To continue my yearly tradition, I have made my predictions for the 2008-09 NHL postseason, for both the Eastern and Western Conferences.
I know that teams have an average of eight games remaining.
However, with the standings the way they are this season, all you need is a few games to alter the standings.
Please leave your comments on what you agree or disagree with!
1. Boston Bruins
Even with the New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals hot on their heals, the Bruins are likely to hold onto first in the East. In a twist of irony, they may be facing their biggest rivals for the second season in a row, but in switched positions.
To the advantage of the Bruins, their remaining games are versus teams who don't have the slightest chance of making the playoffs.
2. Washington Capitals
The Caps have just seven games remaining, four of them on the road—including the last three to close off the season. This looks to be a weakness for the Capitals, as their record on the road is very poor (.500).
This may be troublesome, as the Devils will also be fighting for first in the East. However, luckily enough, all of their remaining opponents are non-playoff teams (such as the Atlanta Thrashers and Tampa Bay Lightning).
3. New Jersey Devils
Had things gone differently for the Devils this season, especially had star goalie Martin Brodeur not been injured, it is quite possible that they would have accomplished the top spot in the East.
They have the advantage over the Washington Capitals by having played two fewer games. They may be just five points behind the Bruins, but they have a tougher schedule.
Most of their remaining games are against teams who are battling to make the playoffs (such as the Florida Panthers and Buffalo Sabres), as well as games against those who want to play spoiler (such as the Toronto Maple Leafs).
As all hockey fans know, the weaker teams are going to be hungrier for the win and are therefore more likely to do so.
4. Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers have been one of the hottest teams lately, winning their last three games. They are too far behind to catch up to the Devils, and have played two to three fewer games than the opponents trying to catch them.
Therefore, the Flyers will be stuck in fourth. They have some tough games ahead, including two against the New York Rangers and one against the Bruins.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins
From the start of the season, the Penguins swore they wouldn't have the Stanley Cup curse follow them—and for the most part, they actually did. After getting on a good pace, the Pens have gone from non-contenders to potential contenders. The part that may hurt them is three of their final eight games are versus the teams fighting for fifth place.
6. Montreal Canadiens
Most of you will likely disagree with this prediction, but it is not too farfetched. The Panthers are fighting to steal over that eighth and final playoff spot, but the Habs have played fewer games than the three teams they are chasing—the Canes, Pens, and Rangers.
Montreal has one of the best home records, and five of their final nine are to be played at home. Their final three games will be the most crucial, when they face the Rangers and Bruins on the road, followed by the Pens at home. They also have four games against non-playoff-contentending teams.
7. Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes are also one of the teams with a horrid record on the road. To make matters worse for them, five of their final seven games are against playoff teams, with two of them on the road (both against the New Jersey Devils).
8. New York Rangers
The Rangers have been one of those questionable teams, with shaky streaks, while bouncing in and out of the playoff positions. Unfortunately for the Rangers, seven of their eight remaining games are against the teams who currently hold a playoff spot.
They could be the team that can cause ruckus in the final standings when the year is done. The Rangers have a terrible road record (below .500), and half of their games will be away from The Garden.
To summarize, I predict the Eastern Conference quarter-finals to look as so:
Boston Bruins (1) vs. New York Rangers (8)
Washington Capitals (2) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (7)
New Jersey Devils (3) vs. Montreal Canadiens (6)
Philadelphia Flyers (4) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (5)
(see Part Two for the Western Conference predictions)