Wednesday, April 11, 2012

HockeyNation Prognostication 2012 Stanley Cup Edition

Part of the fun of playoff time is to put your picks out there for admiration or ridicule, depending on your particular skill set at the process of prognostication.

Here as part of our annual HNP's is our view as to how this first round of the NHL playoffs will proceed.

Ottawa and New York

As we've mentioned more than a few times over the course of our journal entries, your humble host was born and bred in the nation's capital, a proud product of Ottawa, one who was quite thrilled when the Senators returned to the NHL.  Alas we are a fan of the Sens from afar these days, but still enjoy following the team that represents the ancestral home.

So while we would dearly love to see the boys of Bytown take down the bunch from Broadway, we have fears that the Rangers may be just a little too talented to be denied in the first round. While the Sens do seem to have had the Rangers number over the last few years, the feeling seems to be that a team such as the Rangers which has played so well through the regular season surely won't disappear after the first round.

While we would love to be wrong, and certainly wouldn't mind eating some crow on this one, we see the Rangers winning the series.  But look out for next year Ottawa, this is a team that is clearly ahead of the rebuilding schedule and will be much more ready for the long chase for Stanley next season.

Rangers in six...

Philadelphia and Pittsburgh

Lets see the hospitals have been alerted, the Pennsylvania National Guard has cancelled all leave, Priests, Ministers and Rabbis have all held prayer vigils for a peaceful time, yes the Flyers and Penguins are ready to rumble.

If the last few regular season games were any indication, old time hockey will be on display in Pennsylvania in this first round, a rock em, sock em kind of good time that probably has Don Cherry ready to take up residence.

The feud of the Penguins and Flyers makes the Hatfield and McCoy's look like loving members of the Peace Corps and in with all that hate, we're probably going to see some pretty good hockey.

Beyond the obvious as to how Sidney Crosby will fare in the rough and tumble of the playoff gruel this series will come down to goaltending.  The Pens well served by Fleury, the Flyers hopeful that the Good Bryzgalov will arrive in time for the opening face off.

It promises to be the most anticipated and most likely most watched series of the first round, when we're done watching we see the Penguins moving on.

Penguins in seven.

Washington and Boston

Stanley Cup Champs and Team Underachiever, it won't be a sweep, but we don't see the Capitals of 2011-12 as any real danger in this playoff year.  They were fortunate to have held off the charge of the Winnipeg Jets, who if not for a few bad games down the stretch would have made the Washington implosion complete and sent River City into hockey rapture.

The Capitals have never seemed to be in sync all year, to their credit they put together a nice little run at the end of the season to secure their spot in the dance, but the bad surely outweighs the good.

The Bruins are no doubt more than aware as to how hard it is for a champion to repeat, but if they are going to be eliminated in this 2012 playoff run, it will more than likely come later in the playoffs.

The only question for this series is, will President Obama take a seat behind the Bruins goal when the series arrives in Washington?

Bruins in five...

New Jersey and Florida

Welcome back to the playoffs Panthers, last time we seem to remember your fans throwing rats on the ice, some kind of quaint Florida tradition we imagine.  Now that you're back, we can't wait to see what flows from the rafters.

The Panthers have home ice advantage thanks to the rather weak nature of their division, still the rules are the rules and the Devils will have to win in the Sunshine state should they wish to keep hockey alive for Jersey this playoff year.

While the Panthers may have the top seed, we suspect in reality they are the underdog, a team on the rise under some steady leadership at last, but one we feel that is still a few years away from challenging for another Stanley Cup.

When the sun sets on the final game in south Florida the Devils will be the team advancing.

Devils in six...

Vancouver and Los Angeles

The Canucks are hoping to make the long return trek to the Stanley Cup finals, to finish off some work that came up a little bit short last season.

To that goal the first road leads through Los Angeles, the Canucks will travel to LA for games three and four, most likely with a good understanding as to what is ahead for them by that point.

Goaltending will be a key of course, the Canucks will start with Roberto Luongo, he is the number one, makes the most coin and when he's on is one of the best in the game.  It's when he's off that things start to get uncomfortable at Rogers Arena.

The talk from the man himself is that he's focused and ready for the grind and the challenge ahead, good news for Canucks fans, but we would think with the success that Cory Schneider has had this year, any sign of trouble will be taken care of quickly by head coach Alain Vigneault.

The Kings really are just a goaltender at the moment,  Jonathon Quick is everything that is advertised, he is probably the main reason the Kings, despite themselves still have a spot in the playoffs.  While he struggled a bit down the stretch, that would  be marked more to the inconsistent play of his team mates, their defensive flaws and low scoring ways at times have placed a rather harsh burden on him.

He'll keep his team in the series, but if the regular season is any indication, he won't receive the kind of offensive output required to move the team forward.

Canucks in five games

San Jose and St. Louis

Two teams going in very different directions.  The Sharks at one time (no more than two years ago) were considered one of the league's elite teams, that seems so long ago, especially considering the way this year went from bad to worse for Team Teal.

As the season was winding down, there seemed every possibility that the Sharks wouldn't even make the playoffs, only some stumbling by the Kings and the collapse of the Stars, Flames and Avs helped keep them in the hunt that eventually led to seventh place.

Their reward is to face the surprise team of 2011-12 the St. Louis Blues who started the year off in horrendous fashion, jettisoned a coach and provided Ken Hitchcock with the chance to once again coach.

They have responded to his blue print with amazing tenacity, flirting with first place for most of the season, surrendering ground to the Canucks only in the last week or so. While there may be some nerves from some of the younger ones on the team, they will be faster, more in tune with their coach and have the promise of stellar goaltending to more than make this first round and enjoyable experience.

The bad habits and troubles of the regular season don't bode well for San Jose, the housecleaning at the Shark Tank is but a few weeks away.

Blues in five games

Phoenix and Chicago

The fate of the Coyotes has yet to be written, but regardless as to how things settle out in Glendale, the Coyotes will at least have made this a season to remember.  Their first division title since relocating from Manitoba, which granted wasn't viewed by many fans at the rink, still speaks volumes about the ability of Dave Tippett to coach a team under any form of uncertainty and adversity.

That division title gives them the home ice advantage in this series, but like the Jersey/Florida one, the Coyotes are still probably the ones in reality that are the underdog.

They go up against a Blackhawk team that is quite aware as to how they struggled in the regular season, a team not that far removed from their own Stanley Cup parade that hasn't been able to recapture that magic that made them the toast of Madison Avenue.

There have been signs though that the old Blackhawks are starting to come around, the goaltending is much more reliable than in the last couple of years, their offensive skills are returning and defensively they still make the opposition pay the price when they cross the blueline.

If as suspected Jonathon Toews is ready to return, then the Hawks may very well be ready to make that long awaited return towards a run for Stanley.

The nightmare scenario for the NHL most likely would be a Phoenix Stanley Cup victory, followed immediately by the announcement of relocation plans.  Where would you hold the Stanley Cup parade, the Grande-Allee?

The Hawks will probably help the Commissioner avoid the first part of that scenario, as for the parade it may not be a Stanley Cup one but a bienvenue a Quebec celebration.

Blackhawks in six

Nashville and Detroit

The Motor City heads to Music City to kick off their first round showdown, the Red Wings finding themselves in the most unusual spot of being the visiting team for the first two games of an opening round.

This has been an amazing year for the Predators, who have as solid a line up as you could hope to find on an NHL roster and they just keep adding on blue chip players even as they were printing up playoff tickets.

We commented on the Radulov signing earlier, suffice to say we believe there's a wee loop hole in the NHL regulations that needs to be addressed, but for now, he's in the Preds lineup another helpful asset in a line up that was already quite strong.

The Wings, and older bunch now, still have thoughts of reclaiming that trophy that they seemed to have domain over not so long ago, it will be tougher task now, especially against a team such as Nashville who have been knocking on the door for a few years now.

This year, the door opens we believe, maybe not all the way to a Stanley Cup, but wide enough for the Predators to make a pretty good run for it.

Predators in seven

So there we are, our prognostications revealed and awaiting their fate.

To recap:

Our advancing teams will be

New York Rangers
Boston Bruins
New Jersey Devils
Pittsburgh Penguins
Vancouver Canucks
Chicago Blackhawks
St. Louis Blues
Nashville Predators

We will reset our Prognostication machine for the second round,  hopeful that the teams above make the next round of oracle reading.

At the end of the two month long trek for Lord Stanley's Mug, it is our thought that it will be a trophy that is competed for by an East Coast team and a West Coast team.

Our Stanley Cup finalist prediction is for the New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks to meet once again for the Cup, this time Stanley will be heading west for the year...

Vancouver Canucks to win the Stanley Cup.

A selection of other prognostications and observations, culled from a variety of locales.

National Post-- Bruce Arthur
National Post-- Down With Brown (East Preview)
National Post-- Down With Brown (West Preview)
Globe and Mail-- Hockey Writers Predictions
Toronto Star-- Damian Cox Playoffs a crapshoot with no clear favourite
Sun Media-- Playoff Predictions
Ottawa Sun-- Chris Stevenson
Montreal Gazette-- Red Fisher
Winnipeg Free Press-- Tim Campbell NHL West NHL East
TSN-- Scott Cullen
Sportsnet-- NHL West
Sportsnet-- NHL East
CBC-- Hockey Night in Canada
Gtanland-- Hockey Preview Podcast

No comments: