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Two months of the season are gone, and a bit of separation is starting to appear. The best bet for outside East teams right now seems to be working their way into the Metropolitan Division’s top three. The West is a little more open, but with all the strong teams in the race, a Wildcard spot is a good aim for fringe teams there. Still, no team is truly having an easy time, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Wednesday, November 27, before the day’s games:
Phoenix is a good home team, but the Blackhawks have managed to claw their way back to the top of the West. The Blackhawks, even without an elite level of goaltending, have had their offense power their way past just about any situation where defense won’t work by itself. Phoenix has had problems making deep playoff runs when they’ve gotten in as well, which gives Chicago the edge when all is put together.
Colorado has righted the ship before falling too far, but St Louis is staying ahead with their noticeably better offense, and their defense isn’t far behind Colorado’s either. For the Avalanche to pull things off, they’ll need more performances like they had at the beginning of the season.
The Wild have a good hold on a playoff spot, while the Ducks‘ division lead is dwindling, but the Ducks still refuse to lose at home, going 9-0-1 in Anaheim so far. With that ace in the hole of the battle of Anaheim’s offense against Minnesota’s defense, Minnesota will have a hard time not cracking under the pressure and scoring enough to back up that pay.
The teams are tied with 35 points each, two behind the Ducks, though San Jose has two games in hand over the Kings. The Kings do have a 10-game points streak going, though San Jose is a little better with the puck. Los Angeles’ prowess in shootouts would help them more if the playoffs had shootouts, but they definitely have a chance with their abilities so close to San Jose.
Montreal has won three straight games to grab a good hold on a playoff spot, and are just one win away from graduating out of a Wildcard spot. Too bad for them that their arch-rival Bruins have goaltending that can stop any team. Montreal isn’t far behind, but Boston has done very well for themselves at home, and are always a contender. Montreal should make things very interesting, but the Bruins should be just a little too god for them in the end.
Neither team is at its best, but both are hanging in there. Tampa has become known as a powerful team with the puck, so they’ll undoubtedly want Steven Stamkos back for their playoff push. Toronto can hang in there anyway with Phil Kessel, though it will be a little tricky for them to win in Tampa.
These two have had some good postseason meetings before in the finals, but things may not be as thrilling this time around. Pittsburgh may be sub-.500 on the road, but Detroit has lost 10 times at home already, taking a point in six of those losses. Detroit’s defense has been disappointing this year as well, something which will certainly not go unnoticed or unused by Pittsburgh’s offense.
These two are the worst two teams of the 16 currently in the playoff picture. However, the Rangers had a notable disadvantage in their 4-5-0 home record and measly 48 goal total through 24 games. With Alex Ovechkin leading an offense tied with Pittsburgh for the best in the East, Washington should be able to take care of business in this series.
Tags: Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, NHL Playoffs, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals