Monday Musings: Predictions, pads, Olympics | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaMonday Musings: Predictions, pads, Olympics

Posted: Monday, September 30, 2013 | 08:00 AM

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Forward Patrick Sharp (10) and the Chicago Blackhawks will be hard pressed to repeat as Stanley Cup champions in 2013-14. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Forward Patrick Sharp (10) and the Chicago Blackhawks will be hard pressed to repeat as Stanley Cup champions in 2013-14. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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On the eve of the 2013-14 NHL season, here are some Monday morning musings as the Chicago Blackhawks get set to defend their Stanley Cup championship.

The NHL returns on Tuesday, this time for a full season, a new time-zone friendly realignment, smaller goalie pads and to add more intrigue, it's an Olympic year.

So on the eve of the 2013-14 season, here are some Monday morning musings as the Chicago Blackhawks get set to defend their Stanley Cup championship.

Playoff projections

Playoff and Stanley Cup predictions are as much a part of the NHL pre-season as internal debates between coaches and managers on which players should make up the opening-day 23-player roster.

Elliotte Friedman, Mike Brophy and I offer our picks for the playoffs:

Brophy's Picks                                   Wharnsby's Picks    

Eastern Conference                          Eastern Conference                                               

1. Washington                                      1. Pittsburgh

2. Pittsburgh                                         2. Boston

3. Toronto                                             3. Ottawa

4. Boston                                               4. Detroit

5. Ottawa                                               5. N.Y. Rangers

6. Detroit                                                6. Montreal

7. Philadelphia                                      7. Toronto

8. N.Y. Rangers                                     8. N.Y. Islanders

If I'd the guts: Tampa Bay                    If I'd the guts: New Jersey 

Western Conference                            Western Conference

1. Los Angeles                                       1. Chicago

2. Chicago                                              2. Los Angeles

3. St. Louis                                             3. San Jose

4. Minnesota                                          4. St. Louis

5. San Jose                                            5. Vancouver

6. Vancouver                                          6. Dallas

7. Anaheim                                             7. Nashville

8. Edmonton                                           8. Edmonton

If I'd the guts: Colorado                       If I'd the guts: Phoenix

Stanley Cup champ: Kings                 Stanley Cup champ: Bruins

Friedman's picks

Eastern Conference

1. Boston

2. Ottawa

3. Detroit

4. Montreal

5. Pittsburgh

6. N.Y. Rangers

7. N.Y. Islanders

8. Washington

If I'd the guts: New Jersey

Western Conference

1. Chicago

2. St. Louis

3. Minnesota

4. Los Angeles

5. San Jose

6. Vancouver

7. Anaheim

8. Phoenix

If I'd the guts: Colorado

Stanley Cup champ: Washington

Realignment playoff format

Making the playoffs will be primarily division-based, with the top three finishers in each division qualifying. The two additional playoff spots in each conference, designated as wild cards, will be awarded to the next two highest-placed finishers in each conference ranked on the basis of regular-season points and regardless of division.

Seeding of the wild-card teams within each divisional playoff will be determined on the basis of regular-season points. The first-place finisher with the most regular-season points in the conference will be matched against the wild-card team with the fewest regular-season points and the first-place finisher with the second-most regular-season points in the conference matched against the wild-card team with the second-fewest regular-season points.

The playoffs will proceed as follows:

  • In first round, 1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3 with the winners playing each other for a berth in the  conference championship.
  • Conference finals -- two advancing teams in the Western Conference and two advancing teams in the Eastern Conference meet in conference championship.
  • Eastern and Western Conference champions meet in Stanley Cup final.

Playoff newcomers

Stan the Hockey Night in Canada stats man (give him a follow on Twitter @smn013) informs us that, since 2004-05 cancelled season, the NHL has seen a minimum of three new teams in the playoffs a season and a maximum of six, like in the 2009-10 campaign.

Last year, Anaheim, Minnesota, Montreal, N.Y. Islanders and Toronto made it to the post-season after missing out in 2011-12.

Longest current playoff streak 

  • Detroit - 22 seasons
  • San Jose - 9 seasons

Longest current playoff-less streak

  • Edmonton - 7
  • Atlanta/Winnipeg - 6
  • Dallas - 5
  • Calgary - 4
  • Columbus - 4
  • Carolina - 4

Honey, I shrunk the goalie's pads

NHL goalie cop Kay Whitmore is packing a tape measure this season and, as a result, the NHL hopes goal scoring will increase. 

It will be up to Whitmore, a former netminder whose real title is senior manager of hockey operations, to keep goalies honest.

In the summer, the league and the NHL Players' Association agreed on a formula in which pads now can extend 45 per cent of the way from the centre of the knee to his pelvis.

On average, Carey Price, Roberto Luongo and their goalkeeper counterparts will be wearing pads two inches shorter.

Will this result in more scoring? We'll see. The game received a boost when the standard of officiating was altered for the 2005-06 season. But in the last four seasons, there has been a decline in goal scoring.

Average goals per game

  • 2003-04 - 5.14
  • 2005-06 - 6.05
  • 2006-07 - 5.76
  • 2007-08 - 5.44
  • 2008-09 - 5.70
  • 2009-10 - 5.53
  • 2010-11 - 5.46
  • 2011-12 - 5.32
  • 2012-13 - 5.31

Olympic crease

Speaking of goalies, each week the Monday musings will put together a goalie power rankings, leading up to Canadian executive director Steve Yzerman's decision in December on who will be Canada's three goalies at the Sochi Games.

This promises to be the most hotly debated position for Canada in the next three months. Here is our rankings entering the season:

  1. Carey Price, Montreal
  2. Roberto Luongo, Vancouver
  3. Corey Crawford, Chicago
  4. Mike Smith, Phoenix
  5. Braden Holtby, Washington 

Pre-season success

Dallas (5-0-2), Chicago (4-0-2) and Washington (4-0-4) were the only teams that skated through the pre-season without a regulation loss. Boston also finished with a decent record at 6-1-0.

But how a teams does in preseason means absolutely nothing when it comes to Stanley Cup success 8½ months later. Here are the records of the last eight Stanley Cup champions:

  • 2005-06 - Carolina (5-2-1)
  • 2006-07 - Anaheim (3-2-3)
  • 2007-08 - Detroit (6-3-0)
  • 2008-09 - Pitsburgh (4-0-1)
  • 2009-10 - Chicago (2-3-1)
  • 2010-11 - Boston (3-3-1)
  • 2011-12 - Los Angeles (3-1-2)
  • 2012-13 - No pre-season

Follow Tim Wharnsby on Twitter @WharnsbyCBC

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