Sunday, March 21, 2010

The stretch run predicted

Seven days ago I wrote how this past week would be a decisive one for the Montreal Canadiens playoff hopes. Now that we're here I think everyone can agree the Habs are in a pretty good position to make the post-season, and even finish as high as fifth. Considering the Canadiens entered the Olympic break 11 points out of that spot, and only one point out of ninth, I'd say things couldn't be going much better for them right now despite that shootout loss in Toronto Saturday night.

With most teams having only 10 or so games left in the schedule, I thought I'd try to handicap the stretch run for the teams competing with Montreal to try to get an idea of what lies in store the rest of the way, in order of their current position in the standings.

The Sabres have rebounded nicely from a post-Olympic hangover to post three straight wins and solidify their hold on the Northeast division lead. Still, they're not out of the woods yet, with some difficult games to come. But if they win their next two games, at home to both Montreal and Ottawa, they should have it locked up.

v Mtl March 24 - OTL 
v Ott March 26 - W 
v TB March 27 W 
@ Bos March 29 L
v Fla March 31 W
@ Tor April 1 OTL
@ Mtl April 3 L
v NYR April 6 W
@ Bos April 8 W 

@ Ott April 10 L 
@ NJ April 11 L

Finishing record: 44-26-12, 100 points

How odd that Ottawa would acquire Alex Kovalev and then become a totally schizophrenic team? When the Sens were piling up 11 straight wins in January and February, Kovalev had three goals and eight assists with a plus-7 rating and 36 shots on goal. Over their current 1-7-1 swoon since the Olympics, Kovalev has zero points, a minus-10 rating and 17 shots on goal. You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both, and there you have Alex Kovalev. Of course, Kovalev is not the only one to blame for this train wreck, but how long will it continue? Pretty long, I think.

@ Mtl March 22 L
v Pha March 23 W
@ Buf March 26 L
v Fla March 27 OTL
@ Was March 30 L
v Car April 1 L
@ NYI April 3 W
@ Fla April 6 L
@ TB April 8 OTL
v Buf April 10 L (UPDATE: Andrew pointed out in the comments I had both teams losing this game, so I'm making it a win for Ottawa because they should be the more desperate team. Finishing record has been adjusted)

Finishing record: 40-36-7, 87 points


After Michael Leighton got hurt in a game against the Nashville Predators last week, Brian Boucher stopped 51 of the first 54 shots he faced, a save percentage of .944. Since then, Boucher has 51 saves on 59 shots, a save percentage of .879. So which Boucher is the real thing? I would think the latter, and I would also think Paul Holmgren is kicking himself right now for not giving Bob Gainey whatever it is he wanted for Jaroslav Halak a few months ago.

@ Ott March 23 L
v Min March 25 W

@ Pgh March 27 L
v NJ March 28 L
@ NYI April 1 W
v Mtl April 2 OTL
v Det April 4 L
@ Tor April 6 W
@ NYR April 9 W
v NYR April 11 W

Finishing record: 42-34-6, 90 points

The imminent return of Michael Cammalleri will provide a big boost to a team that, frankly, doesn't really need one right now. Marc-Andre Bergeron should also help a power play that went a dismal 1-for-7 Saturday against the worst penalty killing team in the league. Looking at the Canadiens schedule it should be a nice ride to the finish, but it's usually when you think that way that things start to go awry.

v Ott March 22 W
@ Buf March 24 W
v Fla March 25 OTL
v NJ March 27 L
v Car March 31 L
@ Pha April 2 W
v Buf April 3 W
@ NYI April 6 W
@ Car April 8 W
v Tor April 10 W

Finishing record: 43-31-8, 94 points

A team that couldn't score with Marc Savard definitely shouldn't be able to score without him. Except I'm a big fan of Claude Julien's and his ability to coax the most out of his players. I still think it will be a rough ride to the end for Boston, but perhaps not as bad as everyone thinks.

@ Atl March 23 W
v TB March 25 W
v Cgy March 27 L
v Buf March 29 W
@ NJ March 30 L
v Fla April 1 W
@ Tor April 3 OTL
@ Was April 5 L
v Buf April 8 L
v Car April 10 W
@ Was April 11 W

Finishing record: 38-31-13, 89 points

This is a very nice story the Thrashers are writing with four straight wins to climb back in it, but their schedule is just brutal, and they're not very good. But I do see them winning Ilya Kovalchuk's return to Atlanta, so maybe that will make up for missing the playoffs.

v. Bos March 23 L
v Tor March 25 W
@ Car March 27 L
v Car March 29 W
@ Tor March 30 L
@ Was April 1 L
@ Pgh April 3 L
v NJ April 6 W 
@Was April 9 L
v Pgh April 10 L

Finishing record: 35-36-11, 81 points

New York Rangers
Yeah, right.

So here's the final standings as I see them, though I'm not quite sure what to make of the battle between Pittsburgh and New Jersey for the Atlantic crown, so take their placement with a grain of salt.

1. Washington
2. Pittsburgh
3. Buffalo
4. New Jersey
5. Montreal
6. Philadelphia
7. Boston
8. Ottawa


Darksyde said...

I almost hope you're wrong. New Jersey in the first round? I shudder at the thought.

Alex said...

The two games I have tickets to...
v Fla March 25 OTL
v Car March 31 L
...thanks Arpon.

Andrew Berkshire said...

Hey Arpon, you've got both Ottawa and Buffalo losing to each other on April 10th. I wish that was possible but it isn't.

Arpon Basu said...

Hey Andrew,
Crap. I just knew I would do that. I read over every game four times to make sure it didn't, and then it did.

Sliver24 said...

@ Arp: Nice 'Facts of Life' reference. There just aren't enough of those in the Blogosphere these days.

@ Alex: Sorry for your bad luck. I have tonight's game against Ottawa and the finale when Toronto's in town. Two wins! Thanks Arp!

That will bring my season record to 7-2 with both losses coming against the Sens.

Arpon Basu said...

So, uhh, you're still going to the game tonight? Are you ready to accept responsibility if they lose?

Sliver24 said...

I was planning on it, but maybe we could get in touch with Pierre Gauthier to see what he'd be willing to offer me to stay away tonight.

Than again, maybe my .714 winning percentage (not including my two 'upcoming' wins) will trump the 0-2 record against Ottawa. In that case PG should spring for some free season tickets (Pierre, if you're reading this I prefer to sit in a loge).