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If the Playoffs Started Today – NHL Week 16

Blackhawks vs Capitals; Week 16's prediction for the Stanley Cup.

In the past week, the Devils have amassed a rare three-game losing streak, the Sabres are making their push, and the Bruins are failing miserably. The West has seen the Blackhawks taking another lead over the Sharks, whereas the Flames have lost four in a row and are in danger of losing their spot. In both conferences, the difference between the playoffs and sitting at home is a single point, so there is still plenty to fight for on both fronts. Given the shuffling going on, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Tuesday, January 19 at 10:30 pm (sans the late games):

West:

#1 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #8 Los Angeles Kings

Chicago’s schedule let them just beat out San Jose for the top spot this week, even considering a loss in Ottawa Tuesday. Los Angeles won two in a row to eke out another week in the #8 spot. If Los Angeles can recreate the comeback magic they showed against the Bruins, they could be in alright shape, though going up against the NHL’s best home record could just as easily create some problems.

#2 San Jose Sharks vs. #7 Calgary Flames

If this were last week, Calgary would have made things interesting, but they’ve lost four in a row now, compared with the Sharks’ two victories. With 16 wins each at home and away, the Sharks have a balanced edge. That’s not to mention the 42-2 goal differential advantage.

#3 Colorado Avalanche vs. #6 Vancouver Canucks

Colorado has won four in a row to take a four-point divisional lead over Vancouver. However, Vancouver is still 19-7-1 at home. But a 9-11-1 road record keeps the advantage with Colorado. Still, with a 36-8 goal differential advantage, Vancouver has the skills to pull off the upset.

#4 Nashville Predators vs. #5 Phoenix Coyotes

Both teams have 61 points, and if it weren’t for the Blackhawks and Sharks, one of them would definitely be able to capture the #3 spot soon. Records give a slight edge to Nashville, and the teams are rather even, but the one variable is momentum. In their last 10 games, Nashville 7-3-0, while Phoenix is 4-4-2.

East:

#1 Washington Capitals vs. #8 New York Islanders

How about the Capitals winning four in a row? How about the Islanders doing the same before losing to Pittsburgh Tuesday? Even so, a poor road season leaves the Islanders without much hope of winning. And did I mention the 47 to -17 goal differential edge owned by Washington?

#2 Buffalo Sabres vs. #7 Boston Bruins

Buffalo is just two points away from leading the East, while the Bruins are three away from going home. With the way they’ve been playing, that’s a likely scenario. Buffalo has been a better offensive and defensive team goal-wise, and if anything is working in Boston’s favor, Buffalo was losing in Anaheim late.

#3 New Jersey Devils vs. #6 New York Rangers

Uncharacteristically, the Devils have lost three straight. Still, New Jersey has the record advantage, including eight more wins in three less games. At this point, you have to believe it’s only a matter of time until Brodeur gets his groove back.

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #5 Ottawa Senators

Ottawa has won four in a row, with the latest being a huge win against Chicago Tuesday. Pittsburgh does have five more wins and a 20 to -9 goal differential advantage, while Ottawa has a losing road record. But with recent performances in mind, you have to wonder if Ottawa is good enough to pull it off. Considering how Pittsburgh started the season, of course they are.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • Given schedules, Florida and Atlanta have decent shots at taking over the Islanders’ spots.
  • Los Angeles has a tough schedule, including games against San Jose and Buffalo. Their visit to Detroit Saturday could very well determine the West’s last spot.

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