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If the Playoffs Started Today – NHL Week 7

Flyers vs Red Wings: Week 7's prediction for the Stanley Cup

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:

West

#1 Detroit Red Wings vs #8 San Jose Sharks

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.

#2 Phoenix Coyotes vs #7 Colorado Avalanche

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?

#3 Vancouver Canucks vs #6 Los Angeles Kings

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.

#4 Columbus Blue Jackets vs #5 St Louis Blues

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.

East

#1 Philadelphia Flyers vs #8 Atlanta Thrashers

Let’s face it: Ilya Kovalchuk was Atlanta’s best chance of being relevant, and even he couldn’t do it. Philadelphia would absolutely cream Atlanta.

#2 Washington Capitals vs #7 New York Rangers

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.

#3 Montreal Canadiens vs #6 Boston Bruins

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.

#4 Tampa Bay Lightning vs #5 Pittsburgh Penguins

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.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • Look for Ottawa to take over for Atlanta.
  • Look for Pittsburgh to take home-rink advantage from Tampa
  • Columbus and Detroit begin a home-and-home Friday. Columbus will probably lead the division even with a split, if only because Detroit might have some issues in San Jose.
  • That home-and-home will likely open the door for Phoenix to become #1 in the West.
  • Halak and the Blues still have a decent shot at taking that slot themselves, thanks to four games, but they’ll have to win in Chicago and versus Washington to do it.

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