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Three months are gone in the NHL season, and all the teams are getting some rest on the league’s Christmas vacation. Games resume Friday, and plenty of teams have a lot of work to do. Some positioning is still up for grabs, as well a few spots in the playoff standings. The top contenders are starting to make themselves known, but the middle of the pack is anyone’s game, with many teams vying for home-rink advantage. A lot is still going on despite the standings shaping up, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Thursday, December 26:
The Ducks have continued their winning ways, pushing their winning steak to nine and points streak to 12. Against the leader of a super competitive West, Phoenix will definitely have some troubles keeping up.
San Jose has won their last two games, but that’s just barely keeping them above the Canucks. The Kings‘ defense has been carrying them all season, and while they’re just two points ahead of the Sharks, Los Angeles has shown themselves capable of hanging in there and winning the close games when they have to.
The Canucks have a solid hold on a slot, with 22 wins split evenly between road and home. They’ve been on a bit of a roll, but the Blackhawks have continued to attack at will, and have split 26 wins evenly between road and home. Vancouver has a good defense, but it will be tough for anyone not to crack under Chicago’s pressure in the early rounds.
Both sides are settling in nicely to their respective seeds. Both have solid defenses, but St Louis can score at a better clip. In fact, they have the second-best offense in the NHL behind only Chicago. That doesn’t guarantee a thing against Colorado, but that plus a Game 7 at home is always a good luxury.
Toronto has been in three straight shootouts, winning one, but have had rough time overall, despite still holding onto a Wildcard slot. Pittsburgh can score, defend and is 17-3-0 at home. Once more, especially in such an overall weak division, the Penguins look poised for a deep playoff run.
The Flyers are the latest Metropolitan team to move up to #3. They’re not the absolute worst, but they still have issues with goal differential and road games. Washington should be able to outlast them.
Detroit is actually pretty good on the road, which keeps them in the hunt, but their home problems continue. Boston has the defense to make themselves champions, and have been very good at home. Detroit shouldn’t pose a big threat, even though they shouldn’t go out with a whimper either.
All of a sudden, Tampa has won five straight. That goes a long way, but Montreal isn’t very far behind. Still, Montreal has been a hit-or-miss team for the past couple of weeks, which bodes well for Tampa. And if Steven Stamkos is healthy for the playoffs, Tampa could be an attractive dark horse pick.
Tags: Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, NHL Playoffs, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals