C├ęspedes brings a powerful bat to Fenway Park...until he becomes a free agent after 2015. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Flurry of trades leaves Red Sox in state of uncertainty Chicago White Sox v Boston Red Sox Red Sox Trade Andrew Miller for Top 100 Prospect Rodriguez Stephen Drew (Photo: Bill Kostroun) Red Sox Trade Stephen Drew to Yankees for Kelly Johnson Less than a season after pitching in the World Series clincher against the Cardinals, John Lackey has been traded from the Red Sox to St. Louis at the trade deadline in exchange for Allen Craig. (Boston Globe) MLB Trade Deadline: Red Sox Trade John Lackey to the St. Louis Cardinals for Allen Craig

If the Playoffs Started Today – NHL Week 3

Blackhawks vs Devils: Week 3's prediction for the Stanley Cup

Three weeks into the season now, and while the Blackhawks have started to build a bit of a lead for themselves, the rest of the field is up for grabs. Each conference has a team better than at least one division leader, so teams are jumping all over each other. The standings still have a ways to go before settling down, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Saturday, February 9 at 7:00pm:

West

#1 Chicago Blackhawks vs #8 St Louis Blues

St Louis has lost their last three games, all by a combined score of 16-5. Chicago is the only team in the NHL yet to lose in regulation. It’s pretty easy to figure out how this one’s turning out at this pace.

#2 San Jose Sharks vs #7 Dallas Stars

Although the Sharks have lost four in a row, the last one was a shootout loss Saturday, allowing them to barely hold onto the #2 spot. Dallas has won three straight, including an impressive win over Anaheim Friday. They still have a negative goal differential, so San Jose still has an edge, but a Stars win wouldn’t exactly be a huge surprise either.

#3 Vancouver Canucks vs #6 Detroit Red Wings

Vancouver has settled into a groove, winning their last four games. Detroit still has plenty of talent, but recent losses to Columbus and Calgary are certainly discouraging for them. If Vancouver can keep the good times going, they should have what it takes to move on.

#4 Anaheim Ducks vs #5 Nashville Predators

Nashville has won four straight, but they haven’t been able to put up the attack Anaheim has been able to this season. Plus, Anaheim would be #2 if San Jose had let a regulation goal squeak in against Phoenix. Anaheim should be able to use their offensive prowess to take the series, but Nashville will definitely make things interesting.

East

#1 New Jersey Devils vs #8 Carolina Hurricanes

A very good win against Pittsburgh in the first part of a home-and-home series to be completed Sunday has New Jersey at #1 in the East. Carolina has done well to stay at this point in the race for the last playoff spot (they only lead #14 Buffalo by two points), but the Stanley Cup runners up from last season have been too good so far, especially at home, for Carolina to overcome.

#2 Boston Bruins vs #7 Toronto Maple Leafs

Discounting Buffalo’s seven-goal outburst, Boston has allowed 1.625 goals per game, and has already beaten Toronto 1-0. Toronto’s recent history with Boston has not been good; expect Boston to roll.

#3 Tampa Bay Lightning vs #6 Montreal Canadiens

With a whopping 42 goals, Tampa Bay has the NHL’s most productive offense. Still, they’ve lost three games in a row, interestingly enough all to the Atlantic Division. Those problems on the road will hurt Tampa, but Montreal has yet to get much road experience in their own right. And if they can’t halt Tampa’s explosive offense, that makes road abilities a moot point.

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs #5 Ottawa Senators

Pittsburgh is still up there in the race for #1, but is having trouble breaking through. Ottawa is only two points behind them, but is just 2-3-0 on the road, and is less productive on offense. Pittsburgh is also 6-2-0 on the road, giving them another big weapon to use against the Senators.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • Hosting the Devils Sunday will give Pittburgh an excellent opportunity to jump back up to #1.
  • A home-and-home with lowly Washington will give Florida the best chance to capture a logjammed spot in the East, most likely at Toronto’s expense.
  • If Edmonton can keep things together, we could see them take over Dallas’ slot by next week.

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