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If the Playoffs Started Today – NHL Week 8

Capitals vs Red Wings: Week 8's prediction for the Stanley Cup

After two months, we’re starting to see some separation in the East, but no such luck in the West. Between eight and nine in the East is five points, but one in the West; even last place in the Pacific Division (San Jose) is just one win away from poking their nose into the race. Chicago may have 30 points, but games in hand for pretty much everyone else could knock Chicago out if they’re not careful. If all holds, Atlanta and Dallas are shaping up to be this year’s surprise teams, but seeds keep jostling, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Thursday, December 2, before the day’s games:

West

#1 Detroit Red Wings vs #8 Colorado Avalanche

These two have split two games in Detroit, but Colorado‘s win had to come in a shootout. Colorado’s defense is negating some of their offensive prowess; not so for Detroit. Detroit’s ability to hold off opposing offenses with more consistency will make the difference here.

#2 Vancouver Canucks vs #7 Anaheim Ducks

Hey, that rhymes. Anaheim is the only Western playoff team with a negative goal differential, while Vancouver is 8-2-1 at home. Anaheim is 4-7-2 on the road, which pretty much gives this one to Vancouver.

#3 Dallas Stars vs #6 Phoenix Coyotes

Not too long ago, Dallas was in last place in the Pacific Division; that’s how good said division is this year. Even the last place Sharks are 11-8-4. Phoenix has 29 points, just as Dallas, but also has a game out of hand. Dallas already has a home win in the series, and Phoenix is a better road team, so despite how close the division is, Phoenix isn’t looking like a 1st round favorite right now.

#4 Chicago Blackhawks vs #5 Columbus Blue Jackets

Despite having 30 points and a three-game winning streak, Chicago still has a losing record of 6-7-0 at home. Columbus is 8-2-0 on the road. Columbus is just one point behind Chicago, but has four games in hand, so they’re in good shape. Both teams have split road wins, so if Chicago is to win, their best defense has to be their good offense.

East

#1 Washington Capitals vs #8 Boston Bruins

Thanks to an impressive performance against Philadelphia, Boston is in a position to take home-rink advantage with their games in hand, but they do slip up every once in a while. And that’s not just because Tuukkka Rask has to be in net every once in a while. Boston’s first road loss came against Washington, and really, you have to be super good to stop Ovechkin. Boston is the only team not to have given up 50 goals (46), but they have the worst offense of any playoff team (62), despite it being much improved. This one would be very interesting, especially since Washington’s only regulation home loss of the season came to… wait for it… Boston.

#2 Philadelphia Flyers vs #7 New York Rangers

Philly has dropped its last three games, but New York is the East’s only playoff team with double-digit regulation losses (11). Philly still has a good goalie situation; only one of the goals given up to Boston was even strength. Plus, they still have a very prolific offense, second in goals scored in the NHL (87) only to Washington (90). And they still have the NHL’s best goal differential (+23).

#3 Montreal Canadiens vs #6 Atlanta Thrashers

Montreal is a lot like the Bruins, in that their defense takes high priority over offense. Atlanta already won a home game in the season series, but that’s to be expected. Montreal’s defense and home prowess gives them the edge, but they did just lose to Edmonton. At home. After being up 3-1 at the 2nd intermission. And with 10 minutes to go. Hab nots indeed.

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs #5 Tampa Bay Lightning

At seven straight wins, Pittsburgh has the league’s longest active streak, ahead of Atlanta’s six. Meanwhile, Tampa has the Eastern playoff bracket’s only negative goal differential (-4). Both teams have incredibly potent offenses, but Pittsburgh has done a much better job of backing that up with defense. Each team has won at home over the other this year, so they’re good at home to. Pittsburgh gets the edge, and by the way, their last regulation loss was at home all the way back on November 10 against… Boston.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • Since the East’s top eight is pretty much set, look for Pittsburgh to edge out Philly for the division lead.

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