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If the Playoffs Started Today – NHL Week 18

Ducks vs Penguins: Week 18's prediction for the Stanley Cup

The NHL goes on Olympic break after Saturday’s games, yet many teams are looking to get those last few points to put them in position for the home stretch of the season. Most division winners have a decent hold on their quadrants of the NHL, though could use a bit of insurance points against each other. The teams fighting below them are pretty crowded relative to each other as well. And the last Wildcard spots are very much up in the air too. With so much going on in these last couple of games before Sochi, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Wednesday, February 5, before the day’s games:

West

Pacific Division

#1 Anaheim Ducks vs #W2 Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks have lost their last five games; even though Anaheim has lost two in a row themselves they’ll still have an easy time if Vancouver can’t get it together in a hurry.

#2 San Jose Sharks vs #3 Los Angeles Kings

The Kings are in an even tougher funk than Vancouver right now (lost four straight, 1-8-1 in their last 10); San Jose should definitely take advantage.

Central Division

#1 Chicago Blackhawks vs #W1 Minnesota Wild

Chicago hasn’t been the best lately, but is back on top of the division. That’s to their benefit, as Minnesota will find keeping up with Chicago’s offense especially difficult, even more so on the road.

#2 St Louis Blues vs #3 Colorado Avalanche

The Blues enjoyed a brief hegemony of the Central Division, but they do have three games in hand over Chicago to make up two points. Colorado has been pretty good themselves, now just three games behind St Louis, but the Blues may be too balanced for Colorado to stop right now.

East

Metropolitan Division

#1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs #W2 Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings are back in the brackets for the moment and are now .500 at home, but they still need to find a way to stop the Penguins. The goal differential problem alone will worry Detroit, but Pittsburgh’s differential will worry Detroit more.

#2 New York Rangers vs #3 Columbus Blue Jackets

A four-game winning streak keeps New York in good position in the division, while three straight victories squeak Columbus into a tight lead in the Metropolitan/Wildcard races. Both sides are actually pretty similar, which makes this an intriguing series. A home crowd always helps in that situation, as does having a very good goaltender like Henrik Lundqvist to make one or two extra stops.

Atlantic Division

#1 Boston Bruins vs #W1 Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto got one back from Boston the last time these two met, but Toronto always has a tough time against the Bruins. While both sides can score with the best of them, Toronto’s rather porous defense has stopped them from being higher in the standings and will likely hold them back against Boston over seven games once more.

#2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs #3 Montreal Canadiens

Offense continues to be Tampa‘s main advantage against Montreal, and continues to bide their time at #2 in the division until Steven Stamkos (out for the Olympics) gets back. Montreal could certainly make a run, but any sort of advantage, Stamkos or otherwise, that will allow Tampa to keep up the offensive zone pressure will be a huge help.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • The Olympic break will settle things down a bit, but look for Columbus and Vancouver to likely drop their spots in favor of Philadelphia and Dallas respectively.

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