Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions

Round One

NYR in 5

BOS in 6

NJ  in 6

Philly in 6

In depth analysis to come..

Monday, 9 April 2012

Western Conference Playoff Predictions

Round One

Vancouver Canucks (1)               VS.               Los Angeles Kings (8)                          

Depth Charts
Vancouver Canucks

Scratches: Weise, Bitz, Reinprecht, Ebbett

Scratches: Rome, Alberts


Los Angeles Kings 
Scratches: Richardson


How They Got Here
I'm sure The President Trophy Winner Canucks were hoping for an easier match up in the first round. This Kings - Canucks first round series is one of the toughest to predict and will be hard fought all the way to the end. By the same token, it will be one of the best to watch, along with the Penguins-Flyers series for impartial fans. The Kings began the year as favorites in the Pacific Division with the offseason acquisition of Mike Richards, joining an already young and talented team. Richards was meant to fill the hole at the #2 center spot and take some offensive pressure off of the team's leading scorer, Anze Kopitar. However, after a hot start Richards sustained a concussion and the team faltered. Upon his return, Richards struggled to put up many points, and the stellar goaltending of Jonathan Quick was needed to hold the Kings in playoff contention. To address their goal scoring woes, general manager Dean Lombardi acquired Jeff Carter from the Blue Jackets at the trade deadline. This seemed to be just what the doctor ordered for the Kings as they began to average around 4 goals/game and after being reunited with his close friend, Richards' play picked up down the stretch. Although they continued to battle for a playoff spot up until the last week of the regular season, the team has been playing its best hockey of the year of late by combining goal production with their already defensive-minded team and looks to finally be living up to their potential.

Vancouver was one win away from the Stanley Cup this year and will be looking to get there again this year. The team is largely the same, but has some added toughness with David Booth in their top 6 along with Pahlsson and Kassian filling out the bottom of the roster. The stars of the team - the Sedins and Luongo - will once again have to silence critics after the Sedins went a combined -8 in game 7 and Luongo posting a .850 sv%. Despite once again winning the President's Trophy as the regular season champions, this year the Canucks seem to have done it under the radar. The Sedin twins have had a down season after winning back to back Art Ross Trophies and many have said the team has been coasting and waiting for the real season to begin. A big loss to the Canucks is the uncertainty of Daniel Sedin's condition. If he is not ready for the first couple of games it might be too late.

Like I said, this will be one of the closest series in the first round - but I am going to take the Kings in 7 games. Despite the large gap in points, the teams seem to be trending in different directions. The Kings have been playing in a playoff - like atmosphere since the trade deadline because of how close the Western Conference playoff race was. Richards is a playoff performer and is playing some of his best hockey of the year. Jonathon Quick is having a career year and the Kings should be able to use their grinding style to wear down and frustrate the highly offensive Canucks team. Drew Doughty will have to be a difference maker if the Kings are to win. If the Canucks do end up winning the series, it will also be in 7 games and with Corey Schneider between the pipes. 

St. Louis Blues (2)              VS.               San Jose Sharks (7)

Depth Charts
St. Louis

Scratches: Schwartz, Reaves, Crombeen
Scratches: Huskins, Cole


San Jose
Scratches: Desjardins, Ferriero, Winchester
Scratches: White, Vandermeer



How They Got Here
At the beginning of the year, a Blues-Sharks series would not have been unexpected. What is surprising is that St. Louis is the team with home ice. After a slow start, the Blues made a coaching change and brought in Ken Hitchcock. This move changed the Blues' entire season. With his emphasis on the defensive side of the puck, Hitchcock shot the Blues up the standings and helped them earn a team record 15 shutouts. Hitchcock has made the Blues one of the toughest teams to play against and they have a deep team with a combination of grit and skill up front. They are led on the back end by Alex Pietrangelo, enjoying a breakout year and taking the reigns as the #1 defenseman. Although Halak and Elliott have split time most of the year, Halak will get the nod as his last playoff appearance saw him single handedly lead the Canadiens to the Eastern Conference Finals.

San Jose has had a season of inconsistency - especially in net. They have underperformed for most the year, but in the last couple of they picked up their play and won the games they needed to. On paper, San Jose is one of the deepest teams in the league, with a nice mix of finesse and grit throughout. Dan Boyle has won a cup and will lead the team on defense, and the pressure will be off of often criticized Joe Thornton, with youngsters Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski providing playoff scoring depth. For me, the big question mark is in goal. Antii Niemi is a wildcard. Even during his cup winning year with Chicago, he had some shaky games. If Niemi can be good, but not great, the Sharks are dangerous.

This will be another hard fought series, but I am taking the Sharks in 6. Although it is usually goaltending that separates close teams, in this case San Jose has way more experience and like Los Angeles, they have underperformed this year. The Blues will make every game tight, but falter in the end. However, this will be great experience for a young team and look for them to make a run in the near future. 

Phoenix Coyotes (3)                VS.                     Chicago Blackhawks (6)

Blackhawks in 6
Depth Charts

Nashville Predators (4)           VS.                    Detroit Red Wings (5)

Preds in 7

In depth analysis to come..

Friday, 6 April 2012

New NHL Point System Proposal

This year's playoff race, especially in the Western Conference, is the tightest it's been since the lockout. With only two games left for most teams, no seed in the West from first to tenth is secured and Washington and Florida could finish either third, eighth or ninth in the East. This allows more and more teams to play meaningful games long into the season which benefits both fans of these teams and the league as whole. Or is it? While parity means a greater number of teams have a shot at the playoffs, it also makes the NHL lose integrity as a league. The NHL is the only one of the top four North American sports leagues that reward a team for a loss in the form of the so-called "loser point".

The loser point was instituted with the shootout the first year after the lockout. Before this, as I'm sure everyone will remember, games had a system in which there could only be a total of two points handed out to either team. If there was not a winner after regulation and overtime, the game would end in a tie with each team splitting the points. The shootout was created so that there would be a decisive victor at the end of each game to "save" fans from a game that ended in a draw. It was controversial move at the time and it remains so. I mean, who wants to lose a team game because of an individual skills competition?  The NHL, recognizing this, added an extra point to the mix by rewarding teams for making it past regulation. This three point system changed the whole complexion of the standings. With an extra point up for grabs, it eliminated the previous system which had a pre-determined number of points available for teams to compete for. This is what has created such parity in the league. Instead of every team vying for a piece of the pie, the pie can grow with each game.

Now, I am not suggesting a change back to the times with only two points given out for each game. I am not sure there is a possible scenario in which that would work without reverting back to ties - and the NHL won't do that in the foreseeable future. My suggestion is that instead of rewarding teams for simply making it past regulation, they reward teams for succeeding at the shootout - yet still treat it as an inferior win. The solution: a 2-1-0 point system. Two points for a regulation or overtime win, one point for a shootout win, and zero points for any loss.  This system would eliminate the "loser" point, and benefit those teams that are able to win in overtime or a shootout, rather than those teams who go into a suffocating defense in the third period just to gain a point. In theory, teams would push harder later in the games, and in overtime, to earn an extra point in the standings and thus leading to fewer shootouts. Even if the game does go to a shootout, the NHL saves face by making them worth only half of a regular win.

There is no flaw I can find with this system; in fact I think it suits the current tie-break formula much better than the current system. Below, I have adjusted the current NHL standings to match my point system and reward the teams that have celebrated the most amount of victories this season.

EASTERN CONFERENCE                                                      
                             W      L      P     ROW                    
NY Rangers       51     30    100     47
Boston                48     33     88      40
Washington      41     40     78      37
Pittsburgh         50     31     91      41
Philadelphia    47     34     90      43
New Jersey      47     34      82      35
Ottawa               41     40     76      35
Tampa Bay        37     44     71      34
Buffalo               39     42     71      32
Winnipeg          37     44     70      33
Florida                37     44     68     31
Toronto              35     46     66     31
Carolina             33     50     65     32
NY Islanders     34     47     61     27
Montreal           30      51    55     25

                             W      L      P     ROW         
Vancouver        50      31    96       42
St. Louis             48     32     92      44
Dallas                 42      39     77      35
Nashville          47     34     89       42
Detroit               48     33     87      39
Chicago             44     37      82      38
San Jose            42     39     75      33
Phoenix            40     40     74       34
Los Angeles       40      41    74     34
Colorado           41      40     73      32
Calgary                36      45    69      33
Anaheim            34     47     65      31
Edmonton         32     49     59      27
Minnesota        35     46     59      24
Columbus          28     53    52       24

As you can see, this provides for some interesting playoff implications. In the East, Florida suddenly drops from third to eleventh (Wow!) and Tampa Bay, who is currently 8 points out with the current system, would be sitting in eighth place battling with Buffalo and Winnipeg. At the bottom of the conference, there would be some minor shifting with Toronto and Carolina swapping seeds. As expected, the West is full of changes. Dallas, who currently sits in ninth place, eliminated from the playoffs, jumps to the division lead with a 2 point cushion on San Jose while Los Angeles and Colorado would still be battling for the last two playoff positions. At the bottom, there is some minor shifting with Minnesota making the largest plunge from twelfth to fourteenth. This may not seem like much, but an Edmonton team who sits 7 points back of them with the current system would now overtake them. Sorry Dallas, Tampa Bay, and fans of the other teams that would still be alive if it wasn't for the dreaded loser point. Parity in the league remains high with this system, and at the very least, it's some food for thought.


Hello cyberspace! I have decided to start a hockey blog that focuses on the National Hockey League (NHL). I am a sports enthusiast, but hockey is my passion and life. I aspire to be involved in the business at some level, and my current dream job is a Professional Scout. So agree, disagree, or agree to disagree! Any feedback would be welcome and I hope you all enjoy. Cheers!