Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Playoff Picks 2013

48 games in the books. Normally that would be a look at the halfway point in the season, but this year, the abbreviated season makes for an abbreviated prognostocation of the playoff race that is not.. abbreviated. I would do Western Conference picks up to the Conference Champs one day, and the Eastern picks the next. This year, why not put it under one roof. Also it's late and I am tired.

Western Conference Quarterfinals

#8 Minnesota Wild vs. #1 Chicago Blackhawks - Does anyone really think the Hawks are going to have the season they had to drop a playoff series to the Wild? As much as I like seeing the underdog take out the number one, the Wild haven't had enough consistency to get it done this season, even with big time summer signings. Sorry, but Hawks in 5.

Blackhawks defeat Wild in 5 games

#7 Detroit Red Wings vs. #2 Anaheim "Mighty" Ducks - New lease on life, the Ducks under the direction of Bruce Boudreau have proven to be a power house in the Western Conference. But, wait, where have we heard this tale before? The Red Wings are a sleeper team this year, and if they can finally put it together, you really can not count them out. Wings wake.

Red Wings defeat Ducks in 7 games

#6 San Jose Sharks vs. #3 Vancouver Canucks - The goaltender drama of the Canucks certainly caused an early stir for the Canucks, but the pair have put together a great backstopping tandem that added stability to Vancouver. This will be a great series, one for the record books. But the Sharks are playing well of late... so there.

Sharks defeat Canucks in 7 games

#5 Los Angeles Kings vs. #4 St. Louis Blues - A rematch of the Conference Semifinal a season ago, the Blues look to exact revenge against the reigning Stanley Cup Champions. Should be a good match up full of twists and turns and some pretty good hitting. Underdogs again, the Kings looked poised to make another deep run, not much the Blues can do about that.

Kings defeat Blues in 6 games.

Western Conference Champs

Yada yada yada, so on and so forth, bottom line is the Blackhawks make this post season their personal coming out party. So yea, Chicago wins the West.

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

#8 New York Islanders vs. #1 Pittsburgh Penguins - If any team sort of "over did" it to load its team with talent full of rentals to make the playoffs, then the Penguins are the mid-life crisis buyers of the NHL. Bringing in the big guns that included the stealing of Jarome Iginla from Boston, the Penguins are poised to push for the Cup even with out Sidney the first round or so. Islanders would be a fun underdog to watch though.

Penguins defeat Islanders in 6 games

#7 Ottawa Senators vs. #2 Montreal Canadiens - A team on the rise, the other stumbling into the playoffs. This was a hard one to dissect. Senators get Erik Karlsson back from injury and it should provide a short boost for the injury-riddled team. The Habs are a pretty fast talented team that could out talent the Senators.

Canadiens defeat Senators in 6 games

#6 New York Rangers vs. #3 Washington Capitals - I will break down this matchup in due time (we don't start until Thursday for Pete's sake). Caps playing stellar hockey down the stretch, Rangers sort of hanging around until a final push late in their season. Sorry Rags fans, no Ilander/Ranger series this year.

Capitals defeat Rangers in 7 games

#5 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. #4 Boston Bruins - For a team that going into the third period was a lock for the win, the Bruins have fallen into "no lead is safe" territory. The Maple Leafs are just begging to make an example out of them. Couple of interesting story lines with Phil Kessel returning to face Boston in the playoffs.

Bruins defeat Leafs in 5 games

Eastern Conference Champions

Everything points to the Penguins making it out of the East. They have the most talent that could include the return of one Sidney Crosby. But the road they have to traverse is full of teams that don't have the pressure they have to make it to the Finals. I don't think this team can plug all the holes in time. The Habs or Bruins are also favorites, but unless something extreme happens, Pens should take the East crown.

Stanley Cup Champs

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Picking a winner between two teams that didn't face each other in the short season. But to quickly make a decision, Blackhawks are far to good of a oiled machine for the patch work Penguins.

Blackhawks first team to repeat Cup champions since the '05 lockout.

There you go Chicago, you are welcome. Breaking down the Rags and Caps up next.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Trade Magic 2008

The Capitals have been here before. February 2008. The Capitals are three points from an eighth place playoff spot, five points from division leading Carolina. There was a new coach, a new system and they were pressing the division. George McPhee did something that a few thought might be a foolish move if the Caps failed to make the playoffs. He made some very good strategic trades.

He traded Matt Pettinger to Vancouver for Matt Cooke, sent a prospect defender in Ted Ruth to Columbus for Sergei Fedorov, acquired Cristobal Huet for a second round draft pick from Montreal. The would go on to win 11 of their last 12 games in route to win the division and make the playoffs by the skin of their teeth.

Does McPhee has another rabbit out of his hat to finalize the push to the playoffs. In this shortened season, just getting into the post season is the Caps goal. The best way for them to do that is to win their division. McPhee has some trade bait in Wotjek Wolski, and a couple of good prospects in Hershey, but the market is not as idea as it was back in 2008.

Because the season is short and so many teams are still in the hunt for a playoff spot, the market for trades is squeezed to its bare minimum. What would the Capitals need? Bigger up the middle with another center? A goaltender? Bolster the wingers, or the defensemen? What is out there for the Caps to acquire while not breaking the bank doing so. Not much, and the Capitals will do better to stand pat rather than make a senseless move out of fear of not making the playoffs.

That is because the Capitals are in a prime position to make the playoffs by winning their division. They are 10-3 against their own division. They are just two points from the division lead as the Winnipeg Jets struggle to get late season points. The door is open for the Capitals to make a move with the team they have now.

The Caps will have to continue to win. With 12 games left in the season, the Capitals will still have to win 8 of those games. It is a good thing 8 of the last 12 are at home. They can control their own fate, but they have to get points to keep the pressure on the division.