Man...thinking of FanPost titles is hard. I was up all night for that one. Anyways, as you may have heard, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are still being played this year and our Avs currently sit comfortably in (sigh) 7th place. If the playoffs were to start today, we'd be facing Phoenix. By the time the season ends, it seems our most likely candidates for first round dance partners are Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver or Chicago. So I put this question to you, good reader. Who would you like to see our Colorado Avalanche kids play (beat) in the first round? A little bit on each team since after the Olympic break:
Since losing their first game back to St. Louis, the Coyotes have gone on a tear, winning 9 straight games and are currently sitting 2nd in the West, tied in points with Chicago for the Conference title. New additions at the deadline included Derek Morris, Wojtek Wolski (who?) and Lee Stempniak, who has somehow gone from a Leaf third-liner to having 11 points in 9 games. Why couldn't we have got that with Tucker?
The Avs and Yotes have met 3 times this season, with Colorado holding a 2-1 record and no games having gone to overtime. Next and final faceoff between the two is this Saturday. At this point it seems equally likely to meet them in either the 4-5 bracket or the 2-7 bracket thanks to the suddenly terrible play of the...
Yea. These guys are in 4th right now. You'd think April came a month early after looking at their March record, which currently sits at 3-6-1 since half the team returned from the Olympics. The Big 3 of Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley and Joe Thornton have appeared slightly more human, with Heatley and Thornton each having only (Yes. Only.) 8 points in their last 10, and Marleau keeping at a PPG pace. Evgeni Nabokov has looked especially human, allowing 37 goals on 217 shots in his last 9 starts, giving him a roughly .830 save percentage. For comparisons sake, Raycroft had a .892 percentage for us last year. So Nabokov ain't doing well.
The Avs and Sharks have split the season series at 1 win apiece so far, with two more games to be played on Sunday and April 4th.
6 points up on the Avs with the Division title firmly theirs to lose, the Canucks are virtually guaranteed the top billing in the 3-6 bracket (sorry guys, it's true). They have gone 7-2-2 since the break and have already clinched the season series, going 4-1 so far against the Avs, with the final game to be played April 6th. I think we've all seen enough of them to know what to expect by now. The major criticism come playoff time every year for the Canucks has been Roberto Luongo's play, and whether he can lead a team under pressure. He managed to do it in the Olympics, but didn't have to be especially outstanding to do so. Critics will be rehashing that old story as usual once April rolls around.
Adding these guys after publishing since I realized both a 2-7 and 1-8 bracket faceoff are legitimate possiblities. Chicago was a bona-fide Cup contender this year and still is, but questions about the defensive corps as well as the usual goaltending issues have crept into the equation. They have lost Brian Campbell for at least the first round thanks to the now-infamous Ovechkin hit. Seabrook is still playing after the Wisniewski hit, but I wouldn't be surprised if he is so concussed that he is only playing to hold his spot on the Olympic roster, having forgotten what month it is. The Hawks have a 4-4-2 record since the break and a 2-0-1 record against the Avalanche, with the final game to be played April 9th.
It seems unlikely that the Avalanche will face anyone else, with the way the standings are currently set. I personally think Phoenix is still our best bet. Vancouver has done well against us this year (having won 3 of their games in 2 weeks after the Anderson honeymoon took a hiatus in November), and it is only a matter of time until San Jose experiences some level of success in the post-season, given their roster. Chicago is still an amazing team without Campbell and playing them would imply us staying in 7th or 8th place. Phoenix may be hot now, but they are also young and inexperienced, and the playoffs are still nearly a month away. So what do you think?