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If the Playoffs Started Today – NHL Week 24

Capitals vs Sharks: Week 24's prediction for the Stanley Cup

There’s less than two weeks left in the schedule, and we’re all getting super excited with the playoff picture starting to shape up. But still, there’s plenty that could change in a whim. Even with the Capitals clinching the East (and with two wins and six points over San Jose) and the magic number for Edmonton getting the most lotto balls at one, five divisions are still on the line. Buffalo is just one win away from jumping in line behind Washington.

There’s a three-way tie for 6th in the East, and two points separating the West’s 5th and 7th teams. And thanks to a non-NBA playoff system, the Coyotes are 4th out West despite having the conference’s second best record. Anyway, there’s still a huge amount to think about, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Wednesday, March 31 at 12:50am:

West:

#1 San Jose Sharks vs #8 Colorado Avalanche

Colorado hasn’t been looking so good as of late, while San Jose has followed up an embarrassing six-game losing streak with a four-game winning streak, including one over Colorado. With San Jose once again taking control over the West and Colorado struggling to get back some positioning, the Sharks are looking to take a pretty easy victory this year.

#2 Chicago Blackhawks vs #7 Los Angeles Kings

Chicago has shockingly lost three games in a row (all of them beatings by teams with “Blue” in their name) and their grip on reality along with it. So maybe it’s not that bad (yet), and maybe the Blackhawks have beaten the Kings three times this year, but dropping games like that will be suicide for Chicago in the later rounds.

#3 Vancouver Canucks vs #6 Detroit Red Wings

Vancouver is only #3 because everyone else in their division is worse. They may be good, but Detroit is finally starting to look like we all thought they would all season. And they’re in a great position to leapfrog another spot. And they’ve won three times against Vancouver. This is definitely the most likely upset of the playoffs.

#4 Phoenix Coyotes vs #5 Nashville Predators

This one will not be as close as a #4 vs #5 should be. Phoenix has a game, three wins, and six points in hand. Nashville has been doing quite well for themselves in their own right, but Phoenix is better because of their better defense. It’ll be tough for the Predators, but with two games in the season series having been decided in shootouts, it’s not completely impossible.

East:

#1 Washington Capitals vs #8 Boston Bruins

Two things were proven Tuesday against the Devils: the Bruins can play when they feel like it, and Tuukka Rask is the man to go with in the long run. But with two home losses to Washington this season, Boston will really need to step it up in Washington and stop the bleeding at home and get some magical snake oil to Marc Savard in order to contend.

#2 Pittsburgh Penguins vs #7 Montreal Canadiens

With the Matt Cooke Rule now in effect, Pittsburgh will find it harder to win, but not by much. Montreal hasn’t been too troublesome this season, and Pittsburgh is more than capable of providing enough offense to support its defense more often than not. Montreal is balanced enough to win a game or two, but they would only be delaying the inevitable.

#3 Buffalo Sabres vs #6 Philadelphia Flyers

Buffalo is one of eight teams in the league that hasn’t given up 200 goals yet, thanks to Olympian Ryan Miller. It’s what won the Sabres both games in Philadelphia this season. Philadelphia might try to make things interesting, but without the road record to sustain a series, the Flyers won’t be able to overcome Miller’s silver medal.

#4 New Jersey Devils vs #5 Ottawa Senators

Defense is killing the Senators; at 220 goals given up, they’re the worst of all playoff teams. Marty Brodeur’s Devils have a league best 184 goals surrendered. On January 26, the Senators blanked the Devils 3-0, but that’s as inspired as they’ve been all year against New Jersey. Still, Ottawa has won their last five, and if they can keep this streak up this time, they might have a shot.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • With the way Chicago’s playing, New Jersey shouldn’t have too much trouble beating them to overtake Pittsburgh.
  • But that’s not before Buffalo breezes through an easy schedule for the second seed.
  • While the #2/#3 thing is being decided, their #7/#6 opponents will be decided when Philly and Montreal square off.
  • While we’re at it, look for Detroit to overtake Nashville with more games and a home game against them.

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