As many know, the NHL season was cut in half this season due to problems with a collective bargaining agreement, or CBA. It’s funny how in the past 2-3 years, labor issues have been a serious problem in professional sports across the board. The NBA and NHL lost games while the NFL lost certain preseason workouts. All three were greatly affected. However, this 48 game season of hockey (a full season has 82 games) has been nothing short of exciting yet confusing.
I’m a big New Jersey Devils fan. They lost in the Stanley Cup finals last year to the Los Angeles Kings, but I wasn’t torn up about it. I was excited to even get to the finals and win the Eastern Conference. That was way more than I was expecting last season, but it elevated my expectations for this season.
We aren’t the best team in hockey. But, we play very well. At least we can say we are better off than Columbus.
Regardless, the playoffs are fast approaching as there are about 10 games left for most teams in the regular season.
The NHL is ranked on a point system. A team is given 2 standing points for a win, 0 for a loss, and 1 for a loss in overtime or a shootout. In each conference, there are 3 divisions. This is the last year we will see this, as next year the league is realigning into four conferences. Anyway, there are three divisions in each conference, and the division leader in each makes the playoffs as the first, second or third seed. In order to finish off the playoff bracket, the next 5 teams in point standings are added to the bunch. 8 teams from each conference go to the playoffs, making a total of 16 teams.
The Devils are currently ninth with 40 points, behind division rivals New York Islanders and New York Rangers (both with 42 points). I think we can make the leap to the top 8 before season’s end. But, the Devils only have 9 games left.
Unfortunately for the Devils, we have completed our season series with the Islanders. We won’t play them again unless we meet in the playoffs. However, the Devils and Rangers square off twice more, one of which being the season finale. We do in fact control our own destiny. But we must win some games.
And now, time for some predictions.
The current number 1 seeds are the Pittsburg Penguins and the Chicago Blackhawks. Pittsburg is the only team in the league that hasn’t lost an overtime or shootout game yet. They either win, or opponents don’t need extra time to beat them.
The Pens just lost captain Sidney Crosby after he took a shot puck to the face from his OWN PLAYER!!!!
Let’s let that sink in for a second. Brooks Orpik, who apparently topped the shot at 90 mph hit his own player in the jaw with the puck. His mouth isn’t the goal. This big thing with net and red pipes is.
That’s what a goal looks like. See the puck inside the NET? That looks nothing like Crosby’s face.
Without Sid, the Pens are not completely useless. They have one of the deepest rosters in the league, and I’d be shocked to watch them lose in the first round. However, I don’t think they are a championship team. I’m not going to pick an Eastern Conference rep right now. Soon, but I’m not sure yet.
As far as the Western Conference is concerned, the Blackhawks have the conference in a chock hold. I don’t know if anyone can beat this team. Of the 38 games they’ve played so far, they’ve only gone pointless in 5 of them. That’s an 86.8% point percentage. That is absolutely incredible. They have outscored their opponents 128-83 ( that’s a difference of 45 goals) and those 83 goals against is good for 2nd in the league only behind Boston, who has only let 79 in the net, but can’t seem to score any of their own.
The West is a conference of two teams this year, the Blackhawks and the Anaheim Ducks. The Hawks sit atop the conference with 62 points. The Ducks are second with 57. After them, the closest is the Vancouver Canucks and the Kings with 48. The Hawks and the Ducks are safe at the number 1 and 2 seed in the west. I personally believe that Anaheim will come out of the West and go to the Finals.
My reasoning? Enter the Detroit Red Wings and Pavel Datsyuk.
I’ll continue this discussion in my next blog, and I’ll talk about why Datsyuk’s Red Wings spell disaster for the West’s number 1 seed.