Apr 30

NHL Playoffs: Western Conference First Round Predictions That Will No Doubt Be Proven Wrong

Well it’s the most wonderful time of the year once more!!! That’s right the NHL playoffs are starting up once more! It’s hard not to get in the spirit of excitement  especially after thinking that we may not see playoff hockey until 2014. So of course it means one things: baseless predictions! Myself, my hetero-life-mate Troy, and a 2002 Two Dollar Canadian coin I found in a pile will be making predictions for the playoffs. In addition to providing fool-proof (and most certainly wrong) predictions for each series we’ll also provide a simple tag-line to help you remember this series among all the others and a primer for the refrain that you’ll be hearing about this series going forward.

In this post we’re going to look at the left half of the continent as we preview the Western Conference. This year everyone seems to be counting on the Chicago Blackhawks who dominated the regular season, but there are still last years surprise champion Kings waiting in the wings, and let’s not forget rising teams in the Ducks, Wild, and Blues. Of course the Sharks, Cancuks, and Red Wings aren’t dead yet, and could still put up a hell of a fight. The Western Conference has traditionally been very unpredictable, so expect the unexpected…which I guess means that the expected will be unexpected, which you should have been expecting all along!

…alright I gave myself a headache there, let’s get to it.

 

#1 CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS vs. #8 MINNESOTA WILD

The Midwest Massacre

 

Glen Says: This will be an absolute curb-stomping. The Blackhawks have been the best team in the league from the opening puck drop. They went half the season without losing in regulation and have been in control of the President’s Trophy since then. The Wild struggled a bit at the start of the season, peaked in the middle, then struggled to close down the stretch, which made them finish in the dreaded 8th seed. Even if the top talent on the Wild play to their potential, they just can’t match the depth of the Hawks. This series should be quick and painful for the state of Minnesota. However, once the Wild’s young talent like Brodin and Granlund actualize in the next few years this could be one of the league’s next great rivalries. But next doesn’t mean today.

Blackhawks in 4

Troy Says: Let’s see….a team that went a billion games in a row without losing a game in regulation versus a team that barely beat the crappiest team in the league on the last day of the season to barely sneak into the playoffs. I don’t think there’s much to talk about with this one folks. This series should basically just be a warm up for the Hawks. Serves Minny right too because they eliminated Columbus who has a goalie with easily the coolest last name ever….Bobrovsky.

For poops and giggles I’ll say the Wild win one game.

Hawks in 5.

Coin Says: Hawks in 5

Expect to Hear: ”Just a reminder, despite not playing in several weeks the Blackhawks are still in the playoffs…”

#2 ANAHEIM DUCKS vs. #7 DETROIT RED WINGS

The Reason for Realignment

Glen Says: The Red Wings must be so thrilled that they not only avoided Chicago in the first round, but also avoided Vancouver, LA, and really any other elite team in the West. The Ducks had a very good regular season but are clearly punching above their weight class with the second seed. Even though they clearly miss the greatest defenseman of the generation they still have some weapons to through out. Expect to see Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry wearing red sweaters that vaguely resemble Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. This will be the Wings last playoff run in the Western Conference and I don’t expect it to end all that quickly. Plus we really need one more Detroit-Chicago series for old times sake

Red Wings in 6

Troy Says: How weird was it coming down the stretch and actually thinking that there was a chance Detroit might not make the playoffs? It’s just a given that they’ll be in. In the end it took a gritty effort from the Wings to pull it together and even still it was Zetterberg who put this team in his back and got the job done. There is no shortage of pure talent on this team but the same can be said of Anaheim. Perry, Getzlaf, Ryan. These guys are good. I’m really not sure which way to go with this series. Even though it’s a 2 vs 7 series it really doesn’t feel like it. Especially after Detroit picked up their socks at the end of the season and really started to play well. My gut though is telling me Anaheim is coming out of this series.

Ducks in 7.
Coin Says: Ducks in 7

Expect to Hear: “Ten years ago the 7th seed Ducks swept the 2nd seed Red Wings and somehow that’s still relevant”

#3 VANCOUVER CANUCKS vs. #6 SAN JOSE SHARKS

Slackers of the World Unite!

 

Glen Says: This series has all kinds of intrigue as we see the two teams that have been unfairly cast as underachievers for the better part of the past decade. Of course back-to-back Conference final appearances by the Leafs in the 90s was considered a dynasty and fifteen playoff wins for the Oilers and Flames was considered spectacular, but I digress. These two teams both have the world to prove and both coaches are most certainly playing for their jobs here. As with all things Canucks, goaltending is the most interesting facet and should be fascinating to watch playout in this series. Of course Schneider is hurt and Luongo was hung out to dry in the last game of the season. Expect it to be a massive distraction, still though the Canucks have really found their game of late and appear to be healthy and rolling and should win a very close series.

Canucks in 7

Troy Says: This is another tough series to call. Vancouver is not the same team that made it to the cup final in 2012 but San Jose traded two of their toughest players this year at the deadline in Clowe and Murray. They’re going to miss those guys when the puck drops in the playoffs. Although a lot is still expected of the Canucks the expectations are nowhere near as high as in the years leading up to their run in 2011 and I actually think that could benefit them here. It may allow them to play more of their game. If they get the kind of goaltending they need from either Schneider or Luongo then they’ll be a serious threat.

Canucks in 6.
Coin Says: Sharks in 5

Expect to Hear: ”We lost 2-1, it’s clearly Luongo’s fault!”

#4 ST. LOUIS BLUES vs. #5 LOS ANGELES KINGS

Seriously, They Played Last Year…We Promise

 

Glen Says: I put this as one of the five most intriguing potential series the other day and I stand by it. These teams match up very well against one another. They both have incredible defensemen, a lot of depth up front, options in net, and great coaches that love a defense-first game. In short, these two teams are both made for the playoffs. In my opinion the winner of this will make it out of the Western Conference much to the shock of the Chicago Blackhawks. Since 2003, the Stanley Cup Champions have had a series record of 4-7 with three of those series wins coming from the 2009 Detroit Red Wings, so let’s go with that easy narrative here.

Blues in 7

Troy Says: Hard to count out the defending champs. They’ve already proven they can handle the pressure and that they have what it takes. St. Louis is a team that has been on the rise for a number of years and they’re finally starting to see the fruits of their labour in a strong way. Add into the mix the skills of Jay Bouwmeester who will finally never have to answer questions about never having been in the playoffs and the Blues are a team on the verge of making some noise. As much of a cliché as it is, this series is probably going to come down to goaltending. Last year the Kings shelled Elliot in their series against the Blues but on the other hand there has been a significant drop off in Jonathan Quick’s play as compared to last year so it’s a tough call.  Interesting to note that these teams have met three times in the playoffs and each time it’s been a sweep. I’m going to go with my gut again and take LA.

Kings in 7

Coin Says: Blues in 4

Expect to Hear: ”Who will be the this years version of last years Kings? This years Blues or this years Kings?”

QUICK HITS

As a bonus for fun, we’ll try and suss out the next few rounds, mostly so people can say how wrong we were…
Just a reminder that in the NHL second round teams are reseeded, the highest remaining team plays the lowest remaining team.
Glen Says:

#1 Chicago Blackhawks over Detroit Red Wings in 5

#4 St. Louis Blues over #3 Vancouver Canucks in 6

#4 St. Louis Blues over #1 Chicago Blackhawks in 6

 

Troy Says:

#1 Chicago Blackhawks over #5 Los Angeles Kings in 6

#2 Anaheim Ducks  over #3 Vancouver Canucks in 7

 

#1 Chicago Blackhawks over #2 Anaheim Ducks in 5

 

Coin Says:

#1 Chicago Blackhawks over #6 San Jose Sharks in 6

#4 St. Louis Blues over #2 Anaheim Ducks in 6

 

#1 Chicago Blackhawks over #4 St. Louis Blues in 7 (with a 3-0 comeback no less!)

 

…Troy clearly copied the coin on this one!

Come back tomorrow to see the East. Will anyone stop the Penguins? Are the Capitals finally clicking? What about the All-Canadian matchup that no one asked for. Come back to find out!
Feb 01

Weekly Plus Minus: Rumble Fall-out, Dominant Sharks, Nail Fails (or does he?) and More!

What a week it was! Since the last retrospective we had our first new WWE Champion since November 2011, a 19 year old phenom raked through the coals, and our favourite goalie in the world troll us with his excellent play. Oh so much to discuss!

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Plus Thumbnail

Predictable Booking: Most of the Royal Rumble went as we said it would happen, and you know, that’s not really a bad thing. Rock-Cena II is the money match, with an outside chance of a Triple Threat involving Punk, and the best way to do that was to have Punk drop the title and have Cena win the Rumble, otherwise it would just feel a little forced.

Before anyone complains about the predictability, remember all the times when the WWE swerved us for the sake of swerving us? Remember when Batista won the WWE Title back in 2009 only to have him drop it due to injury the next night and get it back to Orton through BS reasons? We should be glad that the WWE didn’t do something weird like that with having someone else win the Rumble and give us the most predictable Elimination Chamber match in history.

Add in the fact that we got the “shocking” reveal that The Shield and Brad Maddox are in cahoots with Punk and Heyman. This gives us a potential Dangerous Alliance 2.0 which also includes Brock Lesnar. If the strong booking of The Shield continues, then we have some real potential for the rookies to be elevated like few have been in recent memory.

If anyone is complaining about the straight forward story progression, remember the Road to Wrestlemania is just getting started, there will surely be some bumps and detours.

However, not everything predictable has been good this week..
Minus ThumbnailPredictable Deadlines: Was anyone in the world not surprised when Greg Jameson missed his deadline to secure money to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes?

Things are quite bleak for a franchise that has been through some very rough times over the past several years. It’s hard not to feel bad for Coyotes fans today…yes, we’re sure that they do exist.

Now hockey fans in the Seattle area on the other hand should be thrilled.

Plus ThumbnailTrolluongo: It’s almost as if Roberto Luongo figures out how people in Vancouver want him to play, and he goes out and does the opposite.

They want him to pitch a shutout, he goes out and shits the bed in front of Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin just to see what would happen. They want him to be terrible so everyone can feel good about Cory Schneider and what does he do? Play lights out, earning a shutout in his most recent game and earning the nod against the hated Blackhawks and the Canucks fans are cheering for him.

Sure he’s increasing his trade value, but it’s also incredibly distracting for the Canucks and their always reasonable fans. It’s actually getting hilarious to watch.

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Break in the Streak?: Recent rumblings have Undertaker’s status for Wrestlemania in doubt which could lead to the first Wrestlemania in 13 years and only the third since they started having double digits to not feature The Dead Man.

Of course this shouldn’t be too surprising consider The Undertaker’s age and already limited schedule, but it sure is not good news. One could easily argue that The Undertaker has been involved in the best match in each of the past six Wrestlemanias, going all the way back to his war with Batista at Wrestlemania XXIII and to not have a dependable, high quality contest and if the rumours of CM Punk being this years streak victim are to be believed, then we could just well be robbed of something great.

Plus ThumbnailJaws has Nothing on These Sharks: One of the biggest surprises so far this season has been the insane start of the San Jose Sharks who have roared out to a 7-0 start. All of this on the heels of them being finally discounted by hockey pundits everywhere (maybe even here too…).

For this teams entire history there has been one pretty clear pattern. Whenever people count them out they are at their best. When people expect good things out of them, down they go.

So it’s clear, we should never believe in them, then they will be dominante. Which will most certainly make people start to believe in them again, which will make them choke, which will make everyone doubt them, which will…

Minus ThumbnailFails Against Nail: Last week we ignored the entire Nail Yakupov celebration hooplah, hoping instead it would go away. Yet here we are.

A nineteen-year old scores his first big goal and celebrates and everyone nearly crucifies him. A few days later he scores another huge goal and does a very subdued celebration with his teammates and everyone is still all over him.

Make no mistake, this is about one very clear thing, the country he is from. Don’t believe me? Wait until Nate McKinnon gets his first big goal for the Columbus Blue Jackets or Calgary Flames and see what the reaction is.

 

Prediction for the Week: Luongo gets pulled in the Chicago game and everyone goes back to hating him.

Jan 26

Weekly Plus/Minus: Return of the NHL, Royal Rumblings, and More!!!

It’s been a while hasn’t it? Now that the NHL Season has launched, so can this feature. Every week we’ll look at those that have made the best and worst of the past seven days. With the NHL back and the Royal Rumble just around the corner there have clearly been some ups and downs to look at. Without further ado…

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Plus ThumbnailHockey is Back: Now that is how you make people forget about a lockout! After months of posturing, pandering, doom and gloom the 2012-2013 season finally started this past Saturday.

The first batch of games were high scoring and incredibly compelling. Even the blowouts left us with some great questions: Are the Blues for real? Did we all underestimate the Ducks? Are the Red Wings finished? Seriously Vancouver?

While it was mostly sunshine and rainbows there was one little nagging issue…

Minus ThumbnailGary Was Right About Us: Remember a few months back when Gary Bettman said that the NHL recovered so quickly from the 2004-05 Lockout because it has “The Greatest Fans in the World”? Remember how everyone felt so offended right after? Remember all those calls fo boycotts?

If you said yes to those three then you may have been the only one. The ratings this past weekend were the highest in over ten years in the US and in Canada, over a quarter of the country watched the Leafs-Habs Games.

Bettman was right, we would come crawling back. Can we not feign disgust when he makes similar claims during the 2021 lockout?

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Hi, I’m Dolph Ziggler Iron Man: This past week on Monday The Show Off won a very entertaining Beat the Clock Challenge to get his choice of Rumble spots, which ended up giving him the choice between being entrant 1 or 2.

This was a clear case of right result, wrong set-up. The bait and switch by Vickie Guerrero kind of spat in the face of people who were vested in the stipulation, but it will give us a great focus to the Rumble. Dolph Ziggler should get a great chance to be the Iron Man of the Rumble and it would not be at all shocking if he is still in the match at the Final Four, sure he won’t win but he should still come out looking like a star this Sunday, which is something to love for everyone.

But speaking of the Rumble Match…

Minus ThumbnailI Knew There Was Something This Weekend: While it was nice to have the Beat the Clock Challenge this week and the fun massive brawl to end the show, why on earth did it take so long?

The Royal Rumble is one of the biggest matches of the year and the past several weeks have had such little hype for the huge match. Last week we had Sheamus take on 3MB in the Over The Top Rope challenge but that was it. If they had spaced out the Beat the Clock Challenge, or better yet made it some sort of multi-week tournament they could have added focus to the past several weeks of television which, quite frankly, haven’t really had any. If any new fans happen to be watching Raw these past few weeks they would be forgiven if they had no idea the Rumble was an important thing or not and that’s pretty inexcusable.

Plus ThumbnailJustice Served: Most of the WWE Product has been directionless in recent weeks, but that seemed to change for the biggest new stars in the company. After a few weeks of non-sensical brawls with Randy Orton, Sheamus, John Cena and/or Ryback, The Shield go out and take it to The Rock.

The Rock didn’t take them down, he was beaten down 3-1 by the rookies. What on earth is not to love about this? Ambrose, Rollins, and Reigns looked like absolute stars out there in punking out The Rock. One of the big problems of the past few years is that the big name part-timers like The Rock, The Undertaker, Triple H and Brock Lesnar all kind of exist in a vacuum. Sure they occasionally interact with John Cena or CM Punk, but those are the two biggest stars in the company, otherwise they pretty much just stick to dealing with each other. While this makes for good business in the short term, it does little to grow the company long term.

This is what makes The Shield so refreshing. They seem to be constantly breaking down the tropes that the WWE has leaned on so much. They look strong against Main Eventers, get clean wins as heels, cut group promos, and generate a great deal of excitement. It’s hard not to get behind this trio as future big time players since the company clearly has bought what they are selling.

Did seeing The Shield vs. The Rock n’ Sock Connection at Elimination Chamber run through anyone else’s mind?

Minus ThumbnailAs The Goalie Turns: What a mess the goaltenting situation is in Vancouver! They open the season with pretty much a nightmare situation. Start Cory Schneider your new “guy” and he goes out, falters, and gets the hook for Roberto Luongo. Luongo is then serviceable in relief and Alain Vigneault decides to start Luo in the second game.

How on earth did they not go back to Schneider? It would have been a perfect way to send a message to the kid and the fans. Here is our guy, deal with it. Sure Luongo played well in his first start, but what if he was terrible? How would that affect his trade value?

Gillis needs to hurry up and trade Luongo and fast. Of course there are complications like his No Trade Clause, but they need to get rid of this distraction and let Schneider be their guy. Add in the fact that two-thirds of their second line is hurt and they need some reinforcements to arrive in a hurry, even if those reinforcements end up being Tyler Bozak.

 

Prediction for the Next Week: P.K. Subban signs a contract for in the five year $25 million range. Even Montreal can’t be dumb enough to trade him no matter what Michael Camilleri says.

Jan 21

Western Conference Predicted Standings

After posting picks for the East yesterday it’s time to look to the Wild Wild West. Last year the eight seed went out and crushed the Top 3 teams en route to winning the Cup, previous stalwarts like Detroit, Vancouver, San Jose, and Chicago all bowed out in the first round, and other squads like Minnesota, Dallas and Edmonton are looking to make some noise. As usual the Western Conference will be in a complete state of flux, and with such a short season it should be even stranger.

The predicted standings are…

15. Columbus Blue Jackets: Let’s start with the closest thing that we have to a sure fire prediction. This team was terrible last year and then went out and traded away their player netting very little back in return. Hopefully they actually win the draft lottery this year and end up with Seth Jones or Nathan McKinnon to help reinvigorate this incredibly struggling franchise before they become the Markham Blue Jackets!

14. Calgary Flames: The Flames have been one of the most consistent teams since the last lockout, consistently mediocre that is. For years they have been a lock to be penciled into the amorphous 7-12 spot in the West. This year things could finally come off the rails as their core keeps getting older, their big additions of Hudler and Wiedeman have “Boumeester Part II” written all over them, and the series of back-to-backs do not favour a workhorse like Kiprusof. The most interesting thing about this squad wil be to see if they actually trade Iginla this year.

13. San Jose Sharks: Sacrilege I know! This team was remarkably good for the better part of a decade, but their time may be up. Last year they finished 7th in the West and looked terrible in the playoffs. They made no noticeable additions in the summer and like Calgary, their core has passed their prime. The short season may drag on too long for this team.

12. Anaheim Ducks: Last season it looked like SuperPerry returned to earth after being dominant the year before. While the dynamite Getzlaf-Perry-Ryan trio is too good to be as horrible as they were last year, it doesn’t seem likely that any of them will be able to will this team into the playoffs like they did in 2011. Both Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are free agents at year end, and if the Ducks give up and trade both of them, expect this team to be competing with Columbus for the Conference basement.

11. Colorado Avalanche: How on earth can this team give P.A. Parenteau $4 million and play hardball with Ryan O’Reiley? It just boggles the mind here! This team made some noise late last season and Varlamov was tearing up the KHL during the lockout, so don’t expect them to be terrible, but they won’t be able to compete with the other up and coming Western Conference teams just yet.

10. Dallas Stars: If this was 2007 they would have the best team in hockey. Yet unfortunately Jagr and Whitney won’t be putting up huge numbers, sure they will help, but they won’t be enough to get this team the handful of points that will separate most teams in the West. Now if they can get Jamie Benn signed and playing soon then things could be different, but that seems like it will be a bit of a protracted battle for reasons that defy logic.

9. Minnesota Wild: On July 4 when Parise and Suter were signed it seemed like everyone was ready to plan the parade dubbing them the Miami Heat of Hockey. Now that things have calmed down a bit this team is not quite as good as the hype leads one to believe. One must remember that they were worse than the Blue Jackets after New Year’s last year and adding two player won’t turn a bad team to champions. Sure they have some very good young players coming in like Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle, but those take time. This team will be a Western Conference powerhouse soon enough but it won’t be yet. The new players may have some difficulty adjusting to the system which will give them a bit of a slow start which will cost them a few points in the very close Western Conference.

8. Edmonton Oilers: Is this finally the time for this squad to get there? They have been bad for so long and have such a strong collection of talent that it’s only natural that they take the jump soon. Sure goaltending is a big question and the defense is a little shaky but the young player should benefit from the back-to-back games and most of this team has been dominating the AHL for the past few months so chemistry should not be an issue. Of course they won’t last too long in the playoffs, but there is a lot of reason to be excited in Oil Town.

7. Detroit Red Wings: This feels dirty doesn’t it? This team is clearly trending downward especially after losing one of the greatest defensemen of all time. For the first time in memory defense is a big weakness on this squad. Howard was very good last year and Gustavson has the potential for a bounce-back season so that should lesson some of their other shortcomings, obviously their forwards are world class but they are a little light on depth which should put them in a very unfamiliar spot at the middle of the pack.

6. Nashville Predators: Sure everyone wants to write them off after losing Ryan Suter, but let’s not forget that Shea Weber is still there. This team has the best defensemen in the world, one of the best coaches, and one of the top goalies. Let’s also not forget that this team scored the eighth most goals in the league last season without any big names up front. This is a squad that bounces back year after year, expect this to be no different.

5. Chicago Blackhawks: This team is pretty much the same as it was last year, high-level top talent, average depth, and questionable goaltending. Last year they were able to finish 6th, but three points out of 4th so there’s little reason to think that they won’t be in the same place especially if Patrick Kane is able to recover from an off year.

4. Phoenix Coyotes: Let’s see, they won their division and made it to the Conference finals after everyone counted them out. This year, everyone is counting them out again and they bring back the same pieces. Mike Smith was spectacular in the playoffs last year and should solidify his position as a top level goalie this year.

3. Vancouver Canucks: This is all contingent on how the goaltending situation resolves itself. If they trade Luongo for some top level talent they could easily finish first in the West, but as it stands now their prospects are not so bright. Currently they don’t have a second line as both Booth and Kesler are out with long term injuries and Jason Garrison seems like a flash in the pan last year. Of course they are still better than the bad (but improving) teams in their division. This seems to be their last chance to win, and sadly it doesn’t look like they will be able to do it.

2. Los Angeles Kings: They bring back the same roster that dominated the NHL last spring and are incredibly well rested. Not only should they win their pretty bad division with ease, they stand a very good chance of repeating as champions.

1. St. Louis Blues: There is no reason not to believe in this team right now. They are perhaps the deepest, most complete team in the NHL and with the rash of injuries that are bound to take place this year that’s incredibly important. They had two stellar goalies and can roll line after line of talented player. Last year was no aberration, this team is going to be a force in the West for a very long time.

 

As for the playoffs, the Blues should make short work of the Oilers while the Kings can pass the Wings in a tough series, expect Nashville to surprise the Canucks and the Blackhawks to get revenge on the Coyotes on the backs of a great Marian Hossa series and story. That leaves the Blues beating the Predators in a series that sees record low goals scored and the Kings rolling through the Blackhawks. St. Louis should get revenge on LA for sweeping them last year to move onto the finals where they lose to the Penguins. That’s right, Crosby hoists the Cup again.

We can dream, can’t we?

Jun 15

2012 Stanley Cup Playoff Plus/Minus: LA Kings, New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins, and More!

After a one week hiatus welcome back to the Weekly Plus/Minus here at Bladejobs of Steel. This edition will be slightly different, as instead of looking at the events of the past week, we’ll look at the events of the past two months or so. We will be looking at the good, the bad, and the ugly for the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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Los Angeles Kings: Let’s get the obvious one out of the way now shall we?

The Kings were absolutely unbelievable this spring and could not possibly get enough praise. They lost a mere four games en route to their 16 wins, which is a third of the loses that last years Big Bad Bruins had by the way. They never once trailed a series, and had a stunning 10-1 record on the road. All of this while beating the top three teams in the Western Conference, and a “sixth seed” in the finals, that actually had the ninth highest point total in the league.

What’s even more exciting about this team is the fact that baring a complete overhaul of the CBA, they should be able to stay together for a long, long time. Kopitar, Doughty, Richards, and Carter are all locked up long term, with Jonathan Quick on the ticket for one more year and Dustin Brown on for two more years. It’s easy to think that this team could be a force for a few years to come. Which should be detrimental to the rest of the Western Conference.

Marc-Andre Fleury: Did anyone else’s reputation take a bigger hit this spring than his?

The narrative was simple, on one end you had the poised, playoff experienced net-minder who guided his team to the finals in 2008 and the Cup in 2009. On the other end you had a man who talked about bears and the size of the Universe. It was an easy pick in the most intriguing first round series.

Well things didn’t turn out that way at all. Both goalies looked bad in the Keystone State Showdown, but Marc-Andre Fleury was a new breed of terrible during those six games. Things were so rough that Penguins General Manager Ray Shero went out and acquired Tomas Vokoun to shoulder some starts next year and to provide effective relief.

Hopefully Fleury responds to the pressure like it was 2009 and doesn’t wilt under it like it’s 2012.

Ilya Kovalchuk: Of course the entire Devils teams deserves some love here, but special mention has to Mr. Job Security here.

After signing his massive, and sub-legal, contract in the summer of 2010, things did not go according to plan. Kovalchuk struggled in his first full season in Newark, as everyone cried that he was a “typical Russian” only playing for the money and would proceed to coast for the next 15 years.

Then something funny happened this year — he got better. This year, and especially these playoffs, Kovalchuk played better than he ever had before. He was suddenly a two way player who could be relied on in clutch situations. Sure his team lost in the end, but Kovalchuk finished one point behind the lead for playoff scoring, not bad for a coasting commie now is it?

Vancouver Canucks: Yet another wasted President’s Trophy for this squad.

This team was given the reputation as playoff underachievers after blowing a 3-2 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final last year. This year it was supposed to be different. They were supposed to show everyone what they were made of and win the Cup for the first time in franchise history.

But then things fell apart. They struggled to score, which was of course their goalies fault, and then completely fell apart, going down to the Kings in five games. If anything they were lucky that the Kigns plowed through everyone else, since it made them look a touch better…or should we say less bad.

Regardless of how well the team that beat them played, the fact remains this vaunted Cup contender is 2-8 in their last ten playoff games, which is hardly reason for optimism.

Braden Holtby: On the excellent Backhand Shelf blog, writer Daniel Wagner proposed the Dino Ciccarelli award for best rookie in a playoff series. The winner was pretty obviously Capitals goaltender, Braden Holtby.

Holtby started the first round as the third-string goalie after injured to both Neuvirth and Vokoun. Yet somehow he went toe-to-toe with last year Vezina winner, and this year’s probable winner. It was quite the shock to see how well he played throughout the entire playoffs, and it looks like the Capitals may finally have that starting goalie they’ve been looking for.

Phoenix Coyotes Fans: Seriously, where have these people been for the past three years?

As much flak as LA was getting for riding the band-wagon, that city has nothing on these guys….

Apr 27

Weekly Plus/Minus: Playoff Eliminations, RAW starring Brock Lesnar, Mysterio Suspended, and more!

 

Welcome back to our weekly talk about the best and worst of our favourite sport and pseudo-sport! Since we left off last week, we’ve had an Extreme Edition of RAW, and the NHL Playoff Field get cut in half. We’ve got lots to get to, hit the damn banner!

Playoff Overtime: There has been a lot to love, and a lot to loathe with the first round of the playoffs so far. For every crazy-fun Philly-Pittsburgh game or close goaltending duel between Ottawa and New York, there have been some dull trapfests between Florida and New Jersey or Boston and Washington.

But we can most certainly all agree that the insanely high amount of Overtime games is a ton of fun. We get such loveably unlikely heroes as Joel Ward and Michael Boedcker or superstar clutch moments from Niklas Backstrom or Jonathan Toews. The NHL does Sudden Death better than anyone else, and it’s hard not to get incredibly excited by moments like this.

Blaming Luo: Astute readers will look at the banner at the top of this page and presume that we here at Blade Jobs of Steels are not the biggest fans of the soon to be former Canucks goaltender. Having said that, the fact that he has become, in the words of Don Cherry, an escape goat in Vancouver is nothing short of shocking.

Luongo loses two games and is a pariah, Schneider loses two games and is a saint. Sure Luongo has his issues and certainly shares some of the burden here, but this is a team that was only able to score eight goals in five games when it mattered the most. Sure Daniel Sedin was injured, but where was Henrik? Where was Kesler? Where was Booth? Where was Raymond? Where was Burrows? This team has serious problems with clutch goals and finding a new goalie to blame — make no mistake about it Schneider will take the fall someday – won’t solve this.

WWE Monday Night Raw, Staring Brock Lesnar: There is nothing to not love about Brock Lesnar’s contract signing this past week. The stipulation that if he beats John Cena that the name of the show needs to change is nothing short of brilliant.

Lesnar is bound to get some cheers, he’s a huge cross-over name and he’s going after John Cena. But he is coming across like he has utter contempt for the WWE, and there is no way that doesn’t get him some serious heat with even the smarkiest of fans. This run is already starting to remind me of The Rock’s 2003 heel run, which is arguably the greatest that the Great One has ever been. Hopes are insanely high for this right now!

Viva La Roidza! News broke late Thursday night that Rey Mysterio was suspended for his second violation of the WWE Wellness Policy and will miss 60 days after failing a drug test. The next failure on his part leaves him on the unemployed line.

This is horrible news for the company, as Rey Mysterio is consistently one of the top draws in the company and could have made a huge impact on his return. The Smackdown roster has an abundance of heels looking to move up the ladder, and a feud with a returning Mysterio would have helped any of them out immensely. Sadly, they’ll have to wait two months as Rey-Rey clearly hasn’t learned much from his first lesson a few years back.

New Blood Rising: As we talked about once before here, there is a sea change taking place in the Western Conference. None of the four teams still playing in the West have won a Stanley Cup before, so we are guaranteed to have at least one team get a shot at their first sip of the Cup.

Add in the Washington Capitals, and the very strong performances in the first round by the Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers and we have some optimism that a few teams will have their names engraved on the Cup for the first time. What remains to be seen is if they can use that to build momentum in the market like Tampa Bay and Dallas, or if they will still have attendance problems and struggle in their market like Carolina and to a lesser extent, Anaheim.

Racist Tools: If you have no read Harrison Mooney’s excellent piece on Puck Daddy about the ridiculous reaction to Joel Ward’s overtime goal, give it a read.

There’s not much to add that Mr. Mooney did not cover, and his perspective as a person of colour really helps drive this home.

Seriously, it’s 2012, why is racism still a thing?

 

 

Prediction for the Week: Cody Rhodes and Kharma leave Extreme Rules as champions.

Apr 10

NHL Playoffs: Another Idiot’s Opinions on Every Series in the Western Conference – UPDATED

Unless you’ve been living under a rock and/or are in Phoenix, you must be getting excited about the NHL Playoffs. The first round starts on Wednesday with some pretty exciting games.

Every series has a fascinating storyline or two coming through. How about DeBoer coaching his old team? How about Jonathan Quick’s potential to Halak a series win here? How about the Predators arriving on the big stage? And let’s not even get started on Philly-Pittsburgh, which will be the absolute main event of this round!

I’ll do my best to project every series in advance, and I’m pretty certain that I’ll be wrong. I’ll flip a 1 Jiao coin (0.1 Yuan) and see it no doubt beat me. This post will feature the Western Conference, tomorrow we can look at the East and the finals.

UPDATE – April 11: We’ve also been blessed to have the thoughts of our very good friend Troy. Followers of my old blog will certainly remember his hockey related thoughts.

#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #8 Los Angeles Kings

This series is not the mismatch that you may expect out of a 1-8 matchup. The Canucks are a two-time President’s Trophy Winner, and reigning Western Conference Champions. The Kings were fantastic down the stretch, save those two games with the Sharks and Ryan Clowe’s stick from the bench.

Most Interesting Story: This story will be all about three men, Jonathan Quick, Roberto Luongo, and Cory Schneider. If there is anyone out there who could pull a Halak, it’s Jonathan Quick. He’s long been overlooked and underrated, but it’s safe to say that he’s arrived this year. His 10 Shutouts and 1.95 GAA is borderline otherworldly. Luongo’s meltdowns against Chicago and Boston were eye opening and every bad goal he has is going to get everyone looking at the bench to see if Alain Vigneaut is going to bring out the hook. Nobody in the playoffs is under more pressure than Roberto and it’ll be fascinating to see how he preforms.

Most Interesting Statistic: The Canucks scored 54 more goals than the Kings this year, the biggest difference of any series. Of course, Jeff Carter is returning from an ankle injury and who knows anything about Daniel Sedin’s concussion.

Official Prediction: Canucks in 7 with Schneider winning games six and seven

Coin Says: Canucks in 6

Troy Says: This could be an interesting series. In my mind Vancouver isn’t as strong as they were last year, and LA is stronger than they were last year so this is hardly a typical 1 vs 8 matchup. Having said that though I believe Vancouver is stronger mentally and although LA is a team just waiting to explode, I don’t think this is their year just yet. Make no mistake though, Jonathan Quick is entirely capable of stealing this series. Luongo is going to have a short leash and if LA’s goaltending is better than Vancouver’s then this will not be a fun series for Canucks fans. Fortunately for Vancouver Luongo tends to choke later on in the playoffs so I’m sure for now he’ll be good enough.

Vancouver in 6.

#2 St. Louis Blues vs. #7 San Jose Sharks

I scribbled down my playoff predictions at the start of the year, which was lost, and I do think that I had these two facing off in the 2-7 seed. Now before I pat myself on the back, it was the other way around, the powerhouse #2 Sharks against the upstart #7 Blues. Funny how things change. These two teams have been incredibly surprising, for insanely different reasons.

Most interesting story:  It’s been said many, many times that life is managing your expectations. The expectations for this series are fascinating. Somewhere the Blues became a Cup Contender (or did they?) and the Sharks became the plucky underdog. The Sharks haven’t been a lower seed in the playoffs in years, and haven’t been a true underdog in even longer. Everyone who was watching hockey in the mid to late 90s remembers their huge upsets over the likes of the Detroit Red Wings, Calgary Flames, and yes even the St. Louis Blues. Can they do it again? On the other hand, the Blues have won a ton of games against teams that overlook them. How on earth will they perform as heavy favourites?

Most Interesting Statistic: Both teams has stellar home records. The Sharks were 26-12-3 at the Shark Tank this year, which has the fifth best home record in the Western Conference. One of those teams ahead of them? Why the St. Louis Blues who were a stunning 30-6-5 at home. The Sharks played 0.500 hockey on enemy soil and the Blues weren’t much better. The Sharks will need to pull out at least one road win in order to advance, and the Blues will be looking to the same to make this a quick series.

Official Prediction: Blues in 6 with Game 6 being their only road win of the series

Coin Says: Sharks in 4

Troy Says: St. Louis has been a monster of a team this year and in fact came very close to beating out Vancouver for the President’s Trophy. Their goaltending tandem of Elliot and Halak has been stellar and their young guns are extremely good. As for San Jose it’s really hard for me to see them going far in the playoffs because….well…let’s face it…they usually choke. I don’t think they’ll choke this year but unfortunately they’re up against a really strong team. San Jose was winless against the Blues in the season series and in fact only scored three goals in those games so it’s going to be a tough road for the Sharks.

St. Louis in 5

#3 Phoenix Coyotes vs. #6 Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks may be back. They won the Stanley Cup in 2010, were forced to dismantle and barely made the playoffs last year. They spent a very good portion of the fall and early winter near the top of the Conference before dropping down for a bit in February, before putting it on at the end. There were very low expectations for the Coyotes this year, but once again they surpassed them by a mile. The last two years the off-ice distractions got the better of them, will it happen again?

Most interesting story:  For approximately the 412th straight year, the story is the same. Will this be the last time the Coyotes play in Phoenix? It seems all but set that they will be on the move. Don’t expect there to be any announcement until after they’ve been eliminated, the NHL needs those home dates after all.

Most Interesting Statistic: Both of these teams come in very hot! These two teams have a combined 13-2-5 in their last 10 games.

Official Prediction: Blackhawks in 7 with all four games in Phoenix as sellouts with crazy crowds

Coin Says: Blackhawks in 5

Troy Says:  This is a bit of a pick em series for me. It’s 3 vs 6 series but Chicago finished the season with more points than Phoenix so it’s hard to say who the better team is. The big equalizer is Mike Smith. He’s been lights out this season but if Chicago were to get Toews back before the end of this series watch out. He makes them a better team and could be the difference. Chicago has some game breakers on their roster but if Mike Smith keeps to his regular season form this series will turn into a battle of attrition.

Phoenix in 7.

#4 Nashville Predators vs. #5 Detroit Red Wings

This is the clear marquee match in the West, Weber vs. Lidstrom, Trotz vs. Babcock, Swedish vs. Russian forwards. This series is going to be a ton of fun and should flat out be a war.

Most interesting story:  This series is clearly Old vs. New. Both teams are clearly very good, but also clearly heading in opposite directions on the trendline. The Predators are looking to make their maiden voyage to the promised land, while the Wings are looking to get there one last time. Other then ages, these two teams are very similar, great defense, phenomenal coaching, and scoring by committee, so the Master vs. Student vibe should carry over well.

Most Interesting Statistic: The Nashville Predators have played 40 playoff games as a franchise. Niklas Lidstrom has played over six times as much, clocking in at 258 heading into this postseason.

Official Prediction: Nashville in 6 with Rinne stealing at least one game, and three games heading to overtime

Coin Says: Detroit in 6

Troy Says:  We’ve seen this series before but I don’t think Nashville has ever been the higher seed. When’s the last time Detroit went into a series as the underdog? It’s hard to think of Detroit in that way but that’s what they are. Especially after Radulov came back. He changes everything. He’s another major weapon that Nashville can use against the Wings. Nashville has been the more consistent team while Detroit – even though they won a record 23 games in a row at home – comes into the playoffs with a lot of questions. Having said that though, how hard is it to bet against Detroit in the playoffs? They’re the anti-San Jose Sharks! I believe this is Nashville’s series though. It may take them every home game, but I think they’ll get it done.

Nashville in 7

Quick Picks: The 2nd and 3rd Rounds

Glen’s Predictions:

Vancouver Canucks over Chicago Blackhawks in seven emotional games

Nashville Predators over St. Louis Blues in seven hellacious games

Canucks defeat the Predators in six to advance to the finals

Troy’s Predictions:

Vancouver over Nashville in 5
St. Louis over Phoenix in 7
Van over St. L in 5

Coin Says:

Vancouver over San Jose in seven

Detroit over Chicago in six

Detroit over Vancouver in five

Tune in tomorrow for the East and the finals!

Apr 09

Historical Stats for the Sixteen Playoff Bound Teams

With the NHL Playoffs scheduled to start tomorrow, everyone and their mothers are throwing playoff predictions out there (expect some on here tomorrow by the way…), but before that, we should learn a bit about the sixteen teams headed to the big dance.

In this blog, we’ll look at some strange historical statistics for every team. Obviously not every team has an equal history — we’re looking at you Nashville — but there are some interesting and rather bizarre stats out there.

All stats come from Wikipedia, most of them from the List of [Insert Team Here] Seasons.

Boston Bruins: The Bruins and the Canadiens seem to need each other in a Batman-Joker kind of way — we’ll leave you to figure out which team is which comic book character. Dating all the way back to the Bruins inaugural season in 1924, they have only made the playoffs seven times previous to this when the Habs missed out. Of those times, they won the Stanley Cup once in 1970, lost in the second round once in 1999, and lost in the first round the other five of those times. They’ll look to buck that trend and not join the Canadiens on the golf course this time.

Chicago Blackhawks: Since losing the Stanley Cup Finals in 1992 to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Blackhawks have only won nine playoff series, six of which came in 2009 and 2010!

Detroit Red Wings: If making the playoffs the past twenty seasons wasn’t impressive enough, they have only lost in the first round six of those times, with three of those loses coming in the first four years of this streak.

Florida Panthers: Since defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins on June 1, 1996 in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Florida Panthers are 1-12 in playoff games.

Los Angeles Kings: Since making it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1993, the Kings have made the playoffs only six times, and were only able to win one playoff series, and that was eleven years ago now!

Ottawa Senators: The Senators have made the playoffs 12 times in their history. Nine of those times they were defeated by either the Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs, or Pittsburgh Penguins. Oddly those other three loses came in mile stone series for them. First trip to the second round, defeated by the Capitals. First trip to the third round, defeated by the Devils. First trip to the finals, defeated by the Ducks.

Pittsburgh Penguins: The last time the Pittsburgh Penguins lost a playoff series when they had Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jordan Staal all in their lineups was the 2008 finals to the Detroit Red Wings.

Philadelphia Flyers: The franchise has lost their last six trips to the Stanley Cup finals (1975, 1980, 1985, 1987,1997, 2010), which ties the Detroit Red Wings six finals loses from 1956 to 1995 for longest streak in NHL history.

Nashville Predators: Last year, the Preds won six playoff games. In their previous five trips to the post-season, they won a total of eight.

New Jersey Devils: Despite going 2-5 in playoff series since the Lockout, the Devils are a stunning 22-17 in playoff series dating back to their miracle run in 1998.

New York Rangers: In the six previous times that the Rangers lead their division in the regular season, they tended to not do very well in the post-season. They were only able to win two rounds of the playoffs once during those years.

Bonus Stat: 87% of people said “94″ aloud after reading the last paragraph.

Phoenix Coyotes: The last time this franchise won a playoff series, Sidney Crosby was in his mothers womb. In the past 25 years, they have blown a 3-1 series lead three times, a 3-2 series lead once, and lost another game seven. This gives them a streak of 12 consecutive failed attempts to close out a series

San Jose Sharks: Their 21 seasons without a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals is second only to the Phoenix Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets 1.0 for longest of any active franchise in the league.

St. Louis Blues: Like the Panthers, the Blues are in a very long playoff slump. Since winning Game 4 against the Vancouver Canucks on April 16, 2003, the Blues have been an abysmal 1-11 in the playoffs since then.

Vancouver Canucks: Since the NHL assumed control of the Stanley Cup in 1926, the losing finalist has only ever won the Cup the next year six times, the ’33 Rangers, ’43 Red Wings, ’53 and ’68 Canadiens, ’84 Oilers, and ’09 Penguins. Being a true Canadian team, the ’12 Canucks would like to Make it Seven.

Washington Capitals: This franchise has blown a 3-1 series lead four times, tops of any team in the league.

 

Mar 23

Weekly Plus/Minus: Wrestlemania XXIX, Hawks vs. Canucks, Playoff Races, and more!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Wrestlemania and the playoffs are fast approaching, it’s too exciting here at Bladejobs of Steel to even type and intro, hit the music.

 

Wrestlemania XXIX Plans: Word from Wrestling Observer is that the WWE wants to do another year long build for their Wrestlemania Main Event. They are apparently considering John Cena, The Rock, Steve Austin, and The Undertaker for this high profile match.

The only ones that really pique my interest are either Cena-Undertaker or Austin-Punk. Austin vs. Punk would be a perfect cross-generational dream match, while John Cena is far and away the most likely person to break the Streak, and it would be great to see him prepare for a year with possible spin-off feuds with Triple H, and Kane in the build up.

Blackhawks vs. Canucks: To see two All Stars like Daniel Sedin and Duncan Keith engage in dirty plays like that is pretty reprehensible. There is no discussion that Keith will and should be suspended for his Tito Santanaesque diving elbow. Sedin should be suspended but almost certainly won’t be, since he’s already injured and there kind of isn’t a point in taking an injured player out of the lineup.

These are jobs that should be left to the goons and not the star players in each lineup, especially this time of year. Should Daniel Sedin miss a great deal of time you have to figure that the Canucks Stanley Cup dreams have to wait at least another year.

Blackhawks vs. Canucks: Sure the game was dirty, but how was it not awesome?

These two teams have the best rivalry since Colorado-Detroit in the late 90s. Every single game is an absolute war, and it’s impossible not to have some emotional interest in this.

It’s actually a shame that these teams seemed destined for 2nd and 6th in the West this year, that would mean that it’s impossible for them to meet until the Conference Finals, and there are some people in Detroit, Nashville, and St. Louis who will do their best to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Plan B: TSN’s Darren Dreger Tweeted yesterday that the NHL will consider Plan B in the ongoing Phoenix Coyotes Ownership Saga. Apparently the NHL has potential buyers interested in keeping the team in Phoenix, but little progress has been made, so will consider investigating relocation options next week with Seattle, Kansas City, Las Vegas, and Quebec City all being the conversation.

Two things immediately spring to mind here: one, I’ll believe it when I se it, and two, what the hell is taking so damn long?

The fact that the NHL still owns this team is an absolute embarrassment, there was the perfect opportunity to move them to Winnipeg last year so we could have really had the Jets fly again. Instead they stalled and got the Thrashers out of town. Now the NHL will no doubt stall and try to keep the Glendale Money Pit around a little bit longer, before announcing a move to either Seattle or Quebec City after the Coyotes are eliminated from the playoffs.

Playoff Races: What is not to love about this time of year? Every game not involving the Columbus Blue Jackets or Edmonton Oilers has something riding on it!

The Eastern Conference has the Capitals, Sabres, Jets, and suddenly the Hurricanes separated by four points with only one playoff spot left for them. The Western Conference is much more chaotic as the Dallas Stars, Phoenix Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche, San Jose Sharks, and Calgary Flames are all separated by only three points with the 3rd, 7th, and 8th seed all up for grabs.

Every game is a ton of fun to watch, and it’s hard not to be excited for the season finale on April 7 when all 30 teams will be in action and the races most certainly will come down to the wire, with the most intriguing game being the very last one of the season when LA visits San Jose, with potentially both teams fighting for their playoff lives.

Talkie Time: The past several episodes of RAW seem to end all the same, with some sort of promo involving either The Rock or The Undertaker. While it’s not a terrible way to end the show, it’s getting very repetitive.

The four Main Events of Rock-Cena, HHH-Taker, Jericho-Punk, and Bryan-Sheamus all seem to be getting build up in a very promo heavy fashion. This is absolutely required for Rock-Cena in my mind, and understandable for HHH-Taker, the two title matches need some more hatred. Sure all four men involved are great on the stick and they have been in some tag matches and what have you, there hasn’t been any sort of Oh-My-God-These-Guys-Are-Going-To-Kill-Each-Other moments.

Hopefully with Jericho-Punk getting personal, we can have those two brawl all over the arena on Monday night to really help give us a sense of hatred. I’m still not sure what is driving the Bryan-Sheamus feud to be honest, it seems like it is just not a focus at all here. Sure the show will be amazing, but there just doesn’t seem to be a ton of hatred going into it, which is a bit of a shame.

 

Prediction for the Week: The Miz and Rey Mysterio are the final two members of the GMs Battle.

Mar 03

The Most Intriguing Possible Playoff Matches

With around 15 games left in the regular season, the playoffs are really starting to take shape. If the playoffs started today we would get some pretty intriguing matchups including a Keystone Showdown, the Jets returning to the playoffs to take on the Rangers, St. Louis and Nashville in a defensive showdown, and Detroit taking on San Jose for the third straight year.  But few tell truly captivating stories.

In this post, we will look at the most intriguing realistic first round matchups. Sure we would all love to see Calgary and Edmonton somehow play, or Ottawa to get a chance at removing the Maple Leaf shaped monkey off their back, but those seem rather unlikely at this stage.

So that leaves us with…

Vancouver Canucks vs. Chicago Blackhawks

The Canucks seem like a lock for either first or second in the West yet again this year. Up until a few months ago, the Hawks seemed like they could finish in the top five, or top six at worst. Well it seems to have gotten worse, and the Hawks are on a bit of a downslide, making seventh or eighth a certain possibility. This could be the fourth straight year we get Kane vs. Loungo, and it would give the Canucks a chance to even the series. On paper the Hawks are better this year, but the Canucks aren’t too bad themselves. Given how close the Hawks were to pulling of a miracle last year, I’m sure that people in Vancouver are having Chelsea Dagger dreams at the thought of having to go through this again.

Speaking of the Blackhawks…

Detroit Red Wings vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Original six matchups are always fun, and these two teams have probably the fiercest O6 rivalry that doesn’t involve the Montreal Canadiens. Back in 2009 this Chicago core was ousted in the Conference final to the defending champion Red Wings. I’m sure that Toews, Kane, et al would love to get vengeance for that.

Two of the Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators

This may be a cheater pick, but it would be interesting no matter what. Two of these Central Division rivals are sure to meet in the Western Conference 4-5 matchup. All three teams feel, quite rightly, that they have a shot at a deep playoff run this year. It’s a pitty that the NHL seeding system will prevent one of them from that. Worse still, whoever wins that 4-5 showdown will most certainly be so beat up that they’ll be picked off in the next round.

Moving East…

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers

This seems to be the most likely matchup possible and it’s pretty damn interesting. Like the 4-5 matchup in the West, both of these teams are legitimate contenders, so it is a shame that only one will make it past the first round. What makes this more interesting are both teams concussed captains. Will Pronger or Crosby even play? How effective will they be? Both teams have a reputation for being rough which could make it hard for someone recovering from a concussion to get involved.

New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals

The last two times the Rangers made the playoffs, they were a low seed playing the indestructible higher seed Capitals. This year, those same Capitals look to limp their way into the eighth seed and face the indestructible higher seed Rangers. Both teams are more or less the same teams that they were in 2009 and 2011, which would certainly make this a very heated affair.

Florida Panthers vs. Ottawa Senators

Imagine the money you could have made betting that this would be a first round matchup in October? These teams were pegged for the bottom two spots in the East, and could very well face off in the 3-6 series in a showdown of the leagues two most surprising teams.

Winnipeg Jets vs. Ottawa Senators

The NHL’s return to Winnipeg has been like a fairy tale to the people of Manitoba. If the Jets are able to make the playoffs it will be a way to push the clock past midnight. The Jets have an outside chance of winning the Southeast Division, which would guarantee them the third seed, and potentially a date with the sixth seed Senators. The Jets making the playoffs would be great, but to have them give us our first all-Canadian matchup since 2004 would be down right legendary.