Predictions, predictions, and more predictions...
New Jersey clinched a playoff spot earlier this week, although they struggled on their three-game road trip going 0-2-1. Zach Parise notched his 42nd goal of the season, and Brodeur made 39 saves (including 19 in the first period) in the Devils 3-2 OT loss to the Blackhawks Friday night.
Meanwhile, all Carolina has done is rally off five straight wins, one of those being against the Devils. Cam Ward, Rod Brind'Amour, and Eric Staal have been great lately for the 'Canes. After mid-season struggles, Ward has looked solid in net and has closed the door late in games.
They've went from battling for a playoff spot to battling for home ice in the first round. With four of their last six games at home, they have a great opportunity of accomplishing that feat.
The Hurricanes are well rested, having last played on Wednesday, whereas the Devils played in Chicago the night before. Hurricanes stay hot...Hurricanes win.
The Flyers currently hold down the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the surging Hurricanes. Jeff Carter regained his scoring touch last week after being in a bit of a slump. He is up to 41 goals on the season. Briere is back, Biron is solid, and shutdown pair Timmonen and Parent are gelling.
The Islanders are....the Islanders. Flyers win.
The Senators fail to quit, and are still mathematically involved in the playoff race. Heatley, Spezza, and Alfredsson have been re-united (again for the nth time this season), and are scoring. The new coach has the team playing with intensity again, and it seems the pressure is off the Ottawa Senators. However, their lack of depth and secondary scoring will soon elminate them from playoff contention.
Atlanta has been good as of late too. Kozlov and Kovalchuk are a two-man wrecking crew, and Hedberg has won his last two starts. But after their six-game winning streak, they are 2-3 with some bad losses to Montreal, Detroit, and Pittsburgh.
This game could go either way, but I think Ottawa has more to play for and have been playing well for the past 3 weeks. Ottawa wins.
The Stars' season has been similar to taking a ride on a Six Flags roller-coaster. They started the season terribly, in last place in the Western Conference, then fought into the playoffs once departing with Sean Avery, and now have lost five straight and are losing ground fast in race for eighth. This all after the season they surprised many people in reaching the Western Conference Finals. Coach Dave Tippett has some work cut out for him, or else he could be gone for the start of next season.
Florida still has a great chance of making the playoffs for the first time in eight years, but if they are going to make it, they have to get better goal-tending from Tomas Vokoun. Coach DeBour says he is going to ride Vokoun the rest of the season and hope for the best. Improved play from Jay Bouwmeester is also necessary if they hope to qualify for postseason action.
Florida has much more to play for, and I hope they can make the playoffs. Panthers win.
Both teams are looking good, but one has to be great in order to make the playoffs. Columbus has a little breathing room from the seventh seed after a convincing 5-0 beat-down on the Flames. Similar to the Panthers, they too are trying to make the postseason for the first time in their history (eight years). Steve Mason leads the league with 10 donuts, and the defensive yet explosive Blue Jackets could be a tough opponent in the playoffs.
St. Louis has been one of the hottest teams in the Western Conference lately, but still are one point behind eighth place. As I mentioned in Part I http://bleacherreport.com/articles/146518-chris-saturday-selections-part-i-can-toronto-do-it-again, they are one of the few teams hovering around the bubble which are playing well at this time. Chris Mason is a stellar 17-6-5 in his last 28 games. In fact, if they win tonight and Nashville loses to LA, they will wake up tomorrow in the top eight.
This game is the closest you can get to a "pick-em" game. Both teams are playing well at the right time. In the end, it'll come down to who is the better Mason on Saturday night, Steve for Columbus, or Chris for St. Louis. This is the Blues second to last home game of the regular season (ironically both are against Columbus), so they have to look good in front of their fans and give them hope. Blues win.
Minnesota Wild (35-31-8 - 78 pts) @ Calgary Flames (42-26-6 - 90 pts)
Calgary has been struggling as of late, and I'm a bit concerned. Iginla isn't scoring, Cammalleri isn't scoring, Langkow isn't scoring, NOBODY IS SCORING. Watching them lose on television has been unbearable so I decided to get tickets for the game tonight to help change our luck. It'll be a tough task to score on Minnesota's usual stingy defense and top goaltender Niklas Backstrom.
Calgary's lead in the Northwest division is but a single point over Vancouver. Vancouver has (unfortunately) come on strong lately and some a-hole who wears No. 14 is scoring lots lately. The Flames and Canucks meet one more time this season in Vancouver, and that could be the difference between the third seed and the fifth seed.
Calgary hopes to continue its dominance over the Northwest division tonight. The Flames are 4-for-4 against the Wild this season, and I know the Saddledome will be rocking tonight.
Oh yeah, Minnesota is two points out of eighth place in a tight race for the final playoff spot. Nevertheless, Flames win.
In the final game of a busy Saturday in the NHL, San Jose looks to grab the outright lead over Detroit for the best record in the NHL. They are currently tied with 107 pts. With the Phoenix Coyotes visiting the Shark Tank, they have pretty good chances.
To the Coyotes credit, they are 3-1-1 in their last five games, holding notable victories over Vancouver and coincidentally San Jose. Shane Doan has picked up the scoring a bit as of late, and Bryzgalov has made some excellent saves.
San Jose does have 30 wins at home for a reason...they are good. Sharks win.
Thanks for reading my Saturday Selections for this week. Till next week let the pucks stay frozen and the games be amamamazing!