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A month has gone by in the NHL, and the surprise teams are managing to keep up their momentum so far. Toronto and Colorado are division leaders still, while Carolina is still hanging in there behind Pittsburgh. Boston and Detroit, widely considered to be the best two teams in the Atlantic Division, are relegated to the two Eastern Conference Wildcard slots for the time being. Many Western teams are racking up the early points as well, making it an exciting season all around so far. With everything still so hotly contested, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Wednesday, October 30, before the day’s games:
With San Jose‘s power on both sides of the puck, they’re tough to beat, having come within a second of not losing a regulation game yet against Boston. With everything they’ve been doing so far, it’s really hard to see Los Angeles or anyone else overcoming them over seven games.
Both teams are on good winning streaks, but Anaheim has had the slightly better goaltending thus far, and has yet to lose at home. Vancouver has plenty of oomph themselves, and they have had a league-leading nine road games so far (6-2-1), but it’ll be tough with Anaheim having home-rink advantage. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be a surprise, but tough nonetheless.
As good as Phoenix has been, Colorado has been better. They’ve allowed just 16 goals over 11 games to lead the league, and have won 10 of those games. Colorado wasn’t expected to be this good and might cool off later on, but right now, they should be too much for Phoenix.
This is a classic battle of offense (Chicago) vs defense (St Louis). The Blackhawks have three more points, but the Blues have three games-in-hand. It’ll be an interesting series that could go either way, but the defending champs with home-rink are always a tough scenario for anyone.
The Red Wings are a perennial playoff team, but have stumbled just a bit. In fact, when you give up more goals than you score, it’s not a good sign. The Maple Leafs are a balanced team with the power to take advantage of that. Don’t count Detroit out just yet, but if there was ever a time for them to make an early exit, this is it.
As usual, Tampa Bay can score. Now the question becomes, can they crack Montreal while protecting their own net enough? Montreal has just one road loss all season, but Tampa is better at home. Two of Tampa’s wins have been in shootouts, while Montreal hasn’t had one yet. Ben Bishop could be the key for Tampa, as he hasn’t allowed more than two goals to anyone except the two best teams last year, Boston and Chicago.
This is a good series. Boston has the best defense in the East. Pittsburgh has Sidney Crosby and plenty others. Still, it’ll be tough for the Penguins to crack Tuukka Rask, especially with Jarome Iginla able to give Boston some pointers from his time in Pittsburgh. Plus, Boston is 4-0-0 on the road so far.
Both teams are sliding, with several divisional opponents breathing down their necks. Carolina has the tiebreaker based on regulation and overtime wins, but this should be an exercise in futility compared to the rest of the match-ups. New York probably gets the edge, if only from their ability to score nearly a goal more per game so far.
Tags: Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, 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