Some playoff predictions from Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi hosts

LARISSA CAHUTE
VANCOUVER DESI

The return of the NHL also means the return of Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi. Submitted photo/CBC

How many Canadian teams will make the playoffs at the conclusion of this lockout-shortened NHL season? It depends who you ask.

“With the changes that each of the Canadian teams have made it seems as if there might be more Canadian teams that make the playoffs this season,” said Harnarayan Singh, commentator for CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi.

On the other hand, Singh’s colleague and analyst for the show, Inderpreet Cumo, says it will be the same two Canadian teams as last year that qualify for the postseason derby: Vancouver and Ottawa.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS

“Hopefully, they get that second line sorted out with (Ryan) Kesler and (David) Booth … they definitely need a second line player,” said Cumo.

While Singh agrees the Canucks are always a strong team, he’s “a bit cautious” about how far they’ll get.

“They’re not short injuries,” said Singh. “The injuries to Ryan Kesler and David Booth — those are two really big holes in their top six forwards.”

And there’s also “the goaltending question.”

“Can (Cory) Schneider keep up with the pressure to be the No. 1 goalie?” He’s proven his skill, but it’s different once you’re given the reins,” he said. “It will be very interesting for Vancouver this season.”

“(But they) will most certainly make the playoffs … there’s no doubt about that.”

OTTAWA SENATORS

Canada’s other top contender is the Ottawa Senators, who’ve made “quite a few changes,” said Singh.

“They’re a little bit surprising. They let go some of their players that had been on their team for a while like (Nick) Foligno and they gave up on Bobby Butler,” he said, adding he’s not sure

if replacements like (Andre) Benoit and (Guillaume) Latendresse will “fit the bill.”

“They have a pretty solid group of goaltenders, so that’s not an issue for them,” he added.

As for American teams, Cumo and Singh both peg the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins as sure bets to make the playoffs.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

“Pittsburgh is going to be very strong with (Sydney) Crosby coming back from that injury – so he’s hungry,” said Cumo.

And Crosby’s strength is only magnified with Evgeni Malkin in the picture.

“A healthy Crosby and Malkin, both of them together is probably the strongest one-two-punch that you could have in the NHL right now,” said Singh.

NEW YORK RANGERS

Singh and Cumo both see Rick Nash as New York’s greatest strong suit this season.

“Nash coming to New York is huge,” said Cumo.

“The New York Rangers were already such a solid team last season and with the addition of Rick Nash — he’s an all-star caliber player,” added Singh. “The Rangers I think are a team to watch out for.”

But top contender or not, every team has to play hard with the shortened season.

“It’s kind of as if the playoffs start right away because any team that loses five or six games in a row — you are behind the eight ball so much,” said Singh. “It’s going to be hard to catch up.”

The teams need to have their chemistry going right away, said Cumo.

“There’s no time for trying to figure things out,” he said. “They can’t be trying to search for their stride – every point counts and every team’s going to be going hard from the get-go.”

Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi makes its return for the NHL season-opening double-header Saturday night and you can watch it for free on digital channels ­— channel 232 with Bell, channel 131 with Telus, channel 328 with Shaw — or stream it online at CBCsports.ca/punjabi

This year they’re also rolling out a weekly podcast, released every Thursday on iTunes and cbcsports.ca/punjabi.

While Singh and Cumo agree Canada’s top two contenders for the NHL playoffs are Vancouver and Ottawa, here’s what they advise to watch for with the four other teams north of the border.

CALGARY FLAMES

With some fresh new additions, Singh believes the Flames will make a good run for the home stretch.

“(They) had trouble scoring goals last year, (but) I think a couple of their additions they’ve made with (Jiri) Hudler and bringing in (Dennis) Wideman will help their offence,” said Singh.

“And we’ll have to see what happens with their new guy from Czech (Roman Cervenka) – he hasn’t played in the NHL yet, so nobody knows exactly how he’ll do.”

EDMONTON OILERS

The team’s young players were still playing professionally with the Oilers’ affiliate squad the Oklahoma City Barons during the lockout, so this gives them a leg up, according to Singh.

“They won’t need as much time to build chemistry – they’re kind of already in mid-season form,” he said. “A lot of people are saying that’s going to benefit them, but there is the danger of being a little bit overconfident.”

While Cumo wouldn’t say they’d make the playoffs, he thinks they’ll “turn a few heads.”

“It’s an exciting team… they’ll be fun to watch,” he said.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

It’s not the most promising prediction, but the Leafs still got a mention.

“I think (Toronto is) closer to making the playoffs than not making the playoffs,” said Singh. “If the Luongo trade does, in fact, happen, I think there’s a chance that Toronto could squeak into the competition.”

MONTREAL CANADIENS

Both Singh and Cumo didn’t give much promise for Habs fans.

“Montreal will have a tough time,” said Cumo.

Singh agreed, adding they’re at a “disadvantage” getting used to a new coach this year and coming off of a “catastrophe” from last season.

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