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If the Playoffs Started Today – NHL Week 5

Penguins vs Avalanche: Week 5's prediction for the Stanley Cup

The season is well underway, and things are heating up. The Bruins have been back and forth, mostly back. Several teams that nobody expected to do well are doing just that. And to top it all off, all five teams in the Atlantic Division are in line for playoff spots, though only one Atlantic Division first round match-up is on the horizon. And the Red Wings are coming on strong after a disappointing start, as the Bruins recently found out the hard way. At least the Bruins are still only two points away from a spot. So, with so much action to consider, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Tuesday, Nov. 3 at 11 p.m. (sans the late games):

West:

#1 Colorado Avalanche vs. #8 Calgary Flames

Calgary has lost two in a row, and is tied in points with Columbus, Detroit, and Edmonton. They’ll have to shape up to hold onto their spot. Meanwhile, the Avs have also lost two in a row, and are now just one point ahead of the Sharks. With both the Avalanche and Flames looking to grab hold of a ledge to halt their fall, a fast paced series would be in order. However, the Avalanche have the edge with home rink advantage and a perfect record so far at home.

#2 San Jose Sharks vs. #7 Vancouver Canucks

The Sharks are hot, having won a current NHL best five in a row. Vancouver won their last game before hosting the Rangers late. With a 6-2-0 home record and a 2-5-0 road record, the 2009 Canucks are starting to look like the 2009 Boston Red Sox. And unfortunately for Vancouver, we all know how that turned out. Either they slip up and get swept, or their home/road records result in a seven game Sharks victory.

#3 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #6 Dallas Stars

The Stars so far have shined on the road, while the Blackhawks have done well at home. The Stars are .500 at home while the Blackhawks are .500 on the road. Both teams have 17 points, but the Blackhawks have done it in one less game with two more wins, meaning the Stars have four more overtime losses. That “close games under pressure” stat could be instrumental for the Blackhawks to move on.

#4 Los Angeles Kings vs. #5 Phoenix Coyotes

Here we have two teams that hardly anyone knew existed last year, and they’re both in the middle of the bracket this year. Both teams have been eerily similar in stats this year, though the Kings have both scored and given up more goals. This one is truly anyone’s match. Though with the NHL recently being approved to purchase the Coyotes, there might be a vested interest in seeing the Coyotes do well for when the NHL resells them. Not that it’ll happen like that, but maybe John McCain and his state can finally win something.

East:

#1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #8 Ottawa Senators

Pittsburgh is a perfect 6-0-0 on the road, giving the Senators hope for winning four games in Steel City. Though still, 5-3-0 at home is still good enough for the Penguins. Pittsburgh is a bigger lock at the moment, especially considering the Senators are tied in points with the Canadiens and Lightning, the latter of which is the only one of the three teams to currently be on a winning streak, even though that streak is only one game, and even though it was against Toronto, and even though it had to come in overtime.

#2 Washington Capitals vs. #7 New York Islanders

Okay the Capitals are #2; that was easy enough to see coming. Wait a minute, the Islanders? The worse team from last year is challenging for a spot? By record, the Islanders are 17th out of 30 teams. And they’re currently riding a four game winning streak; not too shabby. Both teams have shown a large capacity for losing close overtime games (four for the Capitals and five for the Islanders), though the Capitals have eight wins to the Islanders’ five. The saving grace for the Islanders is that the Capitals have lost two straight, both games in overtime and the first to the Islanders. It would be fun to see if the Islanders could pull off the major upset.

#3 Buffalo Sabres vs. #6 Philadelphia Flyers

The Sabres have gained ground in their division, while the Flyers have slipped in theirs. Despite a two game winning streak, they’re still one point away from falling into last place in the Atlantic Division. Both teams are doing quite well for themselves overall so far, so expect this to be a close series.

#4 New York Rangers vs. #5 New Jersey Devils

The Rangers and Devils have both looked very impressive in the early going. The Devils are three points from overtaking the Rangers and gaining home rink advantage in the first round, while the Rangers are four points from overtaking the Penguins for the division and top seed. Both teams clearly have a vested interest in this match, which could very well make it the most contested series.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • The top four teams in the Northeast each have a mixture of easy and hard games coming up next week. Boston in particular has two divisional games (against the Canadiens and Sabres), so has the best opportunity to shake things up (especially if they can also find a way to somehow knock off Pittsburgh next Tuesday).
  • It’s a similar situation for the four West teams tied for 8th with 15 points, except don’t expect Detroit to make much of a dent yet with just two games this week (one against San Jose).

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