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Welcome to a special Thanksgiving week edition of the NHL’s “If the Playoffs…” And be sure to enjoy the Bruins’ matinee later Friday. This past week-and-a-game has included many fun moments, including a new top team in the league, as you’ve already noticed. Phoenix has charged forward, one point away from Detroit for the West’s lead. Vancouver is #3, but would be #6 if it weren’t for the NHL’s division leader seeding. Meanwhile, the Islanders have become the clear favorite for worst record, something they’re not new to. With all the shakeups across the board, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Friday, November 26, before the day’s games:
San Jose has just managed to squeak their way into #8, but Detroit has been so good, including 9-1-2 at home. Detroit is usually the more favored to contend for the Stanley Cup, and with a slightly more potent offense and that kind of home-rink advantage, there’s no real good way the Sharks can hope to move on.
With seven straight wins, Phoenix is one of the best teams around right now. Colorado has a better offense, worse defense, and triple the goal differential (nine to three) to show for it. But still, Colorado has lost two in a row, including a Thanksgiving night contest in Edmonton. If the Oilers present issues, how can one hope to defeat the Coyotes?
Los Angeles is actually the better team, but Vancouver is leading a division. Los Angeles is 8-1-0 at home, but only 5-7-0 on the road. Vancouver may be 7-2-1 at home, but Los Angeles knows that they’re the better team overall, and will make life very difficult for Vancouver.
Columbus has won five straight, and if their shootout win had been any earlier in the game, they would be #1 in the West. St Louis has won their last three, and is still the only team yet to lose at home in regulation. They’re also the most likely team to go to a shootout, having been in five (3-2). Columbus is 8-1-0 on the road, so if any team can solve Halak, this might just be the team to do it.
Washington is the first team to reach ten home wins. New York may be 7-4-0 on the road, but they’ve only scored 68 goals to 65 given up. Alex Ovechkin and pleasant surprise Michal Neuvirth will be more than happy to take advantage of both of those spots.
Boston is down to #6 after a week in which they could have done a little better, but they can still be #3 (or #1) by winning their games in hand and keeping pace. These are the two best defenses in the NHL, and the two worst offenses in the East playoff picture. Montreal may have two more wins, but with Boston’s 8-2-0 road record, they’ll be fine as long as they forget about Tuukka Rask.
Tampa has won its last five, and Pittsburgh its last four. Tampa may have a game in hand, but Pittsburgh has an offense just as good, and a better defense. Pittsburgh is also 8-3-1 on the road, so Sidney Crosby and co. should do rather well, despite being #5.
Tags: Atlanta Thrashers, Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, NHL Playoffs, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals