Since this past weekend, I’ve found myself singing “it’s the most wonderful time of the year” and jumping for joy mostly everywhere I go. You could imagine how awkward the bread aisle of the local Food Emporium was Sunday afternoon when I got giddy remembering that the Kings were eliminated… not that I hold grudges.. but I digress.
Here, we at BSB have broken down the entire first round, and we start early this morning with the Western Conference….
Minnesota Wild vs. St. Louis Blues
Dave’s Pick: STL in 6. Minny has been on a miraculous run after finally solving their goaltending issues. But St. Louis is just a much better team. Better depth, better defense, and just better all around.
Becky’s Pick: STL in 6. The Blues are so hard-hitting, offensively-skilled and deep that they’ll make easy work of the quick-but-shaky Wild. They’re looking to eliminate their first round exit curse, and the small Wild are perfect prey.
Chris’ Pick: STL in 5. The Wild are riding a serious wave into the playoffs but this is where it ends. St Louis are simply bigger, better and deeper. Just looking at the top six forwards for each team and I can’t see how Minnesota can win this series. Dubnyk’s magical ride has to end at some stage. He’s a good goalie playing like Kenny Dryden. That ends against the Blues.
Justin’s Pick: STL in 6. Here’s what I don’t understand. Minnesota is a good hockey team. No one looked at them as real contenders until a journeyman goalie got super hot and now all of a sudden they are the ’84 Oilers. I’m not buying Devan Dubnyk’s resurgence just yet. St. Louis has way too much depth in my opinion and they will finally shake those first round demons.
Kevin’s Pick: STL in 6. I’d pick the Wild against almost anyone else, but this is not a good matchup for Minnesota. The Blues just have too much across the board, and the emergence of Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz has really deepened their offense. Dubnyk will do his best, but Minnesota falls in this series.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators
Dave’s Pick: CHI in 7. This is such a toss up. Both teams are great. Nashville has the goaltending edge, but Chicago has the experience edge. I give this one to experience, but this goes the distance as well.
Becky’s Pick: CHI in 6. This series is one to watch, even if you haven’t been paying much attention to teams out West. Rinne has been doing an incredible job, and Filip Forsberg is an absolute delight to watch, but I see the Hawks edging out the lack of Predator talent in under 7 games.
Chris’ Pick: CHI in 7. This is the most even series of the first round. A lot will rest on how rusty Patrick Kane is as he comes back from his injury. Will Brandon Saad continue his emergence or will Roman Josi continue to insist he’s actually better than Shea Weber? While the Preds have an edge in goal it’s hard to bet against experience and talent and the Hawks have both.
Justin’s Pick: CHI in 7. This is the toughest series to call for me. So much depends on Patrick Kane’s health. Pekka Rinne has the edge on Corey Crawford for me, but I think the Hawks have too much firepower.
Kevin’s Pick: NSH in 7. This is the only one I’m changing since my first gut reaction, and it’s not the way you think. Even with Pat Kane’s return, this Blackhawks team doesn’t quite feel the same. Nashville hit the skids a bit over the last couple of months, but they still have Rinne and a top defense that will be able to contain Chicago’s fearsome forwards.
Winnipeg Jets vs. Anaheim Ducks
Dave’s Pick: ANA in 7. I really don’t like the Ducks in terms of long term success in the playoffs, but I don’t think the Jets are the team that beats them. Anaheim is flawed for sure, but I pick them over Ondrej Pavelec.
Becky’s Pick: WPG in 6. The Jets are on a mission, and they’re going to beat down whoever gets in their way. They’re physical and they’ll take out the Ducks’ shaky goaltending situation. No eye test, no #fancystats, just pure old-fashioned motivation.
Chris’ Pick: ANA in 6. The sheer enthusiasm in Winnipeg will see them steal a game or two but in my opinion the Jets have the weakest goaltending in the playoffs (despite recent form) and the Ducks have better talent up front that has simply underperformed. Anaheim will expect Ryan Kesler to be better than he was in the regular season. If he is, the Ducks have a big advantage down the middle.
Justin’s Pick: ANA in 7. I think the upstart Jets will give the Ducks a tough run in the first round. I know Anaheim has goaltending issues and their possession numbers and other metrics make their success seem like something of a mirage, but they have a ton of talent, even if the Jets have more heart.
Kevin’s Pick: WPG in 7 .The Jets have become a different team since the blockbuster Evander Kane trade and just as important acquisition of Lee Stempniak. Believe it or not, Ondrej Pavelec is actually playing great in goal, while the Ducks just lost John Gibson and will be forced to ride with Frederik Andersen.
Calgary Flames vs. Vancouver Canucks
Dave’s Pick: VAN in 6. I don’t know how Calgary made the playoffs. By all measures, they shouldn’t have. But they kept the Kings out, so they are my favorite Western Conference team. I am rooting for them, but I think the luck runs out against Vancouver.
Becky’s Pick: VAN in 6. I don’t see Vancouver getting past the second round, but I didn’t see Calgary getting there, so I guess this one is just gut. The Flames have great young talent, but I think they’ll be surprised by the playoff atmosphere and need time to cultivate before making a deep run. Canucks’ experience takes this one.
Chris’ Pick: CGY in 7. This is a heart over head choice and I’m going with the Flames (it has nothing to do with the Flames pipping the Kings to the post-season, honest.) The Flames have seriously good, young talent up front, energy and some genuinely underrated players (like Kris Russell & TJ Brodie) on the back end. I’m not a #fancystat man so I don’t need to factor that in – ignorance is bliss. If it stays close, could super prospect Sam Bennett make a difference?
Justin’s Pick: VAN in 6. This one is going to be so much fun. Two teams who no one would have called making the dance in the pre-season squaring off. Everyone loves the Flames story and underdog status, but I think the ‘Nucks will ultimately be too much.
Kevin’s Pick: CGY in 6. Good luck stopping the Johnny Gaudreau/Sean Monahan/Jiri Hudler line right now. Calgary has gotten surprising defense and goaltending all year and is probably the most stunning playoff team of them all. The Canucks had a nice bounce-back season, but I remain convinced their time is done, while Calgary’s is just starting.
Note: this post started as a Western preview and turned quickly into an Eastern post. Consider it a follow up to Justin’s post on Friday 🙂
While the Rangers have been battling for the proverbial cherry on top of a charmed 2014-15 season, a lot of teams have been struggling to get in to the playoffs. The beauty of having so many teams make it there is a really, really exciting late March-early April around the league. As of Easter Sunday, only three teams in the East and four teams in the West have clinched playoff spots, with two divisions entirely up for grabs. What this means is there are a lot of good teams, and a few really terrible teams, who are enjoying playing spoiler.
There are three teams in the West mathematically eliminated from the NHL playoff picture, which pales in comparison to the East, where seven teams have next season to look forward to. The East seems pretty locked up if you were to just look at the numbers, but you’d be grossly mistaken.
Florida was mathematically eliminated after their loss to Tampa last night, leaving what many think is a two-horse race between Ottawa and Boston to take the final Wild Card spot. What people seem to forget is that the streaking Bruins (winning their last five) have 95 points: the same as the sinking Penguins. The Penguins have lost their last two, and are 3-6-1 in their last ten going into Philadelphia today. Should Pittsburgh lose out, they could miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2005-06 season.
Though it’ll be hard for Pittsburgh to miss, with Evgeni Malkin coming back and Buffalo as one of their four games remaining, the Detroit Red Wings find themselves in a similar position. Also with 95 points in the Atlantic, they have Boston almost even with them (Detroit has an extra game in hand, meaning the Bruins have one more loss than the Wings) and lots of pressure bearing down. The Wings haven’t missed the playoffs since the 1985-86 season – before lots of us were even born – but barely snuck in last season as well. Coach Mike Babcock is an Olympic gold medal winning coach, but maybe a change of scenery will do him well.
The Ottawa Senators, despite the butt kicking the Rangers dealt their way to clinch a playoff spot last week, have been tearing up the second half of the season following the departure of longtime coach Paul MacLean. Andrew ‘the Hamburglar’ Hammond coming up as their savior with really impressive numbers has rejuvenated the team, which looked flat and dead early in the season. It seems that Erik Karlsson has found his stride as captain and, with defensive partner Marc Methot coming back from an injury that sidelined him for most of the season, Karlsson has also found his unbelievable scoring ability again. With offensive outbursts from forwards Kyle Turris and rookie Mark Stone, they could win out and make the last week of the regular season incredibly interesting.
Looking at the Eastern Conference playoff picture, is anyone really safe? Even the Islanders, despite celebrating like they’d won the Cup in November, aren’t officially situated in the playoff picture. It would be really, really difficult for them to miss, but with them losing like it’s their job lately, no fan should really feel super confident.
To close out this post, here are a few Chris-like musing questions:
- Who do you think will miss the playoffs in the East?
- Who do you want the Rangers to face in the first round?
- Which of the teams on the fringe (DET, PIT, BOS, OTT) do you think is most dangerous?
I open this post with a peace offering to those who came here to be irritated due to the title of this post. This is your friendly reminder that you have the freedom to choose which blog posts to read and which to ignore. Additionally, this post will include #fancystats, regular hockey-loving eyed interpretation, and perhaps the scariest of all, logic.
Let’s start the Tanner Glass dilemma from the beginning. Rangers fans that follow hockey were less than thrilled with the Glass signing for several reasons; the first being that he’s not good at hockey, and the second being that the contract itself ties a lot of money and time into a career fourth line player. That second part doesn’t need stats – fancy or basic – as justification. We saw a great fourth line player in Brian Boyle leave for monetary reasons over the summer, but big players with decent offensive upside are a dime a dozen. No need to bury your cap and lock one down for three years.
Consider, for one moment, that fans are a little agitated because Glen Sather had, despite his moments of brilliance, just locked down a 30 year old player whose career saw virtually no offensive capability (54 career points) for the highest and longest contract he’s ever received. Writers were lauding this as a move to have some “grit” and “jam” and whatever other strange words we want to associate with toughness on the team, but if you check around the league, you typically don’t pay $1.45M/year for a glorified punching bag.
Let’s kick it back two months, shall we? Rangers playing Carolina, some traffic in front of Henrik Lundqvist and suddenly the face of the franchise is laying on the ice with an injury. It stops a fan dead in their tracks. Suddenly, we all channel our inner Dr. Briere and learn the workings of whatever is ailing Lundqvist. Henrik came back for one game, but ultimately was sidelined for the better part of two months.
Since nobody is a guarantee for postseason hockey until late March – and that’s only if you’re very lucky – the often mentally unstable fan base was on their collective ledges sobbing for what could have been of the 2014-15 season. Enter Cam Talbot, a once-career AHL goalie whose first season as a backup with the Rangers last year proved him worthy of a one year extension, signed through 2016. Cameron, I hope you troll the interwebs for your name, cause this is an open letter to you, kind sir.
The beauty of writing about a team as good as the New York Rangers is that we’re at liberty to analyze the minor things that other teams dream of having as their number one problem. Half of our fanbase is currently at war with the other half because they’re mean to our 12th forward. Our franchise player has been out for roughly two months and yet the team is still thriving. It’s great to be a Rangers fan right now.
Something that’s been nagging at me like a shin splint lately has been the physical beast that is Chris Kreider. We’ve all seen the pool video. Listed at 6’3, 226 lbs, and only 23 years old (and such an absolutely beautiful skater), he’s exactly what every team wants. One day when he learns how to control himself, I’m gonna kick myself for wasting time writing this post, but til then, I digress…
The Rangers managed to hang on and grab a shootout win against the Columbus Blue Jackets last night, solidifying their place in second in the Metropolitan Division. As exciting as this news is, this game was not particularly one to be applauded.
This game featured the Jekyll and Hyde mannerisms that we’ve grown sadly accustomed to of the 2014-15 Rangers. Coming out strong against a sub-.500 team, a team that isn’t even dreaming of springtime hockey, the Rangers lost steam quickly and, quite frankly, embarrassed themselves at the Garden last night.
Lets break this bad boy down in my favorite of the forms, bulletpoint. Read More→
Last summer, I wrote a post outlining teams around the league who had yet to name captains, guessing who they would choose and whether or not that would be my choice. At the time I wrote it, it was widely speculated that the Rangers would name Ryan McDonagh the next captain, following in the footsteps of many greats. Heck, I even wrote why I thought he should be chosen. So, having been right, how do I think McDonagh is faring?
Let’s look at statistics. Mac seems to be struggling this year, but is he really? He has only 18 points through 40 games this year, which isn’t too far off from his pace set last year of 43 points in 77 games played. There is something that feels off, though; several stretches of point-less games (most recently, a 7 point streak that ended with an assist on January 20 vs. Ottawa), a lack of presence defensively, etc. Read More→
With All-Star weekend upon us, it’s about that time again to evaluate who’s hot, who’s not, and exactly what has been going on while we’ve been in our Blueshirt bubble. It’s been a season filled with surprisingly good teams, surprising struggles and a strange new tradition up north of throwing jerseys onto the ice.
New York Islanders – as a Rangers blog, I’m sorry to open on this note, but credit is well due for the Isles so far this season. Given a healthy, talented young core and a steady netminder, the Islanders are sitting pretty atop the Eastern Conference, making work of the Penguins this past weekend and making it look easy. John Tavares is living up to his studly name, contributing with 45 points (21G, 24A) and a 14% shooting percentage. 8 other Islanders, including two defensemen, have 20+ points so far on the season. With contributions coming from every line, if the defense gels up a bit more, they’re a serious playoff threat. Would be an interesting way to leave Long Island, for sure…
The All-Star selections came out yesterday, making it a huge topic of conversation since it’s been three years since the last All-Star game. Some basic facts to know about the game are that it’ll take place in Columbus this year, it takes place on Sunday, January 25 (two weeks!), and that each team has to have at least one representative there.
If you’re unfamiliar with the selection process, the first six players are selected by fan vote and the remainder is selected by a committee. Keeping in mind that each team needs a representative will help you with this list of “all stars,” but it still doesn’t sit well with me.
The New York Rangers are back home tonight, taking on the Carolina Hurricanes in the second game of their home-and-home. The Rangers eked out a shootout win last night in Raleigh, extending their winning streak to five games. Before their 4-1 win over Toronto the other day, Carolina had lost six in a row. They are a bottom-feeder in the Metro Division, and this is a home-and-home the Rangers need to take advantage of, turning those games in hand into points in the standings.
After last night’s win, the Rangers will be facing Carolina’s backup goalie, Anton Khudobin. Khudobin is pretty awful this year, with no wins in 9 starts and a 0.892 save percentage. The Rangers must take advantage of this and make the end of December their very own.
The Canes play a passive 1-2-2 on the forecheck and look to trap up the neutral zone. In their own end they run your standard low zone collapse. Not the most exciting of systems. On special teams, they run an umbrella powerplay, and a diamond/box hybrid PK.