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Mid Season Review & Predictions

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1 Mid Season Review & Predictions on Tue Feb 25, 2014 9:55 am

As we hit the midseason point in the 2014/15 season, it’s time to take a look back at the performances we’ve witnessed so far and to look ahead to preview what we’re likely to see as the regular season comes to a close and the playoffs begin. To that effect, we’ve gathered some of the brightest teeth in hockey today to give us their thoughts.

Bryan Shauger (BS)Kerry Hludey (KH)James Muffie (JM)
Bryan Shauger and James Muffie from TSN join Kerry Hludey from CCB to give us their thoughts and predictions.

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALISTS

BS: Chicago vs LA. I think the LA Kings are poised to make it to the Western Conference Finals but will have a huge test against the top team in the West almost all year in the Chicago Blackhawks. I see the Hawks taking the series in what will be their biggest test since last seasons Stanley Cup finals. Blackhawks in 6.

KH: Chicago over Phoenix. The Coyotes have had a dramatic change in performance this season with new GM David Spang and new Head Coach Garry Valk. The addition of Evgeni Malkin has sparked the offense as have Krejci and Kane. They are keeping pace with the Blackhawks, who are currently sitting in first, though Phoenix has games in hand. However, the Blackhawks are looking as dominant as they did last season, and have the experience of a run to the finals last year, so I do not see anything changing this season.

JM: Chicago vs Los Angeles. Looking to avenge their loss in the Finals last year, the Blackhawks have been flying all season long and they look like they’ll simply outclass their opposition to this point in the playoffs. LA and Phoenix will likely battle for the right to face the Hawks and both would make for tough opponents and while I think LA will get by Phoenix in a battle this year, I can’t see them managing the upset over the Hawks. Chicago in 6.

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALISTS

BS: Detroit vs Philadelphia. The Stanley Cup champions will go deep into the playoffs again but the grueling Eastern Conference will get the best of them this year and I truly believe no one can stop Alexander Ovechkin this year. I'm taking the Flyers in a brutal 7 games.

KH: Detroit over Philadelphia. The Flyers, led by ridiculous seasons from Alexander Ovechkin and David Backes, are having another outstanding season.  One of the top three teams in the East, along with the Montreal Canadiens and the Detroit Red Wings, the Flyers already have a strong lead over the Florida Panthers, sitting in fourth.  This shouldn't change through the rest of the season.  Detroit is also having yet another dominant season, and look to defend their championship.  There should be another second round showdown with the Canadiens, but I don't see the Red Wings faltering.  In the Finals, the team firepower that Detroit brings should prove to be too much for the one (or two) trick pony in Philly.

JM: Montreal vs Philadelphia. Detroit stands in Montreal’s way, but I’m seeing more growth in the Canadien’s game this season than I’m seeing in Detroit. Impressive regular seasons for Detroit aside, they were pushed hard in the playoffs last year and I don’t think they can survive that gauntlet again. Instead I think we’ll be treated to a showdown between the top two forces in the EEHL today, John Tavares and Alexander Ovechkin. Both will be hungry for postseason success to go along with their regular season dominance and I think it’ll be a case of last goal wins as Montreal takes this one in 7.

STANLEY CUP FINALISTS

BS: Chicago vs Philadelphia. These two teams have met twice this year already with the Hawks dominating the Flyers. However with a change in net the Flyers are stronger and will take the Stanley Cup away from the Hawks again. Flyers in 6 with Ovechkin winning the Conn Smythe.

KH: Detroit over Chicago. I see the same match-up as last season in the Finals.  While both teams are more familiar with each other this season, Detroit will have the tougher path to the Finals, and as such, should be playing at a higher level.  So long as they stay healthy, I see a tough series, but Detroit will successfully complete the repeat.

JM: Chicago vs Montreal. What a battle this could be. Toews vs Tavares is just one of the myriad of the battles we’d see in this matchup. I think this is a case of the new face learning what it’ll take to win the Cup, just like it was last year, and in that vein, I’m taking Chicago to win in 7, with the Canadiens my early pick to bring home the Cup in 2016.

MAJOR AWARD WINNERS

HART

BS: Alexander Ovechkin. The Philadelphia Flyers are a top team in the league and they go as far as Ovechkin takes them, leading the league in goals and points. If the Flyers hope to go deep in the playoffs, Ovechkin will have to carry them.

KH:  Alexander Ovechkin, Philadelphia.  Ovechkin broke records last season with a torrential goal scoring pace, and he is well on his way to destroying those totals this season.  Most of Philadelphia's scoring is coming from Ovechkin, so Philadelphia would be in a much tougher spot without him, hence the MVP worthiness.

JM: Ovechkin is the easy answer here, but I’m not sure I’m buying that. He’s taken quite a lead in goal scoring, but between Backes and Subban, he’s got a pretty strong supporting cast right now. In Montreal, Tavares has been keeping pace with Ovechkin while lapping the other forwards in points and being short his #1 option on D as Doughty has missed quite a few games already and won’t be back for a while yet. My darkhorse contender for this one is Patrice Bergeron who is among the league leader in points while also keeping Detroit going as one of the best defensive teams in the league despite missing Hedman and Bogosian for an extended stretch with their #3 defenseman, Roman Josi, also out. It’ll be a race to the finish, but I’m taking Tavares.

ART ROSS

BS: Alexander Ovechkin. Although Tavares is close, this is Ovechkin’s year.  

KH: Alexander Ovechkin, Philadelphia.  I can't see anyone catching him, though John Tavares is trying to.  

JM: Again, I’ll buck the trend and go with Tavares here. I don’t see Ovechkin slowing, but could definitely see Tavares gaining momentum once Doughty is back in the lineup.

NORRIS

BS: P.K Subban. Not only a top point getter, PK has evolved into the best defenseman in the league at both ends of the rink.

KH: P.K. Subban, Philadelphia.  Drew Doughty from Montreal or Victor Hedman from Detroit would have been the front runners here, but they are suffering from extended injuries, which will allow Subban to further raise his totals.  Erik Karlsson and Erik Gudbranson have come on as well, so they could push Subban from the trophy, but I don't see it.

JM: Despite missing over 10 games already, Victor Hedman is back and is still third in defenseman scoring. It’ll take a strong second half, but I think he has a good chance to win this one for a second straight season. His +/- is on par with those ahead of him in points, he has as many hits as Subban and only 1/3 of the giveaways.

VEZINA

BS: Right now I would have to say Pekka Rinne. Dominating most games Rinne has a slight lead on Martin Jones with Jones playing a few less games.

KH: Martin Jones, Detroit.  Where did this guy come from?  Detroit had goalie issues early in the season, but Jones has come on with monster numbers, and he has played enough that I do not think we will see a major decline.  A sick 1.22 GAA to go with a .920 save percentage will bring him the hardware, though watch for Pekka Rinne to have something to say about it.

JM: Rinne, Bishop and Martin Jones make the shorlist here. Bishop leads in wins and save percentage while Jones has the advantage in GAA and Rinne leads in shutouts. This one has all the makings of a great race to the very end of the season and in the end, I’m going to trust the pedigree of Rinne to come through.

CALDER

BS: My Calder pick is Paul Thompson as he is a great two way player as he is a plus 3 and second in rookie scoring.

KH: Paul Thompson, New Jersey.  Thompson is currently fighting for the rookie scoring lead, but brings more than that to his game.  A physical presence when needed, Thompson should end up as rookie of the year.  However, watch for Scott Laughton of the Flyers, who is already in the mix for the rookie scoring title, and has played less than half of the games Thompson has.

JM: In what is a pretty down year for rookie production, goalie Magnus Hellberg is playing well for the Stars, holding them in a lot of games this year and is on pace to possibly pick up 40 wins in his rookie season. Brandon Burlon leads all rookie D in scoring with 8 points in 40 games and is a plus player in his inaugural campaign and that leaves him just 5 points out of the rookie scoring lead. At this point I think Hellberg gets my vote, but sneaking into contention are Scott Laughton of  Philly and another Dallas rookie, Mark Scheifele. Points wise they’re already among the leaders with half as many games played, so if they can get regular minutes the rest of the way with their parent clubs, one of those two likely ends up with this award.

SELKE

BS: Patrice Bergeron is on perhaps the best defensive team in hockey and he is a key part of that. Checking other teams top players and at the same time top 5 in points.

KH: Steven Stamkos, Detroit.  Not only is Stamkos an elite offensive threat, but he is very defensively sound and can generate chances from any area of the ice.  Currently has 43 takeaways and only 25 giveaways, Stamkos can get the puck from the opposition and turn it back the other way.  Sitting at a staggering +87, he also stays out of the penalty box, only having 27 PIM so far this season.

JM: On a line where defensive dominance appears to be the goal, the Red Wings may have the contenders for this award cornered. That said, I give the edge to Patrice Bergeron over Taylor Hall or Steven Stamkos. All 3 are producing (87, 90, 76 points respectively), have great +/- (85/101/104) while playing against top lines every night, but Bergeron is the true defensive conscience. He’s winning 77% of his draws, leads the trio in  hits (92/85/90), has the fewest give aways (19/28/44) despite being the primary puck carrier and leads the trio in takeaways with 57 (to Stamkos’ 52 and Hall’s 50). The differences are razor thin so an injury to any of the three could shuffle the deck.

ADAMS

BS: Phoenix’s Gary Valk. Taking a team from the basement to one of the best teams in the Western Conference makes him the logical choice.

KH: Garry Valk, Phoenix.  The Coyotes were a sad looking team last season, with not a lot of upside.  Then, in walked GM David Spang. One of his first moves was to hire Garry Valk as the head coach. It was a move that was heavily criticized, but it is hard to argue the fact that Phoenix has become a powerhouse in the West. Valk wins this one easily.

JM: Do you prefer consistent excellence despite changes or a huge turn around story? Mike Babcock likey loses votes given Detroit’s performance last season, but with how many changes they’ve had in their lineup again this year, I think he deserves consideration for keeping this team performing at the level they are. Meanwhile in Phoenix, GM David Spang and head coach Garry Valk may split some votes as people decide who is more responsible for the huge improvement in the desert. I think the turnaround garners more attention and Valk takes this one in a tight vote.

MOST INTRIGUING STORYLINE

BS: The most intriguing storyline has to be the Eastern Conference. We saw an arms race last year, will these teams load up again at this years deadline? Big heavy teams that will punish each other we will see who survives this year.

KH: Head coaching change in Montreal.  It was the talk of the offseason, when GM Mike Tokunaga fired Michel Therrien as the Head Coach of the Canadiens.  Then, with little experience, Tokunaga took on the role himself.  He has the "interim" tag, but Montreal has rolled this season, and Tavares would be setting records if not for Ovechkin.  How much of this is because of Tokunaga? Hard to say, but the proof is in the pudding.

JM: I’ve got a tie here. Quite a few of the coaching changes this past offseason were of the bizarre variety, but all of them have paid off. We’ve got two rookie GM’s who became coaches in their second year and another rookie GM who fired one of the brightest in the business to replace him with a rookie head coach who then signed him to an extension shortly into the season. Out of the usual for sure, but all three teams are tearing it up this season, so it’s working for them. Secondly, goaltending in this league. We saw both Cup Finalists change their goalies as well as the next two best teams in the East. It’s rare to see that many successful teams make that many changes, yet they’re happening at a rapid pace in the past year. Will this current group be here next year? Will they last through this season?

TEAM MOST LIKELY TO TAKE THE NEXT STEP

BS: The Ottawa Senators. I would not be surprised if this teams goes on a run and makes a push for home ice advantage for the playoffs. Let's just say I wouldn't want to play this team in the first round.

KH: Phoenix. It looks like they have already taken that step, but to do what they did last season, then completely turn it around this season cannot be ignored.

JM: Phoenix is in the middle of taking that step, as is LA to a degree. If we’re counting the evolution that is the Coyotes, they’re my answer, if they’re too far along already, then I could say Chicago (winning the Cup this year) or Montreal (emerging as the Eastern champions). This seems like a ridiculously open ended question, who’s coming up with these?

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

BS: Biggest disappointment and team to take the next step are the same to me. The Ottawa Senators should be a top team and are just holding on to a playoff spot right now.

KH: San Jose. A team with a lot of talent was expected to make a push this season. There were big expectations for Joe Thornton, Mike Cammalleri, Dustin Byfuglien, and others, and they have failed to deliver. The trade of Vezina Trophy winner Pekka Rinne to Chicago was worrisome, but Cory Schneider was expected to fill the net well in his place. Schneider accumulated 48 wins with a 2.31 GAA last season, but this year only has 9 wins with 21 losses, and a 3.33 GAA. With the expectations of a long playoff run, the Sharks are currently dead last in the West by seven points, and 28th in the league.

JM: San Jose narrowly edges out Carolina for me on this one due to supposedly having the better goalie (Schneider vs Peters/Bobkov).  It’s hard to figure out why teams with this much talent are stumbling through the season so badly, especially when injuries haven’t been an over riding issue. Whether it’s Gaborik, Eric Staal, Backlund, Fleischmann, Foligno, Schenn, Kronwall, Meszaros, Brennan, Volchenkov and Streit in Carolina or Thorton, Byfuglien, Cammalleri, Boychuk, Dubinsky, Hainsey, Hornqvist, Bouchard, Emelin and Couturier in San Jose, these two teams are finding ways to lose on a nightly basis.

NEXT COACH OR GM FIRED

BS: Coach on the hot seat has to be Joel Quenville of the Chicago Blackhawks. The GM has been one of the most active this year trying to take this team back to the finals to finish what they couldn't last year. If there is no Cup this year you have to think Quenville gets the boot.

KH: Todd McLellan, San Jose. McLellan was given the talent to work with, and they have greatly underperformed as a team. The fans are becoming almost hostile at home games, so the Shark management will have to do something soon.

JM: If recent history (re: crazy happenings) is any trend, maybe one of Mike Tokunaga or Mike Sawaryn are relieved from their GM duties to concentrate solely on coaching, or they then somehow become part owner/coach rather than GM/coaches. On a more likely note, as discussed above, watch for Kirk Muller of the Hurricanes or Todd McLellan of San Jose to be on their ways out sooner than later.

That's it for us, sound off below and let us know if you agree or disagree and who you think will be taking home hardware at the end of the season!


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2 Re: Mid Season Review & Predictions on Tue Feb 25, 2014 10:41 am

I love it done very well indeed sir. But if you check out the standings Ottawa is in 4th

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3 Re: Mid Season Review & Predictions on Tue Feb 25, 2014 10:57 am

Some of the submitters got their work in prior to the last sim so some of the numbers are a bit outdated. Their work is as of when they wrote it, not when the article was published Wink


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4 Re: Mid Season Review & Predictions on Tue Feb 25, 2014 11:51 am

Well then I guess your right about one thing Ottawa is on the move

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5 Re: Mid Season Review & Predictions on Tue Feb 25, 2014 12:00 pm

Nikle

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Some tough sledding after that point with Montreal, Philly and Detroit in your way, two of them in the same div.

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6 Re: Mid Season Review & Predictions on Tue Feb 25, 2014 1:13 pm

May be but the playoffs are coming and Ottawa is in the mix. Better than last season

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7 Re: Mid Season Review & Predictions on Tue Feb 25, 2014 1:14 pm

Nikle

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But do you have any wingers that can play with Crosby? I mean, if Canada has a hard time answering that question, what hope do you have?

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8 Re: Mid Season Review & Predictions on Tue Feb 25, 2014 1:28 pm

I have landeskog and bobby Ryan. The problem was playing him with Canadians.

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