Lace Them Up – The 2021 NHL Season Preview

Apparently the Zambonis have all been finally fixed and are able to smooth the ice so the NHL can begin their season January 13th. Luckily the 13th is not a Friday, but it may as well be. Yeah I know, it’s not the Zambonis’ fault they haven’t started the season. It was NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s fault. Fine, it was COVID… or how best to navigate COVID. But, Bettman is such an awful commissioner he’s always the person to point at for NHL problems.

Last year, as you may recall it since the season just ended in the middle of September, the Tampa Bay Lightning took home Lord Stanley’s Cup. It’s so 2020 to have a team that never has any ice outside of its arena claim the Cup.

Yeah, I know. That was so last Fall. So who’s going to hoist the Cup this year… whenever the season ends given the specter of COVID? The season is slated for 56 games, roughly 2/3rds of a normal season. But for the NHL, 56 games is enough to determine who should make the playoffs and who shouldn’t since nearly every team makes the playoffs anyway. A full 16 out of 31 teams make the playoffs. Next year it’ll be a full 50% as the Seattle Kraken are coming. Damn it I love that name.

A side note: before we get into the deep chasms of ice and hand out predictions easier than a dirty carny hands out tainted sno-cones, we have a couple rule changes to go over.

Number 1 – Offsides is now determined to not occur until the offensive players last skate completely crosses the blue line. Ergo, if a skater’s foot is in the air, but still behind or above the line when the puck completely crosses the blue line, he is onside. I am dubbing this the “phantom foot” as I can envision a lot of extended time being allotted while the NHL replay monitors in Toronto spend minutes drinking Labatt’s and deciding if the foot was or wasn’t over as it hovers in frozen time threatening to cross it.

Number 2 – the Colorado Avalanche are allowed to play with an extra attacker the entire season.

Fine, the second one doesn’t exist. It should though. It’s only fair as their goalie situation is still as shaky as spring pond hockey. That’s the reason why they didn’t make it to the final and soundly whip that team from the south. Should I go on with my predictions? Isn’t that enough?

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How the NHL Playoff System Works… or Doesn’t

Life is complicated enough right now. COVID is nowhere near slowing down, mostly thanks to the minions who believe it’s a hoax. There are more than 150,000 people who would love to debate those residents of Idiocracy if they could but they can’t, as they died.

Now we have sports making a comeback… of sorts. In a quick breeze let’s rush through what’s up before we get into the nitty gritty dirt band of details for the NHL playoff system.

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NHL: The Two Tirds report

Hey motherpuckers, we are back! The NHL All-Star game has come and gone, and each team’s odd seven-to-ten-day break is over. This is the time of the season when the NBA catches up to the NHL in terms of games played. It’s not weird, it’s just a matter of activity. Basketball has a lot of running, but the uniforms don’t carry weight. An NHL player is loaded with game armor, plus skating takes more effort than running, therefore they have more time between games. NHL season starts earlier, but the NBA always catches up.

Now that your February sports lesson is over, let’s take a look at where the NHL stands at their two-tirds mark in the season. Finally, my yard marker team, the Colorado Avalanche and you know well by now, has reached game 55, posting a magnificent shut-out 3-0 win against the Senators… then losing to the Capitals last night – FUUDDGE.. Where does that leave them in the standings? No, no, no my skate-loving friends, we check out the Eastern conference first.

Eastern Conference

Shall we take a look at who won’t make the playoffs first? Let’s do that. As predicted at the halfway point, the Detroit Red Wings are not disappointing me in their failure to do anything this season. They’re fortunate they can remember how to lace up skates, let alone play hockey. The others? We have the New Jersey Devils, who used to be the Colorado Rockies… and may as well have been the baseball Colorado Rockies the way they’re playing… and the aforementioned Ottawa Senators… who the Colorado Avalanche just shut out. To complete this trifecta of tenuous relationships between the bottom three and the Avalanche, let’s harken back to when the Dead Wings were good and the Avalanche cared enough to hate them. Sit back, have a Stroh’s or a Coors, and enjoy this clip. If the link doesn’t work, just type in ‘Patrick Roy vs Mike Vernon” and that’ll get you there. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7LZbJhi6Fo

Oh and BTW, we are going to add one more team. I believe it is time to knock on the arena door of the Buffalo Sabres and let them know the climb to get into the playoffs is too steep for them at this point so forget about it. They’ve sunk like a rock since the halfway point, going from the 8th spot down to 13th. Zoinks, Scoob! As for the rest…

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NHL at 50% Report

Hello hockey fans! We’re now sitting – more for some teams, less for others – at the halfway point of the season as the Avalanche, my yard marker team, has just played their 41st game. They beat the pants off the Western Conference-leading St. Louis Blues, BTW. A 7-3 iceberg crasher.

I’ll try to build upon the Tirty Tree and a Tird Percentage report and see where how our playoff teams would be set up if we were to end the season right now.

Eastern Conference

OK, let’s toss a wrench in this. Before we actually look at current playoff teams, let’s cut out the ones that – unless there’s a huge ice floe having never occurred before in this league – have no chance of making the playoffs. Buh-bye any teams under 40 points for the season: Ottawa, New Jersey and the team that, if there were such a thing as being bumped into a lesser league ought to be – the Detroit Red Wings. Good Lord of the two-line pass they are awful. Normally a team stands a chance of making the playoffs if they can get to 90 points. At the 50% mark, the Dead Wings are at 23 points. Historically awful.

On to the playoff-making teams. Last time we checked in, the Eastern Conference playoff teams at the third mark stood at: Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins, New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers and the Buffalo Sabres.

Well, hockey fans, let me tell you, at the halfway point the Easter Conference leaders are:

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