The Hockey East Affect on the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Although the college hockey playoffs have come and gone, 16 NHL clubs begin their pursuit for the most famed prize in all of sports tonight as the puck is dropped for the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs (5 remaining series start tomorrow). The prevalence of college players in today’s NHL game has been well documented (300 NCAA alums to date in 2012) and this years playoff rosters are stocked full of HEA alumni. The playoffs provide the ultimate stage for these seasoned alums to showcase the talent to a national TV audience that we were all fortunate enough to witness in a small, provinicial setting on many of the HEA campuses.

There are a number of intriguing first round matchups and story lines that may toy with your true NHL allegiances because of the HEA affect on the series. I equate this to the dilemma I face when one of my elite fantasy football offensive weapons is matched up against my New England Patriots. I admit, my home town allegiance trumps all fantasy related results…BUT, it clearly does alter my take on the actual game as the voice inside my head utters “Maybe insert arbitrary players name can score a few TD’s if the Pats are up big.” A sense of ambivalence undoubtedly takes over as my rooting interests have increased.

The same premise may hold true for some passionate Hockey East fans as their famed and gloried alumni lace em up in the 2012 playoffs. The good news for all of you Bruins fans (and I would expect most HEA fans to be Bruins fans given the geographical proximity of Boston to most of the schools) is that the Caps roster is virtually void of any HEA alumni.

The scouting model for our home town Bruins has forever favored the Canadian Junior players – ie. Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron, etc. It seems like a distant memory that Joe Juneau (RPI), Steve Heinze (BC) and Ted Donato (Harvard)were brought in from the US and Canadian Olympic teams to spur on the Rick Bowness led Bruins team that helped propel the B’s all the way to the Wales Conference Championship before succumbing to the Penguins. Tim Thomas (UVM) and Mike Mottau (BC) provide 2 reasons beyond the home town aspect, for HEA fans to rally behind the Boston Bruins this year.

A few other areas of intrigue

The Chris Kreider influence on the Rangers/Senators series – Kreider’s timely 3 year Entry Level deal with the Rangers is eerily reminiscent of the Tony Amonte signing with the Blueshirts back in 1991. Many, including the Herald’s Steve Buckley have compared the skillset and overall style of Amonte and Kreider who took parallel paths to the Big Apple; although Ranger fans must hope Kreider’s insertion into the line up will yield better results as Amonte’s 1991 Ranger team fell to the Caps in the 2nd round. Kreider joins a bevy of NCAA talent on the Rangers roster that includes the hulking, ex Eagle Brian Boyle (Hingham, MA).

The Ottawa Senators are another NHL team that covets NCAA players. Merrimack product, Stephane Da Costa played in 22 games for Ottawa this year (3-2-5) but did not make the playoff roster. UNH alum, RW – Bobby Butler (Marlborough, MA) played in 56 games for the Sens in 2011-2012 registering 6 goals and 10 assists. Former BU Terrier, D-Matt Gilroy put up 3-17-20 numbers this past year for Ottawa.

Will the Blackhawks call upon Ben Smith and Jimmy Hayes – With their captain Jonathan Toews status still uncertain, will the Hawks turn to Rockford’s (AHL) Jimmy Hayes and Ben Smith as they embark on a 2012 playoff run filled with high expectations. Smith played sparingly with the big club this year but was an integral part of last years Chicago playoff series against the vaunted Canucks (scored the game 6 OT winner at the United Center). Hayes played well in spurts this year but it has been Andrew Shaw who made the biggest rookie impact for Chicago during the regular season.

Jonathan Quick versus Cory Schneider circa HEA 2006-2007 – There will be plenty of east coast folks tuned to the late night, west coast #1 versus #8 match up. Many of the NHL’s so called experts are giving LA an excellent chance in the QF series with the Canucks thanks to the exploits of Avon Old Farms alum, Jon Quick. Vancouver is without Daniel Sedin for game 1 and the much maligned playoff struggles of Roberto Luongo could thrust ex BC Eagle, Cory Schneider into the spotlight in a Vancouver minute. This would set up an epic battle with Vezina candidate and ex UMass standout Jonathan Quick.  The series also features ex Eagle stalwart D- Rob Scuderi (’01) who mans the blueline these days for the LA Kings.

BC Interruption offered a BC specific rooting guide to the NHL playoffs on their site earlier this morning. Given the program’s success in the Jerry York era, the talent pool in the NHL with BC roots is indeed very significant.

The BU faithful will be paying close attention to the St. Louis/San Jose series as defensman, Kevin Shattenkirk will look to lead the #1 seed Blues  over Ben Ferreiro (BC ’08) and the 8th seed Sharks. Shattenkirk, acquired from Colorado in 2010-2011 has been a key part of the resurgent season in St. Louis, registering 9 tallies and 43 points on the year.

The Terrier Fan Blog writes about all of the BU alumni who are taking a run at Lord Stanley’s Cup – including two players, Brandon Yipp and Colin Wilson, who are suiting up for the a team that the BF predicts will win it all – the Nashville Predators.

College Hockey Inc. has a full breakdown of all NCAA alumni suiting up for NHL teams in this years Stanley Cup playoffs. This includes a look at all NCAA Champions who are taking part in the playoffs.

‘Pot Picks – 2012 NHL Playoffs QF Round

East

Rangers/Senators – Rangers in a sweep…Ottawa was a nice story and does have some good young talent, but they don’t have enough offensive weapons to defeat King Henry and crew.

Bruins/Caps – Caps in 7…Folks in Boston are drastically underestimating the absence of Nathan Horton who scored several key goals in last years Cup run. Caps have been the better team in the 2nd half and will dethrone the Cup Champs 😦

Panthers/Devils – Devils in 5…GM Dale Tallon has Florida headed in the right direction but the Devils are too playoff savvy. In what could be Marti’s last good run at Lord Stanley’s Cup, I like the Devils in an easy 5 games.

Pens/Flyers – Pens in 7…This will be an all out war and could prove to be a pyrrhic victory of sorts for the winner.

West

Canucks/Kings – Canucks in 7…The Kings have played much better since Jeff Carter’s arrival and Quick has been spectacular all year. Ultimately, I think the snarky Canucks prevail on home ice in game 7…but I sure hope I am wrong. I predicted the Kings and Rangers in the finals at the beginning of the year, so we’ll see.

Blues/Sharks – San Jose in 7…The pressure is off the Sharks as expectations are at an all time low. This should benefit the Sharks who will beat the inexperienced Blues in 7.

Coyotes/Blackhawks – Hawks in 5…With or without a healthy Jonathan Toews, I think the Hawks easily win this series because of their depth and experience. Corey Crawford will of course be the key and it will be interesting to see how Mike Smith handles playoff pressure for the Yotes.

Predators/Red Wings – Predators in 7…This one was a doozy to pick. I think the Predators remind me of last season’s Boston Bruins with their tight checking defensive “lock down” style. I like the Preds to win game 7 in Nashville and advance.

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