Blurry crystal ball: Judging playoff predictions

Every pre-season, pundits throw out wild guesses that they like to call “predictions.” Since it’s always a fun exercise to mock your past self (“Gosh, idiot me from October. What were you thinking?” *gunshot*), I thought I’d share my predictions from last year. Thankfully, I’ll spare you the posts that featured photos of morbidly obese men and their huge bellies (the feature was called “gut reactions” you see. Yeah, I’m a child.)

James’s dumb Eastern Conference projections (exact guesses in bold, teams who missed the playoffs in italics)

1. Washington (Hooray)
2. Philadelphia
3. Boston
4. Pittsburgh
5. New Jersey
6. Montreal
7. Carolina (oops)
8. Buffalo

Playoff teams accuracy: 7 out of 8 (missed Ottawa for Carolina)

Division Winners: 1 out of 3

Thoughts: Well, I guess I could have done worse with picking teams to make the playoffs, but my projections were still flawed. I overrated the Flyers and Boston and underrated Buffalo, big time. Chris Pronger is like a gap-toothed, unattractive hockey siren: for some reason he lures me into believing his teams are better than they should be.

James’s dumb Western Conference projections (exact guesses in bold teams, who missed the playoffs in italics)

1. San Jose
2. Detroit
3. Calgary (big oops)
4. Chicago
5. Vancouver
6. Anaheim (oops)
7. Columbus (big oops)

8. Los Angeles Kings

Playoff teams accuracy: 5 out of 8 (missed Colorado, Phoenix and Nashville for Calgary, Anaheim and Columbus)

Division Winners: 1 out of 3

Thoughts: Clearly I didn’t fare as well in the West, but to be fair, that conference is brutal. The biggest mistake was Calgary, as I thought that the Canucks’ crazy road trip would keep them from winning the Northwest. Obviously, I completely discounted the Avalanche (about the only positive thing I said was “I like that they’re finally going in a young direction” or something like that.) I think the biggest blunder was choosing the Blue Jackets. Thanks a lot, Steve Mason.

So, what do you think, hockey fans? How bad were my predictions?

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    Bruins’ second line officially goes under the microscope

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    While much has been written about the Boston Bruins’ depleted defense, there’s also a good amount of intrigue about the forward group, which will look dramatically different tonight compared to last year’s season opener.

    Here are the Bruins’ expected lines versus the Jets:

    Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronLoui Eriksson
    Matt BeleskeyDavid KrejciDavid Pastrnak
    Jimmy HayesRyan SpoonerBrett Connolly
    Chris KellyJoonas KemppainenZac Rinaldo

    The line most under the microscope may be that second one. In today’s Boston Globe, there’s a lengthy story on Krejci. The 29-year-old center with the big contract only played 47 games last season due to injuries. He finished with just 31 points.

    So, where is Krejci’s game now?

    Then there’s free-agent addition Matt Beleskey, a.k.a. Milan Lucic‘s replacement. Prior to scoring 22 times last year for the Ducks, the 27-year-old Beleskey had never tallied more than 11 goals in a season.

    So, is Beleskey a legitimate top-six forward?

    On the other wing, it’s David Pastrnak, the 19-year-old who, somewhat surprisingly, emerged as one of the top rookies in the league last year.

    So, can Pastrnak take another step forward?

    “It’s been a good three plus weeks where we’ve been able to kind of work individually, as a group, as a line, with different players and different personalities,” said coach Claude Julien. “We’re pleased with it. We’re optimistic and we just have to let things work themselves out too.”

    Lucic: If I wanted to hurt Couture, ‘I would have hurt him’


    Last night in Los Angeles, Kings forward Milan Lucic received a match penalty after skating the entire width of the ice to give San Jose’s Logan Couture a two-hand shove to the face.

    Lucic didn’t hurt Couture, who had caught Lucic with an open-ice hit that Lucic didn’t like. Couture’s smiling, mocking face was good evidence that the Sharks’ forward was going to be OK.

    This morning, Lucic was still in disbelief that he was penalized so harshly.

    “I didn’t cross any line,” Lucic said, per Rich Hammond of the O.C. Register. “Believe me, if my intentions were to hurt him, I would have hurt him.”

    While Lucic knew he deserved a penalty, he said after the game that he didn’t “know why it was called a match penalty.” His coach, Darryl Sutter, agreed, calling it “a borderline even roughing penalty.”

    And though former NHL referee Kerry Fraser believes a match penalty was indeed warranted, Lucic said this morning that he hasn’t heard from the NHL about any possible supplemental discipline.

    Nor for that matter has Dustin Brown, after his high hit on Couture in the first period.

    In conclusion, it’s good to have hockey back.

    Related: Sutter says Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks