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If the Playoffs Started Today – NHL Week 9

Sharks vs Capitals: Week 9's prediction for the Stanley Cup.

There’s still plenty of competition for titles and seeding. The Bruins have forced their way back into divisional contention. The Penguins and Capitals keep trading the title back and forth. Also, the Avalanche have recently dropped in favor of the Flames. Even Toronto’s making a push for a spot. A grand total of five teams are not in the playoffs but at most one point away. With plenty of fight left in most every team, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Tuesday, December 1 at 11:15pm (sans the late games):

West:

#1 San Jose Sharks vs. #8 Columbus Blue Jackets

The Sharks lead the West with 18 wins, while the Blue Jackets are barely back in the picture after a shootout loss in Chicago. An NHL-best 11 road wins will go a long way here for San Jose, as will their scant three home losses (two in overtime).

#2 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #7 Phoenix Coyotes

Chicago has an NHL-best 11 home wins, but Phoenix did win at home against the Blackhawks on November 5. If Phoenix picks off a game in Chicago, things could get interesting in a hurry. Though for Chicago it shouldn’t be too much of a problem, if they can hold Phoenix off at home or win a road game of their own.

#3 Calgary Flames vs. #6 Nashville Predators

Nashville has been quite the force in recent weeks, while Calgary has won four straight to take the division from Colorado. Both teams have similar home/away match-up records, but Calgary gets the edge for goal differential (17 vs. -7). Whoever has the most momentum at the end of the season could very well come out on top.

#4 Colorado Avalanche vs. #5 Los Angeles Kings

Both teams are surprise entrants into the playoff race this year, but both of them have apparently cooled off from early season plateaus. With similar stats, this would certainly be a close series that is the most likely first round upset of the brackets.

East:

#1 Washington Capitals vs. #8 Tampa Bay Lightning

The Capitals won three straight to squeak into the top seed by superior points percentage. Tampa has an NHL-most eight overtime losses, giving them the greatest propensity to lose close games. Their 3-0 home loss Monday to Colorado kills off a lot of their momentum, which also contributes to the Capitals’ already high chances of walking away victorious.

#2 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #7 Ottawa Senators

Pittsburgh is making a serious case to repeat as champions, with an NHL-best 19 wins so far. The teams have split their two games in Ottawa, but Ottawa’s weak road record is keeping them from rising up the rankings. With four games in Pittsburgh and a definite chance to win in Ottawa, the Penguins are in good shape to take the series.

#3 Buffalo Sabres vs. #6 Boston Bruins

Boston may be leading the season series 2-0, but their goalie situation has not been the most consistent, especially their tendency to allow goals very late in the 3rd Period. The Sabres leapfrogged Ottawa and Boston to take over the division with a 3-0 win in Toronto Monday. All signs point to an interesting series, that will come down to whether or not Boston can put up another Tuukka Rask-esque winning streak.

#4 New Jersey Devils vs. #5 Atlanta Thrashers

Both teams are hot; New Jersey’s won three straight, while Atlanta’s won four. New Jersey’s superior road record should help supplement their home games in the series. With both teams having a high goal differential (Devils 18, Thrashers 16), this may come down to New Jersey’s road record and whoever can keep their momentum going the longest. Or maybe the Thrashers can convince the Devils to treat Martin Brodeur like Tomas Vokoun.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • Ottawa’s week is the busiest amongst Northeast contenders, which should give them the lead.
  • Based on schedule difficulties, Philadelphia stands the best shot at overtaking Tampa Bay.
  • If Detroit can find a way around New Jersey Saturday, they could also find their way back into the seeding (at the expense of Columbus).

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