2012 NHL Playoff Predictions: Second Round

2012 NHL playoffs

Every year the Leafs fail to make the playoffs I tell myself I won’t watch, but every year I’m pulled in by this insanely entertaining competition only the NHL can provide.

The first round was, for lack of a better word,intense. With all the upsets I’m sure my predictions weren’t the only ones that were shot. Out of the eight series, I successfully predicted the New York Rangers and Nashville Predators victories. Two of eight. That’s terrible, but as a fan, the upsets were exciting to watch. Yes the first place Canucks were eliminated (sad), but so were the defending champs Bruins (happy!) so that means we’ll have a new winner this year. Only those that get out of the second round have any chance of being that team so I’ll get on with my predictions:

Eastern Conference

New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals: The Rangers are coming off their near upset against the Sens and without much rest. The fast paced Capitals will have the advantage of the extra day so will have to capitalize early in this series if they want to give themselves a chance. If the Caps cant manage to get it together, I have no doubt the Rangers can take them on. It’ll be another tough test and I can’t see this series going fewer than six games. My pick is the Rangers in 6.

Philadelphia Flyers vs. New Jersey Devils: The Flyers have a lot of rest coming into this game, and like the Caps playing the Rangers, have to use that to their advantage early on against the Devils who are coming off a seven game series. The physical play that the Flyers showed against Pittsburgh has to come out in full force if they’re to beat the Devils. One thing though, if they’re not smart about how they play, New Jersey will shut them down. As much as I want the Devils to beat Philly I have to give the Flyers the edge in this one. Flyers in 6.

Western Conference

St. Louis Wings vs. Los Angeles Kings: I haven’t followed these two very much, but from what I saw in the first round, Los Angeles is a team to be reckoned with. Led by their amazing goalie, Jonathan Quick, they managed to overtake the Canucks, so that’s saying something. The Blues did better than I thought by advancing and are proving they have what it takes to win. I think this might actually be a good series to watch and in the end the L.A. Kings will come out on top. Kings in 6.

Phoenix Coyotes vs. Nashville Predators: In a battle of dog vs. cat, the Coyotes take on the Predators who are showing they’re ready to compete by showing they can handle the aging, but still tough, Detroit Red Wings. Each year I back the Preds because they always seem to have what it takes, but can’t capitalize on their chances. The Coyotes are resilient and it was quite a shock to see them knock out the Blackhawks, but I don’t see them getting by the experienced team from Nashville. Preds in 5.

So there are my pics for round two, what are yours?

2012 NHL Playoff Predictions: First Round

NHL Playoff tree via NHL

Starting tonight the NHL kicks off the greatest post-season in sports  (sans Toronto Maple Leafs once again). Like last year I’ll be giving my round by round predictions and hopefully I’ll do well. Last year I got 6/8 correctly and I hope to do the same or better this year. Here are my picks:

Eastern Conference

Ottawa Senators vs. New York Rangers via NHL.comThe New York Rangers have done well much of the season and competed until the end of the season for the President’s Trophy, falling just short to the Vancouver Canucks by 2 points. They’ll be going up against the Ottawa Senators who struggled in the stretch, but managed to land the final playoff spot. Given how the Rangers have performed this season, I see no reason why they can’t continue that dominance against a team like Ottawa, so I predict the Rangers in 6.

Washington Capitals vs. Boston Bruins via NHLThose dangerous Stanley Cup-defending Boston Bruins are obviously the team to beat this post season. They’re up against the now high flying Washington Capitals who have finally seen some production from star Alex Ovechkin. As high flying as they may be I don’t see the Bruins having much trouble closing these guys out. I predict Bruins in 5.

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New Jersey Devils vs. Florida Panthers via NHLThe Southeast Division champions Florida Panthers have managed to do much better than expected this season. They’ll be going up against the below the radar but sneaky New Jersey Devils. This series doesn’t look all that interesting and I doubt New Jersey will even sell out for it. I say Panthers in 6.

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Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins via NHLFrom the least anticipated series to the most. The hard hitting Philadelphia Flyers are going up against the Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin-led Pittsburgh Penguins in the battle of Pennsylvania. Playoff experience and keeping Sid healthy will see them outlast the Flyers in this one. I’m going to go with Penguins in 6.

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Western Conference

Los Angeles Kings vs. Vancouver Canucks via NHLA lot has been said about the chokers in Vancouver, but the Canucks managed to rebound and win the President’s Trophy this year, when many Stanley Cup losers tend to fade away. I don’t follow the Los Angeles Kings too closely but I’m hearing good things and they seem like they might be a bit of a challenge for the Canucks. I still think Vancouver has something to prove and if the Kings can’t get under their skin, physically, then they should have no trouble getting to the next round. Canucks in 5.

San Jose Sharks vs. St. Louis Blues via NHLThe St. Louis Blues have managed to crawl their way out of the basement to nearly win the President’s Trophy this year – what a story. The San Jose Sharks have a lot of playoff experience under their belts, where they Blues do not, so I think they’ll definitely give them a run for their money. I predict Sharks in 6.

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Chicago Blackhawks vs. Phoenix Coyotes via NHLThe Quebec Phoenix Nordiques Coyotes prove turmoil above does not necessarily equal a bad product on the ice. They managed to win the Southwest Division and now have a chance to go somewhere in the playoffs. Unfortunately they’re up against the Chicago Blackhawks, a team I think is on the cusp of something big. The young stars on Chicago already have a lot of playoff experience and I think that will be the deal breaker here. I predict Blackhawks in 5.

Detroit Red Wings vs. Nashville Predators via NHLAnother team I always want to see do well is the Nashville Predators. They’re perennial playoff teams, but can’t seem to take it to the next level. If there’s any year they should do well against the Detroit Red Wings, this is it. I’m going to go out on a limb and say Predators in 6.

So there you have my first round predictions. How do you think I did? Share your own in the comments and we’ll compare after the round is over.

Tim Thomas sits out team visit to White House

Boston Bruins visit President ObamaI like Tim Thomas. He’s a passionate hockey player and has proven that he can lead the Bruins to a Stanley Cup championship. I also like that we North Americans live in a society where we can (generally) have control of our own life and have the opportunity to choose whether we want to participate in an event or not.

When I read the article on Thomas choosing to not attend the photo op with the President due to his personal “opinions and political beliefs” according to team president Cam Neely, I first thought he was being petty. Why wouldn’t he show up to a non-partisan photo op? Each winning team in the major sports leagues does it, and on a smaller scale he’s creating a distraction that I’m sure his team could do without.

Looking online, fans on Thomas’s and the Boston Bruins‘ Facebook pages passionately share congrats with him or anger at his actions. Based on those updates, the boycott has polarized his fan base to the extreme. One such fan, an American living in Finland, wrote an open letter to Thomas about his actions. Here’s a paragraph that stood out:

“Today, i lost respect for you as a person. It’s not because we have different political views, because you have a right to your opinion, but because you couldn’t find it in yourself to be the bigger man and say “thank you” to someone you disagree with when all theyw ere tyring to do was a nice thing. It makes me question how you’d treat a fan, like me, if I wanted you’re autograph and I was wearing an Obama t-shirt.” [SIC]

As people formed their opinions about him, Thomas remained mum on the reason why he declined the offer. That is until about 6pm when he chose to explain himself via his Facebook page, well after the word started spreading. Here’s what he had to say:

Tim Thomas Facebook

As you can see, Thomas noted the boycott wasn’t based on politics or party, but as a criticism of the way government operates and treats Americans, as a whole. I have to admit I didn’t expect that, and was conflicted.

The vibe I get from his update is reminiscent of the ‘Occupy movement’, which I fully stand behind. Like many others, I was going on the angle that he was opposed to Obama’s administration, which he’s entitled to, but it also seemed like a petty reason to not attend the simple event. Even though I now understand why, I still feel he could have made the effort to show up for his team. There’s more he could do to protest government, with the platform he has.

One of the reasons I waited to post this is that I wanted to see what he had to say. I think he should have come out with his reasoning immediately because the speculative comments have tarnished the day for his teammates and himself. There were many terrible comments directed his way, but TSN’s Dave Hodge tweeted this libelous gem stood out the most because he basically calls Thomas a racist:

Twitter Dave HodgeIt’s a clear example of why you should hold off on your commentary until you have the facts, and in this case, Hodge should know better and not have tweeted that garbage at any time. A search for @TSNDaveHodge name on Twitter at least shows many are giving it to him good; let’s hope he apologizes to Thomas and his family.

As for Thomas, since it wasn’t a mandatory team event, he likely won’t be suspended for his actions, but I wonder if this will impact the way his teammates think of him? How did you feel about Tim Thomas’s decision to not show up at the White House, and once you knew why, did your opinion change?

What NHL realignment means for the Maple Leafs

Gary BettmanIt was inevitable after the Atlanta Thrashers packed up and moved to Winnipeg, but yesterday the NHL Board of Governors approved the first drastic realignment since 1992-93, which saw the league go from four divisions to two conferences.

Commissioner Gary Bettman had allegedly been working this for a while which made this quick approval a possibility. Here’s a breakdown of the changes:

New NHL Conferences (image: NHL.com)  What’s new?

  • Teams will play in four conferences instead of two
  • Each conference will consist of seven or eight teams
  • Each team will play one home/away game with non-conference teams
  • The rest of the games will be versus inter-conference teams
  • Better travel situations for many teams (especially those in the Western Conference)

For the Leafs, the team won’t be seeing much change. The biggest is probably more trips to Florida, now that the Panthers and Lightning are in the conference. Other than that, it’s essentially the Northeast Division, which means those rivalries will be more important.

With the playoff format the top four teams from each conference will make it through. Those four teams would then face off against each other in the first and second round, so it should make for some intense hockey.

One thing I would have liked was for the Red Wings, Blackhawks and Rangers to be in our conference. The “Original Six” (+ Ottawa & Buffalo) in one group would be great, though I’m sure it wouldn’t have much play for many American markets.

What do you think of the new setup and do you have any changes you wish they’d made or kept the same?

2011 NHL playoff predictions: Western and Eastern Conference Finals

NHL Playoffs 2011

The NHL Playoffs are now past the halfway point as we head into the Western and Eastern Conference Finals. The second round was a great one, though for the most part not as closely contested as the first, especially in the Eastern Conference. My predictions this time around were good with 3 out of 4 guessed correctly. Here is my 2nd round winners and losers, and below that, my 3rd round picks:

Called it: Vancouver (in 6), San Jose, Boston

Missed it: Tampa Bay

Western Conference

The Canucks managed to avoid another seven game series against the Nashville Predators and were able to put them out of their misery in six, but it was a hard-fought series against a team that never gave up and a goalie in Pekke Rinne that was tough to beat, game-in and game-out. This time around they will be going up against the San Jose Sharks who put away the Detroit Red Wings in seven, and look to be hitting their stride, finally shedding themselves of their own playoff curse. Both teams will bring it hard this series, but I think the Canucks will eke out a victory in 7.

Eastern Conference

Tampa Bay Lightning

I went against the Lightning in the first two rounds, and they clearly made me look like a fool, so this time around against the Boston Bruins, I’ll take the youth over the no-quit attitude. Sure it would be great to see an original 6 team in the Stanley Cup Final but when I get the chance to boo a Northeast Division rival, I can’t pass that opportunity up. Bold, but Lightning in 5.

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