I will admit, this is the first NHL slant I have ever done, and this is going to be rather difficult because I don't follow hockey as heavily as I do baseball and football teams play once a week. However, I watch ESPN enough (my younger brother often turns on the NHL Network on Sunday mornings) and I can draw conclusions about who's in and who isn't.
It's looking like a rough postseason ahead. A lot of rivalries are in this time, and interestingly enough they're being matched up in the first round. This should be a fun, hard-knocking playoff road.
Aside from the formalities...
Seriously, there are so many teams south of the border (as in the Carolina border) this year and it's really weird. I thought the NHL would be more of a northern thing, but since a lot of the Canadian teams folded we have people playing in cities such as Nashville and Phoenix. I guess you can't mess with the South, because a good amount of these teams play where it's nice and warm--a huge contrast, wouldn't you say?
Let us begin!
1. Washington Capitals (107 Pts) -- Won't lie here, people. You guys have lots of 'splainin' to do after getting your behinds handed to you last year in the first round against the 8th seed Canadiens. You managed to fight back onto the top seed after the Flyers fell apart, and now we're looking to see some revenge on your end. Against the Rangers, I'm pretty sure you can do that unless if your egos get too large again. Hey Ovetchkin, I think now's your time to lead the team into glory. If not, somebody's gotta take charge.
2. Philadelphia Flyers (106 Pts) --After last year's performance, the Flyers have kept their trend of being a major threat and have stayed atop the leaderboards throughout the whole season. However, as of late there have been major setbacks and losses from comebacks and mishaps toward the ends of games. Will they be able to return to the big dance this year and be successful in the finals? My survey says: I wish, but no. Lack of Pronger and a consistent goaltender is going to really weaken the credibility of the Flyers' defenses.
3. Boston Bruins (103 Pts) -- After being a part of embarrassment last year by dropping a 3-0 series in the conference semifinal, we're looking for pretty angry Bostoners. Tim Thomas is an absolute monster in net, and Recchi isn't showing any signs of age. Their front lines are absolute tanks, and they're about ready to scare off any team that they'll be facing in the playoffs. Have fun, Habs.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (104 Pts) -- Wow, look at these guys. After overcoming loads of injuries, suspensions, and fights, the Penguins have been able to secure yet another 4th seed. They're obviously stacked in many ways, with Mr. Marc-Andre in net, and Mr. Sidney Crosby. Even without Malkin in the lineup, things are looking quite bright. Are they doing it for the Steelers? I think so. Ha ha ha. I made a football joke in a hockey column.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning (103 Pts) -- If you really wanna know what carried the team for a little while, look at the top two guys on the team--Stamkos and St. Louis. Their front lines look really stiff, and they look like they can hold a game together. The defense...not so much. If you're looking for a heavily offensive team, here's our Hitler (as Max Bialystock would say so famously). If you're looking for a defensive team, I doubt that this would be a strong match.
6. Montreal Canadiens (96 Pts) -- Here's another team that's in it practically every year and there's no surprise about it. After blowing big teams away last year and scaring the crap out of everyone since they were an 8th seed. Now they look a little more formidable...will the story be the same this year? With a heavy shooting team high in points, we might see some tricks and turns throughout this team's journey.
7. Buffalo Sabres (96 Pts) -- Aside from my horrible love for Ryan Miller, I have to talk about this team. Problem is, they're not an all-rounded team--there are only a few players that really make some noise when absolutely possible. There have also been injury issues and the like, and they've really turned things up as of late. Do I have faith? They'll definitely give the Flyers a run for their money, and Ryan Miller will be...Ryan "awesome" Miller.
8. New York Rangers (93 Pts) -- After narrowly missing the playoffs last year resulting from a shootout loss, the Rangers fulfilled every technicality in order to get in this year. Good job, guys. The stats all around on this team aren't exactly the best around, but if they can come up in the clutch, they can certainly give people headaches with the way they play. Look at the +/- ratings...you wouldn't expect all that much turmoil on a postseason team, but there you go. No offense, I don't see you guys beating the Caps.
1. Vancouver Canucks (117 Pts) -- Obviously, they're the winners of the President's Trophy. Losing less than 20 games and having beastly records on home and away ice means that they're a true force to be reckoned with. With consistent [and did I mention rather healthy?] lines, the offense and defense look equally as bulky. Let's not forget Roberto Luongo being a monster as usual in net. He'll be the key factor against the heavy shooting forces that make up the Western Conference.
2. San Jose Sharks (105 Pts) -- Hey, what's up, Antii Niemi? Here's a very well-rounded team that's glad that they probably won't be facing Chicago in the playoffs. After narrowly missing the Stanley Cup Finals last year, they're looking to take a bite out of the competition. Okay, that was a horrible pun. But at any rate, the Sharks have always been a silent threat, and despite the occasional mishaps and hits, they could be the black horse (or shark) to take it all from the President's trophy winners.
3. Detroit Red Wings (104 Pts) -- Could you call a postseason a postseason without the Red Wings somehow making it into the brackets? At first glance, they looked like they had no organization on their lines, but they have really come a long way since the beginning of the year and are really making a name for themselves. Jimmy Howard has been a great tag team partner with the eternal Chris Osgood and he's surprised the crap outta me. Oh heck, who am I kidding, everyone's doing well. Don't they have a lot of Olympic players on there to begin with? That's what it certainly feels like...
4. Anaheim Ducks (99 Pts) -- Say it with me: quack, quack, quack, quack, quack, quack...Oh, forget it. Here's a team that has its few achillies' heels in the injury and lack of playing area, but they've made it far enough to grab a 4th seed in the playoffs. Corey Perry is a machine, and he's going to be a burning thorn in the Preds' sides throughout the playoff round.
5. Nashville Predators (99 Pts) -- lol "Smashville." You make me want to play Super Smash Bros. Here's a mostly defensive team at work. Not one player on the team has scored over 50 points, and their goaltender Pekka Rinne has 2.12 GAA. That's quite the interesting mix. Wall much? The floods and storms are over just so you know, guys.
6. Phoenix Coyotes (99 Pts) -- Like I just said about Nashville, these guys are just as defensive with a hint of more power on offense. I don't necessarily think that they're going to make it all that far because they don't often get the job done and they may not come in the clutch at all. Scratch that...it's more of a hot and cold kind of thing. One good thing is that just about anybody can step up to the plate and give a good effort.
7. Los Angeles Kings (98 Pts) -- Here's a team I would like to call the "I scratch your back one game, you scratch mine the next" team. They have a decent build, but I'm not exactly sure if that'll be enough to make a believable run in the playoffs. The great thing about this team is that there isn't just one or two definitive "stars" on the team--everyone pokes their stick in when needed and they can have some crazy rollercoaster-looking games.
8. Chicago Blackhawks (97 Pts) -- The Stanley Cup champs are back...as an 8th seed. Losing a bit of their momentum as the season went on, their fate was determined in the very last game of the NHL regular season. Way to fool around with fate, boys. You have the hard-hitting Canucks in the first round, and y'all will be looking like fools if you don't bring the force that helped you win the Cup last year. After different personnel changes in the offseason, this revamped squad is going to get a rough first round.
Oh, hockey, how you make it cool to beat the crap out of people and put them on ice.
Alright, I really need to stop the puns.
Have fun watching for the next month and a half, kids.