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Now into the second half of the season, teams are officially starting to run out of time to make moves. Still, many teams are still alive, especially in the jam-packed Wildcard race in the East. Last season’s Stanley Cup Finalists are barely holding onto leads in their divisions, while Pittsburgh and Anaheim are still going strong. It’s an exciting time with teams trying to make their last runs before Sochi, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Wednesday, January 15, before the day’s games:
Minnesota is doing okay, but it’s Phoenix’s tailspin that’s putting Minnesota in this spot for the moment. The Wild still have a tough time on the road, and Anaheim still has points in every home game so far. Anaheim shouldn’t have too much trouble here.
Los Angeles is only 3-6-1 in their last ten games, but remains the only NHL team yet to give up 100 goals. Having scored 150 goals so far and with a good defense of their own, the Sharks could definitely take advantage if LA can’t seem to support Jonathan Quick with enough offense. With only 120 goals scored themselves, that has the potential to be a problem for the Kings.
The Canucks have been hit-or-miss lately without Roberto Luongo healthy, and he’ll be needed at an elite level to stop Chicago‘s 177-goal offense, easily the NHL’s best. If not, a high-scoring slugfest to take advantage of Chicago’s porous defense, worst among West playoff teams, would be their best bet. But that hasn’t always come easy to Vancouver this season.
St Louis has a goal differential of 63, 21 more than second-place Chicago and Anaheim. Being able to beat you in virtually any fashion makes the Blues perhaps the most dangerous team in the field. Colorado has some offense themselves, but nowhere near the Blues’ level. Without great care, Colorado could quickly find themselves overwhelmed.
Toronto is looking to keep pace in the now highly-competitive Wildcard race in the East, but is still tied for fourth-worst goals surrendered total in the league. Pittsburgh is in a very good position to make the Stanley Cup Finals, and has enough balance between offense and defense to do so.
Washington is back at #2, but is still having trouble getting two points at a time. Philadelphia has had a better time lately getting those wins than Washington, and has won 21 times without having to go to a shootout, compared to just 14 times for Washington. At the moment, this looks like a good series for the road team to move ahead.
The Bruins have been slumping lately, at least by Bruins standards; a lot of that can be traced to their California road trip tiring everyone out, but Tuukka Rask has laid too many eggs lately. New York still has a ways to go, especially at home, but for a Metropolitan team to get into the playoffs as a Wildcard team has been harder than making it via the Division itself. Boston is still favored, but this has the makings of a classic trap series.
This should be an interesting series, with both sides close enough in record and stats, but Tampa Bay is a noticeably higher scoring team, which is what makes them #2 right now. Assuming everyone is healthy, Tampa at least has home-rink advantage, but Montreal could just as easily move on themselves.
Tags: Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, NHL Playoffs, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals