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Tuesday, March 14, 2006 

NHL Playoff Race Breakdown

As the NHL bumps up into high gear with teams playing 3 or 4 games per week (did i ever mention my opinion on NHLers in the Olympics?), playoff races are definitely underway. While many positions are up for contention, the Conferences are easily broken up into teams fighting for specific places. When in tranches, it's a little bit easier to put the playoff picture together. That, as should be obvious at this point, will be the subject of this post, and continued tomorrow. So here it is: The NHL Eastern Conference Post Season Shuffle

Eastern Conference

Premiere Group


These two clubs have put space between them and their competition lately. Buffalo has climbed to within 2 points of Ottawa lately, but 12 of their last 19 games are against playoff teams, and 4 more are against a Maple Leafs squad who are fighting for respectability at this point. That makes for 16 of the toughest possibly games, and 11 on the road. That is not the best formula for making up more room on the best team in the league, and even if they catch Carolina it won't matter for placement.

As for the Ottawa/Carolina battle, this final stretch is mostly made out of divisional games. What that means is that Carolina gets to take advantage of 6 games against Washington and Florida, and likely ends up taking Ottawa in the end.

The 3-5 Tango

New York Rangers

Neither of these teams are going to catch Ottawa, Carolina or Buffalo, so they are battling for 3rd or 5th. Right now, the Rangers have a 2 point advantage, and a game in hand, which doesn't mean much with this many games left. But their schedules are fairly similar, they've had similar success lately, and they play each other 3 more times, so this one should come down to whichever team is better. Can Lundqvist keep up his stellar rookie play? Has someone actually convinced Jagr to care for a full season? Can Rucchin and Straka continue to exist in the same environment without imploding? The only question in Philly remains which goalie is the way to go in net, which to me is choosing between two very adequate goaltenders. Right now, then, I will have to give the edge to Philly, and the coach of the year award the other way if the Rangers end up holding onto the division.



This is the only spot in the East that seems secure right now. The surprising Sabres have played as a team, and it has made them one of the best. Their unfortunate existence in the same division with the Senators is the only thing keeping them from moving higher, but I think that if you ask any Sabres fans out there, they are ecstatic with a #4 seed at this point.

Fighting For Their Lives

New Jersey

Tampa, in this group, has by far the easiest schedule remaining. If New Jersey, Montreal or even Toronto were in the Southeast, i don't think they'd be fighting for their lives at this point. But that point is moot. Tampa should end up in the 5 spot pretty easily, assuming they show up a little bit more defensively than they have lately. Coach T should be able to turn them around, or end up in the loony bin trying. Atlanta is still in this fight, as they have 8 full games left against teams below them in the standings. If one of New Jersey (Elias needs to be in the lineup) or Montreal (can Huet and Aebischer turn into a truly reliable duo?)falters, Atlanta should be right there waiting.

Toronto is in here, because they have a good deal of control over their own fate. 2 games against the easiest team to catch, Montreal, 6 Pittsburgh, NYI and the likes games they shouldn't lose, One more blowout against Ottawa is on tap, but the rest of their last 5 games should be against teams whose playoff spot or life will be decided by then. Although 6 points back with a game on hand, there is still life left in Leaf land. There may just be a first round loss to Carolina in the books, if everything comes together right. But the Leafs will need a lot of help.

Setting Their Tee Times


You may wonder how the Leafs and the Islanders can be tied right now, but I'm calling the Islanders finished and giving the Leafs a chance. Well, all you have to do is remember the fire sale the Islanders had on trading deadline day. Those were not the actions of a team looking to make the playoffs They were borderline with Parrish, Kvasha and Sopel, and hopeless without. That's not to mention and abundance of games left against the Flyers, Rangers and Devils. Pittsburgh games will keep them close, and ahead of the other 4 teams, but not nearly enough for the playoffs.

I don't think I should need to explain why the other 4 teams are already finished. 2 of them were finished in October. But while I'm mentioning them, I have something to ask that is Florida related. Olli Jokinen picked up the offensive player of the week award, and also signed a $21 million, 4 year contract extension. So I was wondering, is anyone else out there as unconvinced about Olli's play, or is it just me at this point? I'm getting the same feeling of being alone about someones talents that I had with Shane Doan a couple of years ago. Everyone seems to love him, but I'm pretty sure he's getting all the "someones gotta score" points in Florida.

What I mean is that Florida is bad. Likely the worst team in the league, if you ignore their goalie. There is no talent, relative to the rest of the league. While Jokinen might be the best player on the team, that does not make him elite in the league as far as I can tell. It's like on my ball hockey team this session. We were awful (that's what happens when you end up somewhere that you don't know anyone, so you have to play on a "free agents" team). We lost all 7 games, but in the 6 I showed up to I got 18 goals to likely lead the league. I may have been the best player on the team, although there were some rucchin goals for sure, which is exactly the case for Olli. Like Olli, I would never even slightly suggest that I'm one of the best players in the league, and I wouldn't be worth $21 million in a similar financial environment. As much as he may be scoring, Olli still resembles a Doan/Nagy situation to me. Shane Corson in Edmonton also comes to mind. There are many examples, and all of them suggest that Olli is getting treatment that time will show he doesn't deserve. If I'm missing something, someone please tell me, because I'm really feeling like the odd man out on this one.

Carolina will win the cup easily!

nope, yaokanin is pretty bad. panthers dont know what their doing. never have.

welcom back slacker

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