With the Super Bowl over the focus of the sports world shifts squarely to the NHL playoff race…
Haha, just kidding.
The focus has always been the NHL in Canada, and here in the States, still no one cares.
But, regardless the NHL playoff race is really about to heat up and since I picked my Individual Award winners a couple weeks ago, I thought post-Super Bowl would be the best time to make my predications for the playoffs.
Who Will Make the Play-offs – Eastern Conference
Standings as of 2/8/16
*Buffalo, Toronto and Columbus have no shot
Well, I don’t see a whole lot changing in this conference. Pittsburgh is on a roll (6-2-2 in their last 10) and I’ll never keep Detroit out of the playoffs until the year after they actually miss the playoffs so I see them holding their Wild Card spots. At some point, I think the wheels are going to fall off in New Jersey and Carolina, and the wheels have long been off in Montreal, so I don’t see them making the playoffs.
The only team I’d say has a shot to move up is Philly, but at the end of the day, I don’t think they’ll be able to catch anyone.
Who Will Make the Play-offs – Western Conference
Standings as of 2/8/16
The West is a little dicier than the East, but still don’t see a lot of movement. The Central Division teams are all locked in, as well as LA. Anaheim is 8-2-0 in their last 10 and even though they started off so poorly this season, they’re a play-off built team and I have them making the tournament.
I have a hard time counting San Jose out of their annual chance to lose in the first round, so I’ll keep them in there too.
Nashville should make it—their D-core is just too good—but I’m not sold on Colorado. You have to figure Minnesota’s terrible play (1-8-1 in their last 10) will turn around at some point and the fact that you can win 1 game out of 10 and still be in the mix shows that they’ve played good hockey this year…so I think they’ll figure it out and gain the points they need to pass Colorado.
This is a Washington versus Chicago race now, but I’ll give Washington the trophy, as the West is comprised of better teams, so Chicago won’t be able to pick up as many points down the stretch as Washington, who will continue to beat up on poor Eastern teams.
Western Conference Champions
As good as the Blackhawks are right now, I just believe at some point, the amount of hockey their core players have played over the past 5 years is going to make them hit a bump in the road. As of February 8, 2016, Patrick Kane has played in 602 professional/international hockey games since the start of the 2009 season (Kane’s first Stanley Cup). Not including this season’s games, that’s 54 games more than if he just played 82 games per season from 2009-2015. Jonathan Toews has played in 587 games in that span; Duncan Keith has play 610 (and he literally plays half of the games he plays in).
That’s a ton of hockey and these guys aren’t robots. At some point they’re going to hit the wall. As such, I think the rest the LA Kings had last season missing the playoffs is going to benefit them, and they’ll end up walking out of the West.
Eastern Conference Champions
I mean, this isn’t even a conversation. The Capitals are so much better than everyone in the East, right? Plus, in that Individual Awards article I wrote, I said the Kings over the Caps in the Cup final.
So, I have Pittsburgh coming out of the East.
I know, I know. At times they have looked SO bad this season, but recently Sid the Kid has looked like the best player in the World. And when the best player in the World is playing like the best player in the World, you have to give him all the respect in the World (that’s too many times writing the word “world”).
I don’t know, this may be a heat of the moment pick, but for some reason I’m feeling Crosby and the Penguins right now.
Stanley Cup Champions
Kings. Plain and simple.
Whoever actually does come out of the West, be it the Kings or be it someone else, will win the Stanley Cup.
The West just competes differently than the East. Even in the All-Star 3v3 tournament, the Western teams had way more giddy-up-and-go than the Eastern teams. I’d like to elaborate more, but there really isn’t anything more to add. The Western Conference is the Bestern (see what I did there?) Conference and since I have the Kings coming out of that group, I also have them winning the Stanley Cup.
That would give the Kings the Championship in 2012, 2014 and 2016.
And Chicago won the Cup in 2010, 2013, and 2015.
At what point can we just get those two teams playing for the Trophy? Just cut out all the other BS and get on with the good stuff, am I right?