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We’re almost at the halfway point for the season (four teams are already there), and there’s still a lot on the line. Both top seeds are decided by a point or less. The Hurricanes, even with 10 wins, are still only 13 points away from a spot. The East’s next worst team, Toronto, is just three points out, so virtually anyone can still make it. And the Coyotes are just two points away from a tie for the President’s Trophy. Who knew? Three of the divisions are led by three points or less even. With so much to keep an eye on during the season’s second half, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Wednesday, December 30, before the day’s games:
Both teams are coming off a road loss. Both teams have massively good home records. Vancouver just suffered its first overtime loss in Phoenix Tuesday in a shootout. Chicago still has a West best 26 wins. And with a 37-26 goal differential advantage over Vancouver, combined with home records, the home team should do quite well, pushing the series to seven games.
San Jose has won five in a row, while the Kings have lost three. The Kings do have a balanced home/away record comparison, but the Sharks have an even better balanced comparison. And the Sharks have scored a West-best 130 goals, giving them a nice looking advantage for this series.
Both teams are rather similar, and are only separated by three points. That should make this one of the closest series. Both teams traded the Northwest Title back and forth earlier in the season, and they’ll look to keep doing it, possibly to decide home rink advantage.
Here’s another series where the home team will have the advantage. But the real difference maker is the goal differential stat: 16 vs. -1 in favor of Phoenix. As long as Phoenix prevents Nashville from going on one of their patented winning streaks, they’ll be fine.
New Jersey still hasn’t lost 10 in regulation, while the Thrashers have lost their last three, and barely edge out the Rangers with 4th (goal differential) tiebreaker. All signs point to New Jersey thrashing the Thrashers, quite possibly for a sweep.
This series looks a lot like the last one. Washington has a better road record, home record, and goal differential, all by far. While Washington is safely in the race, and is only one point away from the top spot, Montreal has to hold off many hungry competitors while trying to solidify and improve its own standing. Washington will have an easy time here too.
Despite being three points away from the top seed, Buffalo might have a few issues. Ottawa has been fairly decent at home, and the Sabres have lost twice there this season. Buffalo also lost to Ottawa in Buffalo in a shootout, despite Ottawa’s poor record. Head to head aside, Buffalo is better on paper, but one has to wonder if Ottawa can keep eating these rotten egg rolls and beating Buffalo.
Again, the Penguins look better on paper, but the Bruins have been good in practice. Though I will say the defense seems to pick up nicely with Tuukka Rask in goal. Put him in more and pump up the team, and the Bruins might pull it out. Otherwise, all bets are off.
Tags: Atlanta Thrashers, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, NHL Playoffs, Ottawa Senators, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals