|Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots Win By Less Than a FOOT||Panic Mode in Full Effect, Minutemen are Struggling||Patriots Survive Gritty Challenge From Jets||Smart Era Gets Off to a Good Start with Win over T’wolves|
We’re back, after the first week of action following the Olympic break. We’ve seen Pittsburgh open up a nice-sized lead over New Jersey in the Atlantic Division. Washington is still looking like the President’s Trophy winner, but Chicago is closing the gap on San Jose for the top spot in the West. The East’s bracket features three Northeast vs Atlantic match-ups, while the West has three divisional series in place. And the Hurricanes, once the league’s worst team, are now into the third from last spot in the East. Nine points from a playoff spot? It could happen. With so much volatility on tap, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Tuesday, March 9 at 11:30pm (sans the late games):
Calgary knocked off Detroit on the road Tuesday to retake the last Western spot. San Jose finds themselves in another battle with Chicago almost immediately after opening up a comfortable lead. San Jose isn’t exactly known lately for doing well with the #1 seed, and Calgary’s three-game win streak looks to continue that trend, which means San Jose will need to rely on their 52-3 goal differential edge.
Chicago has turned themselves into a huge Stanley Cup threat this year, and their 56 goal differential (a West best) speaks to it. Nashville’s differential is -4, the only negative total amongst the West’s playoff teams. They had their streaks earlier in the season, but Nashville really has no legitimate shot.
With only two points separating them, Colorado lost at home to Vancouver Tuesday, to make the deficit four points. Colorado needs points badly, as these two have been fairly similar this year, except for Vancouver being a noticeably bigger scorer. And Vancouver has clinched the season series, putting them in line for another tiebreaker. Vancouver should edge the Avalanche, with the few deciding variables in their favor.
Phoenix does have a very good home record, but the Kings are not far behind. In fact, they only trail by one point, but have played one less game, and are the better scorer (the fifth team to reach 200 goals). Not only that, but Los Angeles leads the season series 3-2. The road team actually won the first three games, including two in Phoenix. Add it all up, and the Kings are the favorite.
The league’s best offense against the league’s worst offense? Any idea who’ll win this one? The Bruins only have the league’s eighth best defense, and if Tim Thomas can’t even hold back the Maple Leafs, how can he hope to stop a team that’s averaging 3.94 goals per game? An offense averaging 2.46 goals per game won’t do the trick. By the way, Washington has won both meetings so far (in Boston) 4-1.
Is there any more evil team right now than Pittsburgh? They now have 40 wins, 211 goals, and five points over New Jersey. Montreal may have won their last three, but they’ve struggled overall this year. Pittsburgh has the offense and the records to take the series easily. Defense is a tad shaky, but that shouldn’t be an issue, and if the referees’ backs are ever turned, expect Matt Cooke to break out a headbutt or right hook.
This might be a fun series. Philly has the better offense, but Buffalo has the better defense. Both teams have 35 wins, which means Buffalo has lost more close games. Buffalo did win the season series 3-1, including both games in Philadelphia. If the Flyers can figure out how beat the Sabres on home ice, they’ll be an upset pick worth picking.
Ottawa has the edge in offense, but New Jersey has a much better defense. Still, New Jersey is 1-2-0 since the Olympic break, winning in San Jose and losing in Calgary and Edmonton. Yes, they lost to Edmonton. They were even shout out in the game. The Devils did take the season series 3-1, but Ottawa’s win was the latest. With that momentum swing, the Devils could get booted out by an upset team in the first round yet again.
Tags: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, NHL Playoffs, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals