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After another week, there have been some big changes. The East has a new leader, as does the Northwest division. For that matter, so does the Atlantic. And a team almost nobody saw doing well has eked their way into the playoff positioning. Four of the divisions are still withing three points of changing hands, and one win separates 1st from 4th in the Pacific. There’s plenty of excitement as always in the NHL, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Thursday, December 29 at 8:00pm:
Dallas is playing .500 hockey lately, thanks to not having enough offense to keep pace with their lackluster defense. Chicago has the same lacking defense, but has the power to win anyway. With Dallas in a relatively weak division and Chicago honing their skills against the likes of Detroit, Chicago has the edge.
This is a lot like the first match-up, except Vancouver has a good defense. And they have the most goals in the league. Nashville will have too much trouble keeping up with the offensive/defensive punch Vancouver provides.
Minnesota may have four more points, but San Jose has four games in hand, and already have a better offense and defense. Minnesota is continuing its huge slide which cost them the division lead, and in such a tight division race, San Jose will have much more experience in important games.
Both teams are very good at home, but less so on the road. However, Detroit has the much better offense, though both teams are superb in net. The offense and home-rink advantage should give Detroit the victory over St. Louis.
Toronto has the fifth worst defense in the NHL, but does pack a punch with the puck. New York is second only to Boston in defense, and they’ve passed the 100 goal mark themselves. Toronto does seem to be cooling off a bit, and they aren’t too great at home either.
New Jersey may still have a negative differential (so does Florida, actually), but the Devils have been getting better. Florida still hasn’t gotten to 10 home wins, and though it will be close, this will be the first round’s big upset if there is one.
Philadelphia is on a two-game losing streak while Pittsburgh has won its last four. Philly’s excellent road record has taken a hit during its latest road trip, too. Pittsburgh also has the better defense, and in one extra game, too. Philly did win the first game of the season series, and (as of press time) are tied in the 1st intermission of Game 2. If Philly can shore up their road defense a little, Pittsburgh will really need to do well without Sidney Crosby to pull it out.
Tags: Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, NHL Playoffs, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets