29 April 2009

End of round 1, Round 2 Picks

Two great finishes last night in first round game 7's.

Veteran G Sergei Federov scored the game winner for the Caps with under 5 minutes to play to lead them to a 2-1 victory.

And the Carolina Hurricanes got two goals in the final 90 seconds to stun the Devils 4-3.

As for my first round picks, my correct predictions...

Detroit over Columbus in 7 (actual DET 4-0)
You may have blinked and missed the fact the Blue Jackets made their first playoff appearance. Columbus didn't put up a fight except a little in game 4. The Red Wings look like the new favorites.

Chicago over Calagary in 7 (actual CHI 4-2)
Chicago got a good road victory to close out the Flames

Boston over Montreal in 5 (actual BOS 4-0)
Good sweep, good team.

Washington over New York Rangers in 6 (actual WSH 4-3).
The Caps had to rally from down 3 games to 1 to put this in my correct column. Repalcing G Jose Theodore with Simeon Varlamov turned this series around. The Caps future looks bright if Varlamov keeps playing well.

The Wrong Picks (my excuses)...

San Jose over Anaheim (ANA 4-2)
This one dissapointed everyone. The Sharks have got to keep playing well in the playoffs or they seem doomes for early exits.

St. Louis over Vancouver (VAN 4-0)
So this one was wishful thinking. The Blues were a good second half story, but it turned out I underestimated the Canucks who have a very interesting series in the next round.

New Jersey over Carolina (CAR 4-3)
I was 90 seconds from getting this one right, but I did say Carolina was a tough team for a #6 seed. They never give up, I would be a little concerned if I were Boston.

Philadelphia over Pittsburgh (PIT 4-2)
I definatly underestimated Pittsburgh's toughness and the Flyers Just collapsed in game 6.

All right, here are my round 2 selections

Western Conference

#2 Detroit v. #8 Anaheim
Detroit looks like they found their playoff legs and they will be well rested. I didn't see anything that led me to believe the Ducks are any better than their finish, their victory was mostly the product of a Sharks collapse. A lot of people will get on the Ducks bandwagon, but I absolutly love this matchup for the Wings.

Detroit in 5

#3 Vancouver v. #4 Chicago
This is going to be the most entertaining series in this round. Both teams finished strong. Chicago has more offensive power, but they will be against Canucks G Roberto Luongo, who played stunningly well in the first round. This one is tough

Chicago in 7

Eastern Conference

#1 Boston v. #6 Carolina
The Bruins are very young but very powerful. The 'Canes never quit winning 2 of their 4 games in the final minute against New Jersey. The 'Canes are better than the standings showed (I attribute that to the 'Canes getting the fewest "extra points" in the regular season), and that was a really good Devils team they beat. Boston is young and may be overconfident after decimating a bad Montreal team. Still their getting good goaltending and lots of scoring. I wouldn't be shocked if the 'Canes pull this one out but...

Boston in 7

#2 Washington v. #4 Pittsburgh
The Matchup the NHL probably wanted. Get ready for overload on Sid v. Ovechkin marketing. I think the Caps got the ship right and can go as far as suddenly #1 goaltender Varmalov can take them. Also Federov is not looking his age. Lots to like about the caps here.

Washington in 6

My bracket from here (I lost both Finalists in the first round)
Detroit over Chicago
Washington over Boston
Detroit over Washington

16 April 2009

Doug Risebrough Fired...

In a still breaking story Minnesota Wild General Manager Doug Risebrough has not been renewed for next season with the club:

http://www.twincities.com/wild/ci_12156501

Weatherwise, it's already a beautiful day in the State of Hockey. But after hearing this news, the sun got even brighter, the birds we're singing even sweeter.

If Lemaire's resignation was the first sad news of the summer, this very much is the first good news. Risebrough started this season without adequate forwards for their roles (Sheppard, Pouliot) and failed to make the deals that would've provided depth at center. Furthermore he gutted the team, and got nothing in return to clear cap room for Gaborik, who he was never going to be able to sign anyway.

On Gaborik, I'm not sure if this is an effort to keep him as some of the early posters on twincities.com have suggested. I think, unless they can get him at a real good deal, they're better off letting him walk and using the cap space to get another center and maybe squeeze in another wing. I don't think there's going to be a massive bidding war for free agents this summer with the cap likley to stay put. The free agent vaules will be better this summer compared to the last couple of summers for sure (Johnsson at 5M, really?).

I admire Leopold's courage. I'd like to think this had something to do with my online petition I started on Saturday, but no one signed it (I should've made an active hyperlink, and at least sign it myself, details). More honestly, I'd like to think this had more to do with pressure from season ticket holders. The local media was absolutley absent on blaming Doug for any of this. They were always quick to question if Lemaire's defense first coaching was the problem, but clearly this has been a personnel issue ever since Sheppard was 2nd on the Center depth list before the season.

I don't want to dump on Sheppard, but he was too young for what Dougie expected, Koivu had the benefit of being a 3rd or 4th liner for several seasons before being the top Center last year.

So while I admire Mr. Leipold for this move, he is in a pretty tough spot. The draft is less than 2 months away and he needs a GM in place that can hire a coach before then. I'll admit I'm pretty ignorant of who's available as GM's go. I still expect next season to be a "rebuilding year," so maybe Leipold might give someone their first shot instead of an retread.

I'm not sure how much improvement this means for the team next season. It really depends on how the summer goes, but I would still guess they're around even money to make the playoffs (as most teams are). However, a few seasons down the line, hopefully the goal of making the Wild perennial contenders (which we fans were promised in the earlier) will finally be realized, instead of torn apart by Dougie's cheapness every time it seems they're close.

14 April 2009

Playoff Predictions

Okay here are my NHL Playoff Picks

WESTERN CONFERENCE

#1 San Jose v. #8 Anaheim

The Sharks seem to have their groove back despite an injury ravaged second half. The Ducks seem like they'll be overpowered quite easily

San Jose in 5

#2 Detroit v. #7 Columbus

This is going to be a tough one for the defending champion Red Wings. They still boast the deepest defense and a very deep offense. But as it always seems to be with the Wings, it's goaltending and age that could prove to be their heel. The Blue Jackets bring a very young and aggressive team into their first playoff appearance. But I think experience wins out here

Detroit in 7

#3 Vancouver v. #6 St. Louis

The Blues are the hottest team in the second half of the season, but thanks to a strong finish the Canucks were able to wrestle away the Northwest title from the Flames in the final weekend. This should prove to be a good series, but I'm going to take the upset here.

St. Louis in 6

#4 Chicago v. #5 Calgary

Unlike the above series both of these teams finished heading in the wrong direction. I think the Blackhawks are more solid and Kippersoff's having an average year for the Flames.

Chicago in 7

EASTERN CONFERENCE

#1 Boston v. #8 Montreal

This series will be billed as a traditional clash between original six franchises. However, from a competitive standpoint Boston looks too tough, unless G Tim Thomas falls apart. I love the Bruins here

Boston in 5

#2 Washington v. New York Rangers

This is another series the networks will be happy to have. Lots of star power, lots of stories. This might be a chance for Caps G Jose Theodore to finally get off to a good start, as the Rangers are team that's had lots of trouble.

Washington in 6

#3 New Jersey v. #6 Carolina

The Devils are a new team since G Martin Brodeur returned from his injury. But they drew an underrated Hurricanes team that could give them some trouble. This will be a tough series.

New Jersey in 6

#4 Pittsburgh v. #5 Philadelphia.

These teams finished tied at the end of the season, but I think the Flyers are better built for the playoffs. They're tougher and more durable and capapble of slowing the Penguins attack.

Philadelphia in 6

If I have to fill out the rest of my "bracket" it would be

San Jose over St. Louis in 6
Detroit over Chicago in 6
Boston over Philadelphia in 5
New Jersey over Washington in 7

San Jose over Detroit in 7
New Jersey over Boston in 6

San Jose over New Jersey in 7

13 April 2009

Lemaire "resigns", Alternate Standings, and more...

Lemaire Resigns

The only coach the Wild has ever known, Jacques Lemaire resigned on Saturday. I'm very sorry to hear this as coaches like him are very rare. Personally, I'm very glad for him, because it seems the front office never gave him the support and never followed through on their stated mission to build this team to be perennial contenders.

Despite vague shows of support, I think Lemaire was going to end up the scapegoat for the Wild's underachiving this year, and I'm glad he's leaving under his own terms.

I'm willing to concede that it's possible his message was getting stale, and it sounds like he may have lost control of the locker room this year, still coaches as good as Lemaire are incredibly rare when you look at the mediocraty of the coaches in the rest of the league.

So whatever Lemaire moves on to (and I know that Montreal job is conspicuously open) I wish him the best. As for the Wild, I'm not sure what's going to happen, but I think this is officially the first bad news of the summer.

*Alternate Standings

This is going to become my annual railing against the NHL's current standings system, which rewards Regulation Wins and Shootout wins the same, but Regulation losses and shootout losses differently.

In the interest of not overloading the blog I put the tables on a separate website

http://www.geocities.com/justinworldonline/sotso/sotsostandings.html (click here to follow along)

Thoughts...

Not a whole lot of difference this year.

The Biggest thing to notice is that in systems I and III Florida gets in (at the expense of the New York Rangers in I and Montreal in III). In System II there is a 3 way tie for 8th in the East.

Also note that in systems I and III Bost wins the President's trophy instead of San Jose, they finished tied in system II.

Minnesota actually edges out Anaheim for 8th place in the West in system III

Carolina actually finishes 4th in the East under every alternative. Pittsburgh falls to 5th or 6th

So nothing earth shaking here this year, compared to System I each team earned an average of 9.4 extra points, you can see the adjustments in this table to see the biggest winners and losers in collecting loser points.

Tommorow...
My Playoff Predictions

11 April 2009

Wild Elimanted, what next...?

Well despite a good 8 goal showing last night, the Wild were elimanted from playoff contention later last after both St. Louis and Anaheim got victories in their games.

So the 8 playoff spots are spoken for in both conferences, while the Wild will have to watch (at least the golfers will probably get to go out this week with 60 degree days in the forecast).

The playoff chase was a dramatic since Sunday, when the Wild lost a point with 50 seconds left against Detroit on Sunday. Sadly, I don't think fans should buy in to the idea that making the playoffs would've been acceptable. The second round was a legitimate goal. Finishing in the top 5 in the West was a legitimate goal. Repeating as division champions was a legitimate goal, and the Wild weren't frankly close.

I still say the problem was in the depth of our forwards. We had very few scorers, we started the season with one legitimate center. This was true before this team became injury ravaged. Dougie's going to try to blame the injuries on Bouchard, Burns, and Gaborik being absent, but don't be fooled, the Wild's offense was anemic before that. The defense, and goaltending stepped up late to keep the Wild in many games when they were outshot 2-1.

I'm calling for the removal of the General Manager in this online petition, please consider signing.

http://www.petitiononline.com/sotsofdr/petition.html

On Monday...
*NHL Playoff Picks
*Final Standings under the 2W-1T-0L system (1998-99)

10 April 2009

Wild Playoff Chance (what to pray for Friday update)

Well Nashville rallied to upset the Red Wings last this means...

ANA (88, 41): (2) Fr v. DAL, Sa @PHX
STL (88, 39): (2) Fr CBJ, Su @COL
NSH (88, 40): (1) Fr @MIN
MIN (85, 38): (2) Fr NSH, Sa @CBJ

If the Wild win in regulation tonight they need EITHER of the following.

1) STL to get one point or fewer in their final two games OR
2) ANA to get zero points in their final two games

If the Wild win in overtime tonight (allowing NSH a point) they need BOTH of the above.

Coach Lemaire announced he plans to play for a regulation win tonight.

http://www.twincities.com/wild/ci_12115907?nclick_check=1

He plans to pull the goalie to play for a regulation win should the game be tied in the final moments of the 3rd. I wholeheartedly agree with taking fate in your own hands here. The Wild's playoff chances are slim if they beat Nashville in regulation tonight, their slim chance I estimate would be cut in half if Nashville gets a point.

09 April 2009

Wild Playoff Chances (AKA what to pray for)....

Okay so the Wild got an important win on Tuesday over Dallas which keeps them alive. Also, they also got some help in the form of Nashville and Edmonton losses. However St. Louis' victory over Phoenix on Tuesday still puts the Wild in a tough spot.

So with two games remaining, there are 4 teams left fighting for the final 2 playoff spots (Edmonton's loss coupled with St. Louis' victory eliminated the Oilers on Tuesday). Each of the 4 teams has two games remaining. So here is my look for the race for 7th through 10th in the Western Conference...

Team (Pts, Wins): (Games left) Remaining Schedule
ANA (88, 41): (2) Fr v. DAL, Sa @PHX
STL (88, 39): (2) Fr CBJ, Su @COL
NSH (86, 39): (2) Th @DET, Fr @MIN
MIN (85, 38): (2) Fr NSH, Sa @CBJ

So the Wild make the playoffs if...

If the Wild win both* of their games AND either of the following.
1) ANA gets held to 0 points in their final two games OR
2) STL gets held to 1 point or fewer in their final two games.+

*Note should NSH beat DET tonight, the Wild would have to beat Nashville in Regulation tommorow to deny the Preds any points in the above scenario.

Otherwise should NSH beat DET and lose to MIN in OT the Wild would then need ALL of the following...
1) MIN beat CBJ on Saturday
2) ANA to get held to 0 points in their final two games AND
3) STL to get held to 1 point or fewer in their final two games+

+There was a omission on Tuesday's post concerning St. Louis and Nashville. The Wild could've make the playoffs if either of these teams "get held to 3 points or fewer in their final 3 games" provided Anaheim got held to 0 under the first scenario. This is because the Wild would advance to the playoffs if they finish in a tie at 89 points against either/or both St. Louis and Nashville and Anaheim gets stuck at 88, the Wild would advance by having 40 wins (Nashville would also advance in this scenario with them picking up their 40th win at Detroit).

However, there are now no scenarios in which the Wild can get in with fewer than 4 points in their final two games and advance to the playoffs (Mainly because the Wild lost the season series against St. Louis and will at best tie the season series against Nashville).

Analysis...
The Wild are probably favorites at home against Nashville tommorow night, especially since the Preds are travelling from playing in Detroit tonight.

The Wild are probably even to a slight underdog at Columbus on Saturday. It does help that the Jackets have already clinched a spot in the playoffs so Saturday's game won't mean as much to them. Both teams also will be playing their second game in two nights on Saturday so fatigue should effect them both.

The bad news is Anaheim is very unlikley to be held without at least one point with two very lowly opponents left.

St. Louis is a tough call. Again Columbus doesn't have much to play for but they are probably even to a slight favorite over the Blues on Friday. However at Colorado on Sunday I imagine the Blues are a distinct favorite because it seems their in the playoffs in every scenario in which they beat the lowly Avs, so they will have everything to play for there.

I still think my picks from Tuesday are the most likley outcome (7) ANA, 8) STL, 9) MIN, 10) NSH), however 3 good results for the Wild on Friday change everything (Teams for Wild fans to cheer for in Italics)

Nashville at Minnesota
Columbus at St. Louis
Dallas at Anaheim

The other important games are...
Thu, Nashville at Detroit

Sat, Minnesota at Columbus
Sat, Anaheim at Phoenix
Su, St. Louis at Colorado

There is a more league-wide playoff breakdown on nhl.com today.

06 April 2009

Wild Playoff Chances...

So after yesterday's heartbreaking last-minute loss to Detroit the Wild find themselves 3 points out of a playoff spot with 3 games remaining. Here is my look at the race from 7th-11th in the Western Conference...

Team (Points, Wins): (Games left) Remaining Schedule
ANA (88, 41): (2) Fr v. DAL, Sa @PHX
NSH (86, 39): (3) Tu v. CHI, Th @DET, Fr @MIN
STL (86, 38): (3) Tu @PHX, Fr CBJ, Su @COL
MIN (83, 37): (3) Tu DAL, Fr NSH, Sa @CBJ
EDM (83, 37): (3) Tu LA, Fr CGY, Sa @CGY

So the Wild make the playoffs if...

I. If the Wild go 3-0-0 and earn 6 points THEN they also need TWO of the following
*STL get held to a total of 2 points or fewer in their final 3 games
*NSH get held to a total of 2 points or fewer in their final 3 games
*ANA get 0 points in their final 2 games

OR
II. If the Wild go 2-0-1 and earn 5 points THEN they need ALL of the following
*STL get held to a total of 1 points or fewer in their final 3 games (2 points if STL doesn't win either game, "both euphorian points"+)
*NSH get held to a total of 1 point or fewer in their final 3 games (this does necessitate the Wild beat NSH on Friday)
*EDM gets 5 points or fewer in their final 3 games

+euphorian points a term coined by KSTP-AM's Joe Soucheray referring to overtime points. You get this if you understand what "euphorians" or "the mystery" mean (click here for the official "Garage Logic" glossary).

OR
III. If the Wild go 2-1-0 for 4 points in their last 3 games THEN they need all of the following
*STL get held to a total of 1 points or fewer in their final 3 games
*NSH gets 0 points in their final 3 games (this does necessitate the Wild beat NSH in regulation on Friday)
*EDM gets 4 points or fewer in their final 3 games

OR
IV. If the Wild go 1-0-2 for 4 points in their last 3 games THEN they need all of the following
*STL gets 0 points in their final 3 games
*NSH gets 0 points in their final 3 games (this does necessitate the Wild beat NSH in regulation on Friday)
*EDM gets 3 points or fewer in their final 3 games or if EDM also goes 1-0-2)

All the above factor in the first two tiebreakers (wins and season series) in two team scenarios. There may be other ways the Wild get in if there's a 3 way tie for 8th.

My Predictions...
Anaheim's schedule is too easy, so I would say it's unlikley they lose out.
St. Louis's schedule also looks pretty easy, but they do have two road games and their toughest opponent is at home (Columbus).

The Wild could easily win out their their schedule. as their toughest game is their last one @Columbus and if the Wild are still alive, undoubtedtly they'd have more to play for than Columbus who will have probably already clinched their spot. Otherwise I like the Wild at Home against both Dallas and Nashville.

Edmonton has Calgary twice, the are included in this because if all goes right for the Wild with St. Louis and Columbus, hypothetically the Oliers could still snipe the Wild if they have a better finish, but two games against division leading Calgary seem to make that a long shot for the Oil.

In short I predict
7) Anaheim
8) St. Louis
9) Minnesota
10) Nashville
11) Edmonton

Tommorow nights schedule will be telling
Chicago at Nashville
St. Louis at Phoenix
Dallas at Minnesota

If all goes well tommorow for Minnesota (win over DAL and losses by STL and NSH) they will look in better shape and the area sportswriters may wish they haven't jumped off the ledge over this team for the 5th time this month. But if the Wild lose and either STL or NSH wins the Wild could be eliminated.

Next Monday...
When the regular season's over I will collect all the data and calculate the stadings under the old format (2W-1T-0L) systems to see who got the most help from "euphorian points" this year.