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We’re already a month into the season, and things are still pretty close. Chicago and Anaheim are starting to carve a niche for themselves, but they still have a ways to go, and all other slots are still very much in play. Ties are plentiful, and both #8 seeds are very much in the air, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Saturday, February 16 before the day’s games:
This is one of hockey’s biggest rivalries, but Detroit is having some early issues, while Chicago still doesn’t have a regulation loss. Usually it’s closer, but Chicago has plenty more power this season.
Anaheim has one of the best offenses in the game, and it’s a big reason why they’re a solid #2 right now. Dallas is better than before to get to this point, but they’re .500 on the road and have a negative goal differential. Dallas will need to do a lot more to upend their divisional foes.
San Jose is continuing their downward slide from their stellar start, while Vancouver is putting some room ahead of their divisional competition. Vancouver is on the right side of the momentum swing right now, and have given up just a meager 29 goals so far.
Nashville is great on defense (best in the NHL) but is among the worst on offense. Similarly, St Louis has one of the most porous defenses in the league but is one behind the NHL’s scoring lead. Both teams are very close to each other in the standings, and St Louis has more wins despite having a lower seed. Nashville has an excellent defense, but if they can’t score enough to back it up, it will be for naught.
Congratulations to New York for forcing their way into the brackets, but New Jersey has consistently remained a top team in the East all season long. New York can certainly make things interesting, but New York is too good, especially at home, to allow a #8 team to win.
Boston recently suffered their second regulation loss of the season, and interestingly enough both are to Buffalo. Fortunately for them, Ottawa is not Buffalo. And they lost their key defenseman in Erik Karlsson for the season. He sliced his Achilles tendon thanks to some dirty work from Boston’s old “friend” Matt Cooke. Boston is in a good position in this one.
Carolina is a big surprise so far, being the only Southeast team in the playoff picture (and for some reason, that still includes Winnipeg). Both teams are incredibly close in a lot of stats, but Toronto early on is just 2-4-0 at home but 6-2-0 on the road. That’s not exactly good news for Carolina, but they have won three in a row to get in this position. With both teams so similar, one false move could lose the whole series, Carolina not only has a well-known goaltender, but a backup that’s been an excellent sleeper so far.
Montreal is on the rise, but Pittsburgh is already there, toying with New Jersey’s #1 spot. Montreal certainly has talent, but Pittsburgh has more, and are one behind Tampa Bay for most goals scored on the season. Add to that their superior 7-2-0 road record and the Penguins will be a very difficult out.
Tags: Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, NHL Playoffs, Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks