After 82 games and more than a couple of months, the 2011 NHL Playoffs are here. The action starts tonight with Phoenix-Detroit and Tampa Bay-Pittsburgh at 7 PM Eastern Time. The playoffs will be broadcast on a plethora of channels, according to each place the games will be played, but the main channels will be Versus, CBC, and TSN. There’s also the local TV stations, such as Sun Sports (Tampa Bay). This really bugs me, if you’re wondering. As a hockey fan, I’d rather watch all of the matchups rather than watch SOME of them. I know some people who don’t even have Versus! I seriously feel bad for them. Anyway, to the teams…
#1 Washington Capitals: 107 points
#2 Philadelphia Flyers: 106 points
#3 Boston Bruins: 103 points
#4 Pittsburgh Penguins: 106 points
#5 Tampa Bay Lightning: 103 points
#6 Montreal Canadiens: 96 points
#7 Buffalo Sabres: 96 points
#8 New York Rangers: 93 points
#1 Vancouver Canucks: 117 points
#2 San Jose Sharks: 105 points
#3 Detroit Red Wings: 104 points
#4 Anaheim Ducks: 99 points
#5 Nashville Predators: 99 points
#6 Phoenix Coyotes: 99 points
#7 Los Angeles Kings: 98 points
#8 Chicago Blackhawks: 97 points
NHL Regular Season Awards
Jack Adams Award (Coach of the year)
2010 winner: Dave Tippett, Phoenix Coyotes
My 2011 winner: Alain Vigneault, Vancouver Canucks
Why: I know, I know, the (very) popular pick for this award is Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. And for good reason, too. Finishing in 4th in the Eastern Conference without Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin for a lot of the year? That’s stunning. But how can you ignore 117 points for the Canucks, who finished the year a whole 12 points in front of the the second-best team, San Jose.
Norris Trophy (Best Defensive Player)
2010 Winner: Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks
My 2011 Winner: Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
Why: I’ve got one thing to say: Have you seen his plus-minus rating?
Calder Trophy (Rookie of the year)
2010 Winner: Tyler Myers, Buffalo Sabres
My 2011 Winner: Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes
Why: Skinner was one of the most consistent rookies all year, and almost led the Hurricanes to the final Eastern Conference spot, which was won by the New York Rangers. Let me tell you though, Taylor Hall had this award in the bag if he didn’t go out and get injured in his first career fight.
Vezina Trophy (best goaltender)
2010 Winner: Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres
My 2011 Winner: Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins
Why: What the guy has done this year is awesome. His goals allowed per game average is outstanding, and he’s no slouch when it comes to shutouts, either. He’s the sole reason why Boston is in the playoffs. Oh, did I mention he was backup to Tuuka Rask to start the year?
Hart Trophy (MVP)
2010 Winner: Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
My 2011 Winner: Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks
Why: I said before that without Tim Thomas, the Boston Bruins wouldn’t be in the playoffs. The same could be said about Corey Perry and the Ducks. Perry’s improvement in the last few years has just stood out in my mind, and his offensive play and balanced approach really impressed me in the Ducks games I got to see on TV, which, admittedly, is not many, since they’re on the West Coast.
#1 Washington Capitals over #8 New York Rangers, 4 games to 0.
Why: The Caps memorably got knocked out last year in the first round to Montreal. Those doubts should be completely washed away as they easily sweep past New York.
#2 Philadelphia Flyers over #7 Buffalo Sabres, 4 games to 2.
Why: The Flyers were flying (no pun intended) through the regular season, and seemingly had the Eastern Conference locked up. Then things started to go bad for Philly at the worst possible time. They should be fortunate to be #2, but Buffalo isn’t a bad team, by any standards. And when you’re facing Ryan Miller, you have to be prepared.
#6 Montreal Canadiens over #3 Boston Bruins, 4 games to 3.
Why: UPSET! This might be the best series of the entire first round. The season series was awesome in the regular season, and I see no reason why that trend doesn’t continue.
#4 Pittsburgh Penguins over #5 Tampa Bay Lightning, 4 games to 3.
Why: This is another great matchup. The coaches are both likely Coach of the Year candidates in Guy Boucher and Dan Blsyma. Another seven-game series, but ultimately experience wins out for Pittsburgh.
#1 Vancouver Canucks over #8 Chicago Blackhawks, 4 games to 2
Why: Well, Vancouver’s 117 points in the regular season isn’t any fluke. They’re the best team in the NHL, period. They steamroll the Blackhawks in a series that seems more of a blowout than the prediction appears.
#2 San Jose Sharks over #7 Los Angeles Kings, 4 games to 1
Why: The Sharks finally proved they could win a playoff series last year. Now, let’s see if they can do it again. I say they can, and quite easily against a team in transition, goalie-wise.
#3 Detroit Red Wings over #6 Phoenix Coyotes, 4 games to 2
Why: This is a rematch of last year’s exciting series. This one will be a little bit more one sided, in favor of Detroit, but it will nonetheless be very interesting to watch.
#4 Anaheim Ducks over #5 Nashville Predators, 4 games to 2
Why: The Ducks have been here, done that, and I’m not convinced that Pekke Rinne can go full speed ahead and carry the Preds on his shoulders.
#1 Washington Capitals over #4 Pittsburgh Penguins, 4 games to 2
Why: Washington finally beats Pittsburgh when it counts, but you have to applaud the effort put in without Crosby and Malkin.
#2 Philadelphia Flyers over #6 Montreal Canadiens, 4 games to 3
Why: This will be a nailbiter for both teams’ fans, but the Flyers barely pull this one out.
#1 Vancouver Canucks over #4 Anaheim Ducks, 4 games to 2
Why: The Canucks continue to navigate their way past another Western Conference team and don’t look they’re finished anytime soon.
#3 Red Wings over #2 San Jose Sharks, 4 games to 1
Why: Here comes a sigh from Sharks fans. The Sharks aren’t scary in the postseason, it’s as simple as that. They just run out of gas and get dominated by the proven Red Wings line.
#1 Washington Capitals over #2 Philadelphia Flyers, 4 games to 1.
Why: Zzzzzzz……. Oh sorry, this might be the boringest (that’s not a word, is it?) series of all. It’s too bad.
#1 Vancouver Canucks over #3 Detroit Red Wings, 4 games to 3
Why: Wow! This one’ll be amazing, especially compared to the lame Eastern Conference finals. This should be a classic series and Vancouver should have a chance to get their first ever Stanley Cup trophy.
Stanley Cup Final
Vancouver Canucks over Washington Capitals, 4 games to 3
Why: Dramatic ending to another great Stanley Cup playoffs. I always find the regular season to be a bit slow, but the Stanley Cup playoffs is just something else. It very well might be the best playoffs in sports, in terms of excitement. Vancouver fans, get ready to celebrate your team’s first ever Stanley Cup title!