NHL Betting: The Week's Biggest Stories
by Trevor Whenham - 04/07/2009
With the playoffs just around the corner and a big portion of the playoff field set, it seems like a good time to take a frank assessment of each team that is either heading to the playoffs or trying to get there:
San Jose - They are on their way to the President's Trophy, they are reasonably healthy, they are virtually unbeatable at home, and they are closing out the season playing well. I'm not entirely convinced that the Sharks will go all the way, but they have certainly put themselves in the best possible position to do so.
Detroit - On the plus side, they are the deepest and most talented team in the league, and it isn't even close. On the downside, they have lost four of six, and their goaltending borders on terrifying. They will get their act together, but I don't think Chris Osgood can lead them to the promised land.
Chicago - They have won six of eight, and Nikolai Khabibulin looks like the Bulin Wall of old. They are young, but that may only save them from knowing how hard winning the Cup is. I absolutely would not want to play this team in the first round.
Calgary - Disaster. Some key players are injured. Those that aren't have forgotten how to score. The media is wildly speculating about coach Mike Keenan's future. The team has gone into the tank at precisely the wrong time. If this sounds familiar that's because this is exactly what they did last year, too. They were on the golf course in the blink of an eye after the playoffs started.
Vancouver - At the end of March they had things in the palms of their hands - they had won eight of 10, closing the gap on Calgary in the division, and looked like they were in cruise control. They've lost their last three, though, and Roberto Luongo has allowed five goals per game. They get knocked for being soft, and this latest collapse doesn't do much to dispute that argument.
Columbus - The Blue Jackets are on the verge of clinching their first-ever playoff spot. It doesn't really matter what they do after that - that's a great accomplishment on its own. Good thing, too - they are limping into the playoffs are very likely to limp out of them very quickly.
Anaheim - Two months ago it was incredibly easy to write this team off entirely. The playoffs seemed like a pipe dream. Now they are as hot as any team in the league, they have played their way into the playoffs, and they could be an extremely pesky first round matchup. This is clearly the Western team to watch for longshot lovers.
Nashville - The best thing you can say about them lately is that when they lose, they lose close games. Their problem, though, is that they don't score enough points to scare anyone. They are locked in a tight battle with mainly St. Louis and a couple of other outsiders, but it doesn't really matter - they will be dispatched quickly and painfully in the first round.
St. Louis - It seems like St. Louis wants it more than Nashville right now, and it seems like the city needs it more. Again, though, it's hard to care too much about a team that is only going to play, at most, five playoff games.
Boston - At the end of January I was quite convinced that Boston was the class of the East by quite a margin. Then they won just four games out of 15 and my faith was seriously shaken. Now they are 8-1-1 n their last 10 and I'm not worried anymore. The East is going to be very tight, but this is the class.
Washington - They have the best player in the league, and probably the best top line. I'm a big believer in the importance of depth in the playoffs, though, and this is where Washington falls short. They will win a series and probably two, but I don't see them going all the way.
New Jersey - Three weeks ago New Jersey was my choice to win the East and I was feeling confident - other teams were tanking, Martin Brodeur was back, and the team was playing with impressive confidence. But then they forgot how to score, lost six games in a row, and looked way too much like the team I thought they were at the start of the season. That's not a good thing.
Philadelphia - This team is competent, full of talent, and reasonably deep. So why is it so hard to take them seriously? It's been a while since the Flyers have truly struck fear in an opponent, and that hasn't changed. They could win a series, but they can't win two.
Carolina - I am totally beyond explanation for this one. Despite a coaching change, a lack of meaningful talent, and a hundred other legitimate excuses, this team is red hot. They have climbed from the outside of the playoffs into a potential home ice advantage in the first round. On paper this team shouldn't be a contender, but nothing they have done in the last two months meshes with what they are on paper, so they are a very hard team to assess.
Pittsburgh - It may be dangerous, but I really buy into this team. They are playing much better in the last couple of months, they have two of the three best offensive threats in the league, they have the experience of last year to build on, and they have the potential for very good goaltending. If the standings stay as they are then they get a break by matching up with a slumping New Jersey squad.
Montreal - Injury woes. Managerial chaos. Ownership uncertainty. Fan unrest. Yes, things are that bleak in Montreal. These guys match up very badly with the top two (or the top six, for that matter), and they aren't going anywhere.
New York Rangers - Never in the history of the NHL has a team spent more money to get less production from a few massively overrated players. They may or may not make the playoffs, but their presence in them if they do would be the equivalent of a first round bye for the Bruins.
Florida - They have won four of their last five to make this interesting, but winning just one of their eight before that put them in a bad position and showed what kind of chance they have if they manage to make the playoffs.