NHL Playoff Predictions 2012

The NHL playoffs are once again upon us, and there are certainly some surprises in the seeding. I mean if someone at the beginning of the year had told me “Florida will be a 3 seed, Washington will be a 7 seed, St. Louis will 2 seed and Ottawa will not only not finish last in th East but make the playoffs too”, I would probably ask you for some fish (sorry, I’m in the mood for fish), ans then I’d tell you you were crazy. Anyways, with game 1 of the series I’m most excited for (Pittsburgh-Philly), lets get the picks started.

Round 1- Eastern Conference
#1New York Rangers vs. #8 Ottawa Senators
Pick: New York Rangers in 6 games
X Factor: Henrik Lunqvist & Jason Spezza
This series will actually be pretty close considering it’s a 1 vs. 8 matchup, the Sens have fared very well against the Rangers in the recent history, especially at MSG. However I don’t believe that the Sens will be able to solve Lundqvist, or play solid enough defensively to take this series, however they should be able to scare the Rangers a bit.

#2 Boston Bruins vs. #7 Washington Capitals
Pick: Boston Bruins in 4 games
X Factor: Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom & Zdeno Chara
A lot of people have the Caps upsetting the Bruins in this series, I don’t. The Bruins have the best goal differential in the league (+67), Washington has the second worst amongst playoff teams with a -8 goal differential. Boston finished the year off with a 9-2-1 record in their last 12 games. To go along with all of this, Tim Thomas is scorching hot with a .934 SV% and a 1.70 GAA in his last 8 games. Unless Washington surprises me this year and starts playing as a team rather than individuals, they have no chance in this series, especially with their injuries to their goaltenders.

#3 Florida Panthers vs. #6 New Jersey Devils
Pick: New Jersey Devils in 6 games
X Factors: Ilya Kovalchuck, Martin Brodeur & Jose Theodore
The Panthers are in the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. I ca’n't see them beating the Devils, who I think is a team built for the playoffs. However, they should still be happy about making it to the postseason, and you never know if their goaltending can be great and they can generate some offense anything can happen. Definitely don’t count them out, they’ve won a lot of close games this year and have some real heart.

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #5 Philadelphia Flyers
Pick: Philadelphia Flyers in 7 games
X Factors: Ilya Bryzgalov, Scott Hartnell, Evgeni Malkin & Sidney Crosby
This is the one true upset I’m going to pick (depending on how you look at the Preds-Wings matchup), the Penguins are certainly the more skilled team in this series, and have more depth up the middle. However, there’s a big rivalry between these two team, and a lot of times what matters most in a rivalry is who’s toughest? And I know Pittsburgh has some tough guys but I can’t see them being able to get by the physicality of this Flyers team (which is also very skilled). With bad blood already running between these two teams, this is the series I’m most looking forward to of the entire first round, and ultimately, it will come down to goaltending, and considering bears are in the forest, I had to go with the Flyers. I’m still scared to make the pick though, because if they get past the Flyers, I see them winning it all.

Round 1- Western Conference
#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #8 Los Angeles Kings
Pick: Vancouver Canucks in 6 games
X Factors: Roberto Luongo & Jonathan Quick
The Kings have a really good team, and of course, really good goaltending. If the Kings do pull off the upset, there’s no doubt in my mind, Jonathan Quick will be the reason why. Unfortunately I don’t see them pulling off the upset, the Canuucks team is too good, especially with Daniel Sedin returning soon.

#2 St. Louis Blues vs. #7 San Jose Sharks
Pick: St. Louis Blues in 5
X Factors: Joe Thornton & Anti Niemi
The Blues easily win the defensive matchup between the two clubs, as well as the goaltending matchup. And with the Sharks offense much older, the great streak of Regular season success the Sharks have enjoyed since the 2003-2004 season may be coming to an end, and with not even a Stanley Cup appearance coming out of it, the Sharks need a great postseason this year to keep their fans happy. Unfortunately, I don’t see them being able to do it against the Blues, they’re way too solid of a team.

#3 Phoenix Coyotes vs. #6 Chicago Blackhawks
Picks: Chicago Blackhawks in 5
X Factors: Jonathan Toews, Mike Smith & Corey Crawford
Phoenix is a very fundamentally solid and defensively tight hockey club. They’re coached wonderfully and have had surprisingly great goaltending this year from Mike Smith. However, they just don’t have the skill yet, but if Phoenix eventually moves, and grows a big fan base, and is willing to go out and get big names this team can be great in years to come. Unfortunately, the only way they win this series is if Corey Crawford plays poorly in net for the Hawks.

#4 Nashville Predators vs. #5 Detroit Red Wings
Pick: Nashville Predators in 7 games
X Factors: Pekka Rinne & Henrik Zetterberg
This will be a great series, the Red Wings have the history, the veterans and the skill, the Preds have the young talent, the goaltending and the physicality. This series could really go either way, but I have to give it to the better goalie, no offense to Jimmy, but Rinne’s got him by a hair in my opinion.

Round 2- Eastern Conference
#1 New York Rangers vs. #6 New Jersey Devils
Pick: New York Rangers in 7 games

#2 Boston Bruins vs. #5 Philadelphia Flyers
Pick: Boston Bruins in 6 games

Round 2- Western Conference
#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #6 Chicago Blackhawks
Pick: Chicago Blackhawks in 6 games

#2 St. Louis Blues vs. #4 Nashville Predators
Pick: St. Louis in 5 games

Round 3- Eastern conference
#1 New York Rangers vs. #2 Boston Bruins
Pick: Boston Bruins in 7 games

Round 3- Western Conference
#2 St. Louis Blues vs. #6 Chicago Blackhawks
Pick: St. Louis Blues win in 6 games

STANLEY CUP FINALS
#2 Boston Bruins vs. #2 St. Louis Blues
Pick: Boston Bruins win in 6 games

I know it’s boring to see a repeat but I still believe the Bruins are the best team in the league, stay tuned before round #2 starts as I re-evaluate my picks.
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-Vernon Smells

NHL Monthly Power Rankings Jan. 20th, 2012

Vernon Smells here, to all of you regular readers, which is now at a record breaking 0, you’ll find out very quickly that I am the Power Rankings guy, I will do monthly Power Rankings for the NHL, the NFL, and the MLB. So here are my power rankings for the NHL season to this point. Stay tuned for next months edition.             

1. Boston Bruins,  30-13-1 61 Points.                                                                                 Not including October, Boston is 27-6-1, and as the defending Champs they are by far the best team in the league.                                                                                                    Past Week:  2-2-0                                                                                                              Last 10: 6-4-0                                                                                                                    Tyler Seguin: 17G 23A +35                                                                                                 Tim Thomas: .906 SV% 2.02 GAA

2. New  York Rangers, 29-12-4 62 Points. The New York Rangers have been a great surprise this  season, they find themselves on top of the East after heating up in December, and then never cooling back down.                                                                Past Week: 2-2-0                                                                                                               Last 10: 7-3-0                                                                                                                 Marian Gaborik: 23G 14A +11                                                                                         Henrik Lundqvist: .936 SV% 1.93 GAA

3. St. Louis Blues, 28-12-6 62 Points. What a great story the Blues have been. Their goalies have led them  all the way up to third in our power rankings, with a 1.94 team GA/G and they have let only 1197 shots get to their keepers (both stats  lead the league respectively), this goalie/defense combination can win.                                                   Past Week: 3-0-0                                                                                                               Last 10: 7-1-2                                                                                                                    Brian Elliott: .937 SV% 1.68 GAA                                                                                 Jaraslov Halak: .920 SV% 2.00 GAA                                                                                David Backes: 14G 19A +13

4. Detroit Red Wings, 31-15-1 63 Points. They now sit on top of the NHL, and are riding a 5 game winning streak, the only reason they aren’t higher on this list is because 3 of those games were in a Shootout and 1 was in Overtime.                                                          Past Week:4-0-0                                                                                                                Last 10: 8-2-0                                                                                                                   Pavel Datsyuk: 13G 38A +21                                                                                         Jimmy Howard: .926 SV% 1.98 GAA

5. Chicago Blackhawks, 28-13-6 62 Points. The Blackhawks have been good all season long. With 3 of the top 5 teams from the Central Division, it looks like a couple of teams may get screwed in the playoffs seedings, they have to assure they aren’t one of them. easiest way to do that is to win your divisional games.                                                     Past Week: 2-0-1                                                                                                               Last 10:  5-3-2                                                                                                                Marian Hossa: 18G 31A +23                                                                                      Jonathan Toews: 26G 22A +16                                                                                     Patrick Sharp: 20G 20A +18

6. Ottawa Senators, 27-16-6 60 Points. The Sens are the hottest team in the NHL and deserve this spot, however, I still don’t think they will end in this spot, or even the playoffs……..                                                                                                                       Past Week: 3-1-0                                                                                                               Last 10: 8-1-1                                                                                                                  Jason Spezza: 20G 30A 50P                                                                                              Erik Karlsson: 7G 38A +8

7.Vancouver Canucks, 28-15-4 60 Points. The defending Presidents’ Trophy winners may have liked a few more W’s at  this point in the season, but I’m sure they will happily take the second seed in the Western Conference.                                                                  Past Week: 0-1-1                                                                                                               Last 10: 5-3-2                                                                                                                  Daniel Sedin: 20G 30A +14                                                                                             Henrik Sedin: 11G 41A +13

8. Nashville Predators, 27-16-4 58 Points. That’s now 4 Central Division teams in the top 10, it’s clear everyone in the division is taking advantage of playing the Blue Jackets 6 times.                                                                                                                                 Past Week:3-1-0                                                                                                                Last 10: 8-2-0                                                                                                                    Shea Weber: 10G 23A +13

9. San Jose Sharks, 26-13-5 57 Points. San Jose has gone back to playing great regular season hockey after a small hiatus. I don’t know though, maybe a sub-par regular season would have finally given them success in the postseason.                                              Past Week: 2-2-0                                                                                                               Last 10: 7-2-1                                                                                                                      Joe Thornton: 8G 28A +13                                                                                             Patrick Marleau: 17G 19A +10

10. Philadelphia Flyers, 27-14-4 58 Points. Philly has had a small but noticeable drop-off after a great first 2 and a half months. Maybe the team’s finally gotten  too creeped out by Danny Briere.                                                                                                                     Past Week:1-0-2                                                                                                                Last 10:6-4-0                                                                                                                  Claude Giroux: 18G 32A 50P

11. Pittsburgh Penguins, 25-17-4 54 Points. The Penguins have come back after a tough six game losing streak and have now won 4 straight. They also have a +22 goal differential(3rd in the East)                                                                                                 Past Week:4-0-0                                                                                                                Last 10: 4-6-0                                                                                                                 Evgeni Malkin: 24G 30A +9

12. New Jersey Devils, 26-18-2 54 Points . Just like last year, the Devils are getting hot mid-season, except this time, they are still in the playoff race.                                         Past Week: 2-1-0                                                                                                               Last 10: 6-3-1                                                                                                                   Patrik Elias: 17G 28A 45P

13. Los Angeles Kings, 23-15-10 56 Points. Ever since Darryl Sutter took over Head coaching duties in L.A, they’ve really turned their season around, but to really succeed, L.A needs to play better in OT/SO, as they lead the league in O.T GP, but they’re only 7-10 in the extra frame.                                                                                                                  Past Week: 2-0-2                                                                                                               Last 10: 5-1-4                                                                                                                    Anze Kopitar: 14G 29A 43P                                                                                        Jonathan Quick: .934 SV% 1.92 GAA

14. Washington Capitals 25-18-2 52 Points  The Caps deserve to be higher on this list with the way they’ve been playing  as of late, unfortunately, so does everyone ahead of them.                                                                                                                                  Past Week:3-1-0                                                                                                                Last 10: 7-3-0                                                                                                                Nicklas Backstrom: 13G 29A 42P

15. Colorado Avalanche, 25-21-2 52 Points. The Avs are on a roll and currently hold the final playoff spot in the West, but they’re going to need to find a new way to win, because even though a 7-0 record in shootouts may look nice, it won’t help come playoffs.         Past Week: 2-1-0                                                                                                               Last 10: 6-3-1                                                                                                                    Ryan O’Reilly: 13G 22A 35P                                                                                            Jean-Sebastien Giguere: .923 SV% 2.12 GAA

16. Toronto Maple Leafs, 23-18-5 51 Points. The Buds have had an up-and-down  season, but with their league worst penalty kill yet to give up a goal in January and the greatly improved play of goalie Jonas Gustavsson (5-2-0 in Jan.) I expect good things.             Past Week: 1-3-0                                                                                                               Last 10: 5-4-1                                                                                                                 Joffrey Lupul: 20G 31A +5                                                                                                   Phil Kessel: 25G 25A 50P

17. Florida Panthers   21-14-10 52 Points. It’s finally happened, with the play of     Versteeg, Weiss, Fleischmann and Theodore finally coming back down to Earth, it seems as if the Cinderella run by the Panthers may be over, and they could fail to reach the playoffs for  an NHL record 11th straight season, but for now they are still barely holding on to that final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.                                                          Past Week: 0-1-2                                                                                                               Last 10: 3-4-3                                                                                                                      Kris Versteeg: 17G 22A +9                                                                                          Stephen Weiss: 12G 23A +11                                                                                       Tomas Fleischmann: 15G 19A 34P                                                                                  Jose Theodore: .918 SV% 2.48 GAA

18. Calgary Flames, 22-20-6 50 Points. The Flames have been a middle of the pack team all season long, we’ll see if the addition of Cammalleri can boost them up a couple of spots.                                                                                                                                 Past Week: 1-1-1                                                                                                               Last 10: 4-4-2                                                                                                                Jarome Iginla: 18G 20A 38P

19. Dallas Stars, 24-19-2 50 Points. After a great start to the year, Dallas has really declined. At this point the  best you can call them is sub-par, and with the 4th oldest team league, I don’t see it getting better anytime soon.                                                             Past Week: 0-1-2                                                                                                               Last 10: 4-5-1                                                                                                                  Jamie Benn: 13G 29A +10                                                                                                 Loui Eriksson: 17G 24A +11

20. Phoenix Coyotes, 21-19-8 50 Points. With the yotes’ pretty much relying on Mike Smith all year long, they  really stumbled when he got injured, and he’s still trying to find his game now that he’s back and the team continues to struggle, despite the fact that Vrbata and Whitney are quietly having great seasons.                                                                        Past Week: 1-2-1                                                                                                               Last 10: 3-3-4                                                                                                                      Ray Whitney: 14G 25A +11                                                                                            Radim Vrbata: 22G 16A +8                                                                                                Mike Smith: .918 SV% 2.41 GAA

21. Winnipeg Jets 22-20-5 49 Points. The Jets coming back was the story of 2011, but no one expected anything from them, but for a brief period in December they held a playoff spot, since, they’ve stumbled down to 10th in the East. Now to make the fans in Winterpeg happy, they’re gonna have to improve.                                                                              Past Week: 2-2-0                                                                                                               Last 10: 4-6-0                                                                                                                   Blake Wheeler: 9G 24A +9                                                                                          Evander Kane: 18G 13A 31P                                                                                         Ondrej Pavelec: .910 SV% 2.83 GAA

22. Minnesota Wild, 22-18-7 51 Points. Wow, what a turn around, they were first for a little while, but after the injury-riddled Wild dropped their 11th consecutive road game last night, they proved that they are definitely not a top team in the NHL.                                         Past Week:0-2-0                                                                                                                Last 10: 2-6-2                                                                                                                  Niklas Backstrom: .921 SV% 2.45 GAA                                                                            Josh Harding: .925 SV% 2.44 GAA

23. New York Islanders, 18-21-6 42 Points. The Isles, in what is a disappointing but expected season are actually on a pretty good roll right now and have had 5 players putting up really good numbers: Tavares, Moulson, Parenteau, Nabokov and Montoya.             Past Week:: 3-1-0                                                                                                              Last 10: 6-4-0                                                                                                                    John Tavares: 17G 29A 46P                                                                                              Matt Moulson: 22G 21A +10

24. Anaheim Ducks, 16-22-7 29 Points. The Ducks have now won 3 in a row and six of their last 7, losing just once to Calgary in O.T, but with the assets they have, this should have happened a long time ago, too little, too late                                                             Past Week: 3-0-0                                                                                                               Last 10: 6-3-1                                                                                                                 Teemu Selanne: 15G 29A +6                                                                                          Corey Perry: 21G 17A 38P

25. Montreal Canadiens, 17-21-8 42 Points. The Habs are in the middle of an awful season, and the biggest controversy is that the coach doesn’t speak French, priorities Habs fans, priorities.                                                                                                          Past Week: 1-1-1                                                                                                               Last 10: 4-5-1                                                                                                                      Erik Cole: 17G 16A +4                                                                                                     Carey Price: .912 SV% 2.45 GAA

26. Carolina Hurricanes 16-24-8 40 Points. Cam Ward and the Canes have had an absolutely disastrous season. Not much else to say.                                                       Past Week: 1-1-1                                                                                                               Last 10: 4-4-2                                                                                                                      Eric Staal: 11G 23A 34P

27. Buffalo Sabres, 19-23-5 43 Points. The Sabres have now lost 13 of their last 16 games. Start of season “The always good Sabres finally spent money this off-season, they may be a Stanley Cup contender” -Every person who has ever existed.                 Past Week:1-4-0                                                                                                                Last 10: 2-6-2                                                                                                                  Jason Pominville: 17G 29A 46P                                                                                  Thomas Vanek: 19G 22A 41P

28. Tampa Bay Lightning, 18-23-4  40 Points. The Bolts have had an absolutely disappointing and horrendous year, at least Stamkos continues to live up to the hype.  Past Week: 1-2-0                                                                                                               Last 10: 3-6-1                                                                                                                 Steven Stamkos: 31G 20A +3

29. Edmonton Oilers, 17-25-4 38 Points. After a good start, it seems Operation: see how many #1 overall picks we can get in a row is back on, but it may be in jeopardy as Colombus already has 7 points on them, but there’s always  the lottery.                         Past Week: 1-3-0                                                                                                               Last 10: 2-7-1                                                                                                                 Jordan Eberle: 17G 26A 43P                                                                                            Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: 13G 22A 35P

30 Columbus Blue Jackets, 13-28-5 31 Points. FAIL FOR NAIL!!!                                  Past Week: 2-2-0                                                                                                               Last 10: 4-6-0                                                                                                                     Rick Nash: 16G 16A 32P

*These Rankings are based of Stats and Standings as of Friday, January 20th at 4PM ET

-Vernon Smells