NHL Playoff Picture– East

Posted: 04/22/2013 by levcohen in Hockey

Are you surprised? Well, you should be, because I haven’t done a hockey post in a long time. That is partly because I hate the condensed schedule. Each team plays four or five games a week, so one team or the other is tired for every game, which makes it a lot less fun to watch. The other reason is that the Flyers stink, and the Flyers are always the reason that I’m into hockey. When the Sixers, Phillies, or Eagles are bad (ALL of them are bad right now), I’m still interested in basketball, baseball, and football, respectively. But I find it hard to get into hockey when the Flyers are struggling. Still, playoff hockey is different, and it’s great. It’s almost that time of year again, as this is the last week of the regular season, so let’s take a look at each conference and how the playoffs are shaking out.

Eastern Conference:
Teams who have locked playoff spots: Pittsburgh Penguins (clinched best record in conference), Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs..

Still up for grabs: 5 teams for 4 spots
#3 seed, Southeast Division champion- likely winner: Washington Capitals (3 points up)
The Capitals have been playing at a torrid pace of late, winning nine of their last 10 and 13 of their last 16. Leading the way has been none other than Alex Ovechkin, who, after a few years worth of slumping, has exploded for a league leading 30 goals, including 20 in his last 15 games. The Winnipeg Jets are three points behind them in the standings, and the Capitals can eliminate the Jets with a win over Winnipeg at home tomorrow. Even if they don’t do that, the Capitals two games after that are also at home, so it would be hard to believe that the Jets would pick up three points in the standings.
Playoff odds: 90%

#6-8- likely winners: New York Islanders (53 points, 3 games left), Ottawa Senators (52 points, 4 games left), New York Rangers (52 points, 3 games left)

The Islanders have very quietly been very quietly been good of late, with points in 13 of their last 14 games. We are used to the Islanders having young teams, but they are actually older than average this year, at #7 in average weighted age (28.546). They are led by the still-just-22 John Tavares, with 45 points. They have been helped up and down the lineup, all the way down to their goalie, Evgeni Nabokov, who has played well in 39 games (tied for the league lead with 21 wins, and top 5 in total games). Their remaining three games are against non playoff teams, so they should get in.

Playoff odds: 98%

The Senators, unlike the Capitals and Islanders, have struggled recently. They recently came off a stretch in which they lost five straight games, but they did bounce back nicely from that stretch, winning their next four before losing on Saturday. Their last four games are going to be tough, but at least they have a game in hand. They’ll need it, as they play the three teams that are likely to be seeded #1, #2 and #3 (although Washington really shouldn’t be #3- they are just there because they will win the division). If they can pick up at least three points in those four games, which is really not that much, they will be fine.

Playoff odds: 90%

The Rangers have disappointed this season, but they’ll be fine, because they play the 10th (Devils), 13th (Hurricanes), and dead last, 15th seeded Panthers, seeds in the conference. They are up by three points, so if they win two of those games they will be assured of a playoff spot. One win in those three would probably be enough, too. I wouldn’t worry.

Playoff odds: 90%

Not eliminated yet: Winnipeg Jets (49 points).

The Jets have played admirably this season, given that they have to travel thousands of miles for each road game in their division (they play in the Southeast division, because that is where the team played when they were in Atlanta. That will all change with realignment). Still, they’ll finish just outside of the playoffs, because they haven’t been able to keep up with the more talented Capitals team, as they relinquished their division lead a few weeks ago and haven’t gotten it back. With three games to play (at Buffalo, at Washington, home against Montreal), they realistically need to win all three to have a chance. If they do get to 55 points, they have a good chance at not only making the playoffs, but stealing the #3 seed. I just don’t see them winning in Buffalo today, in Washington tomorrow, and in Winnipeg on Thursday. It’s just too much to ask for.

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