Friday, September 28, 2007

HTP Predicts! (Western Conference)

Western Conference

Central Division

One-Liner: More intrigue than you might think, but still only one Cup contender here.

Predicted Order of Finish (*denotes playoff team)

1. Detroit* The more things change...out goes Schneider, in comes Rafalski. Wings just keep on truckin'.
2. St. Louis* Nice mix of kids (Erik Johnson) and grown-ups (Kariya, Tkachuk). Legace adequate in goal. Full season under Andy Murray. It all adds up to a return to the playoffs for Blues.
3. Nashville It's not just that their future in Nashville is so uncertain, it's that so much of their high end talent high-tailed it out of town. Not even solid tandem of Poile-Trotz can put enough lipstick on this pig.
4. Chicago Stocked with great, young talent, brighter days are here for the 'Hawks. Now, if only they can get new ownership to show any interest in actually icing a winner...
5. Columbus Seven seasons in, and they're just now realizing they have to build from within. Go Buckeyes!

Northwest Division

One-Liner: Every bit as competitive as Atlantic, any of four teams could hoist division banner next season.

Predicted Order of Finish (*denotes playoff team)

1. Calgary* Very balanced and deep roster now has Iron Mike to keep them motivated. I don't see this team underachieving two years in a row. Kipper playing for contract? Can you say "Vezina"?
2. Minnesota* Wild could be one groin away from playoff success. Or they could be a lack of depth at center away from missing the big dance altogether. They do enjoy the biggest x-factor in the division in Lemaire.
3. Colorado* Three big acquisitions addresses key weaknesses from last season. Is Budaj the real deal? If so, then playoffs are a certainty. If not, then it will be a stretch again.
4. Vancouver It seems crazy to say that the best goalie in the league will miss the playoffs, but that's what happens if he doesn't have any offense in front of him. Sedins are super, but one pair of identical twins does not a scary offense make. Even Luongo can't win every game 2-1. But the teams above them have zero margin for error.
5. Edmonton They've taken a ton of abuse since their fall from grace last season. But thousands of people can't be wrong. Souray will add some pop to the power play. But simply not enough at too many positions to seriously contend in the regular season. Tavares Watch!

Pacific Division

One-Liner: If you like big, tough, swashbuckling hockey then this is where you want to be.

Predicted Order of Finish (*denotes playoff team)

1. San Jose* Sharks have it all, should be hungry after recent playoff performances. Time for Big Joe to lead a team to the next level.
2. Anaheim* Cup hangover not helped by London chaser to start season. Still extemely dangerous team, won't lay down for anyone.
3. Dallas* Turco finally laid playoff demons to rest, Modano getting long in the tooth...first round casualty.
4. Los Angeles This team could be as exciting to watch as any in the league. Goaltending still in flux, but lots of sunshine ahead in Hollywood.
5. Phoenix Hopefully new management group will stick to rebuilding...question is: will anyone be around to notice when it starts paying dividends? Don't bet on it (Janet). Lottery-bound.

Playoff matchups

Conference Quarterfinals

1. Detroit
8. Dallas

2. San Jose
7. Anaheim

3. Calgary
6. St. Louis

4. Minnesota
5. Colorado

Conference Semi-Finals

1. Detroit
4. Minnesota

2. San Jose
3. Calgary

Conference Finals

1. Detroit
3. Calgary

Western Conference Champion

Stanley Cup Finals

Rangers vs. Calgary In 1994, "Iron" Mike Keenan coached the New York Rangers to their first Stanley Cup Championship in 54 years. In 2008, Keenan will lead his new charges, the Calgary Flames, into battle for hockey's ultimate prize- ironically against the Rangers. There will be many intriguing story lines in this final, including Keenan, Kipprusoff and Lundqvist dueling for Finland v. Sweden supremacy and Chris Drury (formerly of the Flames). In the end, the winner will be the....

Stanley Cup Champion
Calgary Flames


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