Monday, April 09, 2012
I had a nice record last season when it came to playoff predictions and, most importantly, won my pool!
I really have an all or nothing approach when it comes to hockey pools. I pick two teams, load up, and hope things fall right for me. I have a decent winning percentage when it comes to these, maybe I have won two out of maybe a dozen and lost on a tiebreaker a third time but of course its all luck. I went Vancouver/Boston last year and if Luongo doesn't slide over in time and the Habs get a bounce then I would have been dead last.
Claude Julien would have been fired and who knows what else would have happened in Vancouver and Boston. Instead Boston broke a near forty year drought (crazy!) and Vancouver nearly burned to the ground. If Dan Hamhuis is healthy ....
What have I learned after nearly forty years of watching playoff hockey. Not much except:
- the more depth the further the team is likely to go. And I'm not talking injuries here. I'm just talking about depth up and down the lineup. For example when the Oilers went to the final they had Moreau and Dvorak on the fourth line quite a bit. That's depth. Chicago and Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Detroit, Anaheim, Ottawa, Boston, Vancouver ... for the most part these clubs all had quality everywhere in their lineup. No Darcy Hordichuks on their fourth lines. Guys who could play a regular shift and not get killed or at the very least kill penalties and contribute that way. So yeah I always go with the clubs that have a lot of depth.
- injuries will kill you (duh!) - you might get through a series early on but all it takes is one or two guys to go down and other guys to get bumped up the depth chart to knock you out. Toews being a possible no show could kill Chicago and while a lot of folks like Philadelphia their injury list going into the playoffs probably means an early exit for them.
- anything can happen. I know! I know! Fantastic analysis! Groundbreaking! Nearly every year regardless of where the stats and trends and common sense point us there is at least one major upset. Injuries, a hot goaltender, a team going cold at the wrong time, just plain luck and no way of knowing where it might happen.
- I've learned to not try and be too smart, to ignore my hunches. They always get me nowhere. When I try and get cute then usually I lose. I think it was last year I figured the Rangers to knock off the Caps. My reasoning was basically 'I've got a feeling about the Rangers'. Nice.
So here we go. This year I think there is one team out west that is, if healthy, head and shoulders above everyone. And then its a free for all. Out east I think its a three team race. So first the Prince of Wales:
1)NYR v 8)Ottawa
The Rangers are one of the three teams I really like. Great goaltending obviously. I like Tortorella a lot. I like his team. They're deep everywhere. Scariest thing to me is while they have a lot of guys who can score they can't score as easily as the other big boys in the conference - Pittsburgh and Boston. (I'm discounting Philly because of their injuries). However they definitely have the easiest route I think. Ottawa can score and Anderson is a guy who can steal a series but I think the Rangers just grind their D down on the cycle. Get by that first round hump and then they probably get Jersey while the other big boys smash each other. I don't necessarily think they are better than the Bruins or Pens but I think they have the easiest road to the conference finals and that counts for a lot. Rangers in 6.
2)Boston v 7)Washington
The Bruins are being discounted by nearly everyone but I can't see it. Start with six twenty goal scorers, so much depth up front and on the blue and Tim Thomas in net and I think they're poised for a good run. Ideally for them the Panthers win their first round series, that would mean the Rangers get Pittsburgh or Philly and an easier road for them, but more likely they get the heavy duty second round matchup. I see no reason why they won't get by the Caps. Backstrom's return helps but the Bruins GD is +67 and the Caps is -8. Bruins in 5.
3)Florida v 6)New Jersey
Florida is one of the worst teams to win a division ever, never mind make the playoffs. Some people see Jersey as a darkhorse, I don't. Brodeur is not that good anymore. Certainly not to get them through more than a round. But they are definitely good enough to get by the Panthers, who just have such am 'Isle of Misfit Toys' vibe about them, I keep expecting Yukon Cornelius to show up behind their bench. Devils in 6.
4)Pittsburgh v 5)Philadelphia
Everyone expects this to be really tight and if the Flyers were healthy I would expect the same if Bryzgalov (who also happens to be injured) was fantastic but the Flyers are not healthy at all and I expect Bryzgalov to not be good enough, lets just put it that way. Two things that do not matter - end of season records and head to head regular season records, imo. I think Pittsburgh is the better team top to bottom and while this series will be superb and vicious I expect the Pens to win it and to do so a lot easier than a lot of folks think unless they lose some guys to injury, which of course is possible. But the Pens GD is +61 and that is without Crosby mostly and without Letang quite a bit and with those guys back I think they are the class of the conference, if they can survive. Pens in 6.
Posted by Black Dog at 5:10 PM