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If the Playoffs Started Today – NHL Week 24

Canucks vs Flyers: Week 19's prediction for the Stanley Cup

No more than ten games remain for anyone, yet only three playoff spots have been officially wrapped up, and only one of those a division. The excitement continues to be in the middle of the West’s pack, where three points separate #5 from #10. A maximum of three points separate any playoff team from the closest threat to their seed. Matt Cooke‘s gone; I just thought you’d like know. A few injuries have been going around lately, but have they had much of an impact on seeding? Let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Wednesday, March 23, before the day’s games:

West

#1 Vancouver Canucks vs #8 Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks have won three in a row, but good enough just barely for #8. The Canucks have the Sedin twins, as well as Roberto Luongo and the league’s best defense. There’s no real reason to doubt Vancouver in this one.

#2 Detroit Red Wings vs #7 Chicago Blackhawks

Ah, the old foes face off once again. Chicago does have one of the better offense of the league, but they’re still struggling in the lower brackets. Detroit has a great offense too, and they have the best road record in the NHL at 24-10-4. It’ll be really tough for Chicago to advance in the first round, let alone defend their title.

#3 San Jose Sharks vs #6 Nashville Predators

San Jose has won three in a row; Nashville has won four. San Jose has both scored and given up 18 more goals than the Predators. San Jose is noticeably better on the road, and with home-rink advantage to begin with, the pressure will be on Nashville more than San Jose, which could easily manifest itself in a few poor decisions.

#4 Phoenix Coyotes vs #5 Los Angeles Kings

Both teams are doing pretty well for themselves, but Los Angeles has the better goal differential. And despite being ahead by three points, Phoenix has played two more games. L.A. has the 4th best defense in the NHL, which I happen to like. If there’s only one seeding upset in the playoffs, it’ll be this one.

East

#1 Philadelphia Flyers vs #8 Buffalo Sabres

Despite scoring four goals at home to Washington on Tuesday, Philly couldn’t get it done. At least they got a point out of it. Buffalo may not be as spectacular, but they do have the reigning Vezina Trophy winner. And when Ryan Miller is on, he’s tough to beat. The key to Philly winning will be overwhelming Buffalo with their offensive capabilities, which shouldn’t be too difficult.

#2 Washington Capitals vs #7 New York Rangers

The Rangers have won five straight. The Capitals have lost Alexander Ovechkin for a week or so. Still, Washington has the much better overall track record, and have won nine of their last 12. Before that, though, was a 6-0 home loss to the Rangers. There was also a 7-0 road loss to the Rangers earlier in the season. Still, the Capitals have been getting better in recent weeks, and should be able to outlast the Rangers.

#3 Boston Bruins vs #6 Montreal Canadiens

After all of Boston‘s struggles, they put up a pretty good come-from-behind victory over New Jersey, at home, where they haven’t been good. At least Montreal was blanked by Buffalo, at home, where they’ve been good. If Boston can put up good games like that again, they have a chance. It might all come down to who has skaters left after the fighting over the Chara hit.

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs #5 Tampa Bay Lightning

If Pittsburgh can win without Crosby, they can win without Cooke. Good riddance. The biggest difference is Tampa‘s defense, or whatever they call a defense. The games in Tampa might help, but they’ll find it difficult to win in Pittsburgh. The Penguins might have to work for it, but they should still win.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • It’ll be a stretch, but Montreal has a chance of leading the Northeast Division provided they get past Washington.
  • West: #3 Phoenix, #4 San Jose, #5 Los Angeles, #6 Chicago, #7 Nashville, #8 Dallas

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