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Tuesday, April 11, 2006 

NHL 2006 Playoff Picture

The season is drawing to a close, and all NHL teams have between 3 and 5 games remaining. Normally this would mean that most playoff spots are decided, with some individual battles for a last playoff spot, or for a 5 6 seeding. Not this year. At this point there are only 4 spots which I would call definite. While the 16 playoff teams are for the most part known (although Vancouver, and if you really stretch your imagination, Atlanta could still sneak in), there isn't a single playoff match up that is set at this point.

To help Sports Guy North faithful make sense of this mess, I will list here the 16 playoff spots, an all the teams that still have a realistic shot at each seed. For each of the teams in the seed, I will also list their best possible match up if they finish in that rank, as well as the possible matchup that would give them the most trouble. Hopefully this will help you figure out just what might be in store for your favourite team. Oh, and to all the Leaf fans out there, their best matchup would be at Royal Ashburn, and their worst I fear would be Glen Abbey.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

First Place

Carolina - Best Case would be Tampa, as they have the biggest ? in net, and Worst Case would be Brodeur and Elias' Devil's, whose game is best suited to take down Staal and the boys.
Ottawa - Best Case would be Tampa again, and Worst Case would be a battle along the 417 with the Habs. Huets season may be enough to get into the heads of the most inconsistent playoff team in recent history.

Second Place

Carolina - Best Case is Tampa, and Worst Case is New Jersey as above.
Ottawa - Best Case is again Tampa, Worst Case is Philadelphia who are always dangerous come playoff time, and whose rough play might be too much for the Sens to handle.
Buffalo - Best Case is Montreal, who wouldn't be able to counter an offense spread over so many lines, and Worst Case would be New Jersey who just might have the answer to that, along with the best goalie in net.

Third Place

New York Rangers - The Rangers have the luxury of knowing they'll be in the #3 spot at this point. Their best case would be Tampa Bay, who are basically the same team only without Jagr and a weaker goalie, and their Worst Case would be Philadelphia, whose rough play and cheating might be enough to finally get into Jagr's head. I am still surprised he made it the whole season trying day in and day out. I really just did not see that coming.

Fourth Place

Ottawa - Best Case would be New Jersey, as odd as that might sound, and worst case would be Philadelphia again. All in all, the 4th seed is not where the Sens want to be.
Buffalo - Best Case Montreal and Worst Case New Jersey, as mentioned in the 2nd place seeds.

Fifth Place

Philadelphia - Worst Case Buffalo, who are again too spread out for Philly's game, and Best Case is Ottawa who they are more easily able to force into playing their style.
New Jersey - Worst Case Ottawa, who I think the Devils just can't match up well with at all, and Best Case is Buffalo. The Sabres offense may be spread throughout multiple lines, but I'm not sure any of those lines have an answer for playoff Brodeur.
Montreal - Worst Case Buffalo, Best Case Ottawa, but the Habs would be hard-pressed in either matchup. Huet would have to come up big to steal one from the Sens. It's not out of the question, but you certainly wouldn't wager on it.

Sixth Place

Philadelphia - All teams here play NYR. Flyers have the best chance of taking them down.
New Jersey
Montreal
Tampa Bay

Seventh Place

Philadelphia - Best Case Ottawa, Worst Case Buffalo as in the 5th place explanation.
New Jersey - Best Case Buffalo, Worst Case Ottawa as in the 5th place explanation.
Montreal - Best Case Ottawa, Worst Case Carolina. The Habs do not want the Caines. Trust me. It would be over fast.
Tampa Bay - Best Case Buffalo, Worst Case Carolina. Carolina would destroy the non-existent Tampa defense, and their offense just wouldn't have the puck enough to make a difference, especially with Gerber in net. Their defense should be spread out as much as the Buffalo offense to make up the difference.

Eigth Place

New Jersey - Best Case Carolina, who match up very well with the Devils, and would make for a great series, and Worst Case Ottawa.
Montreal - Best Case Ottawa, Worst Case Carolina again.
Tampa Bay - Best Case Ottawa, although it's really the lesser of two evils as the Lightning have no chance in either scenario, and Worst Case is Carolina again.


WESTERN CONFERENCE

First Place

Detroit - Best Case would be Vancouver, who Detroit's offense would tear open at the seams. Worst Case would be San Jose, who are the most well rounded of the basement entrants, but as such are pretty unlikely to draw the Wings in the first round. I have tickets for a second round game in Detroit, so I'm hoping that it's a Sharks Wings battle that I'm in for then.

Second Place

Dallas - Best Case would be Edmonton, who Dallas has a history of handling quite easily. At this point shut down Samsonov, shut down the Oil, and that's easy enough for the Stars. Picking the Worst Case is tough, because I can't see the Stars beating either the Ducks or the Sharks. I think the Sharks would probably be the tougher battle, though, in the end.

Third Place

Calgary - Best Case would be Vancouver, who the Flames might even have a good shot at sweeping. Worst case would be the Ducks, who might even have a good shot at sweeping the Flames. Don't question it.

Fourth Place

Nashville - Fourth and Fifth are the only positions really up in the air, thanks to the Pred's descent. Now with Vokoun lost for the season, you have to think a first round exit is likely in their future. Colorado would be their best bet, but any of the three possibilities would get 4 goals a game against them. San Jose would get 5, so they would be the Worst Case.
Anaheim - Best Case Nashville, as explained above, and Worst Case would be the Sharks. Outside of Detroit, the Ducks and Sharks are probably the best teams in the West. I'm sure Dallas and Detroit are hoping for this matchup so at least one of them is eliminated before the second round.
Colorado - Best Case Nashville again, Worst Case San Jose. With either Budaj or Theodore in net Thornton will have a field day. Trading away Aebischer is still one of the most questionable moves of the year in my books. Easily put an end to their season.

Fifth Place

Nashville - Best Case Colorado again, Worst Case is conversely Anaheim.
Anaheim - Best Case Nashville again, Worst Case by default is Colorado. Budaj/Theodore combination strikes again.
Colorado - Best Case Nashville again, Worst Case Anaheim who have superior defense and goaltending. That's tough to contest with in the playoffs.
San Jose - Best Case Nashville, who as I said are finished for the year. Worst Case Anaheim, who as I said are the Sharks toughest competition in the playoffs outside of Michigan.

Sixth Place

Nashville - These teams each get the pleasure of taking on Calgary in the first round, which is better than Detroit and Dallas, but far worse than Colorado or Nashville. It's a spot you would want to get a 50/50 in the first round, but it might be worth your while to sneak up into 4th or 5th and hope to avoid the Ducks or Sharks as your matchup.
Anaheim - Anaheim has the best shot at taking down the Flames.
Colorado
San Jose
Edmonton
Vancouver - The 'Nucks would have the most trouble for lack of being able to keep their cool against a clutching, cheating team. Sadly, they'd be the ones streaming to the penalty box and the ones thrown way off their game.

Seventh Place

Anaheim - Dallas is a much tougher matchup for the first round, but definitely beatable for the Sharks and Ducks, and even the Av's if their goaltending surprises everyone.
Colorado
San Jose
Edmonton
Vancouver

Eight Place

Colorado - The 8th place team gets to hit the links about a week and a half later than Tie Domi and Darcy Tucker. I guess it's still worth it to make the playoffs.
San Jose - Sharks are the only one with a chance at making this a series. You know the Red Wings are cheering for the Sharks to win as many games as possible before the end of the season. They know enough to put Thornton off as long as possible.
Edmonton
Vancouver - The Wings are probably also watching the scoreboards every night to see where the Canucks are sitting. They'd give anything to have such an easy first round. They know they'd beat any of the non-Sharks they could face, but playing the 'Nucks would also almost guarantee no injuries heading into the second round either. That's a pretty big bonus that comes with playing a really soft team with injured defense. Too bad the Canucks really don't seem to be getting into the playoffs. Just as I predicted a while back when they and the Kings were secure in their spots, those two teams were clearly going to be the odd teams out at the end of the year. Vancouver still has a little bit of time to prove me wrong, but it's not likely at this point.

Sportsguy, your thoughts on the possible Senators/Canadiens matchup. The Habs have started Aebischer for the last two games against the Sens, and he has won them both. If this matchup happens, do you think they'll go with him or stick with Huet as the #1?

Best case Royal Ashburn, worst case Glen Abby............ well put!

:(

why do you hate the canucks so much? what have they ever done to you?

i'm assume the :( is one of the many leaf fans out there.... and possibly my mom.... don't worry, mom, there's always 2012...


as for Huet v Aebischer, i think they would go with Huet. The first time he loses a game, though, they'll switch over, which will be stupid at that point. Personally, if I was going to pick a goalie it would be Aebischer. I think he has a lot more talent than he gets credit for. But Huet has been hot and its hard to argue with that.

Oh, someone else snuck one in there. I don't hate the Canucks, they just don't play well as a team, and aren't as good as the other western teams around them without their big defense. Canucks and Kings on the outside. I've been saying that for months because that' just how the teams line up. Canucks fans can thank the Bruins inept front office for knocking them officially out of the playoffs.

canucks in, oilers out. easy to see.

glen abbey... fuckin eh, man... leafs suck!

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