The other day, we posted a somewhat funny, somewhat sad mock game day poster making fun of the Sabres and Maple Leafs for their battle for “Least In The East.” It’s a sad state of affairs for Buffalo fans, but at this stage of the season it’s not as if such things are surprising anyone. At this point, the best hope is a strong draft and a quick regrouping in a sport that allows for faster turnarounds than the other three major U.S. sports.
But in the meantime, there’s no sense missing out on postseason excitement just because the Sabres won’t be competing. The NHL playoffs consistently offer some of the best drama and most excitement of any sporting events in the U.S. And after we’re all over the sting of Buffalo’s failure to qualify, the games will be a treat once more. At the very least, we can all unite in rooting against the Bruins (who, unfortunately, appear poised for a playoff berth).
At any rate, because the Sabres’ season is winding down and we’d like to at least try to enjoy the playoffs anyway, here are five fun and bold predictions for the upcoming postseason.
1. The Bruins Will Beat The Rangers
If the current NHL standings hold, it looks as if the Bruins will face the mighty Rangers in the opening round. I’m not excited about it, I’m not happy about it, and there’s no logical hockey reason to pick the Bruins here—they’re a significantly worse team than the Rangers. But isn’t this when Boston teams always break through to annoy us most? There’s no chance the Bruins make a remarkable run to the Stanley Cup finals. This team just doesn’t have that kind of potential, but I have an inexplicable feeling they’ll give us one big surprise.
2. Alex Ovechkin Will Prove His Doubters Wrong
Sporting News pretty much nailed this one on the head, even though they didn’t take it as far as making a prediction. In writing about Ovechkin’s recent 50-goal milestone, Sporting News notes that there is still some worry about laziness or selfishness from the superstar. However, I feel that some criticism of his postseason play is unfounded. He is a point per game player in the playoffs with his worst career performance coming against a Rangers team that locked him down in the lockout-shortened season of 2012-13. The Capitals probably aren’t a Cup team this season but you can count on Ovechkin to help power his team through a few rounds of postseason play.
3. Neither Betting Favorite Will Win
Betting odds are often in flux this time of year, but looking at Betfair’s current listings for Stanley Cup odds—you can view them here — three teams stand out: the Rangers, the Blackhawks, and, for some strange reason, the Canucks. We’ll dismiss the Canucks right now and focus on the other two, who, alongside the Ducks, are two of the most popular picks to win it all. Well, I’ve already called a Bruins upset of the Rangers, and I think the Ducks and Blackhawks may just end up beating each other up too much for either to win a finals series. I’ve got my eye on someone else hoisting the hardware.
4. The Canadiens Will Win It All
It’s not unreasonable to place the Canadiens among this year’s true contenders, and particularly if I’m right in assuming the Rangers could be upset, they may have a decent path to the finals through the East. But I’m tabbing the Canadiens for the simplest of reasons: Carey Price is the best goalie in hockey right now. That’s extraordinarily meaningful this time of year, provided the rest of the team is at least competent. Montreal is more than competent, and with Price in net, they look the part of a winner.
5. The Sabres Will Flirt With the Postseason Next Year
Alright, so this isn’t a prediction for the playoffs in 2015. But the Sabres days in the basement are numbered. Regardless of who they draft next season, you can expect Tim Murray to shift into high gear when it comes to building his roster. Buffalo won’t be a playoff team next season but they’ll make stronger push than some are expecting.