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If the Playoffs Started Today – NHL Week 21

Canucks vs Flyers: Week 17's prediction for the Stanley Cup

No more than 20 games remain for any team, so we’re in the final quartile of the season now. And this late, the top story continues to be the logjam out West between #4 and #11, if not further down. Even one more victory by the Predators (#9) would vault them up to #5. But the East’s not set in stone, either, with Buffalo still one win away from spot. There’s a lot of time still left, but if it goes perfectly for Toronto, they have a decent shot too. There’s a lot of hope left for many teams, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Wednesday, March 2, before the day’s games:

West

#1 Vancouver Canucks vs #8 Los Angeles Kings

The Canucks have alternated wins and losses lately, while the Kings have had a couple of mini winning streaks. Still, Boston is a better opponent than the Kings. Los Angeles’ noticeably weaker offense won’t be able to break through Roberto Luongo four times.

#2 Detroit Red Wings vs #7 Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago has won their last five games, so they’re not exactly a pushover. They have a great record, and have a few players left over that weren’t shipped off in the fire sale (which I believe was initiated by Mrs. O’Leary’s cow). That being said, Detroit is right back to their championship contender form. They don’t go easily when they’re this good.

#3 San Jose Sharks vs #6 Dallas Stars

Dallas may have won three in a row to reclaim a spot, but San Jose has won seven in a row. San Jose has the offense, the road prowess and the newly signed-to-an-extension goalie who has the most recent Stanley Cup. San Jose is on a roll right now that likely won’t be challenged until Round 2 with the Red Wings.

#4 Phoenix Coyotes vs #5 Calgary Flames

Phoenix is on a four-game losing streak right now, while the Flames have been doing pretty well, most recently winning a home-and-home with St. Louis 1-0 (Calgary) and 6-0 (St. Louis). Remember when Calgary was feeding off algae near the West’s bottom? Now they’re up against a team with a negative goal differential, and poised to take over home-rink advantage at that.

East

#1 Philadelphia Flyers vs #8 Carolina Hurricanes

On the 18th, Carolina salvaged a game of the season series, and on the 26th, Philly lost quite embarrassingly to Ottawa. But the Flyers are a lot more explosive than that. They’re more likely to win any particular game, which is why the playoffs are best 4-out-of-7, to prevent one anomaly from upsetting the better teams.

#2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs #7 New York Rangers

The Rangers have lost their last two while the Lightning have won three. New York does have a 6-0 win in Washington in their pocket. Tampa earned a perfect eight points in the season series, so if New York wants any chance, they’ll need to take advantage of Tampa’s weaker defense.

#3 Boston Bruins vs #6 Montreal Canadiens

Who knew Tuukka Rask was good for something? Boston won each of their six road games on the trip in regulation, four of them with Rask in net and three of them when scoring first. Ordinarily, a team only needs to win one road game to clinch a victory, but with Boston’s road record, they only need to win one home game to clinch a victory over Montreal.

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs #5 Washington Capitals

You know the drill here. Sidney Crosby is still missing with a concussion, leading to a bit of a franken-team in Pittsburgh. Matt Cooke’s bound to get in a lot of trouble for malicious, first-degree assaults. Meanwhile, Alexander Ovechkin earned the #1 play on SportsCenter’s Top 10 with a coast-to-coast overtime game-winner. Unless Pittsburgh gets healthier and more law abiding, Washington will take the series.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • With any trouble in Boston, Pittsburgh could very well fall behind Washington.
  • Don’t be surprised if Buffalo wins in Carolina and winds up as #8.
  • West: #4 – Chicago, #5 – Calgary, #6 – Minnesota, #7 – Phoenix, #8 – Dallas

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