With the NHL's regular season finishing up this past weekend, it's of course time for one thing:
Everybody and their mother makes playoff predictions.
But here's the thing. I don't bring in my mother.
Last year, it was Ron Burgundy. The year before? Frank Drebin.
This year? Well we went with a camp-full. The M*A*S*H Camp.
Hawkeye: Why are we even doing this? I don’t even like sports!
BJ: Well that depends on who you ask.
Radar: Hey guys, did you know that the Super Bowl surpassed our record for “highest ratings” this year?
Hawkeye: Reaaaalllly Radar. Well you know what this means Beej.
Hawkeye: We’re not doing this anymore. Back to the drink!!
BT: Hold on, hold on. No one’s drinking until this is done. Or at least partway done.
Klinger: Which razors do I use for my legs…should I use the same ones I use on my face?
BT: Never mind. Pass me that martini.
1. Washington Capitals vs. 8. Montreal Canadiens
Frank: You know sir, I’m thinking of picking against Washington this year.
Colonel Potter: And why’s that Frank?
Frank: Well you see sir, I don’t think that Ovechkin is very good. He’s no AMERICAN hockey player that’s for sure. He’s never going to win you a war. And that Canadian Mike GREEN? Please, I think Washington is done in four.
Col. Potter: Major Burns?
Frank: Yes sir?
Col. Potter: Thank you.
Frank: For what?
Col. Potter: Well I was worried that I'd still be stuck in the days of Bobby Orr, or the Mahovoliches and the Richards and I'd look like an idiot. But you've gone and done that for me. Thank you.
BT: It didn’t matter who the Capitals were going to face. Anyone would need a whole heap of luck.
They were the first team since the 2006/07 Buffalo Sabres to score 300 goals in a season. They also had a 50, a 40, a 33, and four 20-goal scorers, and two 100-point players.
Washington had the best power play in the league (25.2%), the highest goals-per-game average (3.82) since the 2005/06 Ottawa Senators averaged 3.8 a game, and the highest scoring defenseman in the league for the last two seasons.
Is it true that the Canadiens had the second-best power play in the league? Yes. It’s also true that their penalty kill was better (83% efficiency compared to 78%) than Washingtons.
What bodes well for the Caps though, is that Montreal has more question marks.
The Montreal Canadiens stumbled to the end with a 3-4-3 record, were one of just two Eastern Conference teams to make the playoffs with a negative goal differential, and finished the season 2/17 with the man advantage.
And what about in net? Jaroslav Halak slowed down as he neared the playoffs winning two of his last six and allowing 11 goals over his last three games. But you’ve also got Carey Price, who just can’t seem to buy a break (or a goal from his teammates).
Speaking of Carey Price, despite the Canadiens owning a winning record against the Caps this year (2-1-1), the beleaguered netminder was in net for all four of those games, meaning that Halak has yet to see the Caps this year.
And if you want even more on the goaltending battle, Seymon Varlamov played the first game between these two teams for Washington, while Michael Neuvirth started the next three.
The only time Montreal got a look at former-Hab Jose Theodore? In relief of Neuvirth in a game pre-Olympic break.
I guess we’ll find out if unfamiliarity breeds success or trouble.
Season Series: Montreal won 2-1-1-0, Washington outscored Montreal 16-14
BT Says: Washington in Five
M*A*S*H (made by Frank) predicts: Montreal in Six
2. New Jersey Devils vs. 7. Boston Bruins
A lot of people are saying that the Olympics proved that Martin Brodeur might not be what he once when it matters.
While Brodeur has allowed just seven goals in his last seven games (Including two shutouts) and has just three regulation losses since March 10, he’s also played 77 games this year.
Whether you’re Martin Brodeur or not, that’s a lot of games. Especially at age 37.
Coming in to these playoffs, Brodeur has not had the track record we’re so used to during springtime hockey.
In five of the last seven playoffs, the Devils have failed to play ten games. Actually, in their four previous series before Carolina took them to game seven last year, the Devils had been eliminated in five games in each final series (Including two second-round appearances).
There has always been that strong defensive aspect to the Devils, their defense, and Martin Brodeur, but now the Devils have two dangerous offensive weapons in Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk (Who’s now found his place in New Jersey with 15 points in his last 11 games).
In the Philadelphia Flyers though, the Devils get a long-time division opponent who have battled through goaltending injuries, failed expectations, and a mid-season coaching change just to get to this point.
The Devils are healthy and hungry this playoff run because of those previous exits, but it may just come down to whether Philly’s 232 goals-for can knock a dent in New Jersey’s league-best 186 goals-against.
Obviously the 90 combined goals from Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Danny Briere can’t go missing either.
B.J: Father, isn’t it a little odd for you be picking the Devils?
Father Mulcahy: You would think that B.J, what with the symbolism and all, but it’s really not.
F.M: You see, as a Priest I’m attracted to greatness, and I have a great deal of respect for those that do their job to the best of it’s ability and ascend themselves to that next level. It’s that admiration and respect that I carry for Martin Brodeur. One of the best goalies, not just of our generation, but of all time.
B.J: But couldn’t you argue that Sean Avery is one of the best agitators?
F.M: You could. But I don’t cheer for him.
B.J: Why not?
F.M: Well you see….he’s a ninny.
Season Series: Flyers won 4-2-1-0, Philadelphia outscored New Jersey 20-13
BT says: New Jersey in Seven
M*A*S*H predicts: New Jersey in six
3. Buffalo Sabres vs. 6. Boston Bruins
Like the Devils and Flyers, the Bruins taking on the Sabres is a divisional matchup ripe with intrigue.
Obviously you have the underlying storyline of the Sabres being an afterthought so often in a division that features matchups with historical implications (three Original Six teams) and hated rivals (Toronto/Montreal vs. Ottawa).
Now they can flex their muscle over last year’s division champs and prove they’re here to stay after some monumental losses of talent earlier in the decade.
Ryan Miller has put together a Vezina-worthy season that was nearly won him a Gold Medal in February, and many people have that near-success pegged as a primer for these playoffs.
If you were going to try to compare goalies, despite Tuukka Rask’s improbable and impressive rookie campaign, he’ll have a lot of work ahead of him if he wants to best Ryan Miller.
But it can’t come down to him alone. What Rask will need, is help from his team—which he’s gotten all year.
While the Bruins have struggled to score following the trade of Phil Kessel and the injury to Marc Savard (and let’s not forget Dennis Seidenberg’s recent departure too), their play as a team defensively has been outstanding. They allowed the ninth-fewest goals in the league during even-strength play, and were second-best overall to the New Jersey Devils allowing just 191 total during the season. Their penalty-kill also ended up being third-best in the league, working at an 86.4% clip.
The problem however, is that Buffalo won’t be holding anything back offensively.
There are some similarities: Both the penalty kills (86.6% for Buffalo) and power plays (34 PPG scored by Buffalo, 30 by Boston) are close, but overall scoring presents a big discrepancy to overcome.
Simply put: The Buffalo Sabres scored 35 more goals than the Bruins, and their attack is much more balanced. It’ didn’t exactly help Buffalo during the regular season, but a more concentrated matchup should see Buffalo come out on top.
Hawkeye: So Charles, I’m assuming you’ll be cheering for Boston.
Winchester: Ah Pierce. You know me all too well. I love the Bruins as much as I love the Boston Philharmonic, working at Massachusetts General, or good ol’ Harvard.
Hawkeye: You know what I like Charles?
Winchester: I’m assuming it’s something illogical and juvenile. And No. I don’t know. Nor do I want to.
Hawkeye: Well I hardly think that’s fair—especially because I’m being serious here Charles. You can’t be in a war and not know anything about anyone else.
Winchester: Well in the way I lead my days I think it’s plain I disagree. However, if you’re sincere I suppose…what is it you enjoy Pierce?
Hawkeye: Your bald spot.
Season Series: Boston won 4-2-0-0, Boston outscored Buffalo 15-10
BT says: Buffalo….in seven.
M*A*S*H predicts: Boston in six
4. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 5. Ottawa Senators
Despite the fact the Penguins aren’t necessarily where many think they should be (A majority had them winning the Atlantic Division), there’s no reason to think that hurts their potential to repeat.
Overlooking the fact they’re not the hottest team heading in to the playoffs (just 5-4-1 in their last ten), they’ve had the second-most dangerous offense in the Eastern Conference all season (Their 257 goals scored is second only to Washington’s 318).
If you want to look for an advantage in special teams, it’s hard to find one. The Penguins and Senators are separated by just 0.03%, and have identical (84%) success rates on the penalty kill. Stranger still is the fact that these two teams have nearly the exact same goals-allowed-per-game rating as well (Pittsburgh is at 2.87 while Ottawa is at 2.84).
While it seems obvious, the biggest advantage that Pittsburgh has over Ottawa, is Sidney Crosby.
Although Marc-Andre Fleury has the advantage over Brian Elliott (and Pascal Leclaire) in the crease and Pittsburgh’s defense is much more experienced and complete, it’s the fact that the lone 100-point man (in fact, the lone 80+ point man) in this series belongs to Pittsburgh in the guise of the Whiz Kid Sidney Crosby.
Throughout the season, Ottawa has done a great job of containing Crosby. In their four games against him, they’ve allowed just three assists to him—all of those coming in one game. But down the stretch, Crosby has been scoring at a monumental pace earned four 3+ point games in his last seven.
And speaking of scoring: It’ll be interesting to see how the Ottawa attack positions itself with the long-term loss of Alex Kovalev.
The Sens have their work cut out for themselves against a team that’s hungry to prove that they can be the NHL’s next dynasty.
Col. Potter: Radar…can you grow a beard?
Radar: Maybe if you asked real nice…but no sir. Why?
Col. Potter: Damn….I was hoping we’d at least be able to do something Sidney Crosby couldn’t.
Season Series: 2-2-0-0, Pittsburgh outscored Ottawa 15-13
BT says: Penguins in Five
M*A*S*H Predicts: Penguins in Six
BT and M*A*S*H will be back with the Western Conference picks later this week. Be sure to check out BT on Twitter at BryanThiel_88. Also, you can get in contact with Bryan via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow his other work at Hockey54.com—The Face of the Game!