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If the Playoffs Started Today – NHL Week 19

Capitals vs Sharks: Week 19's prediction for the Stanley Cup

After another week, we’ve seen plenty of surprises. The Lightning have shot up the rankings, as have the Bruins, after favoring Tuukka Rask over their dead-weight Thomas. Buffalo is maintaining their division lead, but only by tiebreakers after Ottawa has kept surging forward. Speaking of which, the West’s #3 seed has a worse record than #4 and #5, and the Flames are trying to build some room between themselves and the Red Wings, who will have to step it up in their last 23 games. With just five points in the East separating #8 from #13 and six points separating their West counterparts, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Wednesday, February 10, before the day’s games:

West:

#1 San Jose Sharks vs #8 Calgary Flames

The Flames have lost their last two, to fall to 20 points behind San Jose. With the NHL’s first 20-win tally (on the road) and 200 goal-total, who could stop the Sharks in the 1st round? The Flames probably couldn’t, and with a five-point improvement, the Ducks could get another shot. As it stands now, the Sharks have a clear advantage in just about every stat, so they should have no problem sweeping the Flames.

#2 Chicago Blackhawks vs #7 Nashville Predators

The Blackhawks are trying to keep pace, currently four points behind the Sharks, and 16 points ahead of the Predators while they’re at it. Chicago has the edge in just about every category like the Sharks over the Flames, but the Predators could conceivably make a run with their home games. Still, Chicago is great enough at home to make it a moot point.

#3 Vancouver Canucks vs #6 Colorado Avalanche

Both teams are tied with 72 points, but the Canucks have two more wins. Vancouver also leads the season series 3-1, and they’ve scored more and given up less goals. It should be a back and forth series, and not just because of the travel between Vancouver and Denver. Home-rink advantage should give it to Vancouver in the end.

#4 Phoenix Coyotes vs #5 Los Angeles Kings

With only two points separating these two, it’ll be another squeaker. Phoenix has scored less but given up less. The Kings lead the season series 3-2, but one of those wins was in a shootout. Two of those wins were in Phoenix, though. Considering that the Kings have played one less game, and their ability to pick off road wins, they could very well pull off the upset here.

East:

#1 Washington Capitals vs #8 Philadelphia Flyers

With fourteen straight wins now, 23 home wins, 18 road wins, 234 goals, and a 27-point lead over the Flyers, and a 14-point lead over #2, is there any doubt the Capitals will sweep?

#2 New Jersey Devils vs #7 Montreal Canadiens

Both teams are similar in their goal scoring, but New Jersey has allowed much less (Got Brodeur?). This has led to their 12- point edge, not to mention an edge in both home and away match-ups. The Devils have had a hiccup or two this year, so Montreal could pick one off, but New Jersey would definitely win in five.

#3 Buffalo Sabres vs #6 Tampa Bay Lightning

Buffalo has lost five in a row, all in February. Tampa Bay has won their last four, all in February. Buffalo has won both meetings so far this year, one in a shootout. If the Bruins can somehow overcome a horrendous losing streak, so can the Sabres. Tampa Bay could win a game, but I’m going with the law of averages and picking Buffalo.

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs #5 Ottawa Senators

Pittsburgh has lost two in a row, but losing to Washington is nothing to be ashamed of, especially when it comes in overtime to keep home rink advantage over Ottawa. After a brief 5-0 hiccup in Toronto, Ottawa took care of Calgary 3-2. In their last 10, Pittsburgh is 5-4-1 while Ottawa is 9-1-0. Aside from Toronto, Ottawa’s last road loss was nearly a month ago on January 12 against Atlanta. I’ve got to go with Ottawa here.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • A home/away series between #7 Montreal and #8 Philadelphia provides an opportunity for #9 Boston, despite having only two games this week, to pull into a spot, provided Tuukka Rask plays and wins both games.
  • Ottawa has one more game than Buffalo to pull into a division lead, but one of those games is against Washington. Still, home rink advantage at #3 or #4 is possible.

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