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After a long season, the playoff bracket will be set Sunday night, quite possibly in the final game between Dallas in Minnesota. Even with half a week to go, only the three Western divisions have been clinched; no other Western slot has been clinched. Buffalo and New York are still hanging onto their spots, but it’ll take a lot for Carolina to catch them. Edmonton’s magic number to clinch the most lotto balls is two points, while Washington’s magic number to clinch the East is three. Boston’s magic number to miss out on #1 is one, and three to miss out on #2. With only the President’s Trophy winning Canucks clinching a specific seed, there’s a lot to be decided in the next four days, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Wednesday, April 6, before the day’s games:
Chicago continues to cling to a two-point lead over Dallas and Calgary, but Vancouver has been coasting for a while. It may have caught up with them, as the Canucks were recently swept in a home-and-home against Edmonton somehow. Roberto Luongo even lost the latter game in Alberta. Don’t read too much into it with everything locked up for Vancouver, and being this late in the season. The Canucks still have more quality attackers and Luongo.
Remember a couple of years ago when the Ducks won this match-up as #8? This time, the Sharks have more experience with deep playoff runs, and the Ducks are the only one of the 16 playoff teams with a negative goal differential. Everything’s set up for the Sharks to take a bite out of the Ducks.
Detroit has a very powerful offense, but their defense has been a bit lacking. Los Angeles is the other way around. And the last time the Kings won on the road in somewhere other than Edmonton was March 15 in Nashville. After a massive 10-3 spanking against St. Louis, Detroit has come back to win two in a row. With nine shootout wins, L.A. has had to resort to close games more often, a problem which Detroit’s offense has avoided, and could very well carry the day.
Nashville has a point on Phoenix, but the Coyotes have a game in hand. Nashville has the better defense and only a slightly worse offense, but other than that, the teams are fairly similar. This one’ll be tough, and it may just come down to that last home game.
Finally, the Capitals are back in the #1 slot and have once more clinched their division. New York may have come back against a JV Bruins team, but Washington won’t be so forgiving. Not with Alex Ovechkin coming at full force.
Philadelphia is staggering, while the Sabres are a victory away from making their playoff appearance official. They’ve actually put up good offensive numbers this season, and Ryan Miller is on track to return at least by playoff time, but likely sooner. With Philly only managing one point in its last four games, this could easily be Buffalo’s time to shine.
Right at the time when Boston wants to forget about last season’s epic failure of a series, they had to go up against the Rangers and choke worse than David Carradine. Other than the two massive scoring games which threw everything out the window, Montreal has largely had Boston’s number this season. Not helping Thomas in front the of the net will become a major problem in a hurry if Boston’s not careful.
Pittsburgh is winning, and is the only non-division leader to have reached 100 points so far. Before losing to Buffalo, Tampa had a five-game winning streak, and before that, a four-game losing streak. If Sidney Crosby is back at full strength for the post-season, Pittsburgh will be that much more deadly.
|#2||San Jose Sharks|
|#3||Detroit Red Wings|
|#4||Los Angeles Kings|
|#5||Tampa Bay Lightning|
|#8||New York Rangers|
|West||Canucks def. Blackhawks||Sharks def. Stars||Red Wings def. Coyotes||Kings def. Predators|
|East||Capitals def. Rangers||Penguins def. Sabres||Canadiens def. Bruins||Lightning def. Flyers|
|West||Cancuks def. Kings||Sharks def. Red Wings|
|East||Capitals def. Canadiens||Penguins def. Lightning|
|West||Canucks def. Sharks|
|East||Capitals def. Penguins|
|Canucks def. Capitals|
|* Home-rink: Canucks|
Tags: Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, 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