Monday, February 28, 2011

Postseason Push - NHL

Today, we begin a 3-part series that will examine the NHL, NBA, and NCAA. Teams in each league look to close out their seasons successfully; clubs atop divisions are vying to cement high seeds, while teams on the bubble are hoping make a strong playoff push. We'll begin with hockey.

NHL teams have somewhere between 18 and 22 games remaining, which means an individual team has the potential to pick up 36 to 44 points in the next six weeks. The West is currently the more competitive conference, and is shaping up for a finish reminiscent to that of the Eastern Conference in 2010 (remember Flyers-Rangers settling the last playoff spot in a final-game shootout??)

In the West, teams 6 through 11 are separated by just 2 points. The Eastern Conference, however, is also quite competitive, as Buffalo, Toronto, and Atlanta are all within close striking distance of 8th place Carolina.

Here is a look at the standings:

Eastern Conference
1. Philadelphia (86 pts)
2. Tampa Bay (81 pts)
3. Boston (79 pts)
4. Pittsburgh (80 pts)
5. Washington (76 pts)
6. Montreal (73 pts)
7. NY Rangers (70 pts)
8. Carolina (67 pts)

On the outside looking in: Buffalo (-2 pts), Toronto (-4 pts), Atlanta (-4 pts), Florida (-8 pts), New Jersey (-9 pts)
Time to call it a season: NY Islanders, Ottawa

Western Conference
1. Vancouver (87 pts)
2. Detroit (82 pts)
3. San Jose (78 pts)
4. Phoenix (76 pts)
5. Los Angeles (74 pts)
6. Calgary (73 pts)
7. Minnesota (72 pts)
8. Dallas (72 pts)

On the outside looking in: Chicago (-0 pts), Nashville (-0 pts), Anaheim (-1 pt), Columbus (-4 pts), St. Louis (-7 pts)
Time to make April vacation plans: Colorado, Edmonton


Cup Favorites: Philadelphia Flyers, Detroit Red Wings
-The Flyers are scary good this season, as shown by their impressive 86 points. The only team with more is Vancouver, but I still like the Red Wings to win the west. Why??? Because it's hockey. Never pick against the Red Wings

Biggest Threats To The Cup Favorites: Boston Bruins, Vancouver Canucks
-Despite having only the fourth best record in the conference, Boston's +46 goal differential is tops in the East. Vancouver's record and +58 goal differential (!!!) are the best in the league.

Don't Be Surprised If They Blow It: Montreal Canadians, Phoenix Coyotes
-Montreal is rich with hockey tradition, but this year's team lacks punch. Their 165 goals for is the worst amongst the top 8 teams in the East. Carey Price has been a middle-of-the-pack goalie in GAA and Save %, and he might not be able to deliver the Halak magic that the Canadians got last year. The Coyotes are in fourth place, but are only 4 points away from missing the playoffs. And their -2 goal differential has to be a cause for concern.

Don't Be Surprised If They Make It: Buffalo Sabres, Chicago Blackhawks
-Sure, it's a bit of a cop out to go with the #9 teams in both cases. But Ryan Miller is a great goalie who can turn it on when the team needs it, and Chicago has some of the most prolific scorers in the game. I can't see either of these teams missing the postseason.

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