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If the Playoffs Started Today – NHL Week 22

Rangers vs Blues: Week 22's prediction for the Stanley Cup

Another week down and the standings aren’t much closer. Both #3 seeds are benefiting from being a division leader, and those on the outside looking in don’t have far to go. Only the Canucks and Rangers can rest easy as far as division leads go; that’s about the only thing that’s safe right now. With the games getting more and more important, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Thursday, March 8, before the day’s games:

West

#1 St. Louis Blues vs #8 San Jose Sharks

The Sharks aren’t doing well at all, hanging onto #8 only based on points percentage. Between that and St. Louis‘ home record and defense, the Blues will have an easy enough time.

#2 Vancouver Canucks vs #7 Phoenix Coyotes

Phoenix has lost four in a row following six straight wins, including two losses to the Blue Jackets of all teams. Having to deal with Vancouver‘s plethora of talent is not a good way to get back on track.

#3 Dallas Stars vs #6 Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are doing alright, but still have trouble with defense and on the road. Dallas has won three in a row, all on the road, and the latest in Vancouver. The Blackhawks still have the ability to win, but they can’t afford one mistake to do so.

#4 Detroit Red Wings vs #5 Nashville Predators

Detroit may have lost two close games in a row, but they’re still very dangerous on both ends of the puck. Nashville is good as well, but they don’t have the power to withstand and upend Detroit for a long series.

East

#1 New York Rangers vs #8 Winnipeg Jets

Winnipeg may have squeaked into a playoff spot, but with a -11 goal differential, they still have to deal with Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers definitely have the edge.

#2 Boston Bruins vs #7 Ottawa Senators

Boston is without Tuukka Rask, meaning the aging Tim Thomas is likely to get tired out come playoff time. Fortunately for them, Ottawa has enough defensive troubles to allow the Bruins’ offense to carry them to the next round, but it still won’t be easy.

#3 Florida Panthers vs #6 New Jersey Devils

The Devils haven’t been perfect lately, but they still have a very good 20-12-2 road record. With all of Florida‘s struggles, #6 may not be a bad seed this year.

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs #5 Philadelphia Flyers

Both teams are doing very well right now, but Pittsburgh is on a seven-game winning streak, following an eight-game streak at the end of January. Philadelphia is an excellent team, and can beat any opponent, but Pittsburgh is just incredibly good right now. Home-rink advantage and a better defense could easily make a seven-game difference.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • Washington’s relatively easy schedule, Bruins aside, give them a good chance to take over Winnipeg’s spot.
  • With San Jose’s struggles, look for Colorado to take over.

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