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The season is already 10 weeks old, but it remains difficult for any team to make a run. In fact, many teams are out of the picture but remain very close, especially in the East. A few more injuries are rearing their heads around the league as well, threatening to turn everything upside down. A lot’s going on in an Olympics season, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Wednesday, December 11, before the day’s games:
This is definitely a battle of offense (Chicago) versus defense (Colorado). Goalie Corey Crawford is out three weeks for Chicago, which does hurt the team, but not too much given that Chicago is primarily of an offensive mind. Colorado is having trouble scoring goals and keeping up with other teams, which is why they’ve fallen in favor of Chicago from their early season highs. A healthy Chicago lineup is much more likely to hold out.
Minnesota has won enough to make it up to #3 in the Central Division, but at only 77 goals scored, they’re ahead of just Nashville in the West. And at 32 games played, they have three games out of hand compared to St Louis and Colorado around them. St Louis has the best goal differential in the NHL at +33, and is excellent at home. Minnesota likely won’t be able to do much against all that.
Vancouver has won five straight to claw back into things, but Anaheim still has a better offense, and still doesn’t have a regulation loss at home. Vancouver could certainly win with Roberto Luongo, the Sedins, et. al, but Anaheim’s home crowd certainly gives them the advantage.
After four straight wins, the Kings have moved into a tie with the Sharks, but too many of their wins have come in shootouts to move up to #2. The Sharks are particularly good at home, but both sides can easily win anywhere. With two All-star caliber goalies leading the way, the home crowd could mean a lot.
Boston is tied for Los Angeles for the best defense in the NHL. Tuukka Rask always gives the Bruins a chance to win, while Toronto is trying to climb its way back up the standings. Toronto would love to avenge last season’s choke against Boston in the playoffs, but they likely won’t be that close again.
Montreal is contending with Boston for the Atlantic Division, while Detroit is still trying to avoid a Wildcard and give themselves a better record at home. Defense and ability to pick off a game or two on the road should carry Montreal here.
Tampa isn’t losing too much ground since losing Steven Stamkos, but are still treading water. Pittsburgh continues to sit pretty atop the division, and is just a point behind the Bruins. Pittsburgh is as loaded with talent as any other team in the league, and with the way the records are coming along, home-rink is a very distinct advantage for them.
Tags: Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, NHL Playoffs, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals