Interestingly enough, I found myself reviewing my preseason predictions for the final standings in both the East and the West. In several instances, I was dead on; unfortunately, in others, I was way off. That’s usually the case in these matters.
Just for kicks here’s the links to those posts:
Now let’s analyze my predictions against the actual, mid-season NHL standings.
Washington – Prediction (1st) Actual (3rd) – I had Washington first and halfway through the season, the Caps reside in the 3rd spot in the East behind New Jersey and Buffalo. They’re 3 points behind NJ but have played 2 more games. This isn’t a clear win but I was in the ballpark. They have the talent to climb up the standings.
Philadelphia – Prediction (2nd) Actual (9th) - This is one of the more disappointing stories in the NHL. The Flyers were picked by some to even win the Stanley Cup. Currently they sit outside the playoff mix in 9th. They are only 1 point out with game(s) in hand on both 7th place Ottawa and 8th place Montreal though.
Boston – Prediction (3rd) Actual (5th) - I picked the Bruins to easily win the Northeast but Buffalo, led by US Olympian Ryan Miller in net, has exceeded expectations. Meanwhile, Boston has struggled somewhat though they are still comfortably in a playoff spot at this point in the season.
Pittsburgh – Prediction (4th) Actual (4th) – I actually hit this one on the head. Although I expected Philadelphia to take the Atlantic, I did expect Pittsburgh to finish in this spot. No worries though; they will still be on the short-list of Stanley Cup contenders.
Carolina – Prediction (5th) Actual (15th) – Big miss here. I figured with: Cam Ward in net; Eric Staal, Ray Whitney and Rod Brind’Amour at Forward; and Joni Pitkanen, Joe Corvo on defense that the ‘Canes were a surefire playoff team. Oopsie!
Ironically, I had pointed out that I didn’t believe Cam Ward had proved himself as an “elite” goalie yet. I took some heat for that comment but so far this season, I have been proven correct. Ward has a GAA of nearly 3 (2.98 which is tied for 36th) and a S% of just .903 (tied for 31st). That’s not exactly elite-level, is it?
New York Rangers – Prediction (6th) Actual (6th) – I took a lot of heat for this too. It was implied I was a myopic homer that didn’t know anything about other teams. Well, so far so good. I knew that the Rangers had enough talent (Lundqvist, Gaborik, etc.) to finish as high as 5th in the Eastern Conference standings; or as low as 12th. Gaborik has been healthy and Lundqvist has been very good. Exactly the prerequisites I identified for a 6th place finish.
New Jersey Devils – Prediction (7th) Actual (1st) – To think I even intimated that the Devils are always underestimated in my predictions. Here they are again to prove the naysayers wrong. First in the Atlantic and first in the East. Impressive. Parise is proving himself to be a superstar and Marty Brodeur is still an elite goaltender while breaking some longstanding NHL records along the way.
Tampa Bay Lightning – Prediction (8th) Actual (13th) – I figured this team had made enough improvements in the offseason to crack the playoffs this year. Right now, they are 13th in the East but only 6 points out with games in hand on both 7th (Ottawa) and 8th place (Montreal). They’re getting good seasons from rookie Victor Hedberg, and 2nd year guy Steven Stamkos. Also, FA goalie Anterro Niitymaki has been solid (as I predicted). Unfortunately, Captain Vinny Lecavalier has not been as good as expected. They still have a shot but Lecavalier, among others, will have to play better.
Buffalo Sabres – Prediction (9th) Actual (2nd) – This is the real positive surprise of the Eastern Conference. Ryan Miller is putting up a Vezina type of season as I said would need to happen for the Sabres to excel. I also said that Tim Connolly would need to be healthy and perform well and he has. Meanwhile, rookie Tyler Myers has come out of almost nowhere to impress everyone. I missed this one.
Montreal – Prediction (10th) Actual (8th) – I anticipated it wasn’t going to be smooth sailing for a Montreal franchise that made a number of offseason changes. They’ve gotten superb goaltending from an unlikely source; Jaroslav Halak who has even threatened to usurp Carey Price as the franchise net minder. Scott Gomez still hasn’t lived up to his enormous salary. Mike Camallerri was a good add as he has 20 goals through 46 games. They’re in the running though it won’t be easy to make the postseason.
Toronto – Prediction (11th) Actual (14th) – The improvement expected has been missing. The long awaited deal for former Bruin Phil Kessell was finally consummated but the Leafs are still lacking offensively. FA acquisitions Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin have both underperformed their large, UFA contracts. Vesa Toskala has been a mess in net and has lost his job to rookie Jonas Gustavsson. Still a long way to go for the many disgruntled Leafs fans.
Florida – Prediction (12th), Actual (12th) – Just not quite enough talent here. They have a good first line of Michal Frolik, Nathan Horton and Stephen Weiss and Steven Reinprecht has been a good add but they don’t play enough defense to be a playoff team. Florida gives up the most shots per game (34.3) which nullifies the solid goaltending of Tomas Vokoun. They’ll miss again.
Atlanta – Prediction (13th) Actual (11th) – Improvements, yes but still out of the playoff mix. A decision will still have to be made in regards to Ilya Kovalchuk who remains unsigned for next season and beyond. Goaltending is still a problem area for this squad. Rookie Ondrej Pavelec started out well but has struggled of late and Kari Lehtonen hasn’t taken charge yet.
Ottawa – Prediction (14th) Actual (7th) – Somehow this squad still holds a playoff spot. The goaltending has been a disappointment; Leclaire hasn’t been healthy and he has combined with rookie Brian Elliot for a S% below .900. Jason Spezza was bad before getting hurt (19 points in 30 games). Kovalev has underachieved as well with only 29 points in 42 games. Cheechoo has a whopping 11 points in 45 contests while the other piece of the Heatley deal, Milan Michalek, does have 16 goals in 44 appearances. On the surface, there is little to see that points to this team being a playoff squad but surprisingly they still occupy the 7th slot in the East. Unless the goaltending improves and Kovalev wakes up, this team is a prime candidate to fall out of the playoff mix.
New York Islanders – Prediction (15th) Actual (10th) – This team is seeing some improvement from young players Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey while rookie, #1 overall draft pick in 2009, John Tavares, is putting up great numbers as an 18 year-old (16 – 13 – 29 in 46 games). Long time minor leaguer, Matt Moulson, has been a revelation with 16 goals in 46 games as well. Goaltending has been in the capable hands of veterans Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron and they have performed ok. Well, not so great but they both have S% of .900 or better. Mark Streit has been his usual, solid self on the blue line.
Well, by my count, I was on or close with 8 of my 15 predictions (Washington, Boston, Pittsburgh, NYR, Montreal, Florida, Toronto and Atlanta) while I missed by a fair amount on the other 7. I am not happy with that success rate but hey, what do you expect with predictions?
Next up will be a review of my Western Conference predictions. A sneak preview though; I had better success with the West than I did with the East.