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

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