Postseason – East Preview

While Toronto and the N.Y. Islanders have yet to decide which of them will get into the postseason, the other seven teams have been decided. Let’s take a look at the teams in the East and what to expect in hockey’s second season…Atlanta
Since they have not made the postseason in their franchise history prior to now, it is difficult to gauge which players will do what. The most obvious observation here is that Keith Tkachuk and Alexei Zhitnik – the newest members of the squad – have point totals that are deceiving for the season. Since their arrival in Atlanta, both players have stepped up. Tkachuk’s points per game has increased from 0.7 in St. Louis to 0.82 in Atlanta, while Zhitnik’s has increased from 0.4 in Philadelphia and Long Island to 0.82 in Atlanta. Eric Belanger has also picked up his offensive game since joining the team. Other than these three players, Ilya Kovalchuk, Marian Hossa and Slava Kozlov are the only ones truly worth taking. Bobby Holik makes a really nice dark horse though.

Tim Connolly made (and scored in) his regular season debut on Saturday and will make a premium dark horse selection in your playoff pool. Many of your opponents at the draft will be carrying only the final stats to the table – and they’ll have to look pretty far down the list to Connolly’s point totals. Granted, he is a risk to be re-injured, but his upside is at least a point per game. Derek Roy and Chris Drury both stepped it up in a big way last postseason, while Maxim Afinogenov, Ales Kotalik and Brian Campbell all slipped when the playoffs began.

New Jersey
For the last 15 years or so, you could never be laughed at for stocking up on Devils. As long as Martin Brodeur is between the pipes, this team can contend. The usual suspects are worth drafting – Patrick Elias, Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez. One word of warning on Gionta – he has fought groin problems all season long and recently sustained a foot injury. Sophomore Zach Parise is shouldering more responsibility with every game and he just might be the second-best skater to draft on this team behind Elias. Travis Zajac has been hot down the stretch, but will be a boom or bust pick given the fact that he is a rookie and freshmen tend to have their ice time rolled back a little in the postseason. Brian Rafalski and Jamie Langenbrunner really stepped up last year in April, so you may want to nudge them up your draft lists a little.

New York Islanders
The Islanders did not make the postseason last campaign and nearly every one of their acquisitions that did participate, performed poorly. Tom Poti (N.Y. Rangers), Mike Sillinger (Nashville), Brendan Witt (Nashville), Richard Zednik (Montreal) and Marc-Andre Bergeron (Edmonton) combined for two points in 38 playoff games last year. Both Bergeron and Sillinger have huge offensive roles with their new team. Expect them to improve tremendously. Which Alexei Yashin will we see? In three different playoff runs, the captain combined for just three points in 13 games. In his other four postseason visits he had 24 points in 30 games. Sillinger is third on the team in scoring, while Bergeron has 20 points in 22 games with his new team. The two top playoff picks on this team are Ryan Smyth and Jason Blake. Not only are they 1-2 in team offense, but they also play playoff hockey – lots of hustle, lots of heart and clutch goals.

New York Rangers
The entire team pretty much floundered with Jaromir Jagr and Henrik Lundqvist out of the lineup last year in the first round, so you can’t make decisions on moving players up or down your list based on that. Brendan Shanahan is a playoff warrior, of that there is little question. An interesting dark horse will be one of Marcel Hossa or Ryan Callahan. The latter is a rookie who will step into the lineup and takeover if the former stumbles or does not return from his knee injury. Hossa was red-hot for about three weeks prior to spraining his knee and showed excellent chemistry with Jagr. Callahan has shown decent numbers in limited action. Sean Avery has 20 points in 28 contests since joining the Rangers and is deserving of a bump upwards on your draft list.

Wade Redden, Peter Schaefer and Jason Spezza all had strong playoff seasons last year. Andrej Meszaros and Chris Neil had weak postseasons offensively, garnering just two points in 10 games between them. Redden has battled several ailments this season, particularly his groin and ribs, but his numbers have really improved in the second half and that certainly merits consideration when formulating your draft list. Mike Fisher has had a strong year and makes an excellent dark horse to post nearly a point per game.

How do you tackle a team full of inexperience playoff players when putting together your list? Other than Mark Recchi and Gary Roberts, the Pens are short on postseason experience. Since Pittsburgh relies heavily on their power play, it would be wise to start there – especially since this will become even more pronounced in the playoffs. Ryan Whitney has been battling a groin injury. Nonetheless, he should be moved up your draft list. Ditto for Sergei Gonchar. If you like the Pens to go a couple of rounds, you probably couldn’t move Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin any higher than they already are (that is – first and second). Michel Ouellet, Jordan Staal and Erik Christensen are the members of the second power-play unit. Colby Armstrong has seen time on Sidney Crosby’s line of late and makes an excellent dark horse.

Tampa Bay
While Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards are no-brainers for your playoff pool if you like this team to go far, it should also be noted that the Lightning have been using their defensemen a little more in terms of offensive contributions. Dan Boyle has a career high in points this season, Filip Kuba has had several hot streaks, and Paul Ranger has also proved adept at posting points. Ranger also posted six points in five postseason contests last year, stepping up more than any other member of his team.

The Leafs will only get in if the Islanders lose on Sunday. The team did not join the postseason dance last year and there are a lot of new faces since their last dance back in 2004. Mats Sundin, Tomas Kaberle and Bryan McCabe are no-brainers – but hold up a minute on your Darcy Tucker selection. The feisty winger has just 21 points in 62 career games. Before you attribute that to it being mostly earlier in his career and state that “he’s a different player now”, keep in mind that in his last 18 playoff games he has just six points. Tucker’s contributions in the postseason are intangible, which hardly helps your hockey pool. Alexei Ponikarovsky and Nik Antropov are entrenched as Sundin’s wingers, so they should be entrenched on your draft list if you like the Leafs to get by the Sabres.

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10 Responses to Postseason – East Preview

  1. Sharks06 says:

    My playoff Predictions:


    Buffalo Vs. NYI : Buffalo in 7
    Ryan Smyth will have a good series and give the Islanders a chance, but the Sabres will overpower them in the end.

    New Jersey Vs Tampa Bay : Devils in 6
    First couple of games should be high scoring, but Brodeur will shut down Lecavalier and St Louis in the final games.

    Atlanta Vs NY Rangers : Rangers in 5
    Atlanta's lack of postseason experience will cost them.

    Ottawa Vs Pittsburgh : Senators in 7
    This will be the highest scoring series of them all. Goalies look out!


    Detroit Vs Calgary : Flames in 7
    Detriot will falter again this year and Iginla will tear them up. Look for Jeff Friesen to become an unsung hero.

    Anaheim Vs Minnesota : Ducks in 5 (maybe 4)
    Ducks have far too much firepower for even the best defensive team in the league.

    Vancouver Vs Dallas : Dallas in 6
    Luongo will be good, but Turco will be better, will be the lowest socring series in this years Playoffs.

    Sharks (yay!) vs. Nashville : Sharks in 6
    Will be more energetic and higher scoring than last year's series, but the Sharks will still come out on top in the end.


    Buffalo vs NY Rangers: Buffalo in 5

    New Jersey vs Ottawa : Ottawa in 6

    Anaheim vs Calgary : Anaheim in 5

    San Jose vs Dallas : Sharks in 5

    after that, who knows!

  2. cwthrash says:

    As a franchise, Atlanta has no playoff experience; very obvious and very true.

    But as for the players on the team, a totally different story.  They are now the 2nd oldest team in the NHL remember.  Boatloads of playoff experience, more than a few Cups, etc.

    I'm not saying that this means Atlanta has an advantage.  From my perspective, it looks like a very even match up.  But it seems like the perception is that the Thrashers are a young team because this is their first playoff appearance, but that is not near to the reality.

    I'm just looking forward to seeing them in the playoffs.  I've got to work half a day then drive 250 miles on Thursday just to see them play that night, but I wouldn't miss it for the world.

  3. rangers914 says:

    i dont know if buffalo would play the rangers 2nd round if im not mistaken the semifinals go

    1/8 vs. 4/5
    2/7 vs. 3/6

    i coudl be wrong just thought thats how it normally plays

  4. PeterTheGreat21 says:

    the highest remaining seed will always play the lowest remaining seed so 2 could play 8 while 3 could play 5 etc

  5. rangers914 says:

    oo my fault i thought it was predetermined

  6. dewdrop11 says:

    first round is a best of 5….NOT a best of 7.

    still have the same predictions?
  7. jrl2282 says:

    Pens in 5 games. yea the pens are inexperienced but they've been playing in a playoff type atmosphere all season with capacity crowds and they've dealt with it. emery is not a capable starting goaltender. go ahead bash fleury even if he does bad in the playoffs this year, we're set for the future.

  8. Radio says:


    Buffalo vs N.Y.I: New York in 6
    Stunner causes Buffalo to realize they actually suck hard = identity crisis = team liqudation = Florida all over again.

    New Jersey Vs Tampa Bay : Devils in 4
    Brodeur barely breaks a sweat as the Devils crush the useless Bolts.

    Atlanta Vs NY Rangers : Atlanta in 7
    Goaltenders = Win

    Ottawa Vs Pittsburgh :  Sens in 6.
    Will not be a high-scoring series, Ottawa is the team least prone to getting blown-out. 
    Only three words are really needed tho: Marc-Andre Fleury.


    Detroit Vs Calgary : Flames in 7
    Yes, indeed.

    Anaheim Vs Minnesota : Ducks sweep.

    Vancouver Vs Dallas : Vancouver in 7
    Luongo dominates and Markus Naslund finally steps up and throws off his his zero-confidence giving Vancouver and edge in the lowest scoring series of the playoffs..

    Sharks vs. Nashville : Nashville in 5


    Senators vs NY Rangers: Ottawa in 5

    New Jersey vs Islanders : Jersey in 4. NY is crushed, but are happy to make the 2nd round. At this point everyone in Buffalo is extra pissed.


    Anaheim vs Calgary : Calgary in 7

    Vancouver vs Dallas : Vancouver in 6



    Ottawa vs New Jersey: Ottawa in 7. Brodeur can't stop teh surging Sens who break their playoff jinx.


    Vancouver vs Calgary: Calgary in 7


    Calgary vs Ottawa: An all Canadian final makes Sens fans and all of Western Canada happy, meanwhile Leaf fans cheer for Calgary.

    Sens in 6, as Calgary is too worn out from three 7-game series. Good news for Sens, with the bad news being that the franchise will suck in 3-4 years. Yay, salary cap! >_>

  9. BieksaForMVP says:

    No the first round is a best out of 7 lol I think your thinking baseball.

  10. Radio says:

    Hmm, I just realized that once Broduer retires, New Jersey is going to be stuck in 15th place for like 10 years. Man…get your glory in now Devils.

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