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If the Playoffs Started Today – NHL Week 5

Ducks vs Penguins: Week 5's prediction for the Stanley Cup

Week 5 is over, and the standings have only gotten closer. There’s a three-way tie for the Atlantic Division. The three best Pacific teams are all within a point. In fact, only the Penguins have built up a decent lead so far in their division. There’s a slight push in the Wildcard races among some teams, but not enough to make themselves comfortable by any means. It’s a wild start to November, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Wednesday, November 6 before the day’s games:

West

Pacific Division

#1 Anaheim Ducks vs #W2 St Louis Blues

A few extra wins have leapfrogged the Ducks past the Sharks in the West. Being the NHL’s only perfect home team (5-0-0) helps too. The Blues have one of the better defenses in the league, and can score nicely too. That home-rink ability may have to be Anaheim’s ace in the hole, so they’d better not get complacent about the Blues at all.

#2 San Jose Sharks vs #3 Phoenix Coyotes

Phoenix has won five straight, including a shootout win in San Jose. The Sharks have lost three games in a row in extra time, which does give them a five-game point streak, but the lack of two points at a time has them at #2. However, the Sharks do have a much better defense and haven’t lost a regulation game at home yet. The Coyotes will still have a difficult time in this one.

Central Division

#1 Colorado Avalanche vs #W1 Vancouver Canucks

The Avalanche have the league’s best defense and haven’t lost on the road, going 6-0-0. They’ve also played a league-low 13 games. At this point, Vancouver just doesn’t have the defense they need to stay in there with Colorado.

#2 Chicago Blackhawks vs #3 Minnesota Wild

Three straight wins have the Wild up to #3 in the Central. They’re sub-.500 on the road, however, though one of those road wins was in Chicago. In fact, each team’s sole regulation home loss so far has been to the other. Minnesota’s overall issues on the road still favor the defending champs, though.

East

Metropolitan Division

#1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs #W2 Montreal Canadiens

The Canadiens are hanging in as the second Wildcard, but .500 play won’t cut it against a team like Pittsburgh, that’s won four straight to snap a three-game skid and get back on track. The Penguins are still comfortably in the lead of their division and have talent enough to move past the Canadiens.

#2 Washington Capitals vs #3 New York Islanders

The Capitals have won three straight to get a playoff spot and home-rink advantage. The Islanders actually have the third worst defense in the East and fifth worst overall. Alex Ovechkin and friends will definitely be able to take advantage of that, especially with the momentum that a winning streak can bring.

Atlantic Division

#1 Tampa Bay Lightning vs #W1 Boston Bruins

The Lightning are on top of a three-way tie for the Atlantic. They have a pretty good defense this year, which certainly complements their offensive powerhouses. The Bruins have been struggling lately, but still hold the East’s best defense, and are second in that category only to Colorado. They do have the worst offense of any playoff team, so backing up Tuukka Rask’s play will take some work if the Bruins are to make any headway.

#2 Toronto Maple Leafs vs #3 Detroit Red Wings

Detroit‘s biggest problem is their goal differential (40 scored, 41 surrendered). Toronto has continued to remain up at the top of the standings, and with Detroit not doing the best at home, Toronto could definitely take advantage of them if Detroit isn’t careful.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • With only two games this week (vs NJ, @ BOS), Toronto needs to be real careful to avoid dropping below Boston, who also hosts Tampa.
  • A very difficult road trip for Vancouver (@ SJ, @ LA, @ ANA) has Los Angeles (vs BUF, vs VAN, @ BUF) in a great position to make up a lot of ground and take Vancouver’s playoff slot in very little time.

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