Saturday, January 28, 2012

An All-Star Weekend Look Back: Stanley Cup Winner and NHL Awards

On Thursday, we took a look at our preseason picks in the Eastern Conference and yesterday we looked at how we were faring in the Western Conference.

To wrap up the three part series, we will look at how we are faring with our playoff picks as well as our NHL Award winners.

Here's what we had to say in the East...

Eastern Conference...

Using the order of finish in my picks, here are the First Round match-ups.

Washington over Montreal
Pittsburgh over Buffalo
Boston over Tampa
New York Rangers over Philadelphia

Second Round

Washington over New York
Pittsburgh over Boston

Eastern Conference Finals

Pittsburgh over Washington (and NBC loves the match-up)

It does look like that we will have five of the eight eventual playoff teams and if Sidney Crosby makes it back and is healthy for the playoffs, I could see the Pens making it to the finals. Washington could make the finals but if I am making a pick today, I would have to go with Boston repeating as the finalist out of the East and I would project the Rangers as their opponent in the Eastern finals.

I think we can safely say that Montreal, Tampa Bay, and Buffalo will not be sniffing the top eight at the season's end.

In the Western Conference, we fared a bit better picking the top eight, with only Anaheim looking like that they are out of the picture...

Western Conference...

First Round

Vancouver over St. Louis
Los Angeles over Anaheim (great cross-town rivalry)
Nashville over Detroit (finally)
Chicago over San Jose

Second Round

Chicago over Vancouver
Los Angeles over Nashville (seven games - Kings win on home ice)

Western Conference Finals

Los Angeles over Chicago

For the second year in a row, I had high hopes for the Kings but unless they make a few serious plays at the trade deadline I don't see them going far in the playoffs.

At this point, I think the Western Conference winner will come out of the Central Division with any of the four that are playing well having a chance to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Here's what we had to say about the finals and the potential for this match-up looks pretty grim at this point. Again, at this point, I think whichever Central Division team makes it to the Stanley Cup Finals will be the team that lifts the Cup in 2012.

Stanley Cup Finals...

It will be a great match-up between Pittsburgh and Los Angeles with Pittsburgh having the home ice advantage by virtue of three points or less difference during the regular season.

Sidney Crosby will take the Conn Smythe when the Pens win it on home ice in game seven.

I'm feeling a little better about a few of my finalists in the NHL Award categories that I predicted.

NHL Awards...

Here are some guesses (not predictions) of the top three in each category and the projected winners.

Hart Trophy

Evgeni Malkin
Alex Ovechkin (winner)
Steven Stamkos

As always, with the Hart Trophy, a lot will depend on how a player's team finishes out the season. At this point, I don't see Ovechkin anywhere on the ballot as he has had a disappointing year and the Caps have been all over the map as a team.

If I were picking at this point, I would pick Malkin as the winner, and Claude Giroux and Marian Hossa as the other two finalists.

Norris Trophy

Duncan Keith
Niclas Lidstrom (winner in his swan song season)
Shea Weber

Unless Shea Weber falls flat on his face during the stretch run and the Predators collapse, I would say that the Norris is his to lose. I would bounce Keith out of the top three and add Erik Karlsson as the third finalist.

Vezina Trophy

Henrik Lundqvist
Ryan Miller
Pekka Rinne (winner)

It may have seemed like a homer pick with Rinne as the winner of the Vezina but I will stand by it at this time. He is known for strong finishes and he is two behind Jimmy Howard in wins at the break. Obviously, Ryan Miller will not be a finalist and I would remove him and place Howard as the third pick.

Calder Trophy

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Gabriel Landeskog (winner)
Adam Larsson

Nugent-Hopkins was the easy pick for the Calder for most of the season but an injury has made this a much wider field than originally thought. Other than Nugent-Hopkins, there are probably ten players that could make the top three. It will be interesting to see who rises to the top in the final part of the season.

Jack Adams Trophy

Dan Bylsma
John Tortorella
Barry Trotz (Winner - Finally)

If the Predators make a surge at the end of the season, Barry Trotz could indeed be in the top three and Tortorella and Bylsma are never bad picks. The race is still wide open and who makes the biggest move down the stretch should have plenty to do with who the top three will end up being.

Jennings Trophy (Included for all the Jennings Trophy Watch fans)

Nashville (winner)

This was a bit of a joke that I included the Jennings as we had fun with the "Jennings Watch" last season. This year, it looks like St. Louis and the Rangers could battle down to the wire as both have team GAA's under two at the All-Star break.

So there you have it. We have to be accountable for all our bad predictions in the preseason. We'll take a final look again, once the season is over.

More Later...

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