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If the Playoffs Started Today – NHL Week 20

Ducks vs Penguins: Week 20's prediction for the Stanley Cup

The trade deadline is done with, and some big goaltending moves were made. With several teams in the mix looking to make an improvement, the landscape of the NHL is quite different in the final 20 games or so. The second Wildcards are still very much in play, and much of the divisions could still see seeding go this way or that quite easily. It will be a very interesting last few weeks, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Thursday, March 6, before the day’s games:

West

Pacific Division

#1 Anaheim Ducks vs #W2 Dallas Stars

Anaheim isn’t slowing down as a juggernaut in the West, but Dallas made a deal to acquire goalie Tim Thomas, who knows a thing or two about winning championships. That should help their chances, though Anaheim may be a bit too strong for Thomas, who while still talented is not his old self (and expected to help out in a backup role).

#2 San Jose Sharks vs #3 Los Angeles Kings

The Sharks are still their old selves, while the Kings have finally busted out of their funk with a five-game winning streak. That’s put them in a good position to keep their divisional seed, but more consistency would be nice. The Sharks may be able to use home-rink to crack the Kings once and for all.

Central Division

#1 St Louis Blues vs #W1 Minnesota Wild

Minnesota has won five straight to get a good hold on a playoff spot, but their division keeps them as a Wildcard. St Louis, still ahead in the Central, has countered by acquiring Olympic silver medal goaltender Ryan Miller from Buffalo. The Blues didn’t even need Miller to compete for the Stanley Cup, but with him, they’re much more of an attractive pick to win.

#2 Chicago Blackhawks vs #3 Colorado Avalanche

Colorado has now won three straight to move within a point of Chicago, and with a win in their game in hand could move up to #2. Holding off Chicago’s offense could mean the difference between the first and second rounds, but Chicago won’t make it easy.

East

Metropolitan Division

#1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs #W2 Columbus Blue Jackets

Three straight wins have Columbus atop the chase for the final Eastern spot, though Pittsburgh won’t make things easy. Pittsburgh hasn’t had things easy themselves lately; each Pittsburgh home loss straddling the Olympic break was a hard-fought shootout loss. Pittsburgh should still be able to make a deep run.

#2 Philadelphia Flyers vs #3 New York Rangers

Three straight wins give the Flyers home-rink advantage for the time being, but the Rangers were busy at the trade deadline, most notably acquiring Martin St Louis from the Lightning. That should give New York’s offense the pep they need to move on. The Flyers certainly can move on, but with New York’s new-look offense and Henrik Lundqvist in net, New York will be tough for them.

Atlantic Division

#1 Boston Bruins vs #W1 Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa has lost three of their last 10 to drop into a Wildcard spot, and the aforementioned trade of Martin St Louis will taper off their offense. They’ve also lost all three games so far this season to the Bruins by a combined score of 11-1. This match definitely goes in Boston’s favor.

#2 Montreal Canadiens vs #3 Toronto Maple Leafs

Montreal and Toronto have been keeping pace with each other as of late, with Toronto benefiting from Tampa’s slide. As has been the case in the past few seasons, Toronto can score, but needs to back that up by stopping from pucks in order to be a true contender. That could certainly happen if Montreal’s gold medal-winning goalie Carey Price isn’t fully healed from a lower body injury. A lot in this series will likely depend on who is able to stop that extra shot or two.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • With a rough schedule, Columbus will have a difficult time holding onto their spot. Detroit has the best chance to take over that spot, thanks to games including vs New Jersey and at Columbus.
  • Toronto has an even rougher schedule for the week, leaving the door open for Tampa to take the Atlantic Division’s #3 back.

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