has their own 21 year old defenseman, a 24 year old second year goalie, and a 23 year old number one center and most of the rest of their team just 25-26 years of age. But what I think will be the difference in this series is the veteren leadership that the Penguins have that the Senators don’t. Between Roberts and Recchi the Penguins might have the two best playoff experienced leaders in the game. Recchi has a pair of Stanley Cups and 135 games of playoff experience. Roberts has a Stanley Cup and 114 games of NHL experience. Ottawa doesn’t have an equivalent and if those two guys can keep Pittsburgh’s young players focused and confident I like Pittsburgh’s chances in this series. Before I make my prediction I will add that it will be critically important for both teams to stay out of the penalty box as both teams have the ability to be especially devastating on the power play.
My Prediction: Pittsburgh in 6

Apr 052007
 

With the Rangers win over Montreal both the Rangers and Lightning have clinched a playoff spot. The final playoff spot will come down to Toronto, Montreal and the Islanders.

Montreal will get in if they beat Toronto Saturday. They will also get in if they get an OT loss and the Islanders don’t win both of their final games.

Toronto gets in if they beat Montreal in regulation and the Islanders get no more than 2 points in their final 2 games.

If the Islanders win both of their games they get in so long as the Canadiens don’t win on Saturday. If the Islanders get 3 points in their final 2 games they will get in only if Toronto wins in regulation.

Apr 032007
 

Tuesday’s results:
Islanders 3, Rangers 2 (SO)
Leafs 3, Flyers 2 (OT)
Tampa 3, Carolina 2
Montreal 2, Boston 0

Updated Standings:
6. NY Rangers (92) – vsMTL, atPIT
7. Tampa Bay (92) – vsFLA, atATL
8. Montreal (90) – atNYR, atTOR
9. Toronto (89) – atNYI, vsMTL
10. NY Islanders (86) – vsTOR, atPHI, atNJ
11. Carolina (86) – vsATL, vsFLA (eliminated)

To Get In:
NY Rangers: A Rangers win or a Leafs loss (in regulation or OT)
Tampa: A Tampa win or an OT loss, or a loss by the leafs (in regulation or OT)
Montreal: Getting a point against the Leafs on Saturday (win or OT/SO loss), or beating Rangers Thursday with the Leafs losing to Islanders.
Toronto: These combinations will get the Leafs in the playoffs:

  • Winning both games in regulation. One of Tampa, Montreal or the Rangers would be eliminated pending other results
  • Leafs win both games but one or both of them in OT and either Tampa loses both in regulation or Rangers lose both with at least one of the two losses in regulation.
  • Lose to Isles Thursday, Rangers defeat Canadiens in regulation and Leafs defeat Canadiens in regulation Saturday. Result: Leafs in, Montreal out.

Islanders: Must win all 3 games with Montreal getting no more than one point or go 2-0-1 including beating the Leafs in regulation and Montreal losing both their games in regulation.
Carolina: Eliminated.

I think those are all the scenarios. If I missed anything let me know.

The other eastern conference race is the battle for tops in the Atlantic division between Pittsburgh and New Jersey and the battle for home ice advantage in the 4 vs 5 seed matchup between Ottawa and either Pittsburgh and New Jersey. The standings currently are:

New Jersey (104) – at Phi, vs NYI
Ottawa (103) – vs Pit, at Bos
Pittsburgh (101) – at Ott, vs NYR

New Jersey clinches top spot in the Atlantic and second seed bu picking up a point against either the Flyers or Islanders. That should happen so the battle is between Pittsburgh and Ottawa for home ice in the first round. For Pittsburgh to gain home ice they need to beat Ottawa Thursday, and then do one point better against the Rangers than whatever Ottawa does against the Bruins. i.e. Ottawa loses, Pittsburgh just needs an OTL. Ottawa gets an OTL, then Pittsburgh must win. That is unless Ottawa get an OTL vs Pittsburgh on Thursday. In that case the Penguins need to beat the Rangers with the Bruins beating the Senators.