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If the Playoffs Started Today – NHL Week 24

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Just two weeks remain, yet many teams are still having difficulty gaining separation. Only one division has been clinched so far, but only one remains close. The Wildcard situation looks to be the most tenuous down the stretch, especially in the tight Eastern race. Home-rink amid #2 and #3 teams is still mostly up for grabs as well. With only nine of the 18 spots locked up, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Wednesday, April 2 at 8:00pm:

West

Central Division

#1 St Louis Blues vs #W2 Dallas Stars

The Stars have won their last three games by a combined score of 16-5. That includes a very impressive 4-2 win in St Louis. That was actually their second win in St Louis in March, the first coming in overtime. The Blues also won in Dallas earlier in the season, back when they didn’t have Ryan Miller. But both recent Stars wins were against Miller. The Stars have certainly shown that they can win this series, but first they have to hold off Phoenix AND have enough left to crack St Louis four more times.

#2 Colorado Avalanche vs #3 Chicago Blackhawks

Four straight wins for Colorado and three straight losses for Chicago have the Avs back in control of #2 in the Central. Chicago has shown that they’re unstoppable when clicking on all cylinders, but keeping up that pace has been a problem as of late. With the Avalanche’s scoring abilities not far behind, and with Jonathan Toews out with an upper body injury, Chicago could be in trouble.

Pacific Division

#1 Anaheim Ducks vs #W1 Minnesota Wild

The Ducks have a point and two games-in-hand on the Sharks for the division, while the Wild are working on solidifying a spot (which would all but mathematically have to be a Wildcard). The two sides haven’t faced off since January 28, so they’ll have to get used to each other again. Anaheim has scored 55 goals more than Minnesota, so that is something Minnesota will have to stifle for a long time if they want to come out on top.

#2 San Jose Sharks vs #3 Los Angeles Kings

The Kings just lost their six-game winning streak, but they haven’t won or lost less than three games in a row since the end of January. The Sharks have had a difficult past couple of weeks, which has cost them dearly in terms of positioning for the division lead. Assuming the Kings can enter the playoffs on one of their winning streaks, they have a great chance. Otherwise, they’re sitting ducks.

East

Atlantic Division

#1 Boston Bruins vs #W2 Columbus Blue Jackets

The Bruins just keep on racking up the points. Columbus just doesn’t have enough going right now to stop Boston.

#2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs #3 Montreal Canadiens

Both sides are so close, the slightest nudge could push one side over the other. On April Fool’s Day, Tampa got the lone home win in the season series, also the lone regulation win. The home team has struggled in the season series, but not winning once at home puts Montreal at a disadvantage after Tampa finally broke through.

Metropolitan Division

#1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs #W1 Detroit Red Wings

The Penguins are the only Metropolitan team to clinch a playoff spot so far, while Detroit is hoping to use their games in hand to pull ahead in the Wildcard positioning. The teams have split both games in Detroit on the season, but Detroit does have a stretch here and their where their defense could be better. Against a team as potent as Pittsburgh, that could mean trouble.

#2 New York Rangers vs #3 Philadelphia Flyers

New York has three points over Philadelphia, but the Flyers have two games-in-hand. The Flyers had a nice winning streak going in the middle of March, but have cooled off lately, and have disappointingly lost their last two games in shootouts. This should be a nice series, but momentum is currently going New York’s way.

What Might Change Next Week:

  • Columbus will likely have to win twice to keep their spot, and while they have four games, their most winnable two (vs NYI, vs PHO) come after a very taxing back-to-back (@ PHI, vs CHI).

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