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If the Playoffs Started Today – NHL Week 3

Penguins vs Avalanche: Week 3's prediciton for the Stanley Cup

It’s been quite a start to the 2009-2010 hockey season. The Buffalo Sabres now sit atop the Northeast division, and the Coyotes, after the whole “let’s see if we can sell the team” thing, are right there in the hunt. Four teams are worse than the Islanders, and the injury riddled Bruins are struggling to maintain their spot in the playoffs. Remind anyone of Kevin Garnett and the Celtics? There have been plenty of surprises so far, and plenty more undoubtedly to come, so let’s take a look now at what the surprises would do if the playoffs started as of Thursday, October 22 at 2:00 p.m.:

West:

#1 Colorado Avalanche vs. #8 Phoenix Coyotes

The Avalanche were the worst in the West last year and are now the best, looking to follow in the Celtics’ footsteps from two seasons ago and win another title. They would, as of now, have to face fellow upstart Phoenix Coyotes for the right to move on. The Coyotes will be wanting to show that you can’t sell them short, or to another owner. This would certainly be a fun series to watch, with Colorado wanting to show they still have it and Phoenix wanting to show that they can’t be pushed around.

#2 San Jose Sharks vs. #7 Columbus Blue Jackets

San Jose was embarrassed last year, plain and simple. They will not want to go through that again, and their foes will be hard pressed to face a squad determined to avenge themselves. Columbus will be looking to avoid the embarrassment of being swept out of the first round, like last year. There may be only one point separating these two, but Chicago has experience in the postseason, and Columbus isn’t exactly known for postseason heroics.

#3 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #6 Dallas Stars

Without their rival Red Wings to worry about at all, Chicago will come into this contest more relaxed than last year, as a major contender for the West. Dallas rebounded from the loss to Los Angeles to take out last season’s black horse team (Anaheim) and vault right back into playoff contention. These teams are now tied in points, but look for Chicago’s lack of Detroit as a distraction to give them the edge.

#4 Calgary Flames vs. #5 Edmonton Oilers

Again, both teams are looking great to start the season, with Calgary picking up where it left off and Edmonton looking to be a contender again after sliding out of the No. 8 seed late last season. Calgary will be looking for a rematch with the Blackhawks after being knocked out by them last season, and that would happen if the Coyotes pull off an upset and the other favored seeds win. Calgary would be wise, though, not to think ahead too much, lest the Oilers pull off the upset themselves.

East:

#1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #8 Boston Bruins

The Bruins slipped back into their No. 8 seed from two years ago with a squeaker over Nashville, making the Flyers unhappy in the process. In this position, they have the unenviable task of taking on the defending champs. Pittsburgh is currently in 1st place in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy, while the Bruins’ skill level these days seems to be fluctuating more than the stock market. In this state, they will not be able to come away with a series victory by any means.

#2 Buffalo Sabres vs. #7 New Jersey Devils

The Atlantic Division was shaken up pretty nicely last year, and last year’s division leader is currently in the middle of the pack. The Sabres took it to Florida to take the Northeast, adding to several big wins last season, while the Devils are teetering. Three of their four wins so far have been by one goal, and two of those came in shootouts. New Jersey hosts Buffalo next Wednesday following an evil two-game road trip against the Rangers and Penguins. If they’re not too banged up, look for this to be a good indication of a postseason match-up.

#3 Washington Capitals vs. #6 Atlanta Thrashers

The Thrashers will be looking to thrash their opponents, while the Capitals will be looking to capitalize on lessons learned against top teams in the playoffs last year that Atlanta doesn’t have. Atlanta will be looking to challenge Washington’s multi-year leadership of the division while Washington will have a likely Conference Final rematch with Pittsburgh to look forward to down the road, if the two keep winning (which shouldn’t be too much of a problem).

#4 New York Rangers vs. #5 Ottawa Senators

The Senators last made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in in the 2006-2007 season; the last time they won was their next to last appearance in the finals, in the 1926-1927 season. They’re starting to look like the Chicago Cubs of hockey. Not a good sign, if you’re an Ottawa fan. Especially when you consider the Rangers have started off with the second best record (by points) in hockey. Ottawa will be hard pressed to do much of anything if they do manage to make the playoffs this year, with their drought.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • Philadelphia could easily re-usurp Boston’s spot with a victory against the Bruins Thursday.
  • Los Angeles could jump up the rankings, especially if it beats fellow contenders Columbus and Phoenix.
  • Ottawa has some medium difficulty games coming up, while Buffalo has only two games against Tampa Bay and New Jersey. With some skillful skating, Ottawa could surge ahead.
  • Washington and Atlanta face off on Thursday for the division. Washington also draws the Islanders and Flyers in the upcoming week, while Atlanta must contend with the Sharks. Atlanta will have to come through to keep the race tight.

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