Bruins lose Recchi, the Bruins are going to be good again.


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 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 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.


Jiggs is an 11 month old, 17 pound Ragdoll


Tyson is a 2-year old, 17 pound Scottish Fold/American Shorthair with huge eyes who basically only lies on his back.

I like our odds of getting some Lozo glamour shots.)

Comments (27)

  1. Despite you picking the Panthers to make the playoffs (lol), this site just because a must-read for me. Love all the pussy shots.

  2. Haha…hm. Nice turn of phrase. Someone has to get in from that gobbeldy-gook of teams, and I figure just because a team grossly overpays guys doesn’t necessarily make them bad (ie Brian Campbell).

  3. I’d be down for more cat-bets in regards to the Dev’s chances. I’d bet my house they’re higher than 13. I’d bet a reasonable ammount of money they make the playoffs. I feel like last year’s fluke is going to make all the “Marty’s old and defense doesn’t win anymore” pundits jump on this Devils are terrible bandwagon, but I just don’t see it.

    As long as we stay healthy, of course.

  4. You do realize that the Jets are actually the Atlanta Thrashers, right?

  5. I’m a Sens fan and I can’t argue with that. I want to think they won’t be last but then I look at the East and say “Ok, who are they better than? Oh. Crud.”

    Bit surprised by the Florida love though. Only team I think might finish lower than Ottawa :)

  6. I mean…I guess I wanna see why you think Winnipeg will be better than Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, and Henrik Lundqvist. And I’m a Detroit fan.

    Are the Rangers just your pick for team-that-goes-to-Europe-and-sucks? Or do you believe in Claude Noel that much?

  7. Sell hardcore on Buffalo. Two reasons:

    - How’s that team-building tactic working out for the Eagles? Buying free agents is no guarantee of chemistry. IMO Buffalo’s the biggest question mark in the East next to the Flyers – will the patchwork gel or will it be a whole lot of independent parts?
    - Top three slots in the standings are reserved for division winners. Boston and Buffalo play in the same division, so they can’t both be in the top 3.

  8. In regards to the bubble teams in the Atlantic you have the isles beating out the rags and devils. Do you think the isles have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs and if so what would it come down to…blue line stability or goaltending?

  9. For the Bruins to play the Sabres in the eastern conference finals, one of your playoff bubble teams will have to beat either the Caps or the Pens. That seems like a half-hearted prediction of another Caps playoff bust.

  10. Shaving the cat? Oh my…. Might I suggest chainmail gauntlets?

    I really don’t know what to expect from the Flyers this year… some solid pick ups, but that much change in one season makes me think they may be in for some growing pains this year.

  11. Jim D. – and I actually think the Caps are a hell of team this year, could definitely win it this year. I just don’t think they have quite the depth of BOS, who’s proven themselves.

    Brian D. With Nabokov, I could see the Isles squeaking in, yes.

    Will – I think the Jets have some big boys and look tough to play against. Gaborik & Richards are talented, but you never know with injuries with them. Henrik is awesome though.

    Chris – Sorry man, I did the same. “Hmm, not a bad roster. Who are they better than….uh oh.”

    Mike – the Devils could TOTALLY stun people this year and do something crazy, even get home ice. But beyond their stars, the roster is fairly unimpressive, and I value depth.

  12. i think Winnipeg will struggle with the travel. Washington 1st boston2 Ny rangers 3 Buffalo4 Pittsburgh5 Philadelphia6, Florida7 Tampa bay 8 montrea, toronto n jersey, winnipeg carolina islanders ottawa in that order.

  13. JB! Love the new blog. You provide the fresh/sarcastic/controversial input that the hockey world needs.

    You know i’m going to ask you to elaborate on the flyers. I respect your guess on 5th, but who the hell knows what to expect with this team? All i know is that I got giddy when I saw their powerplay with Jagr on it. They’re a damn deep team. Will giroux/JVR blow up? I think they might. All depends on Bryz too. This is me still bitter about what the caps got vokoun for.


  14. what’s all the love the panthers?! They got about 10-12 new players, they will need a lot of time to adjust and imo I think they signed these guys just to get to the cap not to actually improve the team. I think the Jets will be just as bad as the Thrashers! only team that missed last year that might get in are the Devils.

  15. No offense but I have to question your IQ in hockey. how in the hell you put florida, montreal and the trashers in. mark me word, non of those are in

  16. Your 6/7/8 picks could all miss the playoffs – especially 7 & 8. The Florida Pussycats and the old Atlanta Thrashers? Really? No chance. I think you’re wrapped up in all the Jets love. Wait until those guys spend a winter in Winterpeg. That’d tear the heart out of anyone not born in a prairie farm house. Isles are on the rise and will fill one of those spots. Habs are a coin flip. Bolts not making the playoffs? I wouldn’t bet your cat on it.

  17. JPotts – I like the Flyers with all that young talent, JVR and Giroux have had time to develop. I don’t think people appreciate how goaltending has hamstrung this team – Bryz will be great for them.

    Those who dislike the #7 and #8 picks I made – I kinda do too. But nobody’s a lock in that mid-conference quagmire, and those are the teams I see suprising folks this year (and I quite like Florida’s forwards). Wouldn’t be surprised if the Rangers or Devils made it all the way to home ice! It’s going to be a fun year.

  18. I really like your top 5 picks, not necessarly in that order but its quite close, but your playoff prediction doesnt make much sense seeing as for it to be a buffalo boston eastern final either pitt has to lose to montreal or washington must lose to the jets; sorry but neither of those is happening. Washington, boston, pittsburgh, tampa, philly, buffalo, NYR, NJD- are my top 8. Tampa might fall as low as 7, but i think their division is too weak not to make it; jets and panthers are overated, florida will be a bottom 3 team in the east without vokoun dispite all the additions and i think the second half of the season for the jets last year was more to what they are capable of as opposed to that quick start. Suprize team to watch is the islanders, i would have them in the playoffs if they werent in such a tough division but they could still make some noise.

  19. Malkin at 30/1 for the Art Ross was nuts. I checked at 25/1, and didn’t get in until 19/1. He’s only 3 yrs removed from winning it, and apparently is (finally) training hard and determined. Let’s hope that translates into money for me!

  20. The imbalance within the Eastern conference divisions unfortunately will be slating under achievers in top conference positions…ahem…Pittsburgh! If it weren’t for that factor, I would probably slate the Canadiens or Lightening there and relegate Pitt to 5, especially without Crosby for 1/4 to half of the season.

    The Flyers will be not be exempt from the bubble you’ve mentioned and will be lucky to make the playoff this year, as having given up the exceptional 2-way forward talent in Richards and Carter with their lackluster blue line, heavily dependent on a healthy 36-37 year old Pronger to anchor it. EPIC FAIL!

  21. Oh, let’s not forget the Florida Panthers in your predictions. Unless Booth wins the Rocket Richard by 20 goals, lets not get over zealous here. Rankings as follows:
    1. Washington
    2. Boston
    3. Pittsburgh
    4. Tampa Bay
    5. Montreal
    6. Toronto
    7. Buffalo
    8. Philly

    The rest….forget about it. I think the Jets and Islanders will be knocking on the 8 spot.

  22. dude, your cats are awesome!! post more pics!

  23. Justin, you really see the Islanders, Leafs, and the Jets above the Rangers? And seriously? The Panthers making the playoffs? There is absolutely no way the Panthers will get in and the Rangers will be playing golf at the start of the playoffs. Even I’d put all my body hair on the line for that one.

    I’m not convinced on the Sabres either. They’ve made some great additions, but you can’t just buy a championship in the salary cap age. Players have to mesh. That is why I have the Flyers barely squeaking in over the Devils. Marty will do well this year (like always), but I’m not convinced Kovalchuk will take control and have a huge year (40+ goals), especially in a division that has Lundqvist, Bryzgalov, and Fleury.

    Whatever happens will be interesting. It seems that there are a couple locks to make the playoffs, and a couple extreme long shots. I see 8 or 9 teams closely vying for 4 playoff spots with 2 weeks left in the season.

    here’s how I see it shaping up at the end of the year.
    1- Capitals
    2- Bruins
    3- Penguins
    4- Bolts
    5- Rangers
    6- Sabres
    7- Canadiens
    8- Flyers
    9- Devils
    10- Leafs
    11- Islanders
    12- Hurricanes
    13- Jets
    14- Panthers
    15- Senators

    The Bolts point total will be inflated a bit because they play in the weakest division. They’ll lose to whoever is in 5th place. I’ll take the Bruins beating the Rangers in the conference finals, and then going on to repeat as cup champs over the Canucks.

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