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If the Playoffs Started Today – NHL Week 15

Sharks vs Devils: Week 15's prediction for the Stanley Cup

Over the past week, the seeding has been jumbled up, making for some interesting series. The top seeds, just like all the others, are still very much up for grabs. The Sharks and Blackhawks are fighting for the honor out west, while the Devils are building a bit of a lead in the East, though the Sabres are making a push for it, despite missing out on the brackets last year. Still, four East teams on the outside looking in are at most two points out. Even the Hurricanes are trying to reenter the race, having won three straight. An overhaul of the seeding is still possible before season’s end, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Tuesday, January 12 at 11:45 pm:

West:

#1 San Jose Sharks vs. #8 Los Angeles Kings

At one point, the Kings had the top seed. But now, they’ve lost three straight, and are one more game away from giving up their playoff spot. San Jose is known for being a higher scoring team, especially when compared to opponents, but let’s not forget their upset at Anaheim’s hands last year. San Jose should win, but Los Angeles has the tools to make sure that doesn’t happen.

#2 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #7 Vancouver Canucks

Vancouver’s losing road performance will leave them a difficult task against NHL’s first 20-game home winner. Their 18-7-1 home record will keep them in it, but they’ll need to find a way to win in Chicago to pull through. Even their goal differential (35) doesn’t match up to Chicago’s (50). Like the first series, Chicago should win, but we’ll see what Vancouver does.

#3 Calgary Flames vs. #6 Phoenix Coyotes

This one will be a much closer contest. The slightest home/away home advantage exists on both sides, and the teams both have 26 wins. The home team has won both meetings this season, 2-1 each time, so that might be something to keep a look at.

#4 Nashville Predators vs. #5 Colorado Avalanche

Similarly to the Flames/Coyotes, the Predators hold a one point advantage. However, the Predators have two more wins, and have won both meetings this season. Colorado does have six overtime losses to Nashville’s three, so Colorado will need to open up and hold a lead early if it wants to win.

East:

#1 New Jersey Devils vs. #8 Ottawa Senators

A 17-point difference separates these two. And Ottawa has lost its last five, is miserable on the road, and has been losing its home swagger. And it has a goal differential disadvantage of -20 to 33. With shutout machine Martin Brodeur in goal, the Devils will win this one easily.

#2 Buffalo Sabres vs. #7 Philadelphia Flyers

Sure, Buffalo is surging and has a 12-point edge, but the Flyers have won four straight, while Buffalo lost to Colorado Saturday. Philadelphia was out of the running for a stretch, so they could charge forward more, much like the Penguins at the end of last season. Buffalo should win, but Philadelphia won’t make it easy.

#3 Washington Capitals vs. #6 New York Rangers

The Rangers have actually been better on the road than at home, but not by enough. The Capitals still hold better records, a nine point lead, and an NHL-best 166 goals. This is not the draw the Rangers wanted, and it will show.

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #5 Boston Bruins

Aside from the Senators, the Bruins are the only East playoff team without at least 10 road wins (9-7-4). They’ve only won 13 at home, while Pittsburgh has split its 28 wins evenly between home and away. They’re 2nd in the East with 149 goals, compared to the Bruins’ 114. Tim Thomas has already been replaced mid-game multiple times this season, which can’t happen if Boston wants to win.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • Look for Chicago to eke out another West lead.
  • Ottawa visits Montreal Saturday. Ottawa needs to step it up to avoid falling out.
  • Detroit has two additional games to overtake the Kings, but games against Chicago and Washington don’t bode well, nor does a 6-0 loss to the Islanders Tuesday.

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