Monday, February 2, 2009

Death Watch Update

The Death Watch has been strangely quiet these past few weeks, as several teams are pulling a mid-season David Blaine act. Here's a look at how things have shaken out since the All-Star Game:

Nothing to see here. Move along.


It would take a Herculean effort for these teams to make the playoffs... but that's why they play the games!

Maple Leafs - On 1/14 I laid down an ultimatum: the Maple Leafs must win 4 of their 8 remaining games in January or be declared "dead". True to form, they racked up a record of 3-2-2, the equivalent of 4 wins but somehow less impressive. Nevertheless, they picked up 8 critical points and will play meaningful games for at least another couple of weeks.

Kings - It's a little unsettling that the Kings are still in the playoff hunt this late in the season. They're 6 points out of the final Western seed, with a logjam of teams ahead of them. Three consecutive wins against conference competition has kept the young Kings alive, but they dropped the first of 5 games on their eastern road trip. Keep an eye on them this week for signs of flameout.

Predators - The Preds nearly coughed up their shot at the playoffs last month, finishing January with an ugly 1-4-0 streak. A key win over Edmonton has temporarily lifted their spirits, but their next 4 games are against key playoff-position competitors. This could make or break the Preds.

Avalanche - How are these guys not dead yet? Despite the second-worst record in the West and having lost 7 of 8, Colorado is a mere 6 points out of the playoffs. It's unfathomable that this crew could actually pull it off, but for the time being they still have a fighting chance at making the postseason cut. Missing both Sakic and Forsberg will hurt them on the ice, but at least they won't have to listen to those stories about the '96 Finals again.

Your playoff dark-horses, scrapping and clawing for a shot at Stanley.

Canucks - Oof. Losing 10 of 11, mostly against playoff competitors, has really taken a toll on the spirit of this franchise. They have a ton of road games left, but to be honest it might be better not to play in front of home crowds for a while. Though a single win could slingshot the Nuckleheads from 11th all the way up to 6th, you get the sense that this is a 2007 Senators situation. As you read Sundin's stat line (9gp, 2-1-3, -6) lower your head and quietly remember: "There but for the grace of Mike Gillis..."

Panthers - Now, this is more like it! Riding a 7-season playoff drought, having not won a series since the '96 Finals (ask Joe Sakic, I hear he has some time on his... um... hand.), playing before crowds of literally hundreds of fans, and on the brink of losing their franchise cornerstone defenseman... the Panthers are thriving. They rang up an 8-game undefeated streak (counting SOLs as ties, old-school style) in January and have recently beaten the Flyers and Habs. Sitting only a point out of 8th place, the Panthers might literally be playing for the future of their franchise.

Pens - Oy vey. Back in the dumps again. The Pens seem fatally flawed, the victims of a little too much roster movement and a key injury to the league's most underrated defenseman. Still, they have a rare duo of world-class forwards who can singlehandedly carry a team. That's usually enough to be competitive... unless of course you're the Lightning or Senators or Penguins.

Coyotes - Just when you thought Gretzky was going to end up coaching the Winnipeg Coyotes, this young team (finally) starts to pay dividends on years of hope and patience. But like any young team, the Yotes are wildly inconsistent. They've lost three straight by a combined score of 11-3, including dual shutouts. They may have to use their weak April schedule as a back door into the playoffs.

Stars - Is this team really in 6th place? Really? These guys? These guys? I guess the Avery suspension was the right move after all. Don't be fooled, though; Dallas' recent surge in the standings has been fuelled by wins over not-so-tough opponents. Aside from a couple of wins over the Wings, they've feasted on other bubble teams to pull themselves up the ladder one seed at a time. It's a great way to get into the playoff bracket, but don't expect much out of the Stars if they end up matched with the Sharks. Now, if they draw the Wings...

Blue Jackets - Ask me again next week, when we know a little more about Mason.

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Bruins Buff said...

Good for the Panthers. Hated the direction the franchise took a few years back.

That'd be an interesting first-round matchup for the B's, eh?

Also, thanks for adding my blog to your "Other Bruins Blogs" section.

Tom said...

No problem, glad to have you on board!

A matchup with Florida would scare me a little. There's always "that team" in the playoffs, the one with no hype and no chance, which is tough and focused and kicks your ass every minute of every game. That might be the Panthers this year. I'm hoping they move up a seed or two, and play the Caps or Devils instead.