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Teams only have between eight and eleven games remaining, so the time to act to secure a spot is now. Despite that, only four teams have mathematically clinched so far. With the divisions exceedingly difficult to overtake, it’s largely been a race to get home-rink advantage at the #2 positions, most of which are much more in play. It’s certain to be a highly chaotic last few weeks of the season, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Wednesday, March 26, before the day’s games:
The Coyotes are clinging to a three-point lead for the eight spot out West, while the Blues have a healthy hold on their division and eyes firmly set on the West. Don’t count Phoenix out; they did get a big win in Pittsburgh, but doing so multiple times against St Louis, especially if they give up 3+ goals every now and then.
Colorado has been giving up a lot of goals lately, and it’s dropped them back down to #3 in favor of Chicago. Other than a shutout against Nashville, Chicago has been very good in their last several games. The Blackhawks have shown their weaknesses before when they’re on the ropes, but a bigger problem for Colorado will be putting them back there in quick fashion.
Minnesota has had a close few games, but can’t put together a statement win. The Sharks will definitely lick their chops at the prospect of a relatively easy first round, but they have to be careful to win the Pacific first. The Sharks may be four points ahead, but have a whopping three games out of hand. But as is stands now, the Sharks still have plenty of firepower to take care of that business.
The Ducks have had a back-and-forth few weeks, but remain in the race for the division. The Kings have won four straight to follow a three-game losing streak, which itself followed an eight-game winning streak. Despite that, the Kings are a lock for #3, nine points behind #2 and eight ahead of #4 in the Pacific. With all the winning the Kings have done lately, the Ducks will need to keep up the pressure to hold them off.
Boston‘s massive winning streak ended, but the points streak continues. Detroit is still clawing tooth and nail just hoping to get into the playoffs to begin with. Goal differential is in Boston’s advantage +77 to -13, so it’s definitely an uphill battle for Detroit in their first season in the East.
Montreal ended Boston’s winning streak at 12 with a shootout road win to claim a 3-1-0 season series victory. That is part of Montreal’s three-game winning streak (and six wins out of seven games). In their last nine games, the Lightning have either won in regulation or lost in extra time. If Montreal can take down Boston, they can do so to Tampa, which makes it even more important for Tampa to come out swinging and beat Montreal early, which is much easier said than done.
Pittsburgh has been stumbling a bit, but has always kept things close and/or score big. But Pittsburgh has beaten Columbus four times in regulation this season, and the Blue Jackets haven’t exactly been on a winning tear lately themselves.
The Rangers have won four straight to climb back to #2, but Philadelphia isn’t far behind and can climb back ahead with a win in either game in hand. The Flyers just lost a five-game winning streak of their own, and have matched up so closely with the Rangers for some time. This one is difficult to pick, and the winner could easily be whichever team can steal one last opportunity in the closing seconds of the 3rd Period.
Tags: Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angels Kings, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, NHL Playoffs, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning