The Patriots celebrate after Nick Folk missed his late 52-yard field goal attempt late in the 4th quarter of Sunday's game. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) Notes and Observations Week 16: Patriots Escape from New York with 17-16 Win; Clinch First Round Bye. Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots Win By Less Than a FOOT Panic Mode in Full Effect, Minutemen are Struggling Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots slides as inside linebacker Demario Davis #56 of the New York Jets defends during a game at MetLife Stadium on December 21, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) Patriots Survive Gritty Challenge From Jets

If the Playoffs Started Today – NHL Week 3

Predators vs Canadiens: Week 3's prediction for the Stanley Cup

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:

West

#1 Nashville Predators vs #8 Dallas Stars

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.

#2 Calgary Flames vs #7 Columbus Blue Jackets

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.

#3 Los Angeles Kings vs #6 St. Louis Blues

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.

#4 Chicago Blackhawks vs #5 Detroit Red Wings

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.

East

#1 Montreal Canadiens vs #8 Philadelphia Flyers

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.

#2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs #7 New York Rangers

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.

#3 Pittsburgh Penguins vs #6 New York Islanders

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.

#4 Washington Capitals vs #5 Toronto Maple Leafs

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.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • Good news; expect the Bruins’ three divisional games to vault them into a playoff spot.
  • Despite just two games each, expect at least one of San Jose and Vancouver to claim a spot; there’s also a good shot both could make it in.
  • Look for Chicago to take over #1 in the West, but just temporarily (all those games out of hand).
  • While we’re at it, the lower part of the East is pretty intertwined. Even Atlanta could sneak in, and having four games against seeds 3 and 6-8, Carolina has a pretty good chance of claiming a slot too.

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