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The brackets are suddenly looking so much more interesting. Nobody gave the Kings a thought before the season, but now they’re on top in the West. And of 15 teams in the East, eight will go to the playoffs, and #14 (Tampa Bay) is only two points away from being tied for the last spot. Even Toronto is back up to #12. Carolina is still the NHL’s worst team by 11 points. The closest teams paired up in the first round right now are separated by a single point. So much is still on the line with no signs of being decided yet, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Wednesday, December 16 at 12:15am:
Los Angeles won a thriller in Edmonton Tuesday to take over the top seed in the West. Who would have thought they’d do so well? Detroit has won three straight to make it back into the playoff situation, but they still have a long way to go to be a contender. It’ll be tough for them to pick off the road game they need to in order to win this series with their record.
Phoenix is barely hanging in there, leading Detroit by one and Dallas and Vancouver by two. Colorado was thoroughly embarrassed by the Capitals Tuesday. Phoenix has had lower scoring games this year, so they would do best to take an early lead then concentrate on holding it, especially once they get an insurance goal. With this looking to be a series where the home team has a slight advantage, the Coyotes will need to pull out all the stops.
It’s always nice to see a rematch of the previous year’s playoffs, but this time, Chicago is entering as a divisional leader. Chicago is looking to be a higher scoring city to host games than Calgary, with CHI @ CAL a relatively poor setting for both teams. With Chicago holding a goal differential edge of 25-15, and only one point separating the two, this series should be a shootout, both in scores and what follows overtime.
Here’s a fun one; the Sharks lead the Predators by two points despite having won less games. The Sharks are a better road team while the Predators are a better home team. The Sharks have a slight advantage with that match-up, but Nashville will still have to find a way around their 19 to 0 goal differential disadvantage.
Washington is coming off an absolute destruction of Colorado Tuesday (on the road) to retain the top spot over the Penguins. Montreal lost Monday at home against Buffalo 4-3. With a <.500 road record and negative goal differential, Montreal should have some real problems in the first round again, if they can hold off the Panthers for the 8 seed in the first place, again.
Pittsburgh has won three straight while Ottawa continues its slide (now in 3rd place in the Northeast). This will be like the Capitals/Canadiens, with the Senators’ poor road record and trouble matching their opponents’ goal totals giving them problems, especially when lacking home rink advantage.
The Sabres have won four straight, while Atlanta has won two. This is the closet match in the East, with five points separating the two. Atlanta is actually a better road team, but Buffalo has been just as good at home. Buffalo should also be able to pick off a road game of their own to help their cause, which will help their chances. They have also allowed an NHL low 68 goals this season (tied with the Devils).
Tim Thomas has not been doing as well as he has last year for the Bruins, and their record shows it. Records indicate the Devils being able to outscore Boston quite nicely, especially in New Jersey. New Jersey’s impressive 11-2-1 road record will make things that much more difficult for the Black and Gold.
Tags: Atlanta Thrashers, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, Washington Capitals