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The abbreviated season is beginning to approach its climax, with every team except Calgary having played at least 30 games. Pittsburgh is starting to open up a bit of a lead in the East, but both races at the bottoms of the brackets are still very heated. For that matter, precious few teams have been able to get any sort of separation. With the playoff race so close, including several surprise teams staying in good spots, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Sunday, March 24, before the day’s games:
Dallas is one point ahead of three contenders for their spot, though they could stand to get more power. When you’re facing a team in Chicago with the West’s best defense and offense, you’ll certainly need it.
Detroit is a good team, but they haven’t been able to score as much this season as they would like. With the amazing run Anaheim has going, they have to be considered a favorite to meet Chicago in the West finals.
Both teams are defensively minded, but haven’t been able to put up enough offense to distance themselves from the pack. Los Angeles is still having a difficult time on the road, while Minnesota has won five straight. With this kind of charge, the Wild look to be this year’s Cinderella contender.
This one should be interesting. Both teams are powerful, but haven’t shone it this season nearly as much as expected. Vancouver has won three straight to move up to #4, but with a win in their game-in-hand, St Louis would seize home-rink advantage. This will certainly be a close series, but with St Louis staying up there in the standings all season, don’t be surprised to see them pull off the victory.
Carolina will really want to regain the division, or else they’ll have a rough time of things. They’ve struggled to do much all season, and with Pittsburgh‘s unmatched abilities, the Penguins should take care of Carolina handily.
The Devils have won two in a row, but all that’s really accomplished has been to give their playoff stake a little breathing room. Montreal still hasn’t let Boston gain an upper hand, and certainly has the defense to keep the Devils at bay (especially with Ilya Kovalchuk now out two to four weeks).
Winnipeg has lost two straight games, both at home to the lowly Capitals. Toronto just recently snapped their losing streak against Boston, a major accomplishment for them. That will undoubtedly do wonders for Toronto’s morale, and their offense and road record should carry them against a weaker Winnipeg team from a weaker division.
The Senators are keeping afloat, but injuries are limiting how much progress they can make. Boston may be slacking lately, but they still have a world-class defense that should allow them to stand a chance against just about anyone.
Tags: NHL Playoffs