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NHL Season Series Preview, Week VII: November 9-15 November 8, 2009

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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Let’s try this again.

It’s been a crazy first month around the NHL, with some teams surprisingly good (Colorado, take a bow), and some who are, to be diplomatic, underperforming (Carolina, I’m looking at you.)

My beloved Capitals, despite some ugly losses, and despite some serious UH-OH injuries, are still, somehow, in a dead heat with Pittsburgh for the official Eastern Conference lead. They aren’t doing so well on the Magic Numbers table: all those losses do add up to a lower top-line score. But the teams ahead of them won’t run the table, so the Caps have a shot at ending up on top of the heap at some point this season. Whether they can stay there remains to be seen. But if I’m yelling “Seven! All your fault!” with Ovechkin and Green in the press box, something tells me the Caps will do just fine over the course of the regular season.

Naysayers will dismiss it because it was Florida we were playing, and not anybody good. But we’ll see what the next week holds: the Caps have two should-win games at home, and one either-way contest up at the Rock next Saturday. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s look at the schedule for all teams. I’m going to re-format this a bit to make it easier to read.

Anaheim Ducks. ICS AT NJD WED, ONG AT CBJ FRI, NEW AT DET SAT. The Ducks have a couple of days off early this week before three games in 4 nights in the Eastern time zone. Eastbound travel tends to induce more jet lag than westbound, so travel stress may be a factor on top of the short schedule. And they’re not exactly going to Raleigh for any of these games, either. NJD Game 1 of 1. CBJ Game 2 of 4. DET Game 1 of 4.

Atlanta Thrashers. NEW AT NYR THU, ICS VS LAK FRI, ICS VS EDM SUN. I’m sure there are plenty of fans in Atlanta who remember the Rangers dismissing the Thrash in four straight a couple of seasons ago. Rangers fans, though, have probably forgotten that one already. The Kings, meanwhile, aren’t exactly in the cellar out West, and I’ve heard that Kopitar guy is above-average offensively. (Spare me the smore makers–I’m praising with faint damns.) Edmonton at home could be very easy, or very challenging, depending on which two teams show up. NYR Game 1 of 4. LAK Game 1 of 1. EDM Game 1 of 1.

Boston Bruins. NEW VS PIT TUE, NEW VS FLA THU, ONG AT PIT SAT. A visit from the Panthers interrupts a home-and-home with the defending champs. I’m not quite sure what happened to the Bruins who cruised to first place in the East last year, and I’m sure fans in Boston feel the same. Still, every team is going to work harder when the champs are on the other end of the ice. Re the Panthers game, the Bruins need to avoid playing down to a (as of Sunday) 13th-place team. I’m sure the Caps would be happy to tell the Bruins how that usually works out. PIT Game 1 AND 2 of 4. FLA Game 1 of 4.

Buffalo Sabres. ICS VS EDM WED, ICS VS CGY FRI, ONG AT PHI SAT. Two Canadian teams from out West play their only scheduled games against the Sabres this season, right before the Sabres head to southeast Pennsylvania to try and even up the season series with the Flyers. Edmonton doesn’t look like it should present that much trouble for the Sabres, but Calgary is red-hot, and the Flyers almost always play chippy. This doesn’t look like an easy week for the Sabres going in. EDM Game 1 of 1. CGY Game 1 of 1. PHI Game 2 of 4.

Calgary Flames. END AT MTL TUE, ICS AT BUF FRI, NEW AT TOR SAT. All East, all week for the Flames, who can win the series with Montreal with anything other than a regulation loss. Buffalo is a strong team, so that will be a competitive game. Toronto looks like a cupcake when you look at where these teams are in the standings, but you know what I say about games where they don’t sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” MTL Game 2 of 2. BUF Game 1 of 1. TOR Game 1 of 2.

Carolina Hurricanes. ICS VS LAK WED, ONG VS NYI FRI, ICS VS MIN SUN. The Hurricanes only have to worry about the Kings once this year–thank goodness, if you live in Raleigh. The Islanders and Wild are in the same general area in the standings, so those games could go either way. Carolina really needs to win at least two games this week, if not all three, if it doesn’t want to be booking its postseason tee times in February. As of posting, they have no wins, no leads, and only one even series. While this Caps fan would love to see one less contender in the Southeast Division, I have to confess that I would feel very bad for the ‘Canes fans who welcomed us so warmly the past two seasons. LAK Game 1 of 1. NYI Game 2 of 4. MIN Game 1 of 1.

Chicago Blackhawks. NEW VS LAK MON, ONG VS COL WED, ICS VS TOR FRI, NEW VS SJS SUN. A brutal week for the Hawks, as they’ll be facing three of the top four teams in the West this week. Toronto could prove either a welcome respite, or one more nightmare in a really tough week. Chicago is currently 9th in the West, and this week will definitely be one to watch in the Windy City. If the Hawks can handle the best of the West, they could climb back into the top eight. A bad week, however, and it could be gut-check time. LAK Game 1 of 4. COL Game 3 of 4. TOR Game 1 of 1. SJS Game 1 of 4.

Colorado Avalanche. ONG AT CHI WED, ONG VS VAN SAT. Oddly enough, the Lanche are even with both of their opponents this week. The game at Chicago will be the third game of 4, and will go a long way in deciding who ultimately wins the series. As for the Canucks, there will still be three more games to go after Saturday night’s contest, but it’s much better to have “23” as a lead than as a trail. CHI Game 3 of 4. VAN Game 3 of 6.

Columbus Blue Jackets. NEW VS DET WED, ONG VS ANA FRI. A light week for the Jackets if you look at the standings, but not so fast. Detroit is Detroit, and you overlook them at your own risk. The Ducks, meanwhile, have cut their teeth on a chippy style of play. So not a lot of games–just difficult ones, standings or not. DET Game 1 of 6. ANA Game 2 of 4.

Dallas Stars. NEW AT SJS THU, NEW AT PHX SAT. Kind of surprising to see the Stars opening two separate division series in one week right after Veterans’ Day, but it is what it is. Phoenix is a 4-point game–the two teams have identical point totals–and San Jose is currently leading the Pacific Division. As with Columbus, not a lot of games, just big ones. SJS Game 1 of 6. PHX Game 1 of 6.

Detroit Red Wings. NEW AT CBJ WED, ONG VS VAN THU, NEW VS ANA SAT. Columbus isn’t a travel headache for the Wings, but with proximity goes passion, and something tells me these two teams don’t like each other much. Detroit can put a series win out of reach of Vancouver with a win in regulation: the best the Canucks could hope for should Detroit prevail in sixty would be a tie, and that assumes they run the table on the last two. Recent postseason bad blood could be a factor when the Ducks come to the Joe on Saturday night. CBJ Game 1 of 6. VAN Game 2 of 4. ANA Game 1 of 4.

Edmonton Oilers. NEW AT OTT TUE, ICS AT BUF WED, ICS AT ATL SUN. A cross-Canada game gets the Oilers underway for the week, as they continue a nearly two-week stretch away from home. All 3 teams are doing better than perhaps would have been expected coming in to the season. A bad showing this week would not do the Oilers any favors. OTT Game 1 of 2. BUF Game 1 of 1. ATL Game 1 of 1.

Florida Panthers. NEW AT BOS THU, NEW VS NYI SAT. Florida gets a couple of days to dissect their weekend sweep by Washington, before heading up to the other end of the Accela line to take on the Bruins. They then come home for their first appearance in The John Tavares Show. The Panthers do not need any more notches in the Trail column. BOS Game 1 of 4. NYI Game 1 of 4.

Los Angeles Kings. NEW AT CHI MON, ICS AT CAR WED, ICS AT ATL FRI, ICS AT TBL SAT. They’re the Kings of the road this week, as Los Angeles makes a stop in Chicago before an abbreviated tour of the Southeast. Kane vs Kopitar, Round 1, should make for an exciting Monday night game on Versus. Carolina should then be a good warmup contest for the Southeast, but Atlanta and Tampa Bay could surprise a few more teams before the season is up. CHI Game 1 of 4. CAR Game 1 of 1. ATL Game 1 of 1. TBL Game 1 of 1.

Minnesota Wild. ICS AT TOR TUE, ICS AT TBL THU, ICS AT WSH FRI, ICS AT CAR SUN. Here’s another team that’s making an inter-conference call on the Southeast. Minnesota has done surprisingly well against the East so far this season, and they’ll get a chance to prove that early success was no fluke. Toronto has come on as of late, Tampa Bay has gotten better this year, Washington is currently leading the Southeast, and Carolina has an Eastern Conference Finals appearance that it has yet to re-prove. Travel will be a factor: 4 games in 6 nights is one thing, but add over 2,000 miles in the air on top, and Carolina might actually win a game before it’s all said and done. TOR Game 1 of 1. TBL Game 1 of 1. WSH Game 1 of 1. CAR Game 1 of 1.

Montreal Canadiens. END VS CGY TUE, ICS AT PHX THU, ICS AT NSH SAT. A cross-Canada series comes to a close before the Habs take off for a duel with the desert dogs. From there, it’s on to the Music City, and I would so pay money to hear a Nashville singer perform “O Canada” in French (the mind reels…) Montreal needs to decide which way their season will go; perhaps some time out west will do some good. CGY Game 2 of 2. PHX Game 1 of 1. NSH Game 1 of 1.

Nashville Predators. NEW AT SJS TUE, NEW AT STL THU, ICS VS MTL SAT. A trio of first meetings for the Preds, one of which is also the last. The Sharks will be a handful, but the Blues and Habs could prove beatable. SJS Game 1 of 4. STL Game 1 of 6. MTL Game 1 of 1.

New Jersey Devils. ICS VS ANA WED, ONG AT PIT THU, ONG VS WSH SAT. All three of these games could very easily go either way. Anaheim likes to play chippy, Pittsburgh is a division rival, and Washington would certainly love to make a statement at the Rock on Saturday night. They’d better–the Caps Fan Club is taking a bus trip up there to watch. ANA Game 1 of 1. PIT Game 2 of 6. WSH Game 3 of 4.

New York Islanders. ONG AT WSH WED, ONG AT CAR FRI, NEW AT FLA SAT. It’s all Southeast, all week for the Fishermen, as they play at Washington on Veterans’ Day, and then play two games in two nights between Raleigh and Sunrise. Washington will no doubt be a tough test; Carolina and Florida, perhaps not so much. WSH Game 3 of 4. CAR Game 2 of 4. FLA Game 1 of 4.

New York Rangers. NEW VS ATL THU, ONG AT OTT SAT. The Rangers haven’t played much against the Southeast; they’ll get a look at only their second Southeast opponent when the Thrashers come a-callin’ on Thursday night at the Garden. New York could put a win out of reach for the Sens with a regulation win on Saturday night. ATL Game 1 of 4. OTT Game 2 of 4.

Ottawa Senators. NEW VS EDM TUE, NEW AT PHI THU, ONG VS NYR SAT. A very middle-of-the-road week for a middle-of-the-road team. Not much I can say here. EDM Game 1 of 2. PHI Game 1 of 4. NYR Game 2 of 4.

Philadelphia Flyers. NEW VS OTT THU, ONG VS BUF SAT. The Flyers get a few days off before hosting surprising Ottawa on Thursday, followed by Buffalo on Saturday night. I would not want to be in Wachovia Center on Saturday–I shudder to think how Flyers faithful treat the traveling Sabres hooligan contingent. OTT Game 1 of 4. BUF Game 2 of 4.

Phoenix Coyotes. ICS VS MTL THU, NEW VS DAL SAT. The team that was once the Winnipeg Jets takes on the Habs in the teams’ only meeting this year. Somehow, I doubt the history will be much of a factor. Dallas, however, is another matter entirely–any game where Texas plays Arizona is usually worth looking in on. MTL Game 1 of 1. DAL Game 1 of 6.

Pittsburgh Penguins. NEW AT BOS TUE, ONG VS NJD THU, ONG VS BOS SAT. The Penguins get the tougher assignment in this interrupted home-and-home. Boston gets Florida on Thursday, while the Penguins get to host New Jersey. But hey, they’re the champs, they’re up to it, right? BOS Games 1 AND 2 of 2. NJD Game 2 of 6.

San Jose Sharks. NEW VS NSH TUE, NEW VS DAL THU, NEW AT STL SAT, NEW AT CHI SUN. Four more series getting underway for the Sharks, and so far they’ve been doing just fine, thank you, in most of their series. Nashville should be theirs to lose, but division rival Dallas, and last year’s other Western Conference Finalist, may want to see the Sharks losing well before April gets here. Add in a St. Louis team that wants to do better than it has, and you’ve got quite a week ahead in San Jose. NSH Game 1 of 4. DAL Game 1 of 6. STL Game 1 of 4. CHI Game 1 of 4.

St. Louis Blues. NEW VS VAN TUE, NEW VS NSH THU, NEW VS SJS SAT. A trio of get-acquainted games fill the Blues’ docket this week, as the Blues see every Western division within a span of five nights. VAN Game 1 of 4. NSH Game 1 of 6. SJS Game 1 of 4.

Tampa Bay Lightning. ICS VS MIN THU, ICS VS LAK SAT. The Bolts get a light schedule this week, starting with several days off before a home game against Minnesota. Hope they pass out No-Doz at the St. Pete Times Forum for that. The Kings should be a bit more entertaining for a Saturday night. MIN Game 1 of 1. LAK Game 1 of 1.

Toronto Maple Leafs. ICS VS MIN TUE, ICS AT CHI FRI, NEW VS CGY SAT. The Leafs? Eh, whatever. MIN Game 1 of 1. CHI Game 1 of 1. CGY Game 1 of 2.

Vancouver Canucks. NEW AT STL TUE, ONG AT DET THU, ONG AT COL SAT. Could be a big week for the Canucks, as they try to move up from the #8 spot in the West. Colorado on a Saturday night will be a very good indicator on just how good (or bad) the Canucks can be. STL Game 1 of 4. DET Game 2 of 4. COL Game 3 of 6.

Washington Capitals. ONG VS NYI WED, ICS VS MIN FRI, ONG AT NJD SAT. A couple of days off will serve the Caps well after a grueling home and home with the Panthers. The Islanders and Wild should (this Caps fan hopes) be easy pickings. Saturday’s game at New Jersey is a series elimination game: if the Caps lose, they cannot win the season series no matter what they do. They need to beat the Devils–preferably in regulation–to keep that series in play. NYI Game 3 of 4. MIN Game 1 of 1. NJD Game 3 of 4.

INTER-CONFERENCE SINGLES
Anaheim at New Jersey
Calgary at Buffalo
Edmonton at Atlanta
Edmonton at Buffalo
Los Angeles at Atlanta
Los Angeles at Carolina
Los Angeles at Tampa Bay
Minnesota at Carolina
Minnesota at Tampa Bay
Minnesota at Toronto
Minnesota at Washington
Montreal at Nashville
Montreal at Phoenix
Toronto at Chicago

POTENTIAL ODD GAMES OUT
New Jersey at Pittsburgh. Game 2 of 6; AT PIT Game 2.

POTENTIAL SERIES WINS/LOSSES
Calgary at Montreal. Final game. Calgary leads by 2. Montreal must win in regulation to clinch a series tie. Calgary wins the series on any other result.
Washington at New Jersey. Game 3 of 4. New Jersey leads by 3. New Jersey can clinch the series with any win. If Washington wins in overtime, the best they can do is tie the series. If Washington wins in regulation, it’s anybody’s series.

MAGIC NUMBERS OF NOTE
None this week, but if Carolina and Minnesota don’t figure out how to win pretty soon…

POTENTIAL CLINCHES/ELIMINATIONS
None.

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