Tag: Eastern Conference

Predicting Eastern Conference Wild Card Teams

The Eastern Conference Wild Card race is extremely close and looking to come down to the wire. As of now the Hurricanes have the first spot (83 pts), Blue Jackets second spot (81 pts) tied with Montreal (81 pts) with the Flyers at 76 points.

As of now there are 12 games remaining for the Blue Jackets and Canadiens, and 13 remaining for the Hurricanes and Flyers. Let’s take a look at each teams schedule.

Carolina Hurricanes playoff outlook

The Hurricanes have 8 home games remaining and 5 away games remaining. The Hurricanes are 18-11-4 at home and 20-13-3 on the road. The host the Sabres, Penguins, Lightning, Wild, Canadiens, Capitals, Flyers and Devils. On the road vs the Blue Jackets, Capitals, Penguins, Leafs, Flyers. The Hurricanes play 8 playoff contending or definite playoff teams. They play two non-playoff teams (Devils, Sabres) in which they are 2-0 vs Buffalo and 1-2 vs New Jersey this season. Grading the Hurricanes strength of schedule one being easy, ten being difficult. We can probably agree on a 7.5/8 for them. The Lightning, Capitals, Penguins are top teams in the NHL. The Blue Jackets and Canadiens are going to be two blood bath games with the playoff implications it will hold. The Hurricanes can pull out 18 of the 26 potential points. Pushing them to 101 points on the season (around that mark of 99-101).

Columbus Blue Jackets have four home games remaining and seven away games remaining. The Blue Jackets 19-16-2 at home and 20-12-1 on the road. Clearly they play a lot better on the road, so seven road games may help. The Blue Jackets have Carolina, Boston, Flames, Edmonton, Islanders, Canadiens, Canucks, Nashville, Buffalo, Boston, Rangers, Ottawa. The Blue Jackets may have the easiest schedule of the four potential wild card teams. Columbus play five non-playoff teams and six playoff teams. Therefore the five non-playoff games should be a guaranteed two points at this point in the season. The Blue Jackets should definitely get 10 points there making it 91 on the season and probably pull out a few wins vs the playoff teams they play. Blue Jackets should finish with 100-102 points. There strength of schedule is a six.

Montreal has six road games and six home games remaining. The Canaidens have a 20-11-4 home record and 17-15-3 record on the road. The Canadiens play the Islanders, Blackhawks, Flyers, Islanders, Sabres, Hurricanes, Panthers, Blue Jackets, Jets, Lightning, Capitals, Leafs. The Canadiens have nine game vs playoff teams and three games vs non playoff teams. With potential of 24 points the Canadiens will take 12 points in my opinion possibly more. Pushing them to 93 points, they can probably get around 95-96 points but the Canadiens have a very tough schedule and have not been playing all that well lately. I would say they have a 8 strength of schedule, their non playoff teams they play are no slumps too which makes it more difficult.

Philadelphia Flyers have seven home games remaining and six road games remaining. They have a 18-13-4 home record and 16-14-4 road record. The Flyers play 10 playoff teams and three non-playoff teams. They play two extremely hot and hungry Western Conference teams at the end of the year and the Capitals two times, Penguins once and Rangers at the end of the year who will not go down lightly. The Flyers have a potential 26 points on the board. I see them taking possibly half of those points or more. I see the Flyers finishing with 96 points or less. They have the most difficult schedule for sure with a 8.5 strength of schedule. Plus they are already 5-7 points behind the two wild card teams right now therefore they will need to win 2-3 more games more than the other teams do which is not going to be easy.

Prediction: Hurricanes and Blue Jackets.

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The Celtics stay intact, While the East Stacks up

The trade deadline came and went without any moves from Boston as General Manager Danny Ainge and the rest of the Boston Celtics front office have decided to stick with the nucleus intact in hopes of a trip to the Finals.

With many speculations now in the rear view about whether or not Ainge was willing to deal Kyrie Irving before the deadline after his questionable comments about his commitment to Boston last Friday. The Celtics will now make a run at the top spot in the East with the same roster with less than three months remaining in the regular season.

Making a Run at the top spot in the East

We can’t say whether or not Boston has finally found some consistency, we’ve seen them go on a winning streak and then lose a couple of games to team not in the playoff picture.

Boston has won 10 of their last 11 games, with the only lost coming against the Golden State Warriors. They’ve shown us they can be a championship level team based on their brilliant performance against the Warriors and against Oklahoma City Thunder last Sunday. They outlasted the dynamic duo of Paul George and Russell Westbrook, who both have been in the MVP discussion this season.

Boston currently sits in the third seed in the East just three and a half games behind Toronto for second place and five and a half games behind Milwaukee for the number one seed. Milwaukee currently has the best record in the East and NBA at 40-13, and the Philadelphia 76ers can’t be slept on after making a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers for Tobias Harris, who’s averaging a career high 20.9 points per game this season.

Boston’s Marcus Morris Sr, isn’t sold on the new look Sixers, “Great pick up, not enough though,” wrote Morris on the comment section of a Belcher Report Instagram post.

Are the Celtics still the Clear Cut Favorite to win the East?

With the East as stacked as ever, do the odds still play in the Celtics favor to represent the East in the Finals. We can argue that the top four teams in the East, in the Bucks, Sixers, Toronto Raptors and Celtics have a shot at giving Golden State fits in the Finals, even potential push them to seven games.

Head coach of the Bucks, Mike Budenholzer has unlocked the Bucks offense with Giannis Antetokounmpo leading the way putting up MVP numbers with 27 ppg, 12.4 rebounds a game and 5.9 assists per game. Before the deadline the Bucks added Nikola Mirotic from the New Orleans Pelicans. Mirotic was an important piece for the Pelicans during the postseason last year and has continued to play well this season averaging 16.7 ppg and 8.2 rpg.

The Sixers have formed their own big four of Harris, Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. General Manager, Elton Brand and the front office will stick with these four players alongside JJ Reddick for the foreseeable future, and will look to resign both Harris and Butler this off-season.

Just an hour before the trade deadline the Raptors landed Marc Gasol from Memphis, which improves their center position as opposed to having Jonás Valanciunas, who was included in the trade. A starting five of Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Serge Ibaka and Gasol will be interesting to see as the goal for President, Masaji Ujiri, is to make the Finals in hopes of resigning free agent to be, Leonard.

As for Boston, chemistry and consistency is what’s keeping this team from competition night in and night out at a Golden State Warrior level. We’ve seen them pick up big wins against the Sixers, Raptors and even sweeping the Thunder this season, but it’s their inconsistency that’s kept Boston from being mentioned as a clear cut favorite from reaching the Finals. Gordon Hayward has yet to find his groove, but on the bright side Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier have found their role coming off the bench.

The Celtics play LeBron James and the Lakers tonight at TD Garden, and will test out the newly formed big four in Philadelphia on Tuesday the 12.

Boston Celtics Win Five in a Row; Have they arrived?

Saturday night the Boston Celtics crushed the Chicago Bulls by 56 points, the Bulls fans showed their frustration as the Bulls were booed out of the United Center. With this win the Celtics have won five in a row and are scoring over 120 points throughout the five game stretch. Boston now finds themselves in the fifth spot in the east and six games behind the Toronto Raptors.

With Horford and Baynes Out, Theis Delivers

With injuries to Boston’s two starting big men in Al Horford and Aron Baynes, Brad Stevens had to go deep into his bench and start Daniel Theis while giving Guerschon Yabusele some minutes as well. Theis, the second year player from Germany, showed up for Boston as he scored a career high 22 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked four shots. NBA: Boston Celtics at Minnesota Timberwolves

This goes to show the type of luxury Stevens has in his roster, Theis is Boston’s third big man behind Horford and Baynes and to get this type of performance from him is huge for the Celtics.

Celtics Had Seven Players in Double Digit Scoring

Throughout the night it was looking like Boston was treating this game like a scrimmage as they continue to work out things themselves. Terry Rozier, Semi Ojeleye and Jaylen Brown combined for 40 points off the bench, Brown led the game in scoring with 23. Marcus Morris had 12, Jayson Tatum scored 18, Theis had a career high 22 and Kyrie Irving chipped in 13 points in 23 minutes.

Marcus Smart did his job on the defensive end as he took the assignment at guarding the Bulls leading scorer Zach LaVine. LaVine entered last night’s game averaging 24 points per game, but Smart completely shut him down. Smart held LaVine to 11 points while denying him the ball most of the game, which was part of the reason Chicago couldn’t get their offense going.

As the Celtics continue rolling we can’t overlook that this winning streak is occurring against non-playoff teams. It’s not until December 21 that the Celtics play a real contender in the Milwaukee Bucks, but for now Boston will continue their easy stretch of games as Stevens continues to fill in holes in his starting lineup.

Celtics Face Reality Check after Loss to Blazers

After LeBron James departed from the east the Boston Celtics were looked at by the basketball world as a straight shot to represent the east in the Finals this season, but as they continue to struggle many have questioned the team’s potential. The Celtics finished their west coast road trip with just one win in four games, ending in a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday 100-94

Blazers, Damian Lillard drives past Aron Baynes

For the third straight game the Celtics once again found themselves down 20-points throughout the game. They pulled off a comeback against the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, but were unable to do the same against the Utah Jazz and the Blazers over the weekend. Kyrie Irving took a deep look at the team after the loss,

“We needed this. We’re not as good as we think we are,” said Irving.

“That’s really what it comes down to. The excitement is done. It’s just real basketball now. It’s not the potential of the team or where we’ll be at the end of the season. It’s right now and taking care of what’s in front of us.”

Kyrie calls for Veteran Presence

During his postgame interview Irving pointed at a veteran presence the locker room needs

“Right now I think it would be nice if we had someone that was a 15-year vet, a 14-year vet that could kind of help us race along the regular season and understand it’s a long marathon rather than just a full-on sprint,” Irving said.

The Houston Rockets may have one guy that could hit the free agent market really soon, Carmelo Anthony. After many players in the Rockets indicated that Anthony could’ve played his last game for the team, the 15-year vet could help mentor and motivate the Celtics young core.

The Race for Eastern Supremacy Continues to Grow

As Boston continues to struggle, the battle to represent the east in the Finals just got tougher after the addition of Jimmy Butler by the Philadelphia 76ers. It looked like the Celtics only had the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks to deal with after proving time and time again that the 76ers lacked depth to contend with Boston, but with Butler now in a 76ers uniform it will be interesting to see what kind of a difference he makes in their Christmas Day match-up.

The Celtics face a tough test on Friday as Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors visit TD Garden, the Raptors were victorious during their last encounter 113-101. As Toronto continues to play great team basketball, we’ll see how Boston bounces from their west road trip against the Chicago Bulls tomorrow night.

NHL News; Can the Canucks, Oilers and Islanders continue their success?

Not many expected the standings to look the way they do right now. Besides the Predators, Lightning and Maple Leafs being a top the standings, the rest of the top-10 has some unexpected teams in it.

(6) Vancouver Canucks: 9-6-0; 18 points

  • What has been the Canucks reason for success? Well we know the answer is obvious they are getting supplemental scoring along with decent goaltending. The two biggest reasons the Canucks have struggled for so long is due to not enough depth scoring and inconsistent goaltending. Now, through 15 games the Canucks are ranked 9th in goals for (46) and 6th in goals against (50) but they also rank 19th in goals for per game (3.07), 16th in power play percentage (20.4) and 29th in shots on goal per game (26.9). The Canucks shoot the puck on net the least among all teams besides three, they have a decent power play percentage, rank in the middle to low end of the pack in terms of goals for per game. Along with the fact they are a team that allows a ton of goals against, essentially the only way the Canucks continue this performance is if Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson and Jake Virtanen can continue on this reign of doing all the heavy lifting for Vancouver. Along with the fact Jacob Markstrom and Andres Nilsson can continue to be a solid two-goalie tandem. Right now the Canucks are performing at an extremely unbelievable rate that is destined to fall apart soon. They have 5 players who do all the offensive work for them, with Boeser, Horvat 11 points and Pettersson’s 15 points the next guy up is Markus Granlund with 6 points. It will be tough for Vancouver to continue down this path, I personally do not see this being sustained all year.

(7) Edmonton Oilers: 8-4-1; 17 points

  • After a disappointing 2017-18 season the Oilers made it clear in the offseason they

    Edmonton Oilers 2018-19
    Ryan Nugent Hopkins able to continue his hot start? RNH has 14 points in 13 games thus far…

    were not going to let that happen again. Although they did not acquire many players to their team, they have come out the gate flying looking like a team on a mission. Of course their success comes from the one and only Connor McDavid. McDavid has 21 points in 13 games, 9 goals and 12 assists, after McDavid comes Leon Draisaitl’s 14 points in 13 games and Ryan Nugent Hopkins(RNH) 14 points in 13 games. Aside from McDavid, Draisaitl and RNH the Oilers next line of production is Tobias Rieder with 7 points(7 assists), Alex Chiasson and Oscar Klefbom who also have 6 points(6 assists) and Drake Caggiula who has 5 points(5 goals). The Oilers have very little secondary scoring after McDavid and Draisaitl which is a big concern and was a big issue for them last season. On top of that the Oilers rank 20th in goals for(40) but also 8th in goals against(34), they average just above 3 goals a game while allowing just under 3 goals against. The Oilers are like many teams seeing great production from three players right now, it is early and will these guys continue? We can all guarantee McDavid will, Draisaitl is good for 80 points, can Ryan Nugent Hopkins come out of his shell and break out? Potentially he can but it is not a guarantee obviously. Other than that Cam Talbot will need to pick up his play a tad and find a way to bring back his 2016-17 self to help the Oilers continue on this trend. Personally I see this as a possibility, I see the Oilers falling off around the All-Star break though, bubble playoff team.

(8) New York Islanders: 8-4-1; 17 points

  • As we all know the big question for the Islanders coming into the year was what are they going to be able to do without John Tavares? Well it seems they have answered that question pretty nicely through the first 13 games. The Islanders have seen distribution of production across the board leading the team is Josh Bailey with 15 points, then captain Anders Lee with 13 points, sophomore Matt Barzal with 12 points, Brock Nelson with 9 points, three guys with 7 points and two guys with 6 points. They rank 16th in the goals for category among the league with 41 goals and have the second lowest goal against among all NHL teams. They average around 3.15 goals for and 2.31 goals against, their power play is ranked 13th (22.5). On top of it all their goaltending has been much better, Thomas Greiss has a 1.85 goals against in 6 games started and a .944 save percentage along with Robin Lehner’s 2.45 goals against in 7 games started and .928 save percentage. The Islanders are certainly the opposite of what they were last year, they are actually playing defense, getting support from their goalies and not blowing leads. Many may overlook the Islanders with no John Tavares but it seems as if the players they have now are out to prove something. Plus with a tough Metropolitan division the Islanders can go one of two ways this season middle of the pack or a playoff team. The Islanders are a team that will compete with their divisional opponents and raise their level of play when it comes to other Metropolitan/Atlantic division teams. It is now staying consistent for the Islanders all year round, not just three months. I see the Islanders sustaining this and being a big surprise to many.

NHL EASTERN CONFERENCE PICKS OF THE NIGHT; LOCK THEM IN!

Arizona Coyotes(0-7-1) vs New York Islanders(4-3-1)

Now, this is a perfect example of why not to jump on the bandwagon for a young team. Before the season started the Coyotes were getting such high praise and remarks about their offseason and how they are going to be contenders. Well, they have played just eight games this season but I’m pretty sure those eight games are a clear indication as to how they will be for the next 74 games. This one is quite easy in my opinion, a young team struggling right now against an Islanders team with a lot to prove, will not fare well for Arizona. Islanders, 4-1.  

Anaheim Ducks(3-3-1) vs Philadelphia Flyers(5-3-0)

The Ducks wings are clipped right now, they are hurting real(large emphasis) bad. Cam Fowler just hit the injured reserve(IR), Patrick Eaves was diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome(a disease where one’s immune system attacks the nervous system), Sami Vatanen still unlikely to return, but Hampus Lindholm is expected to make his debut tonight. The Ducks are hurting and feeling the effects starting off with a 3-3-1 record, where the Flyers have seen major success in their top six and Shayne Gostisbehere as well as some unlikely goaltending in Brian Elliott. The Flyers at home are a difficult team to beat especially versus a team that is riddled with injuries. Flyers, 3-2.

Edmonton Oilers(2-5-2) vs Pittsburgh Penguins(5-3-1)

The Oilers have looked terrible out of the gate and have not seen the depth production they were hoping for along with some poor defensive and goaltending. Very unlikely of the Oilers but luckily they get one of their top guns back in the lineup tonight, Leon Drastali. Drastali went down early in the year with an eye/head injury but is expected to return to the lineup tonight. While the Penguins have not been all that consistent and just dropped to the Lightning, 7-1. The Penguins need to get some confidence and consistency going, with a fragile blue line and unsure Matt Murray right now, the Oilers speed will look to take advantage of the two. But the storyline heading into tonight’s game is a test of the best, Sidney Crosby vs Connor McDavid two best players in the world going at it. Who will help their team to a victory tonight? Oilers need a win bad and it comes tonight, Oilers 4-3.

Tampa Bay Lightning(7-1-1) vs Carolina Hurricanes(3-2-1)

Lightning. Need I really say more? Steven Stamkos was named first star of the NHL this week, has 18 points over nine games, Nikita Kucherov was the second star this week, and of the top leaders in the NHL, these two are up there for goals, assists, and points. The Hurricanes 10,000 fans do not worry me for the Lightning’s sake. This could be a well-fought game and relatively tight but at the end of 60-minutes, the Lightning is going to win.

Detroit Red Wings(4-4-1) vs Buffalo Sabres(2-5-2)

Battle of the basement, well the two basement teams to be, come December. Buffalo made a ton of offseason acquisitions, a new coach and still have not been able to string together a 60-minute or even 30-minute game. The Sabres must come out from the start and just fire pucks on the net, they struggle to hold leads and scoring early could be the way to dig themselves out of deficits. They have the ability to score goals just holding onto the lead is their worry. While the Red Wings continue to see production from their top guys, which is a good sign. Luckily age is not a factor for Henrik Zetterberg as he leads the offense with 9 points and once superstar defenseman Mike Green looks to be starting off on the right foot this season with 11 points. Tonight, I think the Sabres can put together a somewhat decent effort to beat the Red Wings. Sabres, 3-2.

Florida Panthers(3-4-0) vs Montreal Canadiens(1-6-1)

Will the Canadiens capture a win again in October, probably not and it won’t come tonight that is for sure. The only bright spot for the Canadiens and or hope is that back up goaltender James Reimer is net so if they can manage to throw 50 pucks on net like they did vs Anaheim maybe they will get some bounces. But the Panthers have a magnitude of offensive weapons and definitely outmatch the Canadiens up and down the lineup. Vincent Trocheck, 2 goals tonight, random guess I wanted to throw out there. Big Trocheck fan. Panthers, 4-2.

NHL Preview: New York Rangers 2017-18, Hayes Year, Zibanejads Role, Lundqvist Age…

New York Rangers(48-28-6; 4th Metropolitan): The Rangers came flying out of the gate to start the season, at one point they lead the NHL in goals for and goals for per game, after coming back to life and slowly tapering off the Rangers and finished in the first wild card spot in a tough Western Conference.

After acquiring Mika Zibanejad last season and now Kevin Shattenkirk the Rangers have a ton of talent on their roster but questions to be answered. With Henrik “The King” Lundqvist turning 36-years-old this season how much longer can he last, better yet can he even continue to perform at the caliber we all know he can for this season? With Derek Stepan out and #1 center position duties for grabs Zibanejad must take the next step to fulfill the #1 center role. Kevin Shattenkirk and Ryan McDonagh will lead this Rangers defense with a ton of youth and experience in Anthony DeAngelo, Brady Skeji and Branden Smith. What was an any area of concern the Rangers cleaned up nicely but, now players like Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller and Rick Nash must answer the bell on the front end to give this team another shot at Lord Stanley.

Screenshot 2017-08-20 at 12.51.21 PM

Mika Zibanejad: “Zib” will be asked to play that #1 center role for the Rangers next season, as if he cannot handle it is not a question to ask, more so how will the Rangers fulfill the other two center options now. With Zib centering the first line more than likely with Jimmy Vesey and Rick Nash to his left and right, Zibanejad’s goal scoring ability may not come out much next season, but in 56 games Zibanejad did manage 14 goals and 23 assists in 56 games last season. With the hopes to help Nash get his scoring touch back, Zibanejad will be relied upon heavily by the Rangers and yes the 24-year-old will answer the bell.

Kevin Hayes: Three years now consistently producing 35-40 points, back-to-back rough playoff performances, next year is the year for Hayes to break through, score 25 goals and total 60 points. With the #2 center role for next season, Hayes will have Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider to play alongside, so there’s no reason to not see him produce 60 points. Hayes will have a ton of pressure and even more so come post season play if he does make a difference in the lineup. Hayes has the size, ability and shot to be a top forward in the NHL, with a bit more speed and better decision making in situational scenarios Hayes will be a great center for years to come for New York.

Kevin Shattenkirk: After coming to Washington and not living up to expectations Shattenkirk found himself in the free agency frenzy. Months later Shatty landed in New York and became the piece the Rangers needed. Although he is more so an offensive defenseman the Rangers need to ramp up their powerplay efficiency, and Shattenkirk will be a great addition to the offensive side of things. Despite his blunders in the defensive zone I think many fans can agree Kevin Shattenkirk is better than Marc Staal. Shattenkirk will have a ton of pressure and lights shining bright on him at Madison Square Garden with the hopes to help the Rangers push deeper into the playoffs, Shattenkirk will be a major part of the Rangers success.

Henrik Lundqvist: Obvious one here, after a not so “King” like season many fans have questioned Lundqvist’s efficiency to remain an elite goaltender. Despite all the noise, the Rangers seem to trust Lundqvist for a few more years after letting Antti Raanta walk. Lundqvist has been the backbone to the Rangers success for the last 8 years, as if he won’t be able to do it again seems like a way for the media to spin a story. Lundqvist has posted 35 plus wins since 2006-2007 season and a career GAA of 2.32 and almost 750 career games started. Lundqvist has been here, understands the pressure and I think he’ll be just fine next season.

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