Here at Backhand Shelf, we’re not above throwing our two cents into the NHL season predictions pile.
Why? Because it’s a fun post that alternately enrages and delights readers, resulting in many comments and much conversation, which I like. Also, because I’m a shameless gambler who likes to get his thoughts straight before throwing money in every conceivable direction (did you see that bodog.com had Evgeni Malkin at 30-1 to win the Hart? It’s down to 25 now, but that was some hot action. Sean Leahy shared that on Twitter, so a big thank you to him.)
This morning, let’s start with the Eastern Conference, for no particular reason.
Our friend Dave Lozo over at NHL.com put his bold predictions on twitter the other day, sharing that he thinks both Philadelphia and Tampa Bay will miss playoffs this year. Philly will not, and I just felt like sharing his thoughts with all of you so you can abuse him on twitter because he likes it when people do that.
Without further ado….this is how the regular season standings will come to rest in the East. Explanations below:
1. Boston Bruins
2. Washington Capitals
3. Pittsburgh Penguins
4. Buffalo Sabres (2nd most points in conference)
5. Philadelphia Flyers
6. Montreal Canadiens
7. Winnipeg Jets
8. Florida Panthers
9. Tampa Bay Lightning
10. Toronto Maple Leafs
11. New York Islanders
12. New York Rangers
13. New Jersey Devils
14. Carolina Hurricanes
15. Ottawa Senators
Eventual Conference Final: Boston vs. Buffalo
Eventual winner: Boston (and the fans for getting to watch that series)
Three explanations coming: Top of the Conference, the Playoff Bubble Teams, and a very short section I’ll call “Bleh” - you can picture me sticking my tongue out while I say it.
Top of the Conference
The trend that unites teams who’ve had playoff success the past few years is depth (with a dash of youthful talent).
We know what playoffs are like – the phrase “war of attrition” is used so much because it’s accurate. You just can’t stay 100% healthy for four playoff series, so you need guys to be able to pick up the slack when a few soldiers go down.
Boston and Buffalo are crazy deep heading into this season. We know they’re going to have insanely good goaltending, being that Ryan Miller is the best goalie in the NHL, and Boston has two guys who might be mad at the previous statement.
It’s been Washington/Pittsburgh for so long we just presume it will be again. It won’t. ….I have them all the way down to #3 and #4 (gasp), because they’re both really good again.
Playoff Bubble Teams
Any of the teams from numbers 6 – 13 on my list there are in this conversation. Nobody has a damned clue what to expect out of the East this year, being that Toronto will be better, the Islanders will be better, Florida will be better and on and on. Wins aren’t going to be gimmes anymore when you’re playing teams that usually dwell at the bottom of the conference.
It used to be that Washington/Pitt etc. would just feast on the bottom tier, but they won’t be winning by bringing their C game anymore. Those team have been bad enough for long enough to end up with some legitimate NHL talent (go Isles!).
With those teams improving and climbing, some good teams are going to get sapped the easy wins they need to get in, so I have the Lightning (like Lozo), Rangers and Devils all missing out, while a couple underdogs climb their way in.
With apologies to Carolina and Ottawa (for the name of this section), the forecast is pretty bleak for the reasons I listed above – everyone is getting better, and you didn’t get better enough (yes I know that makes no sense).
The east is too strong this year, and somebody, unfortunately, is going to be taking the brunt of that off the chin.
So, am I an idiot? A genius? Let’s talk.
(UPDATE: Lozo and I have made a bet. If the Flyers make playoffs, he has to take glamour shots with a cat. If they get home ice, he to change his twitter avatar to this:
If the Flyers miss playoffs, I have to shave my head. If they finish in the bottom four, I have to shave my head AND one of my cats. For context, he’s bald, and I love my cats and frequently post their pics on twitter, which he hates. I think I’d shave the white one, Jiggs, if I had to.
I like our odds of getting some Lozo glamour shots.)