NHL Final Standings Predictions – EAST

nhl east standings -(3.26.2009)

UPDATE: Check out my Western Conference Predictions Here.

With just under 10 games left (give or take a couple of games) for most teams in the NHL, I decided that I’d take a crack at figuring out what the final standings (and therefore the first round of the playoffs) will look like in a couple of weeks.

This is the first post (of two) on this topic… here we’ll discuss the Eastern Conference and what might end up happening in the closing weeks of the regular season.  The Western Conference analysis will be up in a day or two, so check back for it.

Pictured to the right is the current playoff picture in the eastern conference (as of the morning of 3.26.2009)…

The EASTERN CONFERENCE:

Who’s in and who’s out:

Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and the NY Islanders are out of the playoff picture, and barring some sort of Miracle on Ice, Ottawa and Toronto players will also find themselves hitting the golf course following the end of the regular season.

Boston, New Jersey, and Washington are firmly planted as the division leaders of the East, and while a surge from Philadelphia or Carolina in the closing weeks is possible… I really don’t think that New Jersey or Washington will be displaced from their top 3 seeds.  Boston is guaranteed at least a top 3 seed going into the playoffs, as they have already won the Northeast division.

In-Depth Analysis:

nhl standings (east prediction)Based on my assumptions of winners and losers in the coming weeks.  I’ve compiled my prediction as to the final standings of the Eastern Conference.

These rankings are based on the assumption of teams finishing with the following records through their remaining games:

Boston (5-4) … The Bruins have been slumping a bit lately, and they play some teams fighting for their playoff lives.  At least 3 wins from their 4 games against Toronto, Tampa Bay, and Ottawa should be within reach.

New Jersey (6-3) … Despite a tough schedule including games against Chicago, a surging Carolina, Pittsburgh, and the NY Rangers, the Devils have a fresh Martin Brodeur back in their lineup which is something that none of those other guys have.  They have big, skilled players on all four forward lines, and they should march into the post-season as one of the most feared teams in the East.

Washington (5-2) … All 7 teams that the Capitals close out their season against are currently out of the playoff picture.  While opponents Buffalo and Florida are on the bubble,  5 games against Tampa Bay, Atlanta, the NY Islanders should guarantee the Capitals at least their 3rd overall seed going into the playoffs.  If New Jersey slips even a little, the Capitals will have every opportunity to pass them in the standings because of their mediocre opponents.

Philadelphia (6-4) … This team and Marty Biron are hot right now, and they have more games remaining than any other eastern conference team.  Six wins should be completely within reach.

Pittsburgh (6-1) … The Penguins are looking more and more like the team that swept through the eastern conference last year during the playoffs, as they are hot as ever right now.  I think they will out-duel Carolina down the stretch, and take the 5th seed in the east with as they continue their impressive recent play.

Carolina (4-2) … A victim of the numbers, Carolina only has 6 games remaining (fewer than any eastern conference team).  Pittsburgh and Carolina are hot right now, but with 1 fewer game left than the Penguins, and a schedule that includes 5 match ups against playoff contenders (2 against New Jersey), I don’t think that the Canes will be able to hold off the Penguins and maintain their 5th seed.

NY Rangers (4-4) … A 0.500 record should be attainable for the Rangers despite some tough competition.  They are looking good again, and the addition of Sean Avery has again seemed to help this team win games.  They won’t be impressive, but they won’t be disappointing in the closing weeks.

Montreal (3-6) … Montreal has not looked good or consistent lately, and this closing record matches their record over the last ten games fairly closely.  They seem to be a mess right now, and will be lucky to get more than 3 wins despite some decent match ups (on paper) in their remaining schedule.

Florida (4-4) … The Panthers seem to have lost the magic.  If they can re-gain it for one final push, they’ll pass the Canadians.  As it is, I have them tied in the final standings with Montreal (Montreal would win the tie-breaker).  The Panthers don’t receive much help from their schedule either, as they play 4 games against Washington, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, and 2 games against an always dangerous team, Atlanta.

Buffalo (4-5) … They just slipped to far in the standings while Miller was out of the lineup.  Their last five games are against New Jersey, Detriot, Toronto, Carolina, and Boston.  They’ll be extremely lucking if they win 1 or 2 of those.  They are a young squad and were inconsistant all year.  The future looks bright still for the Sabres… but I’m not sure how bright it looks for their coach.

Toronto (3-5) … Another year, another bubble finish.  Toronto prides themselves on finishing in the middle of the conference every year (just missing the playoffs, but guaranteeing themselves an average draft position).  With 5 games against Boston, Philadelphia, Montreal, and New Jersey, Toronto will not make the playoffs this year… and is merely going to be playing spoiler to teams looking to advance their position in the standings.

Ottawa (3-6) … Nope.  Not gonna happen.  The last couple of months have shown admirable improvement, but they dug themselves too deep early on.

Atlanta (4-4) … A good offensive team with a dynamic goalie who goes hot and cold is exactly what playoff teams don’t want to see this time of year.  Atlanta could play spoiler to a lot of teams, and I don’t think 4 wins is outlandish.  They can put up points and wins in bunches when hot.

Tampa Bay (2-7) … They will play spoiler, but probably aren’t as dangerous as the two teams currently above them.  Stamkos will continue to improve though, and with a high draft choice, and some stability from their general manager, they should be much better next year.

NY Islanders (2-7) … Looking to solidify their shot at the top draft pick in this summer’s draft.  Hedman or Tavares would go a loooong way for this team.  They’ll get a couple of wins, but I don’t see them playing balls to the wall and risking their chance at drafting a superstar.

 ——————–

Keep your eye out for part 2 where I’ll break down my thoughts on the western conference in the same fashion as I did above for the east.  It should be up within the next day or two.  Kudos to all you hockey nuts and Stanley Cup Playoff fans!  The highlight of the year is almost upon us!

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3 Responses to “NHL Final Standings Predictions – EAST”

  1. yourfriendandy Says:

    As much as I hate to admit it, your Sabres prediction sounds like it could be accurate. Although, last night’s win against Florida may have you rethinking this young Buffalo club:

    http://mintconditionpublishing.com/2009/03/26/sabre-tactics-buffalo-comes-back-to-defeat-florida-as-history-repeats-itself/

    Still, I disagree with your prediction that Lindy Ruff will be on the hot seat if the Sabres miss the post season. When guys like Pominville and Hecht lead the team in plus/minus rating, and Connolly and Stafford are too inconsistent to be reliable, it goes back to this club lacking leadership and consistency.

    Here’s to a run!

    Go Sabres!!

    -Andy

    • Don’t get me wrong, I think Lindy’s a great coach, but after the lockout, the sabres finished very high in the east for two seasons (1 of which they were the top team in the east). Since then they have somewhat floundered and struggled to play consistantly.

      While some (possibly most) of this could be attributed to the loss of Briere, Drury, and Campbell, I believe (as you suggest) that the problem could be a lack of leadership and desire. I consider the Head Coach of any team as the source of leadership and motivation.

      Other teams (vancouver, pittsburgh, new jersey, etc.) suffered without their starting goalies for periods this year… and yet all are likely to be playoff teams this year.

      There seems to be a fundamental problem in Buffalo since 2 years ago that became even more evident without Ryan Miller in the lineup. If they miss the playoffs this year, I think that every aspect of this team (from coaching, to the players, to the leadership, to possibly even the general management) will be under intense scrutiny.

  2. […] NHL Final Standings Predictions – WEST A couple of days ago, I decided that I’d take a crack at figuring out what the final standings (and therefore the first round of the playoffs) wou…. […]

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