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If the Playoffs Started Today – NHL Week 23

Canucks vs Flyers: Week 18's prediction for the Stanley Cup

We’re coming up on the last 10 games of the season, and it’s just as exciting as it ever was. If it weren’t for those games in hand, Philadelphia would be in trouble. Vancouver isn’t too far away from clinching that President’s Trophy. It’s still a logjam out West, and Anaheim is just one win away from putting all five Pacific teams in the playoffs. It’s kind of close with a couple of teams in the East, but not nearly as much. Look out for the Devils, still. No playoff team, Canucks aside, is more than four points away from their closest competition, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Wednesday, March 16, before the day’s games:

West

#1 Vancouver Canucks vs #8 Calgary Flames

The Canucks have rattled off six in a row; the Flames have dropped three, two at home, one to Vancouver. Vancouver is simply a much better team this year.

#2 Detroit Red Wings vs #7 Dallas Stars

It’s a similar situation with this series, but less pronounced. Detroit is tied with Boston for the NHL’s best road record (23-9-4), and Dallas now has to fight to stay alive in the brackets. Detroit has a better cross-section of talent, so expect them to move on.

#3 San Jose Sharks vs #6 Chicago Blackhawks

It’s a rematch of the Conference Finals, for now anyways. Both teams are doing quite well lately. With home/away records the way they are, you’d think Chicago would have the home-rink advantage. But San Jose‘s offense is noticeably less potent; Chicago is 2nd in the league, one goal behind Vancouver. San Jose took the season series 3-1-0, but don’t count Chicago out just yet; they have a lot of talent to score that much.

#4 Los Angeles Kings vs #5 Phoenix Coyotes

Both teams have 85 points, but Los Angeles has three more wins and a game in hand. Both teams are on winning streaks, but Phoenix‘s defense is worse overall. Phoenix is the worst playoff team in OT and shootout losses with 11 so far, so they do have a propensity to lose close games. Combine with L.A.’s defense, that’s a recipe for a Kings’ victory.

East

#1 Philadelphia Flyers vs #8 Buffalo Sabres

True, Philadelphia has been losing some of their spunk lately, but they’re still a very dangerous team. Buffalo has had some tough losses and good wins lately, so they’re tough to call. Philly’s been pretty much the same way, including a home loss to Buffalo back on the 5th. Still, it’s tough to discount Philadelphia right away when they’re that far up the standings.

#2 Washington Capitals vs #7 New York Rangers

With nine straight wins, nobody can beat the Capitals. The Rangers are pretty good on the road, but they can’t compete with the Capitals right now.

#3 Boston Bruins vs #6 Montreal Canadiens

Boston tried to lose to the Blue Jackets, but finally pulled off the win. Montreal, except for the 8-6 battle at the Roman Colosseum, have had Boston’s number this season. Boston is a road team, and hasn’t been able to win in Montreal this season. If there’s ever hockey in between the retaliatory fights, look for the Canadiens to win out.

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs #5 Tampa Bay Lightning

The Penguins certainly know how to win even without Crosby, who’s starting to skate again. The Lightning can score, but their defense is continuing to betray them. Not so for Pittsburgh, who should definitely pull out the victory.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • Washington does visit Philadelphia next Tuesday, but they’ll have to pick up some tough wins in Detroit and New Jersey first.
  • West: #4 – Los Angeles, #5 – Phoenix, #6 – Chicago, #7 – Anaheim, #8 Nashville

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