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After another week, things have been shaken up quite a bit. The conferences are now topped by the Predators and the Habs (or as we in Boston like to call them, Hab nots; let’s get that to catch on, people). The Devils continue to serve as basement dwellers, on pace for 41 points, as opposed to the Predators, who are on pace for 133. Boston is still in a good position to move up based on games in hand, provided Tim Thomas stays in goal, but the same position has run out for the Sharks, who are still a good team. Halak still has the Blues in the middle of the race; ditto for Kessel and the Leafs. Worst. Mascot. Ever. No team has yet to open up a lead on anyone else, though the Devils are trying their worst, which means anyone can jump ahead in moments; so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Thursday, October 28, before the day’s games:
Nashville is the only team yet to lose in regulation, at 5-0-3. All three of those losses have been at home in overtime. Dallas is just 2-2-0 at home, but 3-1-0 on the road; two of their wins have been in shootouts. If Dallas can keep the game close and push it deep, they should be okay, but Nashville’s perfect 3-0-0 road record will make that that much harder.
Calgary has won their last three, and is 4-1 at home. But Columbus has the monkey wrench with their own 3-0-0 road record. Still, the Flames have been a little more likely to score at any given time, so the edge is still theirs, especially with a comparable defense and road/home record the other way.
I like Halak in this one; thanks to his leadership, the Blues have a 4-0-0 home record and have given up 14 goals, the best in the West and second only to Boston, even including Tuukka Rask. The Kings, while higher scoring, give up more goals, and have played two additional games. This is one of those times when a higher seed doesn’t mean a higher level of security.
Speaking of which, the Hawks have a league-best 13 points, tied with Montreal, Tampa, and Nashville, but have played a league-most 11 games, a mark they share with no-one. By comparison, the Red Wings have 11 points in just seven games. Detroit has also won their last three, and have only one less win than Chicago. All those extra games are what make Chicago appear better than they are, but they’re still not counted out; anything can happen with these rivals.
What are the odds Montreal is looking for revenge from last year? The Hab nots are slightly better on defense, and better both at home and on the road than Philadelphia. I liked Montreal last year, and thanks to their winning streak propelling them to the top, out of nowhere, I like them again, but this time with a better seed.
To be fair, the Rangers are only here because of Tuukka Rask. But even without that assumption, Tampa has really come out of the gate swinging and slap shooting. They’ve scored a league-best 32 goals, which has only been matched by Chicago’s 11 games. Tampa is dangerous at home and away, which is why they should have no problem with the Rangers.
Things don’t get any easier for the other New Yorkers. The Islanders have been a better home team, as has Pittsburgh. But the Islanders, and for that matter, the Rangers, could take over the division lead with one more victory. Marc-Andre Fleury hasn’t been very good for the most part, and now that Matt Cooke’s legalized attempted murder loopholes have been closed, the Penguins will have a tougher time of it. But a little Sidney Crosby is always good for what ails you.
Toronto has both scored and given up slightly less goals, but they also have a game in hand. And it’s hard to bet against Washington, because they have Alex Ovechkin and playoff experience, while Toronto hasn’t been relevant since John McCain was a paltry 256 years old. You know, back when the leader of the free world was Ramses II. Anyway, this situation would be a piece of cake for Washington to advance for a rematch from last year with the Hab nots.
Tags: Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, NHL Playoffs, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals