|Francona Wins Big in Return to Fenway||Connelly’s Top Ten: Rask Falls on Face||Bruins Lose 4-3 in OT as Rangers Fight to Stay Alive||For the Bulletin Board: Lundqvist’s “Lucky Bounces,” Savard’s “#ByeByeTorts”|
20 weeks done, almost 20 games left, and Philadelphia is still running away with the East. Vancouver is closer in the West to Detroit, but still has a comfortable lead, but is in danger of falling behind Philadelphia. The Dallas Stars, not too long ago atop the Pacific Division, are now in last place in said division. Edmonton has some serious competition for most hideous embarrassment in the league in Ottawa, and right now, Toronto would give Boston the 6th overall pick. The East’s top eight have some room again, but the West has a four-way tie for 8th, with another two points behind. There’s also a three-way tie for 5th out west, so pretty much anything could still happen, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Wednesday, February 23, before the day’s games:
Vancouver is one of two teams that has cracked the 200 goal threshold on offense. However, Los Angeles has the NHL’s best defense. Vancouver is also one of two teams to crack the 20 home-win barrier, too. Considering Vancouver’s defense is right up there with L.A, you’ve got to go with the Canucks on this one.
Not only is Detroit the other team with 200 goals, but they’re also one of two teams with 20 road wins. Neither team has the best of defenses, so this could be a figurative shootout in addition to an actual one. Calgary has been doing great lately, but they’re still lackluster overall on the road, which does give Detroit quite the advantage.
Nashville has surrendered just 143 goals, but their offense leaves something to be desired. Meanwhile, the Coyotes have won eight in a row, an active streak matched only by the Devils. At this rate, Phoenix will be able to tear through Nashville without too much of a problem.
Minnesota has silently climbed the ranks to #5, but San Jose looks to be able to hold them off. The Sharks have won their last four and have 19 road wins. They also match up pretty well in San Jose, so with a four-point lead in tact (and just one point behind Phoenix), San Jose is in a fairly good position.
The Hurricanes have been slipping, but still have a five-point lead over Buffalo (though with three games out of hand). The Flyers have a very comfortable seven-point lead over Pittsburgh. They really won’t have any troubles with a middle-of-the-road Carolina.
Maybe ‘Melo should have gone to the Rangers instead. They’re 3-6-1 in their last 10, though they are 18-13-1 on the road. You’d think Tampa‘s poor defense would knock them down a few pegs, but it would’ve done so already. Tampa’s not a favorite to win it all, but they should still at least make it to Round 2.
Forget the usual announcing crew; the TD Garden will need to hire Michael Buffer for this series. Montreal‘s defense is okay, but their offense is keeping them down. Meanwhile, Boston‘s +43 goal differential is third best in the NHL, behind only the conference leaders. As long as there’s actually some hockey in between all the penalties, and as long as Tuukka Rask stays in hiding, Boston should win, if either team has any players not suspended until the next round.
Washington took three of four games in the season series, and only lost the first one in a shootout. With Crosby still out with concussion symptoms, the Penguins are getting worse by the week. Now Matt Cooke knows what it’s like to lose a teammate to concussion symptoms. Not so fun, is it?
Tags: Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, New York Rangers, NHL Playoffs, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, Tampa Bay Lightning, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals