Monday, April 13, 2009

It's The Playoffs, Stupid

You heard it here first. The roads to the Stanley Cup Final will lead through Newark and Detroit.

Do I mean that we'll see the Devils and Red Wings playing for the hardware? Not necessarily. But my feeling is that the teams that wind up in the Final, will either be those two or the team(s) that beat them. If you want to make it to the top, these are the teams to beat in my humble estimation.

Now why would I say this when the Bruins and Sharks have been at the top of the heap all year? Don't misunderstand; I'm not disparaging either of those teams or trying to minimize their accomplishments -- not for a minute. But take a hard look at what the Devils and Wings have done -- and the context for it. Both teams finished with 51 wins (the Sharks and Bruins finished with 53 each by comparison) and in the process won their respective divisions. Those two divisions though, account for half of the teams in the playoffs.

Detroit won another Central Division title. Ho-hum-yawn-big-deal, right? Detroit wins the Central division every year usually because the Central is a one- or at best two-horse race. Nobody other than Nashville has really challenged the Wings for supremacy in the division in years. This year, Nashville is the only Central team not in the playoffs. So the Red Wings didn't collect their 51 wins and 112 points by feasting on a weak division. And even though divisional play was (thankfully) scaled back from 8 games to 6 this year winning the Central was anything but a cakewalk for once.

Then there's New Jersey, who win the Atlantic Division almost as frequently as Detroit wins the Central. They did it again this year in a year when the Atlantic also has four representatives in the playoffs. But here's the kicker: They did it without Martin Brodeur for a large part of the year. Brodeur, who claimed the top spot in career wins by an NHL goalie this year, missed 50 games of the regular season and the Devils not only won the division, but a franchise record 51 games. When you can do that without the services of arguably the best goalie in history, I have to say you're the team to beat. But there's another wrinkle in the story. Marty Brodeur typically plays 70+ games a year. Being his backup is -- in most years -- the Maytag Repairman job of the NHL. This year, he's heading into the playoffs fresher than he's ever been because his body hasn't suffered the abuse of a 75-start regular season.

And in another statistical oddity, the Devils have played the Hurricanes in the playoffs three times since the 2000-2001 season. All three times, the winner of that series represented the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final. And the Devils first round opponent this year? The Carolina Hurricanes. This setup excites me because Carolina won two of those three previous meetings -- in 2002 and 2006.

The schedule was still being sorted when I checked last, but here are all of the matchups for those that care.

Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Round
(1) Boston Bruins (53-19-10 116) v. (8) Montreal Canadiens (41-30-11 93)
(2) Washington Capitals (50-24-8 108) v. (7) New York Rangers (43-30-9 95)
(3) New Jersey Devils (51-27-4 106) v. (6) Carolina Hurricanes (45-30-7 97)
(4) Pittsburgh Penguins (45-28-9 99) v. (5) Philadelphia Flyers (44-27-11 99)

Western Conference Quarterfinal Round
(1) San Jose Sharks (53-18-11 117) v. (8) Anaheim Ducks (42-33-7 91)
(2) Detroit Red Wings (51-21-10 112) v. (7) Columbus Blue Jackets (41-31-10 92)
(3) Vancouver Canucks (45-27-10 100) v. (6) St Louis Blues (41-31-10 92)
(4) Chicago Blackhawks (46-24-12 104) v. (5) Calgary Flames (46-30-6 98)

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me said...

I ment to write to you the other day when the B's were down 0-4 IN THE FIRST PERIOD. I wanted to say "see what these boys do to us"...but I got distracted. Our first series is such a crap shoot. We could win, but we could also CRASH AND BURN...we will see. Good luck to ya!

~Just Me Miranda~ said...

As usual, I'm surprised the Flames are even on there.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting the schedule ;)

Shadow said...

lemme guess.... you're a sports fan.