Monday, April 2, 2012

The NHL Regular Season Finale...This is it

The madness has just begun...
The last 6 days are upon us and while many teams have been eliminated, it will be a dogfight for not only a top 8 seed but also which of the 8 seeds a team can grab.  It's a big difference between 4 and 5 when you can get home ice in the first round!  Teams are down to their final 2-3 games and it should be a wild finish.

Here is a look at the updated standings as of this morning:

Eastern Conference
 Team                GP Pts
 1. x-NY Rangers 79 107
 2. y-Boston         79 98
 3. * Florida         79 91
 4. x-Pittsburgh 79 102
 5. x-Philadelphia 79 101
 6. x-New Jersey 79 96
 7. x-Ottawa         79 92
 8. Washington 79 88
 9. Buffalo         79 86
 * = Division Leader

The top 6 of 7 teams have all clinched a playoff spot.  Florida, right now at 3, is the division leader but hasn't clinched just yet because Washington can still win that seed and Buffalo take the 8th spot, leaving Florida out.  It looks like the NY Rangers and Boston will be the top 2 seeds.  Everything else is rather up for grabs!  In my predictions, I liked Buffalo to grab that 8th seed and leaving the Caps out, so fingers crossed.

Western Conference
 Team                GP Pts
 1. y-Vancouver 79 107
 2. y-St. Louis 79 106
 3. * Los Angeles 79 91
 4. x-Detroit         79 99
 5. x-Nashville 79 98
 6. x-Chicago    80 98
 7. Phoenix         79 91
 8. San Jose         79 90
 9. Dallas         79 89
 10. Colorado         80 88
 * = Division Leader

Five out of the top 6 teams in the West have clinched a playoff spot in the crazy tight West.  Los Angeles is the current Pacific division leader in the 3 spot but Phoenix, San Jose, and Dallas are all within 2 points!  Basically what you are seeing is 5 teams battling for 3 spots here.  In my predictions I liked LA, San Jose and Phoenix to grab all 3 remaining spots so I'm looking decent still.

The battle for the President's Trophy (top team in the league) is down to 3 teams:  NY Rangers, Vancouver, and St. Louis.  I actually like one of the 2 Western Conference teams to take it particularly the Canucks.

Here are the games to watch this week (and it should be an epic finale):
Washington @ Tampa Bay 7:30pm on NBC Sports Network
I think it's safe to say that the Caps cannot afford to not get at least 1 point in their remaining 3 games.  Side story here is that Tampa's Steven Stamkos has 56 goals, can he get to 60?

Pittsburgh @ Boston 7:30pm on NBC Sports Network
My once mighty Pens have lost 4 of 6 and have let in over 40 goals in the past 10+ games.  No better way to turn it around then against the defending champs in the final week.

Detroit @ St. Louis 7:30pm on NBC Sports Network
Central Division is getting 4 teams in the playoff (minus Columbus of course!) and although St. Louis has clinched the division, the Red Wings desperately want to hold that 4 seed over their rivals Nashville and Chicago who only trail by a point.

New York Rangers @ Pittsburgh 7pm on NBC Sports Network
Last week I would have said this could have the 1 seed spot on the line.  This week I just hope the Pens can turn it around.  The NYR still haven't clinched the top spot so there's a glimmer of hope.

Florida @ Washington 7pm
Basically this game will be for the division title in my opinion.  Whomever wins this match up will be sitting a little more comfortably come Saturday night.  The other? Hoping they don't miss the playoffs entirely...

Phoenix @ St. Louis 7:30pm on NBC Sports Network
Phoenix is probably thinking why are they ever so lucky to draw a top team in their final week as they need every single point imaginable?  The nice thing is both teams have something to play for seeding wise.

Chicago @ Detroit 1pm on NBC
Like I mentioned earlier, Detroit, Nashville and Chicago are all within a point and the difference among seeds 4, 5, and 6 is huge.  Should be fun!

Buffalo @ Boston 4pm
Most likely this game will have everything riding on it for Buffalo.  Boston is stuck in no man's land at the 2 seed so it will be interesting to see what effort is put forth from them.

Philadelphia @ Pittsburgh 4pm on NBC Sports Network
If yesterday is any indication of this probable 4-5 seed match up in the playoffs, then hockey and sports in general are in for a treat.  Me on the other hand?  Heart attack waiting to happen...

Washington @ NY Rangers 6:30pm on NBC Sports Network
Similar to the Buffalo game, everything is riding on this game for the Caps.  We'll have a better idea of what the NYR will be playing for but I doubt they cake walk it in under their coach.

Los Angeles @ San Jose 10:30pm on NHL Network
This game maybe will have not only the division title and a 3 spot on the line but also a playoff spot in general.  I think they both make it but it's possible only 1 gets in, could be the game of the year if that's the scenario.

The new television deal the NHL has set up with NBC Sports is really paying dividends this time of year with all the coverage of the games.  In fact, this year's playoffs will mark the first time in the league's history all playoff games will be shown on television.  Thanks to NBC, NBC Sports Network, CNBC, and the NHL Network, fans won't miss out on a single game unless you're me and you don't have NHL Network.  Stupid Cleveland...