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Can you believe the season ends this Sunday, and you won’t see this article again until October? Can you believe the Capital have clinched the President’s Trophy, and when they did so, only one other team had even clinched a division? After Tuesday, the West is all wrapped up in terms of the elite eight, but three spots out East are still up for grabs, with the Canadiens, Flyers, Bruins, and Rangers still duking it out. And Toronto will likely get the second most lottery balls (giving the Bruins a top three draft pick), seeing as they need at least three points in their last two games to even have a shot at improving. Aside from the Capitals and Canucks, no seed has been clinched yet. So much is to be decided in these last five days, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Wednesday, April 7, before the day’s games:
Both teams won big road games Tuesday to help their playoff causes, with Colorado clinching their spot. San Jose has a better offense and defense, but first rounds aren’t really the Sharks’ thing. Colorado’s given them problems this year, too. If San Jose is to win, it will have to rely on home rink advantage, which has carried the season series.
This will be fun. If Detroit performed like they did last year, we might think they would win. But the Blackhawks have been good this year, and are in a good position to win the West. Detroit had an excellent run to book their post-season ticket, but they may have stalled where they are for now. Chicago’s four-game resurgence would be able to take advantage.
The Kings have been surprising this year, but the Canucks have the best offense in the West, and second best overall. And except for an 8-3 Atlanta thrashing in L.A. on April Fool’s Day, Vancouver has owned the season series. The Kings might similarly pick off a game or two, but there shouldn’t be any major resistance for the Canucks to deal with.
Nashville has been working hard to do well, but they might want to think about dropping a spot (the Kings do have a game in hand) to avoid the West’s best defense. Absolutely nobody thought the Coyotes would do particularly well, especially breaking the 100 point barrier. Nashville needs to come up with some tricky plays, and step up the defense, seeing as Phoenix has the worst West playoff offense.
It was a nice try Monday, but Washington still scored the overtime winner. Boston needs to have an absolute cutthroat offense and only use Rask, or a Capitals sweep is iminent.
I know you’re thinking Brodeur will carry the day, but New Jersey only won one of six meetings this season. Still, with Philadelphia struggling for seeding, a Flyers victory need not be a sure thing. Three of those six victories were by one goal, and one of those was in OT. It might be a longer series than he would like, but Brodeur should carry the day after all.
Montreal is trying to hold onto #6, while Buffalo is in a position to overtake New Jersey, especially once the two face off Sunday. Montreal has been struggling to get good position ever since their last #1 seed; expect Ryan Miller to dispatch them quite handily.
The Senators have had a few good streaks this year, and if they heat up, Pittsburgh is done for. We can only hope, right? They’ve split the season series, with each team picking up a road win. That should make this an interesting and long series. If nothing else, home rink advantage and defending a championship will give Pittsburgh the edge.
Tags: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, 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