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If the Playoffs Started Today – NHL Week 11

Penguins vs Red Wings: Week 11's prediction for the Stanley Cup

There’s been plenty of action before the NHL’s Christmas break, and things are getting quite interesting. The top slots are being challenged, the West’s bottom slots are in such a predicament as well, and it’s a good thing for the Bruins that the Northeast Division is comparatively weak. And nearly half-way through the season, the Devils have 20 points. Toronto is currently third-to-worst, so as of now, Boston would get a no worse than fourth pick. With the West especially up for grabs, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Friday, December 24:

West

#1 Detroit Red Wings vs #8 Nashville Predators

Nashville has lost their last three, and Detroit has a much more prolific offense, and deeper playoff experience. Despite having a pretty good defense, Nashville doesn’t quite have the firepower to back it up.

#2 Dallas Stars vs #7 Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago has done a good job clawing themselves back into the race, but with all their games out of hand, they’ll need some help. Especially at 12-3-3 at home, Dallas is in a great position to make a good run.

#3 Vancouver Canucks vs #6 Los Angeles Kings

Vancouver may have put up seven in Columbus, but they’re still in line to go up against the West’s best defense. Still, Los Angeles hasn’t exactly been the best on the road this season. Plus, Vancouver has a very good defense themselves.

#4 San Jose Sharks vs #5 Colorado Avalanche

With the Avs‘ offense and defense both racking up big numbers (though their defense not in a good way), it’s essentially a coin flip with them. San Jose hasn’t always been great this season, but they’re in the #4 spot for now. These two teams are quite similar; it may just come down to the home team in seven.

East

#1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs #8 Boston Bruins

Pittsburgh has one of the best goalies around, and Sidney Crosby and the offense to support him. Boston has been known to hiccup from time to time, and especially at 0-3 in shootouts, they don’t handle close games well. Boston may have won 7-4 in Pittsburgh already, but such a 3rd Period performance surely can’t be duplicated easily. Boston will need Tim Thomas to be at his early season form to have a reasonable chance of victory.

#2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs #7 New York Rangers

For a division leader, Tampa isn’t too great, at least as far as giving up 114 goals is concerned. That will be the key to New York‘s victory. Tampa may have won a in a shootout in New York just on Thursday, but New York’s best work is on the road anyway. Tampa does quite well at home, though, so New York still has to be careful.

#3 Montreal Canadiens vs #6 Atlanta Thrashers

Atlanta‘s star goalie was embarrassed against Boston Thursday, while the Canadiens just managed to hold off the Hurricanes to retain the division. Atlanta has been one of those hit or miss teams this season, and despite having more points than Montreal, Montreal’s leading a division. With both teams as they are, that home-rink edge (and two games in hand) could be quite helpful to Montreal.

#4 Philadelphia Flyers vs #5 Washington Capitals

Don’t let Philadelphia‘s seed fool you; they’re the second-best team in the NHL, but in the same division as Pittsburgh. Their +30 goal differential is also an NHL second to Pittsburgh. Washington‘s power has been slipping from recent years, and Philadelphia is better than ever. Their two games in Washington so far were split, both in post-regulation situations. Philly’s power should be able to overwhelm Washington in this state, even with Ovechkin.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • With Tampa visiting Atlanta, Washington has a decent chance to take the division.
  • Detroit @ Dallas gives the Stars a good chance of becoming #1.
  • Nashville @ St Louis gives Halak and co. a great chance to take over a playoff spot.

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