Tuesday, March 24, 2009

First Shots...Playoff Preview

The Caveman and I got together to write a joint playoff preview. We figure with just under three weeks to play, and jockeying for positioning still including 10 teams in the East (screw the West for now), it is time to look at who's for real, who's still finding themselves and who is, well, full of it.

If nothing else, this should get your brain churning cycles on whether or not we really can go deep this year.

Boston Bruins:

I’m not worried. There, I said it. To this writer, the Bruins look bored. Its taken me some time to figure it out, but I’ve landed on the conclusion that they are in “let’s get it over with” mode and they have been for 4 weeks. I think that the moment they hit the last two weeks of the season, a light will click on, just like last year, and they’ll become a force to be reckon with.

Numbers don’t lie. The Bruins are the best even strength team in hockey (+56 goal differential, as of 3/13) and that is a huge key to going places in the post-season. Plus, what’s really killed us lately? Dumb penalties followed by bad power play goals. This is a mental intensity issue – nothing more. Only thing to worry about is the lack of one guy who can just turn it on and dominate a game. We have to hope that we overcome that by being the best team.


New Jersey Devils:

I’d say there’s no hotter team in hockey, but the Penguins screwed that up recently. That said, they have the best goalie in the league, a strong defensive core and a talented and unsung group of relentless forwards.

The Devils are really beginning to look as though they’re the front runner for the “built-for-the-playoffs” team in the East this year. However, I could be completely wrong, because the Devils have the easiest schedule based on T-rating (thanks to Puck Prospectus’ Tom Awad for this) of any team in the league.


Washington Capitals:

Here’s why I’m not sold on Washington getting past the second round:

A. They play in the worst division in hockey and have the second easiest schedule of a playoff team

B. They have, at best, above average goaltending and defense

C. They’re losing to bad teams, at the wrong time.

Now you might think “well Boston is, too”, but in reality, they aren’t. And other than losing to Nashville, the B’s don’t qualify for any of these.


Philadelphia Flyers:

Philly looks like a legitimate cup contender right now. Even without a true #1 net minder (yes, Biron IS one, but he hasn’t been able to hold the job so we aren’t giving him that credit) the Flyers are terrifying and have the games’ best penalty kill. Their ability to hurt you when you think they’ve been weakened is paramount for momentum shifting and winning games in the playoffs is all about momentum (think, ruining home ice advantage). If Briere comes back and is 85-95%, watch out for them to run deep.


Pittsburgh Penguins:

Here’s what’s interesting about Pittsburgh. The numbers they put up for 3.5 months were so bad, that they still had the 28th ranked power play in the league heading into last weekend. Yet, they always seem to be scoring PP goals (just ask Tim Thomas) and they’re 10-1-2 in their last 13 games (as of 3/16).

However, I firmly believe that Pittsburgh is flawed. Their depth got much better with Kunitz and Guerin, but both have weaknesses which will come out in April (Kunitz is NOT Marian Hossa and Guerin’s older than Mickey Rourke). Remember, just a while ago they were in the 11th seed. Do you think they’re peaking too early and primed to run out of gas in a 7 game series with Philly, IN Philly? Me, too.


New York Rangers:

The Rangers started the season off with 5 straight wins – seeming to light the world on fire with their spiffy new team. Well that was long ago, and they now are the model of inconsistency. I could go on and on, but really all you need to know is that they can’t finish. They don’t score any goals. In the play-offs you need timely goals and to capitalize on every opportunity you can. The Rangers don’t do that.


Montreal Canadiens:

Los Canadiens, my favorite franchise. They score a lot, they give up a lot. New coach comes in to town and they promptly … do the same thing they’ve been doing all along. Hey at least they fired their coach and replaced him with the GM. That never works. Ever. Bottom line - not much to fear, people. Montreal doesn’t have much bite this year and will go down faster than … the balance in my 401k in January. What? You sick bastard, I’m trying to heighten the rhetoric around here. Get with the program.


Hartford Whalers:

Look, they have a play-off spot for the time being but this guy doesn’t think that they’ll stay there. Much like the Bruins, these guys have been in a little bit of a malaise recently. And by recently I mean most of the season. The goalie situation is suspect, they don’t have any legit scorers, and the defensively they have 2 warm bodies and a bunch of recently re-animated corpses. Think Weekend at Bernies with hockey sticks. The bright spot is that the golf in Carolina is awesome and they should have no trouble making tee times.


Buffalo Sabres:

Sabres management sent a pretty clear message to fans at the trading deadline: “We have no idea how manage a hockey team – but goddamn if we won’t spend a lot of money trying to convince you otherwise. Tim Connolly? He’s the answer? I never thought I’d say this, but poor Ryan Miller. He watches guys like Briere, Dumont, and Drury walk and he’s left trying to make things happen. He must feel like the only guy on a Star Trek away team without a red shirt on. If you don’t get that joke I’m sorry. It’s funny. Promise.


Florida Panthers:

The Panthers held on to Jay Boumeester at the deadline even in the face of many rumors that he was going the Bruins for Kessel. Somehow I think the Panthers have a fighting chance if they can grab a spot. I liken them to a Bruins team we saw a year ago. They have young talent and if they can jump into the play-offs I feel like they can at least give the #1 or #2 a decent couple of games.


  1. The Caps are a paper tiger. Nothing says "upset by 6th seed" like:
    - Depending on a single superstar to carry your team through every situation
    - An unreliable goalie with no history of playoff success
    - A young team that plays soft defense

  2. Exactly right. I do think they will get through Carolina or NY though if those guys can grab the 6.
    If they have to play the Pens...they're screwed.
    One other thing, i don't fully agree with the first point. Backstrom and Kozlov are for real. They don't have the depth beyond that, though.