|Jon Lester Served First Loss in 6-4 Defeat to Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox||Avery Bradley’s Role With the Celtics: Present and Future||Connelly’s Top Ten: Bruins Up 2-0||2013 NBA Playoffs Expert Picks: Third Round|
There have been some big changes in the past week. Both conferences have new leaders. Ottawa and Washington are making waves. Los Angeles is even peeking into the bracket. Teams like Vancouver are improving their leads all around the league. Other races remain tight, though, especially the Wildcard races, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Thursday, January 5 at 8:00pm:
Los Angeles may be improving, with most of their recent losses still getting them a point, but with 87 goals, they have the weakest offense in the entire NHL. The Canucks and Roberto Luongo will definitely take advantage of that.
Nashville has won three in a row, but still hasn’t been able to get any better playoff positioning. Pekka Rinne and his backup have so far given up more than they’ve gotten in support. The Blackhawks‘ tough offense (and very good home record) should be able to take advantage.
Minnesota‘s slide is continuing, having managed just one win in their last 11 games. San Jose is around the middle of the West point-wise, but has plenty of games in hand. Plus, they’ve been doing very well for themselves lately to build momentum and retain the division lead.
Both teams have great defenses, are great at home and less so on the road. The biggest difference is that Detroit has scored 29 more times. And St. Louis hasn’t won a shootout in five tries, so they’ll definitely want to avoid close games. Detroit has just been a little bit better.
New York has just been on a roll for a while now, which now has them leading the East. New Jersey has been pretty good themselves, but have been playing way too close to .500 hockey, plus their defense isn’t nearly what New York’s is.
Tim Thomas anchors Boston‘s league-best defense while everyone else has produced the league’s second-best offense behind only Vancouver. Washington has won four straight to charge back into the bracket, but with their paltry 7-10-1 road record, they won’t be able to handle Boston too much at all, much less at the TD Garden.
Ottawa has won three games in a row, but they still have a horrendous defense and aren’t too good on the road. Despite going 4-4-2 in their last 10, Florida is now 10-4-5 at home. It’ll be close, but Florida’s better defense should help them out.
Philadelphia is actually quite mediocre at home, but is the best team in the NHL on the road. Pittsburgh is pretty good at home, and they’ll need to be very good to hold off the Flyers, because it’s still not a given that they’ll be able to win in Philly. A healthy Sidney Crosby would go a long way towards those ends, but that’ll be difficult to have.
Tags: Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, NHL Playoffs, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals