April is the month, it seems, where the various hockey season kick it into high gear. The Frozen Four starts Thursday (Perfect! Something other than golf on the ESPN's!), Stanley Cup Playoffs start in a week, the World Championships start this month with Mitch and Luka in the Division I playoffs before the Championship Division starts on May 7th. There are others as well, the Calder Cup (AHL) playoffs, some playoff thingie the Aces are playing in Wasilla, the Memorial Cup and the different CHL playoffs leading to that, the U18 Worlds etc. So I now offer my predictions for the various tournaments and playoffs...
- Wisconsin vs R.I.T.
The Badgers are the lone WCHA team remaining in the tournament, beating Vermont and St. Bob in the SOHTHNWASC (State of Hockey That Has Never Won A Stanley Cup), while RIT is the prototypical Cinderella story of this years tournament beating Denver and New Hampshire in Albany.
Prediction: We've seen this before with Bemidji State last year and, as much I'd love the Badgers to bounce out to RIT, it never has a happy ending. RIT's clock hits midnight. Wisconsin 4, RIT 1.
- Miami vs Boston College
First note, I'm not putting that dumb (Ohio) thing next to Miami. If you think the Hurricanes are challenging for the title, get help. Anyway, Miami is back in the Frozen Four, beating Alabama - Huntsville and Michigan (in OT) in Fort Wayne, after losing to BU in overtime 4-3 after coughing up a 3-1 lead in the final minute last year. BC beat TAFKAF before downing Yale in the craziest game of the tournament in Woostah.
Prediction: Miami has been on a mission to get back win the title all year. It'll be tough but they move on. Miami 3, BC 2.
- Championship Game: Wisconsin vs Miami
Prediction: Miami wins it all in OT. Miami 4, Wisconsin 3 (OT).
The Western Conference teams were set tonight as Colorado beat Vancouver and Calgary lost to San Jose, putting the Avs in and Glencross and the Flames out. The East has bit of work with 4 teams (Montreal, Philly, Boston, and the Rangers) duking it out for 3 spots. I say the Rangers miss out as they're almost out already.
- Key Thing to Watch: The Curse of Marty McSorley
In the 1993 Finals, in Game 2, Wayne Gretzky and the Kings had a 2-1 3rd period lead. Montreal got a cheap power penalty by having McSorley's illegal stick measured. The Habs scored on the PP to tie it, won in OT, and won the next 3 games to clinch the Cup. Since then, no Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup. And in that timespan Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton have all lost in Game 7s plus Ottawa losing to Anaheim and Colorado winning the year after moving from Quebec. Vancouver, Ottawa, and (presumably) Montreal will be in the Playoffs this year, so look out for what interesting way the Canadian teams will flop out this time.
- Eastern Conference
- New Jersey
Prediction: Washington will be the favorite, Cindy and the Pens will be right there, Ryan Miller can take Buffalo far, but the New Jersey Devils will roll on to the Stanley Cup Finals.
- Western Conference
- San Jose
- Los Angeles
Prediction: This one is almost too close to call with so many good teams but, the Chicago Blackhawks move on after at least 18 games played.
- Stanley Cup Finals
New Jersey Devils vs Chicago Blackhawks
Prediction: Chicago celebrates it's first Stanley Cup in a long time beating the Devils in 6.
IIHF World Championships, Division I Group A 4/19 - 4/25
The group with Mitch Bruijsten and The Netherlands plus Austria, Japan, Lithuania, Serbia, and Ukraine. Now, to correct what Donald had stated earlier, the format will be that the 6 teams will play a round robin, 5 games each, using the IIHF format (3 points for a regulation win, 2 for a win in OT or shootout, 1 for a SO/OT loss, 0 for a regulation loss). The team with the most points wins the group and is promoted to the Championship division for the 2011 IIHF World Championships. This Group is being played in Tillburg, The Netherlands. The Netherlands, Lithuania, Japan, and Ukraine were all in this group lasy year, Austria was relegated from the 2009 World Championships, while Serbia was promoted from Division II.
Prediction: Austria normally wouldn't have been relegated if the Germans weren't hosting the main championships this year (they beat and finished ahead of the Germans in the 2009 Relegation Round) and I don't see anybody that can beat them. Mitch Bruijsten and The Netherlands I do see finishing 2nd though.
IIHF World Championships, Division I Group B 4/17 - 4/23
Luka Vidmar and Slovenia host Group B and will be lloking to return to the Championships for the first time since 2005. The Lisi, Great Britain, Poland, and Croatia return to Group B, Hungary joins after being relegated from the 2009 World Championships, while South Korea joins from Division II.
Prediction: Luka Vidmar and Slovenia roll to the top and head to the Championships next year.
Russia enters as the two-time defending champions, Canada enters as the Olympic Champions after losing the last two Worlds to Russia. This tournament always plays second fiddle to the Stanley Cup Playoffs and thus this tournament is missing a lot of top players. NHL players will take part but only from teams that don't make the playoffs or get eliminated from the playoffs early, and only if they want to play. Despite that, the Big 6 of international hockey (Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland, USA, and Czech Republic) will be the favorites with Canada, Russia, and Sweden the favorites to win. The tournament kicks off with an attempt to break Michigan - Michigan State's World Attendance record with Germany and the US playing at Veltins Arena (Formally the Arena aufSchalke. Soccer fans might know the place as where the Czech Republic beat the US 3-0 in the 2006 FIFA World Cup). The 16 teams are divided into 4 groups of 4 where they play a round robin, the top 3 teams in each group move onto the Qualifying Round (Groups E and F. Group A and D to E, Groups B and C to F) with games from the previous round carrying over. Each team plays 3 more games against the 3 teams from the other group and the top 4 teams in each group move onto the Playoff Round. There it's single elimination (with a Bronze Medal Game) to the Championship. The Bottom 4 teams from the First Round play a round robin with bottom two teams relegated to Division I. Here are the Groups:
- Czech Republic
Prediction: This one's a bit early to tell as the rosters won't be finalized for a couple of weeks. Canada and Russia have to be the favorites, the other 4 of the big 6 can be outside favorites and I'd give Switzerland, Latvia, and Slovakia a good shot as well. I'll make a predicted finish:
- Czech Republic
Again, a lot of this will depend on who will be on the rosters. Some of the players from the US Olympic team could return but not that many, including all 3 goalies. Rick Nash, Marty Turco, Steve Stamkos will most likely be there for Canada. Beyond that, it's a toss-up.
So that's what I see happening in the next couple of months. Should be fun to watch!