Saturday, 7 April 2007

Easier Said Than Done

The final weekend for NHL teams trying to make the playoffs is upon us, and most have been decided as of the time of writing this article. Honestly, it was some of the best hockey I have seen in a while, and it made for great hockey watching. As Europe sang, it was the final countdown for a few teams: the New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames, and the Colorado Avalanche. Who did what? Who is playing who? How far will my team go in the playoffs? All will be answered below.

Firstly, tomorrow's game between the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders has the fate of two teams resting on the outcome: the Islanders themselves, and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Toronto Maple Leafs eliminated the Montreal Canadiens from the playoff race tonight with a 6-5 victory. Montreal simply needed to win or gain a point, and they would have eliminated both the Islanders and Maple Leafs. However, if they lost in regulation, they'd have all summer to think about it. And what happened? Kyle Wellwood's deflection of a Tomas Kaberle point shot on the powerplay early in the third period was the difference. Now, if the Devils beat the Islanders in regulation, Toronto is in. However, if the Islanders win, the Maple Leafs are out. If the Devils and Islanders are tied after 60 minutes and the Devils win in overtime or the shootout, the Islanders and Maple Leafs would be tied, and we go to the NHL's tie-breaking procedures:

"If two or more clubs are tied in points during the regular season, the standing of the clubs is determined in the following order:
1. The fewer number of games played (i.e., superior points percentage).
2. The greater number of games won.
3. The greater number of points earned in games between the tied clubs. If two clubs are tied, and have not played an equal number of home games against each other, points earned in the first game played in the city that had the extra game shall not be included. If more than two clubs are tied, the higher percentage of available points earned in games among those clubs, and not including any "odd" games, shall be used to determine the standing.
4. The greater differential between goals for and against for the entire regular season."

Option One is out since both teams will have played 82 games. Option Two is a factor since the Leafs would have 40 wins to the Islanders' 39 wins if they lose after 60 minutes. With one point separating the teams, if the Islanders win, the Leafs are out. Therefore, the Leafs have to hope that the Devils win in any case. Otherwise, they are done like the Canadiens were tonight.

In other playoff battles, Ottawa clinched the 4th-seed in the East over the Pittsburgh Penguins by way of having more wins. Both teams finished with 105 points, but the Senators had 48 wins to Pittsburgh's 47 wins. Honestly, I am hoping that the Islanders win tomorrow to eliminate the Leafs so that Hockey Night in Canada carries this series. This one should be one for the ages!

With Tampa Bay losing 7-2 to the Florida Panthers last night and losing 3-2 in a shootout to Atlanta tonight, the New York Rangers clinched the 6th-seed in the East. Tampa Bay will square off in Round One against the New Jersey Devils, while the New York Rangers will travel to Atlanta to meet the Thrashers.

The Barney Rubble Hairpieces, who clinched home-ice throughout the playoffs and won Presidents' Trophy with a 2-0 win over Washington today, await the outcome of the Toronto-New York Islanders saga to see who they face.

In the West, Colorado's loss to the Nashville Predators earlier today eliminated them from the playoffs. Had they won and Calgary lost to the Oilers, tomorrow night's game would have been similar to the Toronto-Montreal game. However, that's all for naught since the Avalanche lost 4-2 to the Predators.

With this known, Detroit will welcome Calgary in the opening round of the playoffs at Joe Louis Arena.

Anaheim will welcome the Minnesota Wild to the Honda Center in the 2-vs-7 series.

Vancouver will welcome the Dallas Stars to GM Place in the 3-vs-6 series.

Nashville will entertain the San Jose Sharks at the Gaylord Entertainment Center in the 4-vs-5 series. This might be the series with the most Frequent Flier miles if it goes seven games.

And last year's Stanley Cup finalists, the Carolina Hurricanes and the Edmonton Oilers, will watch from the sidelines. This is the first time in NHL history that both finalists failed to qualify for the playoffs the following season.

Tomorrow, I bring you the first annual "Teebz's Playoff Predictions". It should be funny because I'm not going to beat around the bush on any of the series. I'll simply tell you who I think will win, why they will win, and in how many games. It should be a blast. Until tomorrow, keep your stick on the ice!

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