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The NHL season is now well underway, and as happens at this early stage, there are plenty of surprises. The Rangers can’t get anything going. The Avalanche are unbeaten. The Flames are hanging in there without Jarome Iginla. Toronto is doing well in the early going. Tim Thomas is looking to make his return worthwhile. A lot’s going on to be sure, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Wednesday, October 16, before the day’s games:
Vancouver is in the middle of a huge logjam in the middle of the West, but they have a good offense early on, if Roberto Luongo can back them up. Meanwhile, San Jose has notched an NHL-best 30 goals so far, and allowed just nine. That combination has established San Jose as an early favorite.
The Coyotes have nine points, but it’s taken them seven games to get there. Meanwhile, after dropping their opening game on the road, Anaheim has won their last four. Plus, the Ducks have the better defense, even at this early stage. With their two games in hand, Anaheim has the edge.
Calgary is 3-0-2 so far, which leaves them with games in hand over the nearest competition. However, Colorado is 6-0-0, having given up a league-low six goals. Things could easily change with all of the remaining 76+ games, but for now, Colorado is a bit much for Calgary.
Though it hasn’t quite been the amazing start they had last season, the defending champs have nine points through six games nonetheless, without a regulation home loss so far. We’ve yet to see St Louis in a road game, but they’ve look great themselves so far, especially when they have the puck. Even so, the Blackhawks are champions for a reason, and won’t go down easily.
It’s been a slow start for the Bruins, but at least they have the tough defense everyone foresaw; the offense just hasn’t been there enough. Toronto is powerful on offense, but they’ve had trouble in recent years breaking the Bruins’ defense, and they let last season’s Game 7 slip through their fingertips. Especially if Boston’s offense starts clicking again, Toronto could easily find themselves in trouble.
Both teams have won their last three games to grab hold of Atlantic playoff spots. It will definitely be an interesting playoff experience in a new conference for Detroit, but they should be able to handle it. The biggest difference between these two close teams has been a bit better of a defense for Montreal, but Detroit has been far more of a playoff mainstay than Montreal, and usually at a pretty good seed as well. Without establishing clear momentum, Montreal will have a difficult time.
The Penguins picked up right where they left off last season, having won all four games at home so far. In fact, in six games so far, both teams have scored 23 goals and given up 15. We know both teams can score, but Tampa‘s defense has kept them lower in the standings in recent seasons. Pittsburgh’s defensive issues in the playoffs were dealt with admirably before Boston stifled them. Especially with Sidney Crosby back in full force, Pittsburgh looks to cruise deep into the playoffs once more.
Both teams have struggled to get things going, but extra time home losses have kept both alive in the early standings. With the teams close in points, the Islanders have themselves in decent position compared to Carolina, with their game-in-hand, higher goal total and better defense. With both teams so close and looking to reestablish themselves as meaningful playoff contenders, any edge will go a long way.
Tags: Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, NHL Playoffs, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks