Tag: Eastern Conference playoffs

James Van Riemsdyk Panning Out For Flyers

The Flyers are in the hunt for a playoff spot but there is no guarantee they make the playoffs in 2018-19 let alone make a deep playoff run. Either way as up and down as the Flyers season has been they are seeing a few positives out of this season. One of them being James Van Riemsdyk. After missing basically all of October and getting off to a slow start, Van Riemsdyk has been catching fire lately and carrying the load for the Flyers.

In March alone JVR has more goals than he did in the first three months of the season. Already, just 18 days into March, JVR has 8-goals in eight games played. Over the last three months JVR has 20-goals in 34 games. Of the Flyers 31 goals in March, JVR has 8 of them making up around 25% of the Flyers goals. Of his 20 goals over the last 3-months and the Flyers 107 goals over those three-months, JVR has comprised of 18% of the Flyers goals.

It is fair to say aside from a slow start and more so a slow two months JVR has been off and running since. This month has been his best to date, with eight goals in eight games and only one of them coming on the power play JVR is finding the back of the net 5 on 5 which is extremely important for teams in order to be successful.

Van Riemsdyk is signed until 2023 on a 7 million dollar annual average value. With a cap hit of 28 million over the next four-years at 29-years-old right on the edge of his prime but still with plenty to give the Flyers signing of JVR this off-season is panning out and looking to be worthy. To assume he will do this until 2023 at age 33 is very likely based off the game he plays. JVR is not an overly physical forward, he is not someone with a ton of speed and he is not a forward that possess a flashy skill-set. He is a better version of Wayne Simmonds per say (I know that may sting for Flyers fans) but it is true. He plays in front of the net, hangs out around the crease and makes his living off the front of the net. With JVR’s current style of play we can assume he will be a 25+ goal scorer for the better of three years.

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HBK Line 2.0; McCann-Crosby-Guentzel..

Something a lot of fans do not talk about is Jake Guentzel. The 3rd round 77th overall in the 2013 NHL draft. Guentzel emerged in 2016-2017 when he scored 16 goals with 33 points in 40 games and continued his tear in the playoffs scoring 21 points in 25 games. The next season Guentzel scored 48 points, 22 goals in 82 games.

Since Guentzel emergence in the NHL he has been able to form a bond with captain Sidney Crosby and the two have been near inseparable since Guentzel joined Pittsburgh in 2016-17. Crosby and Guentzel had solid 2017-18 playoff runs but fell short. They struggled to find a third line mate all season but after the Jared McCann and Nick Bjugstad trade it seems they have found their third partner to help rally the Penguins.

One thing a lot of people credit the Penguins success to is Sidney Crosby byt Jake Guentzel has certainly been the main focal point of that lines success or could be an argument for being a major contributor to that McCann-Crosby-Guentzel success.

This season a lot of people clearly knew about Guentzel after his amazing playoff appearances and first 40 games in the NHL. But, not many fans had him on their radar as a potential 40+ goal scorer. On the year Guentzel has 36 goals in 71 games along with 68 points. Since the emergence of Jared McCann Guentzel has been on-fire, along with McCann himself. Since the February 1st acquisition of McCann, Guentzel has 12 goals in 21 games. The two paired up only a few games ago and since McCann has moved on the line of Guentzel and Crosby the three have propelled the Penguins to a top-three divisional spot and now definite playoff contenders.

Guentzel has not received the necessary praise due to McCann catching fire plus anytime you play with Crosby it is hard to stand out. Since February 19th Guentzel has 8 goals and 6 assists over 12-games. McCann has 5 goals and 4 assists in 12 games and Crosby has 8 goals and 12 assists in 12-games. The HBK line that helped surge the Penguins to their 2015-16 Stanley Cup could be in the making once again, this time with Guentzel-Crosby-McCann. They do not have a witty name like the HBK line but this trio could possibly be a huge deal breaker for the Penguins come playoff time.

Right now the Penguins are looking to be playing the Islanders. Their first round will not be an easy opponent no matter what but with the veteran ship of the Penguins and now their offense finally starting to pick up they could be a force to be wrecking with come April…

Eastern Conference Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions

Alright, all playoff matchups are set and now the best time of the year begins. Playoff hockey. Although these playoff matchups were set basically, every team has officially clinched a spot, and we have our four matchups for the East coming at you here.

New Jersey Devils: 44-29-9, 2nd Wild Card, 3-0-0 vs Tampa Bay this season.

Tampa Bay Lightning: 54-23-5, 1st Atlantic and 0-2-1 vs New Jersey this season. 

The Lightning will head into the playoffs with starting goaltender Andrei Vasaliveskiy, a Vezina favorite and 44 wins goaltender this season, while the Devils may be looking to go with Keith Kinkaid, who has collected 26 wins this season and has taken over the goalie reign as of now. The Lightning’s top performer Nikita Kucherov tallied 100 points, 39 goals this season while the Devils top performer Taylor Hall tallied 93 points, 39 goals this season. This will be Hall’s first playoff run and Kucherov’s third playoff run. The Devils now are obviously not the favorites here, Tampa gets four home games and are the better team on paper, but the Devils play have shown they play a quick, relentless game. The Devils may be the underdog here, but they will certainly put up a fight, I could see the Devils taking the Lightning to seven games, but the Lightning will win this series. Hopefully, Steven Stamkos is back, right now he is questionable, but eyeing a return soon.

Toronto Maple Leafs, 49-26-7, 3rd Atlantic, 4-0-0 vs Boston this season.

Boston Bruins. 50-20-12, 2nd Atlantic, 0-3-1 vs Toronto this season.

The Bruins and Leafs meet once again in the playoffs. Being two original six teams these two go way back before many of us can remember. The Bruins had a chance to secure the #1 seed in the Atlantic but dropped their game Sunday night against Florida. The Bruins have played the Leafs four times this season and this will be the 16th time they face each other in the playoffs. The last time they met int he playoffs was 2012 when the Bruins won the series 4-3. The Bruins top performer, Brad Marchand with 85 points and the Maple Leafs Mitch Marner with 69 points. The Leafs definitely posses the skill and talent to match the Bruins, but the Bruins have a list of veterans on this roster, that are not only veterans but also their top guns. This series will sure go to seven games and be one of the best first-round matchups. Ultimately, I see Boston winning in seven.

Columbus Blue Jackets, 45-30-7, 1st Wild Card, 97 points, 1-3-0 vs Washington this season.

Washington Capitals, 49-26-7, 1st Metropolitan, 3-1-0 vs Columbus this season.

This is going to be a very good series, with the Blue Jackets getting hot late in the year they will make for a rough first round opponent for Washington. Last season Columbus got bounced in the first round in five games vs Pittsburgh we can expect a much different result this time around. I would not be surprised if Columbus took this series either. The Capitals flying a little under the radar this year and everyone writing them off already could play a big factor in this teams success. The Capitals Alex Ovechkin 49 goals and Evgeny Kuznetsov career year, will cause a headache for Columbus d-men. These two have not the worst spirited rivalry, but it is playoff hockey and we can expect these two to now spark a rivalry here after this one. The Capitals top performer Alex Ovechkin with 87 points, Blue Jackets, newly acquired offseason piece Artem Panarin has settled in nicely with Columbus with 82 points. The Blue Jackets speed, offensive power will make it tough for Washington d-men, but the Capitals are the all-around better team. I see Capitals taking this in six.

Philadelphia Flyers, 42-26-14, 3rd Metropolitan, 0-2-2 Penguins this season. 

Pittsburgh Penguins, 47-29-6, 2nd Metropolitan, 4-0-0 vs Flyers this season.

This will more than likely be the best playoff matchup of the first round. Mainly because of the fans also. It is well known that all Flyers fans despise the Penguins and their players, mostly Sidney Crosby. But these two have met in the playoffs six times before this and the Flyers hold the advantage 4-2. Each time these two met, no matter the circumstance it is always a hard fought game, no factor in playoff hockey this is going to be a bloodbath. The Flyers top performer and Hart candidate, Claude Giroux tallied 102 points and 34 goals this season while the Penguins top performer Evgeni Malkin tallied 98 points and 42 goals this season. There is not much to say about this one besides, sit back, watch and enjoy a seven-game series. At the end of it, I see Penguins on top.

 

Florida Panthers making a playoff push?

It seemed clear as day the Panthers were in no mood to start to trade some players for picks or just not doing anything. The Panthers made a move for Ryan McDonagh showing their interest in actually making a playoff push. They added some forward depth in Frank Vatrano and overall have a solid mix of players to make a push.

The Panthers currently sit three points out of a wild-card spot, yeah let’s focus on the wild card no shot they make a top three Atlantic finish. The Panthers sit three points behind the Blue Jackets, battling with the Islanders, Hurricanes and Blue Jackets for that final wild-card spot. They have the Sabres, Flyers, and Lightning for their next three games. They are currently on a four-game win streak, winning 7 of their last 10 and with Thursday nights win over New Jersey, the despertation this team played with shows they must be pretty serious about making a playoff push.

A healthy top six…

They have two players right now, playing together that are on a roll, Aleksander Barkov, not to mention has totaled a career-high 60 points Thursday night. Plus Evgenii Dadonov. These two have combined for 32 points, 15 goals and 16 assists over the last month. Throw in Vincent Trocheck’s 6 goals and 5 assists, on top of Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjustad’s 4 goals and 16 assists, the Panthers top six beside Radim Vrbata have been clicking on all cylinders.

A reliable backend…

The Panthers defense even with Aaron Ekblad only totaling 24 points on the year, players like himself have picked up the play over the last month as well, adding 2 goals and 7 assists, while veterans like Keith Yandle having a very veteran-like season with 6 goals and 32 assists, adding 1 goal and 11 assists over the last month. Throw in some small time defenseman production, but every little bit helps a team making a push players lie Michael Matheson adding 3 goals and 4 assists over the last month as well as Mark Pysyk adding 19 plus minutes a game for the first time in his career, and doing just fine.

Roberto Luongo back…

Also, getting back veteran goaltender Roberto Luongo is a major help, he may not be the best goalie in the league but he knows how to play in big-time situations, although he almost blew the game Thursday night for Florida allowing that weak backhand shot from Jesper Bratt, Luongo returning healthy, is a major plus for the Panthers.

Remaining Schedule…

Anyways over the last month of play, the Panthers have played 6 playoff teams in their 12 games during the month of February. Those 6 playoff teams are Calgary, Toronto(2), Kings, Winnipeg, Washington, Pittsburgh, and playing these teams they are 4-2, but for the month they are 9-2. The Panthers have really made a push here and are starting to actually contend for a playoff spot. They had glimpses of the playoffs two and a half years ago when they won the division and went on to lose in the first round to the New York Islanders.

If you look at the four contending teams, Columbus, Panthers, Islanders, Hurricanes, the Panthers, and Blue Jackets are my two favorites. The Panthers have the schedule in their favor(sort of) as the play 8 non-playoff teams, the Islanders once late in the month, but also play the Lightning, Boston, Flyers at the beginning of the month. They also play Columbus in three weeks which will have major playoff implications. Let’s just say come late March, if this team is still in the hunt, do not be surprised if they make that push. With players performing like Barkov, Trocheck, Dadonov are, keep a healthy Roberto Luongo and top four defense they have. The Panthers are going all in, and I have a faith in this team.

Current Eastern Conference NHL Playoff Matchups

If the season were to end today, and the playoffs start tomorrow, the current playoff matchups would be very interesting and a little different then years past. As a fun little buffer day heading into the last day of the bye week, a view at the playoff race seems about right. A good way to give some fans a preview of what could come and for some other fans a chance to hit the panic button and start to sweat.

Eastern Conference Playoff Matchups…

Tampa Bay Lightning vs Philadelphia Flyers:

How confident are you heading into this matchup Flyer fans? How confident are we as NHL fans that this matchup could happen? Personally, I don’t see the Flyers sneaking in, yes they have been a solid team, but knowing this team, a period of downfall is to occur. The Flyer also have 33 games remaining and of those 33 games 25 of them are against quality teams, and 27 of them are against other Eastern conference teams. Who do you have in a seven-game series? I’m going Lightning in five.

Boston Bruins vs Toronto Maple Leafs:

This matchup, I think is a lock to occur. Can’t see the Bruins jumping the Lightning, and can’t see any other Atlantic team jumping the Leafs, therefore this #2, #3 matchup is to occur. And for a seven-game series, that will favor four games on Boston home ice, I’d have to go Boston this series. I think all around Boston is the better team and have the leadership that has been here plenty of times before, while the Leafs rely heavily on their youth, while their veterans are not as experienced in this situation nor as productive as the Bruins veteran leadership.

Washington Capitals vs New Jersey Devils:

Again, I don’t think we see this matchup, due to the fact the Devils have been on a skid lately and now only trail the Penguins/Columbus by one point and are ahead of the Rangers/Islanders by one point. Very well could see the Devils miss the playoffs and either the Islanders or Rangers sneak in and what we would see is a matchup that everyone is very aware of. Washington is going to hold that #1 spot for the rest of the season so whoever is the first wildcard spot will face off against them. But by the looks of this matchup, it would again be a very similar matchup compared to the Islanders/Rangers. Personally, whoever the Capitals face first round, I think they take them down, which means it could call for a rematch of Pittsburgh vs Washington.

Columbus Blue Jackets vs Pittsburgh Penguins:

I think we probably see this matchup as well, the Blue Jackets are finally getting healthy and I think for the Penguins remaining 31 games they can hold off the wild card teams and stay in the three spot. Like last season we saw these two face off and last season ended in a Penguins series win, expect this time around, I think Columbus takes it. During the regular season this year, the Penguins have won both games in a shootout and they play each other two more times to close out the year. I like Columbus here, just due to the fact the Penguins lack defensive depth and Columbus got a taste of this team last year. They know the playoff atmosphere, they know what to expect, I think Columbus comes out much better this time around.

In the Hunt: 

New York Rangers: Trail Flyers and Devils by 1 point 

New York Islanders: Trail Flyers and Devils by 1 point

Carolina Hurricanes: Trail Flyers and Devils by 4 points

Western Conference matchups coming at you around 12:45 p.m./ 1:00 p.m.