2010 NHL Playoff Study Guide

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by Bryan Vickroy

Game on!!!  The greatness that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs has arrived for everyone to revel in.  The most exciting hockey of the year, coupled with the most intense drama in sports allows us to enjoy hockey well into the summer.  This  years cast of characters include some regulars, along with some new stars looking to shine for the first time on the big stage.  The grandeur of the Olympic tournament raised the stakes, and viewership, for the game.  This is the time to capitalize on it.  The following is a quick overview of the important factors in the chase for the Cup.  Because, admit it, you haven’t kept track of anything, it is hockey after all.  So enjoy the next few months, enjoy these facts, and attempt to benefit from them if you dare.  As study guide salesman Nelson Muntz says, “I can’t be held responsible for a few bad apples.” One team is sixteen wins away from glory.  Who will it be?
Top 10 Questions/Storylines
1. Will there be a rubber match for the Stanley Cup between Pittsburgh and Detroit?
2. Will the Sharks finally get over the hump and compete for a Cup?
3. Ovechkin is the better overall player than Crosby, but will he get his ring?
4. Can Chicago show that they are the legit team that everyone believes and advance deep again?
5. Can Vancouver keep their heads straight and complete the Canadian dream; a gold medal and Stanley cup won on the same ice?
6. Ilya Kovalchuk finally has a chance to play meaningful hockey after his trade to New Jersey
7. Can Ryan Miller perform more of his Olympic magic and carry the Sabres on a deep run?
8. Phoenix Coyotes playoff hockey.  Will the “Whiteout” return, and will it work if the seats aren’t filled?
9. With a young, inexperienced roster, who will the LA Kings play in net?
10. Can the kids in Colorado get up after hitting the wall, and make some playoff noise?
Best Series
1.  San Jose vs. Colorado
-Lots of youth, lots of talent, lots of speed, and quality goaltending.
2.  Vancouver vs. Los Angeles
3.  New Jersey vs. Philadelphia
-Old fashioned hockey matchup.  Expect lots of hitting, a little blood, and defense.
4.  Phoenix vs. Detroit
5.  Pittsburgh vs. Ottawa
6.  Washington vs. Montreal
-Two of the loudest places to play, but the talent disparity is too high
7.  Chicago vs. Nashville
8.  Buffalo vs. Boston
Best bet for overtime games.  Both teams are stingy, and have goalies who refuse to be beat.

The Defending Champs
-Pittsburgh Penguins
-Detroit Red Wings
Favorites
-Washington Capitals
-San Jose Sharks
Darkhorses
-Philadelphia Flyers
-Vancouver Canucks
Running on Fumes
-Montreal
-Colorado
Last Dance Together
-New Jersey
-Chicago
Cinderellas
-Buffalo
-Phoenix
Something to Prove
-Boston
-Nashville
Happy To Be Here
-Ottawa
-Los Angeles
Goalie Rankings
1.  Buffalo (R. Miller)
-The best goalie on the planet singlehandedly delivered a divisional title, not to mention that silver medal.
2.  Vancouver (R. Luongo)
3.  New Jersey (M. Brodeur)
4.  Boston (T. Rask, T. Thomas)
5.  Pittsburgh (M. Fleury)
6.  Detroit (J. Howard, C. Osgood)
-Howard won the job early in the season, but Osgood, love or hate him, has the playoff pedigree if the rookie gets shellshocked.
7.  Washington (J. Theodore, S. Marlamov)
8.  San Jose (E. Nabakov)
9.  Montreal (C. Price, J. Halak)
10.  Phoenix (I. Bryzgalov)
-Many people feel Bryzgalov deserves not only a Vezina, but an MVP award as well.  Coyotes success rides on his shoulders.
11.  Nashville (P. Rinne)
12.  Chicago (A. Niemi, C. Huet)
13.  Colorado (C. Anderson)
14.  Ottawa (B. Elliot, P. Leclaire)
15.  LA (J. Quick, J. Bornstein, E. Ersberg)
-Quick is 0-8 recently, and hasn’t won since March 22.  He could see a quick hook without results.
16.  Philadelphia (B. Boucher)
Top 16 Players
Alex Ovechkin, LW, Washington
Henrik Sedin, C, Vancouver
Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh
-Showed a stronger scoring touch this year to go with his mastery of clutch moments.
Ryan Miller, G, Buffalo
Chris Pronger, D, Philadelphia
-Best defenseman in the game was brought in specifically for playoff hockey.  He’s a proven Cup winner.
Zach Parise, LW, New Jersey
Daniel Sedin, LW, Vancouver
Joe Thorton, C, San Jose
Evgeni Malkin, C, Pittsburgh
Henrik Zetterberg, C, Detroit
-The silent assassin who keeps the motor going for a dangerous team.  Dangerous on all units.
Patrick Kane, RW, Chicago
Patrick Marleau, C, San Jose
-Stripped of captain “C” for last years playoff fiasco.  This is the time of year he disappears.
Ilya Kovalchuk, LW, Atlanta
Dany Heatley, LW, San Jose
Roberto Luongo, G, Vancouver
Martin Brodeur, G, New Jersey
Offensive Rankings
Washington
-Top scoring team in the league has the reigning MVP and best player, Alexander Ovechkin.
Vancouver
-Had six 25 goal scores this year, including the scoring champ, Henrik Sedin
Chicago
San Jose
Pittsburgh
Colorado
-Rookies drove their offense all year.  Matt Duchense at less than 100% could be devastating.
Philadelphia
Buffalo
Los Angeles
Detroit
Ottawa
Nashville
New Jersey
-Not a deep or offensive minded team, but have two of the best snipers around in Kovalchuk and Parise.
Phoenix
Montreal
Boston
Defensive Rankings
New Jersey
–Jaques Lemaire and his infamous trap once again rule in Jersey.  Everyone needs to buy in for it to succeed.
Boston
-The worst offensive team in the league gets by on the skill of the world’s largest defenseman, Zdeno Chara, and a goalie with a sub 2.0 goals against.
Phoenix
Buffalo
Chicago
-Gave up the fewest shots per game this season, which helps keep a rookie goalie settled on the back end.
Detroit
San Jose
Los Angeles
Montreal
Vancouver
Nashville
-Most underrated defenseman in the game, Shea Weber, is the man who shuts down opposing team’s top line, keeping them in games.
Philadelphia
Washington
Colorado
Ottawa
Pitttsburgh
Special Team Rankings
1.  San Jose
-Roll two equally skilled groups on each top 5 ranked unit.  Possibly most dangerous #1 power play unit in the league.
2.  Montreal
3.  Philadelphia
4.  Detroit
5.  Washington
-Top power play unit in the league, but 7th worst penalty kill.  Equalize on their own with shorthanded goals.
6.  Buffalo
7.  New Jersey
8.  Vancouver
9.  Chicago
10.  Los Angeles
11.  Boston
12.  Pittsburgh
-One of league’s highest scoring teams actually less proficient with the man advantage than 5 on 5.
13.  Ottawa
14.  Colorado
15.  Phoenix
– Had 28th ranked power play, but 6th best penalty kill in the league this year.
16.  Nashville
Playoff Atmosphere
Detroit
-Dingy old building, but the atmosphere is electric, winning is expected, and the octopi fly.
Chicago
Montreal
-The best atmosphere in the NHL.  Stanley Cup banners cover the ceiling of the biggest arena in the league.
San Jose
Vancouver
Philadelphia
Pittsburgh
-The Igloo (Mellon Arena) is in its swan song.  Soon it will crumble like the end of a Van Damme movie, and a casino/arena will take its place.
Washington
Buffalo
Colorado
Boston
New Jersey
Los Angeles
Must compete with the Laker’s quest for another ring.  Can the Gretzky era passion be brought back to Tinseltown?
Ottawa
Nashville
Phoenix
Power Rankings
Chicago (52-22-8)
San Jose (51-20-11)
Vancouver (49-28-5)
-Spent more than two months away from home due to the Olympics and Paralympics.  Road tested and ready to bring the Cup back to Canada.
Washington (54-15-13)
Buffalo (45-27-10)
Detroit  (44-24-14)
Pittsburgh (47-28-7)
Los Angeles (46-27-9)
Philadelphia (41-35-6)
-A shootout victory on the last day of the season got them into the playoffs.  Their experience hopes to carry them further.
Colorado (43-30-9)
New Jersey (48-27-7)
Ottawa (44-32-6)
-Former Badger goalie Brian Elliot has taken over in net for the Senators and looks to backstop his way to a professional title.
Nashville (47-29-6)
Phoenix (50-25-7)
Montreal (39-33-10)
Boston (39-30-13)
-Lucking into the 2nd pick in this years draft won’t help them score goals, but a hot rookie and a Vezina winner on the bench have no problem keeping them out.

Playoff Predictions
Western, 1st Round
-1.San Jose over 8.Colorado
-5.Detroit over 4.Phoenix
-3.Vancouver over 6.Los Angeles
-2.Chicago over 7.Nashville
Eastern, 1st Round
-1.Washington over 8.Montreal
-4.Pittsburgh over 5.Ottawa
-3.Buffalo over 6.Boston
-2.New Jersey over 7.Philadelphia
Western, Semifinals
-1.San Jose over 5.Detroit
-2.Chicago over 3.Vancouver
Eastern, Semifinals
-1.Washington over 4.Pittsburgh
-3.Buffalo over 2.New Jersey
Western, Finals
-1.San Jose over 2.Chicago
Eastern, Finals
-1.Washington over 3.Buffalo
Stanley Cup Finals
-(1E)Washington over (1W)San Jose
Conn Smythe:  Alex Ovechkin, Capitals

There you have it.  All the essentials to a proper playoff experience.  The game is a different style and speed this time of year.  Whistles are swallowed, bodies are given up, and crashing the net is king.  At the end of it all, one worthy winner will hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup.  Catch as many games as you possibly can, because nothing is finer than playoff hockey!
Bryan Vickroy is wrapped up in the traditional home white The Sports Bank sweater, and saving hockey in America one shift at a time.  Keep an eye out for expanded playoff coverage and news as the Chase for the Cup continues.  You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/bryanvickroy.
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Comments

  1. paulmbanks says

    Damn Hayden Panieteiree (sp??) is one fine piece of ass

  2. paulmbanks says

    Go Hawks!!!!

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