The Push for the Playoffs – NHL Playoffs 2012

As a hockey fan, you have to love this time of year.  In the Eastern Conference, there are three or four teams fighting for the final play-off spot including the Washington Capitals, Buffalo Sabres and Winnipeg Jets.  If we look at the West, the race is even tighter with five teams fighting for the final two play-off sports that are currently occupied by the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings.

This has been an interesting season in the NHL.  From players emerging from obscurity to teams you would have never thought to be at the top of the standings.  Let’s take a look at some of the biggest disappointments and some of the biggest surprises from this season.

Top 5 NHL Disappointments – 2011-12

  1. Montreal Canadiens – the once storied franchise is currently 15th and last in the Eastern Conference.  There have been some questionable decisions made this year not to mention the trading of Mike Cammalleri during a game.  Coaching changes and now reports suggesting that Patrick Roy may be set to become the Habs coach or GM next season.  All is weird in Montreal.
  2. Edmonton Oilers – after a few years at the bottom, I expected the Oilers to be much better this season.  After the first month, they were leading the league but then ran into injury problems and tanked in the standings.  This team is 2-3 defensemen and a couple of goalies short of becoming a contender.  The team is jinxed when it comes to Calder candidates as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was the early season favorite to take home rookie of the year honors only to miss 20 games with a shoulder injury (although still near the tops of rookie scoring with the highest PPG average).  You have to think that the hockey Gods do not want an Oiler to win the rookie of the year.
  3. Toronto Maple Leafs – just a gong show here.
  4. Columbus Blue Jackets – ditto here.
  5. San Jose Sharks – did you think that the Sharks would be battling for a playoff spot with four weeks left to go in the season?

Top 5 NHL Surprises 2011-12

  1. Florida Panthers – the Panthers have a long play-off drought but that looks to be over as they lead their division and currently sit as the third overall seed in the Eastern Conference.  Mr. Tallon has done a wonderful job with this team.
  2. St. Louis Blues – ever since the Blues hired Ken Hitchcock as coach they have never looked back.  The first team to 100 points, the Blues are the top team in the league and boast the league’s best home record.
  3. Ottawa Senators – the Sens have been pretty consistent all year.  Nobody thought that they were even a play-off team and were still a few years of getting back into the play-offs.
  4. Detroit Red Wings – I thought for sure this was the year that the Wings miss the playoffs.  With an older squad and a few injuries the Red Wings went on a home ice terror setting a new record for consecutive wins at home.  The fans in Detroit have been spoiled in recent years.
  5. The New Jersey Devils – this team has a young group with some well rounded talent.  I have watched a number of games this season and the Devils have been playing well.  Even Ilya is beginning to get hot at the right time of the year.  Patrick Elias has been great and continues to produce in a goal-starved league.

It has been an interesting year.  Can’t wait for the play-offs to begin.