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If the Playoffs Started Today – NHL Week 9

Wild vs Penguins: Week 9's prediction for the Stanley Cup

It’s still a tough league nine weeks into the season. Pittsburgh is barely clinging onto the East lead, Winnipeg is a win away from a top eight spot, and there have been a few head hit suspensions so far, not to mention key goalie injuries. Boston’s point streak is finally over, while Minnesota is continuing their amazing roll. And Columbus is one win away from not being the worst team in the league; aren’t they happy about that? With the action not cooling off any time soon, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Thursday, December 8 at 7:15pm:

West

#1 Minnesota Wild vs #8 Los Angeles Kings

Minnesota has won five straight, compared to Los Angeles‘ two straight losses. Both teams are similar on defense, but Minnesota’s slightly better offense has helped translate that into nine extra points. Minnesota has been on a better pace all season long, and that shouldn’t change very quickly.

#2 Chicago Blackhawks vs #7 Dallas Stars

Chicago is tied with Philly for the league’s most productive offense, which doesn’t bode well for Dallas‘ negative goal differential. It’s not like Chicago has even a decent defense themselves, but Chicago is better over a longer stretch of games, even though Dallas might win a couple.

#3 Phoenix Coyotes vs #6 St Louis Blues

This one could get interesting. Phoenix is better on the road, while St. Louis is better at home. The Blues also have two more non-shootout wins, but are 0-3 in shootouts. If Phoenix can keep the games close, they’re clearly better in such late pressure situations.

#4 Detroit Red Wings vs #5 Vancouver Canucks

This is another big match-up between two extremely explosive teams. Roberto Luongo has had a few injury issues already, but Vancouver has another great goalie, but rest now and then is also important. Considering that along with Detroit‘s league-best 10-2-1 home record provides ample evidence for Detroit’s advantage.

East

#1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs #8 Washington Capitals

Pittsburgh is doing well enough with Sidney Crosby to stay on top of the East, but have been so-so overall in recent history. But the Capitals have been even worse, benefiting from those teams around them. Washington also has a significantly worse defense, so Pittsburgh should roll on fairly easily.

#2 Boston Bruins vs #7 Buffalo Sabres

Ryan Miller has been another high-profile goalie who’s taken some tough shots this year. When dealing with Tim Thomas, that’s terrible for Buffalo, (if Milan Lucic has anything to say about it, that is). Boston‘s deadly offense and league-best defense are enough to make them a very legitimate repeat contender, and they are the best team in the all-important 3rd period.

#3 Florida Panthers vs #6 Toronto Maple Leafs

In many stats, Florida is a slightly better team. That includes points and recent record. And they’re much better defensively. If Toronto is to win, they’ll need to take advantage of both teams’ road records, and make use of their better record in close game shootouts. But if Florida can exploit Toronto’s weak defense, they’ll be able to win.

#4 Philadelphia Flyers vs #5 New York Rangers

This will be a great series between Philadelphia‘s offense and New York‘s defense. Philly has won three in a row and five of six (with that one loss coming to the Rangers), while New York just ended a four-game winning streak. New York also has two games in hand over the Flyers, but that and Henrik Lundqvist aside, New York might want to pick off a road game considering Philly’s 10-3-1 road record.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • Boston has the extra game and easier opponents to take over the East from Pittsburgh (and hold off Philadelphia).
  • With all of Ottawa’s extra games, they should be able to take over for Washington.
  • Dallas’ schedule makes San Jose a good choice to claim a Western spot.

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