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

He’s Back……again

Sidney Crosby will be returning to the Penguins lineup on Thursday against the Rangers. What does this mean for the Penguins? What does this mean for Malkin? and most importantly, what does this mean for Crosby and his health? I’ll try to answer all of those questions for you, and more in this article.

First off, what does this mean for the Penguins? The Penguins are currently in 4th place in the Eastern Conference with 89 points, and are just 4 points back of the 1st place Rangers. Last time Crosby returned to the lineup, I was skeptical he would be able to produce right away, he proved me wrong by putting up 4 points in his return. With the team currently riding a 9 game winning streak it could mess up the chemistry the team has going, but even if it does, it will be worth it to have Crosby ready and in the lineup when it matters, playoff time.

Secondly, what does this mean for Malkin? It’s been no secret that Malkin is having an unbelievable year. Everyone always says Crosby is the best player in hockey right now, Malkin is either second or third on that list, as he leads the league with 84 points and is second in the league with 38 goals. It’s also been no secret that Malkin plays much better without Crosby in the lineup. To me, this is just due to less ice-time, of course having him be the #2 centre rather than the #1. If Malkin continues to play this way, I can’t see them reducing his ice time by very much, so that shouldn’t become a factor.

Lastly, how will this affect Crosby and his health? Last time, when Crosby was on his way to returning, he was cleared for contact on Oct. 13 and then didn’t play until Nov. 21. This time around, he will be making his return a bit more than a week after being cleared for contact. After waiting over a month last time, he still got hurt just 8 games in to his return. This time, however, they know what they’re dealing with, after the news that it may have just been a neck injury this whole time, if he’s been rehabbing his neck properly, and the Penguins and Crosby truly believe that he’s 100% healed, I don’t see a  problem with him returning to the lineup. However, they better be sure he’s 100%. It will be good for Crosby to make his return in a very important game, as the Penguins try to catch the Rangers for 1st in their division and in the East. It’s also good to get his legs moving before the playoffs, so that he’s ready.

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-Vernon Smells

30 Teams in 30 Days – Seattle Mariners

Welcome to the 6th edition of 30 Teams in 30 Days. Sorry we missed a day, we had a bit of an issue, but we’ll try to get two articles out tonight. The first team of the day is the one, the only…….. Seattle Mariners, oh sorry, we’re you expecting someone better?
Seattle Mariners
Record: 67-95
Finish: 4th AL West
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Felix Hernandez 14-14, 3.47 ERA, 222 SO
Top Hitter: Ichiro .272 AVG, 5 HR, 47 RBI, 40 SB
Manager: Eric Wedge
Important Acquisitions: Geoge Sherril, Aaron Heilman,  Jesus Montero, Kevin Millwood, Brian Sweeney, Shawn Camp, Hong-Chih Kuo
Important Losses: Adam Kennedy LAD, Jamey Wright LAD, Josh Bard LAD, Greg Halman Death, Michael Pineda NYY

The nicest thing I can say about the Mariners is that they’re young. They are the second youngest team in the league with an average age of just 26.5, so you could say they have potential. Unfortunately, they’re last 2 seasons have been disappointing, being way under .500 in both seasons, and if you wanted to be picky you could call the last 10 seasons disappointing, as they haven’t made the playoffs since 2001 (Ichiro’s rookie season). Last season didn’t actually start out that bad, as they were 37-35 at the near halfway point of the season, but a 17 game losing streak in July ended any chance at a competitive season. After having an amazing, terrific, unbelievable, Cy Young winning season in 2010, King Felix struggled at times in 2011, but still had a pretty solid year. However the biggest shocker of the year had to be Chone Figgins, who had by far the worst season of his career, hitting just .188. ON the flip side, one of my favorite young pitchers to watch last year was Michael Pineda, he threw hard, he threw lots of K’s and he had a mean changeup. Disappointingly, the Mariners dealt him to the Dark Lord, New York Yankees in the off-season, it sucks, but they did get Jesus Montero out of the deal, a very good 22 year old catcher who hit .328 in 18 games with the aforementioned Yankees, Montero’s also currently hitting .417 in his first 4 spring training games with the Mariners, it’s not much of a sample, but it could be foreshadowing a strong 2012 campaign for the young catcher. The Mariners also added veteran righty Kevin Millwood to take Pineda’s place in the rotation, he should add some solid starts, but I think the 37 year old is more there to mentor the young arms and to add a veteran presence in the dugout. What do I expect from the Mariners this season? Not too much, an improvement from last season would be nice but not necessary. I predict King Felix will have a good year, but not 2010 good, and I think Ichiro will do better than last year, but will miss the .300 plateau for the second straight season and just the second time in his career. The best thing for the Mariners to do at this point is make sure they’re developing their young players properly, even if that means risking a few W’s by keeping them in the minors.

Prediction
Record: 69-93
Finish: 4th in AL West
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Felix Hernandez 14-11, 3.22 ERA, 237 SO
Top Hitter: Ichiro .296 AVG, 4 HR, 51 RBI, 42 SB
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-Vernon Smells

A Tale Of Two Nashs

This year in both the NHL and NBA, Phoenix Suns’ point guard Steve Nash and Columbus Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash are involved in major trade talks.

Steve Nash has been with the Phoenix Suns since 2004 and has given them all he has to offer, winning two MVP awards and leading them to several playoff appearances. Nash is now 38 and closing in at the end of his career. There is one thing Nash is missing though and that is an NBA championship. The Suns are not in the hunt for even a playoff spot let alone a contender for the championship. So what many people including me think they should do is trade him. The Suns need young players to rebuild their franchise. Steve Nash has done everything he possibly could for them, so why not give him the chance to end his career on a high note. Now there is a problem for getting a deal done, there aren’t a lot of teams who are willing to give up young players or picks for a 38 year old point guard. With that being said there are three teams that I can think of that could use Nash and possibly make a trade for him.

1) The Los Angeles Lakers, The Lakers need a point guard, badly! Without a point guard the Lakers have a slim chance of winning the NBA championship. However, with Steve Nash they have a solid chance of if not winning the championship at least making it there. The Lakers are a team who wants to win and would likely be willing to give up a draft pick  for a future Hall of Famer. Also after seeing them willing to give up Gasol for CP3 they may be willing to give him up for Nash. Nash would also be more willing to play for two or three more years.

2) The Indiana Pacers, the Pacers made the playoffs last year and should make it again this year. The Pacers have some decent point guards, including Darren Collison. However, they don’t have a true leader or man to run the court. Steve Nash is that. The Pacers could give up a second round pick, a future pick and one of those point guards.

3) THE BOSTON CELTICS! I have not heard this team named yet and I’m very surprised to say the least. The Celtics have had continuous problems with Rondo. Nash would give the Celtics the consistency that they so desperately need. The Celtics also are the type of team that I could see giving up draft picks for an old player. With Nash, the aging Celtics could make a legitimate run for the NBA championship.

 

Now for Mr Rick Nash, Rick Nash is latest man to be put on the trading block. He is also the biggest name out of all of them, and the most enticing. A lot of teams are interested in Nash. One team that could trade for Nash is my hometown Leafs, the leafs could make a deal for Nash getting rid of Nazem Kadri and other loose ends or draft picks. The Leafs have the GM to do so as well. Brian Burke has been able to muster up plenty of trades this would be one I’d like to see. Other teams Included could be the struggling Habs, The Penguins, pending a trade for Staal amongst other players and picks. We brought in one of our hockey experts, Vernon Smells, for his take.

Rick Nash was asked to make a list of just 5 teams, so it has to be a team he’s willing to go to. So as McFultz said, Toronto is a possibility, with Nash being a Brampton boy and all, I’m sure he’d love playing in front of all his friends and family, but will this deal get done? I doubt it, mostly because the asking price for Nash is huge, they would probably have to trade away multiple prospects and probably a 1st rounder to get him, and they aren’t willing to bring on that much of a cap hit when they already have 2 first line wingers. They’re still in desperate need of a center. As for Pittsburgh, I don’t think they have the cap space or the assets to pull this deal off. Montreal is an interesting choice, I can’t see him going there, as that Hal Gill trade sort of proclaimed that they were sellers, but they swear they’re not. They could probably muster up the assets(P.K Subban, Pacioretty, some prospects and maybe some draft picks) but they don’t have the cap. I also don’t see why a team out of the playoff picture would trade away their future for 1 player, or why Nash would want to play in Montreal, but it’s possible. Here’s my list of the 3 most likely teams Nash will be dealt to before the deadline.:

1) Los Angeles Kings. The L.A Kings have been looking for a star winger for a while now, they tried and failed with Kovalchuck, and now that Nash is available, they’re going to be trying harder than ever to acquire him. The most interesting part of this story is that they have the assets, the most likely trade is Nash for Bernier+Johnson+picks and/or prospects. As long as they move Bernier and Johnson, they’ll also have the cap space to get this deal done. The other side of this story is that the Jackets also want to move Carter, and the Kings may be one of the few teams interested, so maybe move Carter to the Kings and Nash elsewhere, but for the Kings, an organization in dire need of a cup, they will try their best to get Nash.

2) New York Rangers. The Rangers have shown great interest in Nash, and to be honest I’m really not sure why, they already have a high-scoring winger(Gaborik), and they’re second overall in the the NHL and a Stanley Cup contender, why mess with that chemistry? They do have the assets to get this deal done, but they’d have to give up Dubinsky, Del Zotto, Hagelin maybe, along with multiple other prospects and picks. I understand that he has nobody good playing with him, and he’s had much better years, but  essentially your giving up that much for a 27 year old on pace for 55 points and a -33 on the season. However, they do have high interest and are a front-runner to land him.

3) Philadelphia Flyers. The Blue Jackets and Flyers have been in major talks over the last week, Blue Jackets GM, Scott Howson, is reportedly trying to orchestrate a deal with Sean Couturier and/or Brayden Schenn, however, Paul Holmgren, the Flyers GM, is reluctant to give them up. There may also be a deal in the works including Bobrovsky, Van Riemsdyk and a draft pick. However, The Flyers are still more interested in acquiring another Defenceman, with the absence of Chris Pronger.

To me, the most likely scenario is that he doesn’t get dealt until the off-season. There will be more teams interested, such as The Red Wings, The Bruins and The Sharks, and more teams means higher return.

-McFultz & Vernon Smells

Does Good Pitching Really Beat Good Hitting?

For years the question has been asked, how do you make the best MLB Team, Pitching or Hitting. Typically you’ll hear lots of the same, “good pitching beats good hitting” but is it necessarily true? We here at Critics From The Couch are going to go through deep analysis using last years stats, we’ll also look at the effect defense and stolen bases have on a teams W’s to show you the best way to build a ball club.

Let’s start with pitching, we’re going to take the top 8 teams in various pitching stats and use as a complicated point system based on how they did in the season/playoffs(if applicable) based on where they are on the list.

ERA Leaders               WHIP                           SO                                 Fewest BB
Philadelphia 9.54           Philadelphia 9.54         Atlanta 7.96                   Philadelphia 9.54
San Francisco 7.43       Tampa Bay 8.37          San Francisco 7.43      Seattle 5.80
San Diego 5.91              Milwaukee 8.76            Philadelphia 9.01          Chi. White Sox 6.59
Atlanta 7.14                    San Francisco 6.90     L.A Dodgers 6.62          Milwaukee 8.46
L.A Dodgers 6.36           Texas 8.41                   Milwaukee 8.16             Arizona 7.75
L.A Angles 6.37               Atlanta 6.58                 Chi. Cubs 5.26             St. Louis 8.17
Washington 5.72             L.A Dodgers 5.85        NY Yankees 7.39         Texas 7.82
Tampa Bay 6.68             Seattle 4.55                  Chi. White Sox 5.37     Cleveland 5.43
TOTAL: 55.15                TOTAL: 58.96              Total: 57.19                 Total: 59.56
Team ERA proves a       Team WHIP proves      Team SO proves a      Fewest BB proves
value of 55.15 Pts.          a value of 58.96 Pts      value of 57.19 Pts.      a value of 59.56 Pts

As you can tell, WHIP and BB have a big effect on a team, where ERA really doesn’t seem to be as important as people think, let’s see how it compares to hitting.

AVG                            HR                                RBI                               SLG
Texas 9.60                 NY Yankees 9.19          Boston 8.06                  Boston 8.06
Boston 7.78                Texas 9.30                    NY Yankees 8.89         Texas 9.30
Detroit 8.66                 Boston 7.51                  Texas 9.01                    NY Yankees 8.09
Kansas City 5.69        Baltimore 5.54               Detroit 8.37                  Detroit 8.37
St. Louis 8.45              Toronto 6.25                 St. Louis 8.45               Milwaukee 8.16
NY Mets 5.70               Milwaukee 7.87             Kansas City 5.26         St. Louis 8.17
NY Yankees 7.39         Cincinnati 5.61              Toronto 5.75                Kansas City 5.04
Milwaukee 7.27            Atlanta 6.04                   Arizona 6.88                Arizona 6.88
Total: 60.54                 Total: 57.31                  Total: 60.67                Total: 62.07
Team AVG proves       Team HR proves          Team RBI proves a      Team SLG proves a
a value of 60.54 Pts.     a value of 57.31 Pts.     value of 60.67 Pts.      value of 62.07 Pts.

WOW, Hitting seems to have a serious advantage over Pitching, look at SLG%, who would have thought that would be so important. So here it would seem that maybe hitting is more important. Keep in mind though, this is just from one season(last season) and we only used 4 stat categories for each, but based on this small sample, maybe teams should start building more around hitting than pitching. Let’s take a look at how defense and swiped bags compare.

FPCT                             DER                            SB:                             SBPCT
Philadelphia 9.54           Tampa Bay 8.65          Boston 8.06                Florida 6.44
Tampa Bay 8.37            Cincinnati 6.83             San Diego 6.13           Houston 4.84
Chi. White Sox 6.59       San Diego 5.91           Chi. White Sox 6.59    NY Mets 6.41
Atlanta 7.14                     L.A Angels 6.90           Houston 4.50             Philadelphia 8.69
L.A Dodgers 6.36            Philadelphia 8.38        Atlanta 6.86                Chi. White Sox 6.10
Cincinnati 5.86                Texas 8.12                  NY Yankees 7.69       Tampa Bay 6.74
Arizona 7.17                    Boston 6.39                 L.A Angles 6.11         L.A Angels 6.11
L.A Angels 5.84               Arizona 6.88                San Francisco 5.84   Atlanta 6.04
Total: 56.87                    Total: 58.07                Total: 51.78               Total: 51.37
Team Fielding                 Team Defensive          Team SB proves a     Team SBPCT
Percentage proves          Efficiency Rating          value of 51.78 Pts.     proves a value of
a value of 56.87 Pts.        proves a value of                                             51.37 Pts.
                                         58.07 Pts.

As we all know it takes all components of the game to build a winning team, but based off of these findings, on a very very small sample of research, it would seem that hitting is the most important, where pitching and defense seem a little less important. Stolen Bases on this list seem to have no affect at all on how good a team is. So, does good pitching really beat good hitting? Maybe, but good hitting will definitely win you games.

-Vernon Smells (Kalib Tilley)

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