April 12, 2009
The Eastern Conference Stanley Cup playoff seedings are set; the Western Conference has a few lingering questions in the last day of regular season play. A few random thoughts about the way things are shaping up ...
• From the realistic playoff scenarios heading into the final week of the season, the Eastern Conference broke perfectly for the NHL. The Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens could be the most intense opening-round tilt in either conference, no matter how long it lasts. The Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins meeting in the four/five series means the League loses a marketable team in the later rounds, but promises to be a terrific series. The New York Rangers are a perfect foil for the Washington Capitals; the notion of Sean Avery Psychological Warfare being applied to either Alexander Ovechkin or Jose Theodore (or both) is tantalizing. It's a trap series for the Caps. And the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils meet in a series that, let's face it, matches the team least-marketable teams in the conference draw. But should be a ton of fun.
• The Penguins won the season series over the Flyers, 4-2, although Philly won the last matchup on March 22. This is pretty much as can't-miss as a series gets in the opening round, assuming the Flyers get a modicum of competent goaltending. Is the Rocky statue under 24-hour surveillance yet?
• In the Western Conference, the Columbus Blue Jackets made things a hell of a lot more interesting by losing to the Minnesota Wild yesterday. If the St. Louis Blues beat the Colorado Avalanche today, they'll earn the sixth seed and a first-rounder against the Vancouver Canucks, thanks to their tie-breaker over the BeeJays. If the Blues get one or zero points, then they'll place eighth and the Anaheim Ducks will finish seventh. Which means the Detroit Red Wings could have Columbus or Anaheim in the first round; in either case, we all win.
• We've said since the start of the season that one of the two Western Conference titans is going down in Round One this year. Not for nothing, but the Blues have given the San Jose Sharks fits during the regular season.
• Finally, should there be any concern that the Blue Jackets have played some terrible hockey since clinching their first playoff berth? Are we in "it's just an honor to be nominated" territory?