Here's how that one lands:. The biggest surprises there: Now let's get into some of the crazier scenarios. First off, the most challenging of all: Can I get the currently Oakland Raiders into the playoffs? The Raiders were mathematically eliminated after last week's loss to San Diego. That's actually the earliest in the season a team has been eliminated from the playoffs since the Miami Dolphins.
But as you'll see, it's the lone failure. Can we get the sad Jets in the playoffs? How about the Jacksonville Jaguars? They're barely better than the Raiders! Here's a fun one: Can you get the Cleveland Browns to be the No. It's not even that hard! Tampa Bay is How high can you get them? Can you say No. Look, you can even get the Washington Football Team there too.
After Dan Steinberg's brilliant piece last week on what it's truly like to sit in the stands at FedEx Field , there wouldn't be anything much more depressing that home playoff games there. And lastly from the "no hope" squad … don't worry about that blizzard, Buffalo fans, because there is always this possibility. All right, so how about from the other direction, thinking negatively rather than positively? Last year, they won 10 games but still missed the playoffs.
Could it happen again this year? Here's a nightmare for CBS's ratings: In the last three of those meetings, the series has gone to overtime of the seventh game.
And all three times, the winner went to the Cup final. The Calgary Flames , 97 points, plus goals differential 1. How the hell did they get here? One player to watch: The rookie is all sorts of fun to watch. If that happens, the Flames are probably doomed. Goalie Karri Ramo is day-to-day, meaning Jonas Hiller is the starter for now, and lots of other guys are banged up.
And, of course, Giordano has a torn biceps and is out for at least three more months. So, this being the playoffs, expect the rumors of him being mysteriously ahead of schedule to start sometime around Game 4. This is one of the most important possession stats for predicting future performance, and the Flames were worse than the Oilers, Coyotes, and Maple Leafs. As we covered a few weeks ago, the Flames may well be the most likable team in the NHL. Nothing we know about hockey makes sense anymore.
And in this corner: Vancouver Canucks , points, plus goals differential. The Canucks spent big last summer to bring in Ryan Miller as the undisputed starter, but he was just OK before getting hurt in February. But if either guy has a bad game period shift, expect the well-oiled Vancouver Goaltending Controversy Machine to fire up.
One of the goalies can stand tall long enough for the Sedins to work their magic one more time. The overmatched Flames will refuse to die, but the Canucks will eke out a win in seven games. Two big, mean teams will take turns maiming each other until only one is left standing.
Is their goaltending for real? But after years of watching Pavelec do stuff like this , how much do you really trust him? The massive defenseman and sometimes forward is one of the most fascinating players in the league. Center Mathieu Perreault is nursing a lower-body injury but could be back soon. A bunch of other players missed the last regular-season weekend as a precaution but should be good to go.
Anaheim Ducks , points, plus-7 goals differential. Are the Ducks a mirage? How do you outscore the opposition by a measly seven goals and still finish with points? The Ducks acquired the veteran from Vancouver as their major offseason move because he was supposed to be the sort of two-way center you need to win in the West. But is that just good luck, or something more? Now, about coming out of this matchup with enough healthy bodies to win their next series …. They met in the first round in ; Chicago won in six and went on to win the Cup.
The exciting underdog that nobody quite believes in draws a brutal first-round matchup against the quasi-dynasty. Chicago Blackhawks , points, plus goals differential. When does fatigue become a factor? At some point, that has to catch up with you. But Vermette is the kind of do-it-all depth guy who can become invaluable over a long playoff run, and the team paid big to get him at the trade deadline.
Veterans Kimmo Timonen and Brad Richards have both missed time lately. But the big one is Patrick Kane, who broke his clavicle in late February and was supposed to miss 12 weeks. Chicago is the only team in the NHL to post a perfect mark. This core has already won two Cups. Bandwagons are not allowed. Nashville Predators , points, plus goals differential.
Rookie Filip Forsberg has gone cold in the second half, and James Neal was pointless in 13 of his last 15 games.