NHL Report: Playoff Preview

What you say, there are about 20 games still to play in the regular season and you’re talking playoffs and making a Stanley Cup Final prediction? And? Does it matter? Not really. Get your toe into the ice, push off and glide a bit as we look at the playoff picture by starting with the Eastern Conference.

Quite a challenge figured out who’s going to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. No, I am completely fucking with you. The eight teams that are going to make the playoffs have all been decided and frankly have been for about a month. Detroit thought they were going to press teams and get in, but no. Columbus is now pretending but they stand no chance of getting in either.

Who’s going to make it? Capitals, Bruins, Rangers, Penguins, Hurricanes, Panthers, Lightning, and the Maple Leafs. All they are doing right now is re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Wait, isn’t that a phrase used when there’s nothing but doom ahead? Yes, yes it is. For the Eastern Conference you can pretty much narrow it down to this – if your team is north of the Mason-Dixon line you’re already done. Only the Hurricanes, Panthers and Lightning stand a chance of hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup. Of those, I’ll take the Hurricanes. They are the most balanced and will give the Western Conference champ the most fits.

As for the Western Conference…

oooh, what a a pretty cup. photo via NBC and the NHL.

There is going to be quite a battle down the stretch for positions 2-8 with positions 7 and 8 actually up for 6 teams. Frankly, there are a lot of teams still fighting for a playoff spot. You’ve got the Ducks, Jets (woo-hoo-hoo-woo-hoo-hoo-Jets!), Canucks, and Stars all out of the playoffs as of this writing but still with a sneaky one-timer slapshot chance to overtake the Wild, Predators, Oilers and/or the Golden Showers. They’ll go after a playoff berth like mongrels fighting over a soup bone and it will be exciting for the rest of the regular season.

It will all be for naught.

You may recall a couple paragraphs ago I mentioned re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic? The Colorado Avalanche are far and away the best team in the Western Conference and probably the entire league. You may recall last year they won the Presidents’ Trophy for having the best regular season record. This trophy is, of course, meaningless, but yet it’s given out anyway. They won it last year… and then got walloped in the playoffs by the Golden Showers (I know, they are the Golden Knights but I hate them) 4 games to 2. Why? Because their defensemen, while fast, are small. Fast wins you regular season games, but small loses you playoff games. They were hopelessly pushed around and got the crap beaten out of them.

The Avalanche got bigger for this year’s playoff push by acquiring a beefy defenseman who can mix it up and take skaters down when necessary – Josh Manson from the Ducks. Manson is a Manson and not a Hansen so let’s not confuse him with the Hanson Brothers from the classic 1977 hockey movie Slapshot. But he is tough and that’s what the Avs need. He’s a rental, but the Avs need someone to fill center ice, muck it up with a few opponents and take some penalties for it. Without some toughness I would expect they would fall in the playoffs just as they’ve done the past couple seasons.

The Avs also picked up a solid fourth line center, Nico Sturm, one thing they did not have. They had placed whom they traded, Neil Jost, as their fourth line center but he’s not a center. Sturm is a legit center and they picked him up from another playoff contender, the Wild, which kind of shows you how much confidence the Wild has in their team making a run and the Wild currently sit fifth in the conference.

Makar is the Avs best defenseman. He’s small, fast and when he’s not there you can, as a headline writer did for the Denver Post, write “Dude, where’s Makar?”

As such, I have the Hurricanes versus the Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Final. The Hurricane are good, but not good enough. Avalanche takes them in 7.

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