Wednesday, April 14, 2010

16 NHL Playoff Questions

16. Colorado Avalanche
Is Colorado capable of upsetting the Sharks?
In a word: no. The Aves piled up points early in the season when teams were overlooking them and then backed into the playoffs winning only three of their last 13 games. A good young core is in place but this squad over-achieved all year and will quickly be dismissed in the playoffs.
Playoff Prediction: 1st round exit

15. Philadelphia Flyers
Who will stop the puck?
My attitude on goaltending is well documented in this space, but even I can't defend the Flyers in this situation. Going into the playoffs with a Brian Boucher/Sebastien Caron tandem simply isn't going to work. Let the Carey Price rumours begin in earnest.
Playoff Prediction: 1st round exit

14. Montreal Canadiens
Are their fans capable of stealing a game or two?
I'm more interested to see what the Habs will do this summer with both their young goalies coming up to restricted free agency (it'll be delighful to watch them push a still developing Carey Price out of town) than I am with what they'll do in the playoffs. Four games? Five games? Six would be pressing it, but you never know how far the rabid crowd will be able to carry them.
Playoff Prediction: 1st round exit

13. Boston Bruins
Who will light the lamp for Boston?
The emergence of Tuuka Rask in net offers Boston the threat of an upset, but their punchless offence will hold them back. (It's become clear that David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron are unable to step up to fill the void left by Marc Savard, and I don't know who would count on Michael Ryder, Mark Recchi, Marco Sturm and Blake Wheeler.) We could be looking at an effort from Rask that matches Marty Turco's performance against Vancouver a few years ago when he posted three shutouts in the series but his team still lost in seven games.
Playoff Prediction: 1st round exit

12. Nashville Predators
Can anyone give one good reason why this team isn't located in Canada?
Nashville has four trips to the playoffs in franchise history and have never made it out of the first round. That trend should continue. Other than that I have nothing illuminating to discuss about the Preds, they have a nice enough team and clearly Barry Trotz is a tremendous coach, but this franchise is boring and needs to be relocated. To Canada.
Playoff Prediction: 1st round exit

11. Phoenix Coyotes
Has Lee Stempniak honestly transformed into Pavel Bure?
The Leaf cast-off scored 25 goals in 123 games for Toronto over the last two years and mostly looked like he was playing himself right out of the NHL. After landing in Phoenix at the trade deadline, Stempniak scored 14 goals in 18 games and made thousands of Toronto fans scream at the television while watching the highlights. So can we expect Stempniak to lead the Coyotes past Detroit and on an extended playoff run? Umm, no. Let's just say I don't think the pressure of playoff hockey will be kind to Mr.Stempniak.
Playoff Prediction: 1st round exit

10. LA Kings
Are the Kings still hungry?
In the three seasons previous to this year the Kings finished 28th, 30th and 26th overall. After a stellar regular season that resulted in a 22 point improvement in the standings and the first playoff appearance for the franchise in eight years, does LA have enough gumption to continue to push or will they relax and feel comfortable with everything they've already accomplished? I'm leaning towards the latter.
Playoff Prediction: 1st round exit

9. Ottawa Senators
Can the Sens win their first series since reaching the Finals in 2006-07?
The Sens go into the postseason with the worst goal differential (-13) of any playoff team. Even with Jason Spezza (14 points in his last 8 games) and rookie defenceman Erik Karlsson (12 points in his last 10 games) streaking, Ottawa doesn't have the depth or will to match-up with a Penguin team that swept them two years ago.
Playoff Prediction: 1st round exit

8. San Jose Sharks
Is this the year the Sharks finally put it all together?
The playoff struggles for San Jose have been well documented (haven't made it past the second round since the lockout), and now they're coming off another superb regular season that has again created lofty expectations. Unfortunately for Sharks fans, I can't see a reason why anything will be different this time.
Playoff Prediction: 2nd round exit

7. Buffalo Sabres
What's more dangerous than a hot goalie heading into the playoffs?
Nothing, and that's why the Sabres are scary. Ryan Miller has to be considered the best goalie in the NHL right now, and that gives them a chance against anyone. There's also something about Lindy Ruff (mainly the winning) that makes this team tough to ignore.
Playoff Prediction: 2nd round exit
6. Chicago Blackhawks
Why am I picking against Chicago?
There isn't a single reason I can point to for not backing the Hawks. They are a very good team (almost the Western Conference replica of Washington, right down to the goaltending questions) and could very easily outperform my prediction, I just think Vancouver will prevail in their second-round match-up.
Playoff Prediction: 2nd round exit
5. Pittsburgh Penguins
Can the Pens flip-the-switch?
Pittsburgh, more than any other playoff team, seemed to treat the regular season as nothing more than an extended training camp. They started the season with nine wins in ten games and pretty much coasted the rest of the way. The Pens went 7-9 down the stetch but have the confidence of back-to-back Stanley Cup Final appearances to lean on as well as the most dynamic 1-2 punch (Crosby and Malkin) in all of hockey. But no team has been to three straight Stanley Cup Finals since Edmonton in the earlly 80's.
Playoff Prediction: 2nd round exit
4. Detroit Red Wings
Are the Wings all the way back?
After residing outside the playoff picture for the first five months of the season Detroit found it's game (and got healthy) and predictably returned to it's rightful place amongst the NHL's elite. What worries me a little is that just about every player on the team performed below career averages statistically and this is not a young team (average age of 30.3, oldest in NHL).
Playoff Prediction: Conference Finalist

3. Washington Capitals
Will the Caps be able to score their way to the finals?
Washington's 318 goals scored were the most by any team in the last 15 years. The Caps had seven 20 goal scorers and nine regulars who averaged more than half-a-point a game. They are far and away the most exciting team to watch. They also allowed the third most goals of any playoff team which makes them particularly vulnerable in net.
Playoff Prediction: Conference Finalist

2. New Jersey Devils
Can Ilya Kovalchuk lead a team deep into the playoffs?
You might try to argue this question by pointing out that the Devils get most of their leadership from Martin Brodeur and Zach Parise, but if Jersey plans to challenge Washington and Pittsburgh in the East, they'll need Kovalchuk, who has four career NHL playoff games on his resume, to step up offensively and provide the spark. With a new contract hanging in the balance, and a real opportunity to shine under the brightest spotlight, I see Kovalchuk taking full advantage and going on a tear.
Playoff Prediction: Stanley Cup Finalist

1. Vancouver Canucks
Can Roberto Luongo regain his form?
On paper the Canucks have the best team in the NHL. With two elite scorers, plenty of secondary scoring options, a solid if under-appreciated blueline and an All-Star goalie, this team has all the pieces in place to make a run. The perceived problem is that their All-Star goalie was shelled in last year's playoffs and has struggled down the stretch. After facing and conquering immense pressure during the Olympics, it was only natural he would have a bit of a letdown as the long NHL season wore on. I think he'll be re-energized for the playoffs and that makes Vancouver my pick to win it all.
Playoff Prediction: Stanley Cup Champions


  1. Canucks....champs? bold we also get a draft special here CSJ?

    I would also like an offseason thought piece about what will happen in the key 2010 predictions

    #1 Bosh - Wade Miami (beasley to toronto), Lebron in Cleveland after championship

    #2 Lebron - Wade NYC, Bosh stays for the money cause he know he'll never win anyways with those two playing together

  2. Fvckin Raptors. Not that it would have mattered vs the Cavs but my god, what a choke job down the stretch. I can't believe that 15 years in their biggest accomplishment is a second round playoff appearance.