Sports by Randy Charles Morin.
Copyright 2005-10 Randy Charles Morin
Owned by Rapid Spiral Development Inc.
A series by series predictions for the 1st round of the Stanley Cup playoffs and a glimpse into the next 3 rounds. The NHL playoffs since the 2004-05 lockout has been a unpredictable beast. You make the playoffs on the last day of the regular season and you find your way to the Stanley Cup finals. What makes a good regular season team is clearly not what makes a good playoff team. Here's my sense of what might happen this playoff season.
The Minnesota Wild have badly underperformed and scratched their way into a playoff spot. That said, a hot goalie and some timely scoring might give them a chance. But goaltending and scoring have not been their forte this season. They do have some grit with Cal Clutterbuck, but on the whole this team is soft. Not a recipe for winning the Lord Stanley's mug. An underdog to win a series and a longshot to win it all.
And the Wild are playing the recent Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks are loaded with talent; Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane. Their was the question of goaltending at the start of the season, but Corey Crawford has been great. The consensus is that the Hawks are the team to beat in the West.
This isn't the Red Wings we knew in years past. There's no Nicklas Lidstrom. End of story. It's just not the same team.
The Ducks have been an off-and-on team for years with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. They even won a Stanley Cup a few years back. I don't think this team has the depth to make it far in the playoffs, but I do think they have enough to handle the Wings. Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne are getting older by the day.
For the 1st time in a long while, the Sharks aren't expected to do anything this playoff. They're suppose to boy out to the much better Canucks. And with perenial non-playoff performers like Joe Thornton, they have every excuse. But remember, they are very deep in talent and someday, if Joe is willing, they might surprise in the playoffs. And don't forget, that's a Cup winning goalie between the pipes; Anti Niemi.
The Canucks are very much like the Sharks of a few years ago. Some playoff success, but everybody expected so much more. And because of injury, they'll be starting the playoffs with long-time playoff disappointment Roberto Luongo in net. Whichever team loses this series, will cement their reputation as playoff losers.
An extremely talented team that should have little problem taking care of the Blues. But I'm not sure a team led by the party boys (Jeff Carter and Mike Richards) can make it two years in a row. I'm thinking the hangover from last summer hasn't quite warn off yet.
The Blues are... well... a blue colar team. No stars and a lot of names even I don't recognize. Just a lot of hard work. Their goaltending load was split between three goalies. It's very rare that teams with no talent advance in the playoffs.
The worst run organization in the NHL made the playoffs on the back of their one superstar John Tavares. That's about as far as they'll get. I doubt they could handle an injury riddled Penguins lineup in a seven game series. And the Pens are getting healthy.
The Canadiens are looking back between the pipes and putting their faith in Carey Price. A career 8-15 playoff record. This might be Price's last chance. If he falters again, then the fans in Montreal might start calling for a change.
I really liked the makeup of the Rangers at the start of the season. Things didn't go as expect and the team was rebuilt mid-season. Mid-season of an already short season. Henrik Lundqvist could put the team on his back lead them thru a few playoff rounds, but I doubt it. Teams rebuilt mid-season rarely go anywhere in the playoffs.
Alex Ovechkin is on fire and we're heading into the playoffs. This team is gonna live and die on his stick. I don't see much problem dispensing the Rangers. Then... in the 2nd round, it's OV time or bust.
As a long-time Leafs fan, what a relief. Playoff games. Everything sits on James Reimer's shoulders. They're a tough and fast team that can score. Can they keep the puck out of the net? Reimer did it all year.
The Bruins are either the toughest team in the playoffs or the 2nd toughest. And the Leafs are either the toughest or 2nd. Expect a lot of hitting. Fighting. Injuries. Whomever wins is likely gonna get beat the next round anyway. This is war.
Here are my choices with a couple games left in the NHL season for the individual award winners. In a couple cases, my choice is partial based on the assumption that the team will or will not make the playoffs and if that changed, then my opinion would change. But I doubt it. You'll find my choices a little different that the conventional people who think they know hockey.
Had Craig Anderson not been injurred, his sneeking the Senators in the playoffs with a 1.71 GAA and .941 SV% would've won him the Hart, but I can't give it to a goalie that only played half the season? Can I? Without Anderson's heroics early in the season, this injury riddled team could very well be competing for the 1st overall pick in this summers entry draft instead of being in the playoff race. Still, I can't believe
How about a forward that played only 3 quarters of the season? Sidney Crosby was still leading the NHL in scoring and 2nd in assists with 3 games left in the season. His linemates are #1 and #2 in the plus-minus leaders (he's currently 4th) and he's in the top 15 in faceoff wins.
Can you give it to two forwards, Martin St Louis and Steve Stamkos, who may win the Art Ross for most points while leading their team to a lottery pick instead of a playoff spot? These two players rank last and 2nd last on their team in plus-minus for forwards. This isn't new territory for this pair. These are two players that I would absolutely not consider for the Hart. In fact, I doubt this team will ever make the playoffs until they break up their core group of offensive players who don't skate in their defensive zone.
Alex Ovechkin is by far the Hart winner in the 2nd half of the season, but is that enough to overcome a very bad start? Remember 2 months ago when everybody was saying OV was washed up? Now he's gonna win yet another Rocket Richard trophy and is a prime candidate for the Hart as well.
Other players I would consider voting for are Ryan Getzlaf, Jonathan Toews and John Tavares. All four elevated their teams to new heights this season, but none stood out as much as Crosby or Ovechkin.
Winner: Sidney Crosby
Let me start by repeating the same argument that Craig Anderson would've won here too had he not been injured.
That said, people are starting to talk about Sergei Bobrovsky as the prime candidate for the Vezina. And I agree. Without Bobrovsky, the Blue Jackets would not be in the playoff picture.
I'm also gonna make a case for another goalie that took a team that hasn't made the playoffs in a decade into the playoffs this season; James Reimer. In the game that clinched the playoffs for the Leafs, they were outshot 50 to 22 by the Senators, yet won the game 4-1 on 49 saves by Reimer. Getting outshot isn't a rarity in Toronto these days (years).
Winner: Sergei Bobrovsky.
He's hated, just as much as he's loved, but this year he became a true all-star and Norris candidate; P.K. Subban. He hits hard, he leads all d-men in goals and points and has a nice plus-minus to boot.
How about Brooks Orpik? If he could only score. But how about 10th in hits and 6th in blocked shots? This guy is a true unsung warrior.
And then there's Dion Phaneuf. Twenty-sixth in blocked shots, 6th in hits, 6th in points, 3rd in goals, 5th in ice-time. Now those are some impressive numbers.
Ryan Suter is another possibility, but his team has under-performed even with Ryan playing his best season yet and they don't look playoff bound.
My finalist are Phaneuf and Subban.
Winner: P.K. Subban.
Jonathan Huberdeau leads all rookies in goals and points and he's nearly leading a bad Florida offense in both categories as well.
Justin Schultz leads all rookie defensemen in goals, assists and points, but he does have a lot of offensive help on a very talented Oilers team.
Cory Conacher is a nice story and does lead all rookies in assists and points. That said, he accumulated most of those points playing along side the offensive-minded Lightning.
I'm deciding between Huberdeau and Schultz.
Winner: Justin Schultz.
I don't really care.
This is by far my favorite award. Mostly because I think it's histerical that the most recent winner of the award doesn't even play much on his teams short hand unit. Pavel Datsyuk may very well win this award again, but in my opinion he isn't even in the top 20 best defensive players in the NHL. If he's so good defensive, then how come he only ranks 3rd on his team in short-handed ice-time per game for forwards? And how can you even give the award to a player that isn't played much in defensive situations like power plays?
Let's look are real defensive players, not just great offensive players who are reasonable defensively. The real great defensive players are those that hog most of the short-handed ice-time and are on the ice in the last minute when your team is winning by a goal.
This guy should've won the Frank J Selke most every year he's been in the NHL. No other player even needs to be named. He leads the league in short-handed ice-time by a forward with 163 minutes. No other player has more than 131. In those 163 minutes, the power-play has only 11 goals. His new team joined this season had their penalty kill go from 24th last year to 3rd best this year. He plays every shift against the other teams best offensive players and maintained an even plus-minus. And does he play in the final minute in one goal games? He must. He has 3 empty net goals this season. No player since Michael Peca has scored such a high percentage of his games into empty nets (just saying, didn't double check that stat).
Winner: Jay McClement.
The Ottawa Senators have been devastated with key injuries, yet the team still managed to stay in the playoff hunt. Paul MacLean deserves consideration for the Adams for holding this team together all season.
John Capuano deserves a gold medal for managing to put the worst managed hockey organization in the NHL into the playoffs. His team has Tim Thomas, Alexei Yashin and Rick Dipietro accounting for $11-12 million of the cap space. Without these players, who aren't even on the team, they wouldn't meet the CBA team salary floor for 2012-13.
The Columbus Blue Jackets suck. If they make the playoffs then Todd Richards is another candidate for coach of the year. This team is made up almost entirely from players unwanted otherwhere in the NHL.
All three coaches have taken a bad team to the promised land.
Winner: Paul MacLean.
The Penguins added Jarome Iginla, Jussi Jokinen, Douglas Murray and Brenden Morrow to an already stacked team. Ray Shero must be using a different math then the other General Managers in order to fit so many stars into the same salary cap every other team struggles with. Their backup goalie Tomas Vokoun is better than most NHL starting goalies and he signed him for next to nothing.
Not as impressive as the Penguins, but the Bruins added Jaromir Jagr and Wade Redden at the deadline. Peter Chiarelli also managed a very skillful trade to free up salary room by trading Tim Thomas to the Islanders. The trade was clearly made to circumvent the salary cap for both teams, as the Islanders were under the salary floor and the Bruins needed some room to work with.
I can't put my finger on a 3rd GM that stood out as much as these two.
Winner: Peter Chiarelli
Luongo simply had an amazing season. But so did most of the Canuck players. They dominated the NHL. Any other year and he'd be a lock. Already considered one of the best, he posted he's career best GAA and SV Pct. Still might not be enough.
Thomas, like Luongo, posted his career best numbers and even better than Luongo's. I can't see Luongo winning over Thomas. The Bruins struggle offensively and rely on Luongo a lot more than Vancouver. If it were not for Thomas, the Bruins may not have made the playoffs.
Rinne had a break out season. He plays for a bad team and single handledly put his team in the playoffs. Without Rinne, the Preds would've been in contention for a high draft pick.
Lundqvist didn't get nominated and won 11 games for the Rangers via shutout. Rangers, like the Preds, could easily have been fighting for a high draft pick had their goaltending had yet another great season. I understand why Lundqvist was left out, but I'm gonna mention him anyway.
All said, Thomas' .938 save percentage is what convinces me to award my vote to him as the Vezina winner. Not to mention his GAA was in fact below 2 (1.998), but rounded up to 2.00 in the stats.
Bruins v Habs (0-2)
The biggest surprise of the playoffs is the Bruins complete lack of offense; one goal in two games. This is due to three reasons; solid play from the Canadians defense (Gill, Subban, Sopel, Spacek, Hamrlik, Wisniewski and forwards Moen, Plekanec), good goaltending from Carey Price and weak shoots from the Bruins. As much as Carey Price has made the saves, the shot difficult is making Price look even better. Down 2-0 and going to Montreal, this series could be over quickly.
Pens v Lightning (1-1)
Not a surprise, without Crosby and Malkin, the Pens will be hard pressed to win this series. One great goaltending performance by Fleury has kept this team in the series. Interesting side note; Craig Adams has 6 goals in the last 3 regular seasons (207 games) and 6 goals in the last 3 playoffs (39 games). If Crosby comes back, then they still have a chance, but I see the Lightning taking this now that they have home ice advantage.
Caps v Rangers (2-0)
I didn't expect the Rangers to be able to keep up with the Capitals and they haven't. Only Matt Gilroy has scored for the Rangers. Lundqvist is gonna have to steal a game or two to get this team back in the series. Looks like a Capitals sweep is possible.
Flyers v Sabres (1-1)
Miller stole game one but the Flyers offense was too much in game two. With Miller injured, I didn't think the Sabres had much of a chance, but stole home ice advantage. The biggest difference in this series may turn out to be the lack of Chris Pronger. Normally, Pronger would be wearing down the Sabres forwards. Add something redundant about Flyers goaltending here. This looks like a 7 gamer. Then flip a coin.
Wings v Yotes (2-0)
It's called the Pavel Datsyuk show. Even without Henrik Zetterberg, the Wings are simply too much for the Yotes. Bryzgalov hasn't been at his best. He really needs to step it up at home and steal both games for his team or it's over. I doubt the Wings will sweep and that's all I got for the Coyotes' fans.
Sharks v Kings (1-1)
There's no reason the Kopitar-less Kings should be in this series. Well, except that Joe Thornton is up to his playoff disappearing act once again. In game 2 on the power play, Big Joe was fed the puck in the slot. He didn't even try to shoot. He skated behind the net, then out to the half boards and shot from there. Going the other way, Drew Doughty scored 4 pts giving him 11 points in 8 career playoff games. I see this going 7 games.
Canucks v Hawks (2-0)
Kane, Toews, Sharp and Hossa have combined for 1 assist in the 1st two games of this series. It might simply be fatigue. All four players have played an enormous amounts of hockey over the last 2-3 yrs. The Canucks look like he team to beat. Three lines are contributing and six d-men. And they have a pretty good goalie. Unless the Hawks win both at home, they could be done in 5.
Ducks v Preds (1-1)
Mike Fisher stole game 1 for the Preds and now they have home ice advantage in this series. The Ducks Big 4 (Selanne, Ryan, Perry and Getzlaf) showed up big time in game 2, each scoring a goal. This series is gonna be a showdown between the big 4 and Pekka Rinne. The series should go 6 or 7 games.
This is a no brainer. Without Lunqvist's best season ever, the Rangers may have been favs to finish overall. Unless Lunqvist steal games, I don't see the Rangers getting to game six.
The Caps are relatively healthy, although several players including Ovechkin missed games late in the season due to injuries. The Caps played great hockey down the stretch. There only weakness might be between the pipes where they have relatively inexperienced youngsters.
Caps in 5.
Very similar to the Rangers, where would the Sabres be without Ryan Miller? It wasn't Miller's finest season and worse, he may be experience the symptoms of a concussion. Without Miller, there's no series. Enroth has looked great all season, but he's no Miller.
Flyers may have the best overall playoff lineup, if and this is a big if... You don't look between the pipes.
Flyers in 5
Finally, a big time goalie matchup; Price v Thomas. And why not the most celebrated playoff rivalry of all time.
The winner will be the team that finds a way to score. Give the edge to the Bruins, since Price has been a playoff zero to date in his career.
Bruins in 7. And trust me, I want the Habs to win.
To play Crosby or not to play Crosby? That is the question. If he plays and is healthy and plays to his capability, then Pens win, else who knows. That's quite an if. Even if Crosby returns, the Pens are hardly Cup contenders without Malkin.
Roloson is key for the Lightning. Since the Bulin wall left Tampa, they've been a loss in net. Roloson is kinda old, is putting it mildly. Lightning can score, but can they keep the puck out?
Pens in 5
I updated all the WHL rosters on Talk-Sports.
Wings v Sharks
Thornton, Marleau and Heatley combined for 1 goal, a combined -7 plus/minus and somehow they beat the Avalanche. Unless there big line wakes up and this isn't the 1st year the Thornton line sleeps thru the playoffs, then expect the Red Wings to win. Wings in 7.
Habs v Pens
OK, the Habs won the series, but solely on goaltending. As much as I think goaltending is the most important part of the game, you cannot win games consistantly when you are getting outshot 45 to 15 every night. Not to mention, they are playoff Sidney's Pens. Pens in 6.
Flyers v Bruins
The Flyers made the playoffs because the Rangers played worse. The flyers defeated the Devils because the Devils played worse. This isn't even a playoff worthy team. Marc Savard is returning to the Bruinds lineup that won round 1 without him. Bruins in 4.
Canucks v Blackhawks
A redo from last year. This series will likely produce the best hockey. I expect the winner to be in the Stanley Cup finals. I'm picking Luongo over Niemi, but it's pretty much a pick'em. Will Luongo and the Sedin's show up all series? Canucks in 7.
Review of the series to date.
Avalanche v Sharks
Sharks are looking at another early exit from the playoffs. I blame Joe Thornton. It's hard to believe that one of the largest players in the league, plays one of the softest games in the league. Can Craig Anderson do it two more times?
Kings v Canucks
The Sedin's took over in the 3rd period to tie the series. This series is gonna come down to Luongo and the Sedin's will. Once again the NHL looks stupid by screwing up the kicking the puck into the net rule.
Preds v Hawks
Preds are surprising. I thought they might have a chance if the Hawks goalies fail, but other than one bad goal, Niemi has been primed. The Hawks offense appears to be on empty.
Wings v Yotes
Can one goalie defeat an entire team? Only in hockey. Illya Bryzgalov is the series. If he plays awesome, then the Coyotes win. If he plays great, then the Coyotes lose.
Habs v Caps
Habs are completely outclassed. Don't blame the goalies here. OK, maybe Theodore for blowing game one and almost blowing game two. The Caps are going deep. Only a goalie can stop them now (or maybe a Kid).
Bruins v Sabres
And I thought the Bruins couldn't score. With Vanek, the Sabres appear to have no offense. Their season is done. They need to shop for scoring depth to support the franchise; Ryan Miller.
Flyers v Devils
Flyers stunk down the stretch. WTF!? This series looks like a couple AHL teams. Devils are done. Flyers are done next rounds.
Sens v Pens
If the Ottawa citizens are really lucky, then they will be able to catch the Sidney Crosby show one more time. I can't wait for the Pens v Caps semi-final. This'll be a classic.
Sens v Pens
Ottawa is using a rookie playoff goalie (Elliot). One of their stars (Kovalev) is hurt. They had the worst goal differential of any team that made the playoffs. They are playing the defending Cup champs. Pens in 5.
Flyers v Devils
Flyers made the playoffs by playing slightly less horrible than the Rangers. Remember, they only had to win one of their last two games and they almost blew that too. They are playing Boucher in net only because they don't have anybody else who is eligible to play. Devils in 5.
Bruins v Sabres
The Bruins can't score goals. They score even less goals when Marc Savard is injured. Yes, he's out for the series. They score even less goals when playing Vezina candidate Ryan Miller. I just can't see the Bruins scoring enough goals. Sabres in 5.
Caps v Habs
The Canadian, like the Bruins, can't score goals. The Caps can. I cannot see Halak being capable of keeping them in a 7 game series. Even if Theodore falters, the Caps have playoff proven Varlamov. Caps in 5.
Here's my 1st round predictions for the 2009 NHL Playoffs.
We just updated the WHL rosters for the 2008-09 season.
We just updated all the AHL rosters for the 2008-09 season.
We just updated all the NHL rosters.
Northeast Preseason Preview