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Things are picking up. All five Atlantic teams are in line for playoff spots. Only one division features a point differential between 1st and 2nd of more than four points. Only one of the six Canadian teams is up for a slot. And to top it all off, five out of eight current series would be divisional rivalries.
Factoring in the point percentage tiebreaker, the Bruins need three more points to make the brackets. Good thing they still have plenty of time to figure out what they’re doing. So what would the Bruins have to contend with? Let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Tuesday, November 17 at 11:59pm:
The Sharks dropped to Nashville 4-3 Tuesday while the Stars did the same 3-2 to Phoenix on Saturday. Maybe the rest will have done the Stars some good, and maybe San Jose is starting to look like the team that was upset last year in the playoffs, losing to an inferior team. The Sharks have not yet lost this season at home in regulation, so that may help them here. Though props to Dallas for sticking in it his long too.
Colorado held off the powerful Flames 3-2 Tuesday in regulation in a game that would have changed the division titleholder with any other finish. With early dominance slipping, they stepped up. Detroit, for their part, has won three straight. Both teams have Stanley Cup experience, so the deciding factor may, once again, boil down the better road record (7-3-3 vs. 3-4-2, Avs advantage).
Both teams are very similar, with Chicago having won just one more than Columbus. Chicago has won four straight to Columbus’ two. Both teams are hungry and powerful, but the edge goes to Chicago, another team with playoff experience and the NHL’s first team this year to win 10 home games.
Los Angeles may hold a two-point advantage over Calgary, but they had three more games in which to build the lead. The Flames are right where they were last year, while the Kings are looking to matter for the first time in recent memory. This one’s a little close to call immediately. We’ll have to wait until Saturday’s game between the two in Los Angeles to figure things out.
The Capitals are on top despite having less wins than two other East teams (in more games mind you). Washington did well, beating the Rangers 4-2 Tuesday, while the Lightning beat fellow upstart Phoenix 4-1 Monday. Both teams have impressed early on, though Washington has the noticeably better road record (6-3-1 vs. 3-4-2), which is always a good stat to have on your side.
On Monday, New Jersey lost to division rival Philadelphia 3-2 while the Islanders beat a horribly faltering Bruins team. Again, the Devils’ road record (NHL best 9-1-0) gives them a huge advantage, especially if the Islanders are not careful enough to avoid resting on their laurels after Boston (which shouldn’t be a problem given their last place standing right now).
Give Buffalo credit for winning three straight and holding onto the division, and now having the point advantage over the Rangers, who are fourth in the Atlantic division after doing so well to begin the season. With superiority at home and away, due in no small part to the better playing, Buffalo should come out on top here.
The same seeds and same match-up go to the same teams from last year. Pittsburgh lost their way for a spell, then found it again against the Bruins. (0.4 seconds? Boo.) Pittsburgh won in Philly back in October. Pittsburgh has the better overall road record, though they have double the sample size the Flyers do, so more must be seen of the Flyers outside Philadelphia to pass judgment.
Tags: Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, NHL Playoffs, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals