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If the Playoffs Started Today – NHL Week 17

Sharks vs Capitals: Week 17's prediction for the Stanley Cup

With around 30 games left to go in the season, much is still up in the air. The Lightning, #13 in the East, are only three points out of the playoffs. The Blues, #13 in the West, are only five out. Four East teams are tied for #6 through #9.

The Hurricanes are no longer the NHL’s worst team; you can thank the Bruins for that. Edmonton isn’t so happy. The Sharks are on pace to hit 120 points by season’s end. The Oilers are only on pace to hit 61. And it’s a good day to be a Capitals fan, as they have won seven straight and are the first team this season to hit 200 goals (202). With this much going on, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Wednesday, January 27 at12:15am:

West:

#1 San Jose Sharks vs. #8 Detroit Red Wings

It’s five victories in a row for the Sharks, while Detroit dropped to Phoenix Tuesday in OT. When San Jose has 51 for a goal differential and Detroit has -3, it makes you wonder if Detroit will be able to even come close, despite clawing their way up the rankings steadily in recent weeks.

#2 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #7 Nashville Predators

It wasn’t that long ago that these two were fighting for the division, and now Nashville has dropped their last four, and is down 13 points to Chicago. Add to that a 50-0 goal differential edge, and Chicago should cruise forward easily.

#3 Colorado Avalanche vs. #6 Los Angeles Kings

A muscular six-straight wins keeps Colorado in a tiebreaker lead of their division, but the Kings have won their last three to keep pace. With similar in home/away records, goals, and points, this is looking to be one of the closest series of the first round, though Colorado does have the edge in recent momentum.

#4 Vancouver Canucks vs. #5 Phoenix Coyotes

Vancouver has won five straight to stay tied with Colorado, while Phoenix won in Detroit Tuesday. Vancouver has the 43-5 goal differential edge, and an NHL best 22 home wins. Even though they’re only leading Phoenix by one point, the Canucks have a clear edge, if only due to home rink advantage.

East:

#1 Washington Capitals vs. #8 Florida Panthers

Florida defeated Montreal to sneak into the brackets, but they have an unenviable task in front of them. Seven straight wins, 18 home wins, 202 goals, 19 more points, and a 9-1-0 record in their last 10 all point to a Washington sweep.

#2 New Jersey Devils vs. #7 New York Rangers

Getting blanked 3-0 in Ottawa Tuesday isn’t helping New Jersey, but losing three in a row isn’t helping New York. Overall, New Jersey has the records and goal scoring ability in place to sweep New York.

#3 Buffalo Sabres vs. #6 Philadelphia Flyers

Buffalo has the 12 point edge, and a 16-5-5 home record to Philadelphia’s 11-12-1 road record. All they have to do is hold on at home. If Philly wants to pull this off, they’ll need to maintain the games and not let it get out of hand; they have shown less propensity for losing close games, with three overtime losses to Buffalo’s seven.

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #5 Ottawa Senators

Is there any team hotter than the Senators right now? Seven straight wins to go to 19-8-3 at home, and close in on .500 on the road at 10-13-1. Pittsburgh still maintains that slight edge, but with the way Ottawa has been playing lately, that could easily be meaningless.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • Philadelphia hosts two playoff hopefuls, Atlanta and the Islanders. If they and the Rangers hiccup, the Thrashers, Islanders, and even Lightning have a good shot to move into the race.
  • Chicago visits San Jose Thursday with the Western Conference on the line. If San Jose can’t get it done against Detroit Tuesday, Chicago should keep that spot.
  • With four games each this week, Detroit and Calgary will duel over the final spot, and with plenty of chances, anything can happen.

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