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It won’t be long before the season is half over, but the intrigue is still going strong. Chicago and Pittsburgh easily lead their divisions, but the Conference lead is still up for grabs. Teams are still trying to hack their way into the playoff standings, Wildcard or division. The outside teams in the East are especially bunched up right now, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Wednesday, December 18, before the day’s games:
The Wild have struggled to score goals, but what’s really keeping them down these days is a 6-8-3 road record (14-3-2 at home). Chicago has neither trouble, easily winning anywhere and scoring at will to remain atop the NHL. Four games in Chicago might be a bit much for Minnesota’s lackluster offense to match.
Both teams have 22 wins, but St Louis‘ better offense has them a few points ahead due to staying in close games more often. Colorado could definitely pick off a road game, but with both defenses so good, an extra kick from the offense of either side would likely be the difference.
Vancouver has been on a bit of a tear, and has a pretty good hold on a playoff spot, but Anaheim has won six in a row, and has taken points from their last nine. No regulation home losses keep the advantage with Anaheim in this one.
Los Angeles has the best defense in the NHL, but a less-than-elite offense is holding them back just a little. San Jose has the better offense, but goal differential for the two is just about the same. With Los Angeles having home-rink advantage and having the defense to make those extra few stops, they have a good outlook for this round.
Pittsburgh has won four in a row and nine of ten; in fact, their last two losses have been to Boston. Toronto‘s road record and defense are both less than stellar, and Pittsburgh has more than enough to take advantage of that.
With only 79 goals scored, the Hurricanes have the worst offense of any of the 16 playoff teams. The defense is better than others, but is not what the Cup contenders can produce. Washington is fairly settled into the #2 spot in the division, and has the power to take care of whichever opponent comes in at #3.
In their last six games, Detroit has lost four regulation home games and lost two road shootouts. They’ve only scored seven goals in those six games, including being shut out by Tampa. That certainly won’t come close to making a dent against Boston.
Both teams are very similar record-wise, and with Detroit’s struggles, both are pretty well set in these spots. Both have similar offenses and defenses, and both are better at home. That’s good news for Montreal (for the moment), though Tampa is two points behind with two games in hand. Montreal is a little better on the road as well, so even falling to #3 they would still have a better chance from there than Tampa.
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