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All teams are now officially at least half way through the season. Three teams have broken the 60-point barrier, and the league-leading Devils are on pace to get 122 points this season, the most since the Red Wings tallied 124 in 2005-2006. And if you doubled the Hurricanes’ score, they would still only be in 4th place in the NHL entirely. At least the Bruins won’t have to worry about them this time around. Even the Maple Leafs, 14th in the East, are just six points away from the brackets, while three teams are three points out in the East. With so much still on the line (the Northwest Division is only decided by one point), let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Tuesday, January 5 at 11:45pm (sans the late games):
Vancouver has pushed and shoved their way back into the running, while the Blackhawks have won four straight, and built a league best 20-4-1 home record to lead the way for the President’s Trophy. Vancouver’s 16-6-0 at home in their own right, but Chicago has just been too good to overcome.
After an eight-game winning streak, the Sharks finally lost at home to the Kings, 6-2, on Monday. Vancouver is trying to hang onto their spot in the meantime. The two actually have similar home/away match-up records, but with a 32-0 goal differential advantage, the Sharks have the clear advantage, despite leading Nashville by only eight points.
The Flames have won five straight, while the Kings have won three. The Kings are a high scoring team (130 goals) while the Flames are a good defensive team (99 goals allowed). No team has a clear cut, absolute advantage, but the Flames have continuously been in the division race, while the Kings have slipped out of theirs. That could be the difference here.
This is another situation where both teams are very close. Only two points separate the two, and they have a comparable home/away match-up, and even relatively close goal differentials. Perhaps the thing to notice here is Phoenix has two more wins and Colorado has two more overtime losses. Coincidence? It’ll be up to the teams to find out.
Montreal is sticking around, despite two losses, while the Devils are creating space between themselves and the Penguins and other division leaders. The Devils are tied with the Blackhawks with an NHL-best 30 wins, and are absolutely destructive in New Jersey or elsewhere. There is simply no way the iffy Canadiens will be able to compete.
Buffalo has won their last four, and maintains a five-point lead over Boston in the Northeast. They are another team that is a threat at home or away, while the Rangers actually have a losing home record. That should give Buffalo enough incentive to power through to the second round.
Having just completed a five-game homestead (with an excellent 4-1 loss to Boston), the Senators only managed to win three, with one of those being in a shootout. Even if they hold up to Washington, they’re only 6-10-1 away from Ottawa; Washington is 13-3-3 in D.C. Washington has the advantage, but Ottawa can do something about that this Thursday (January 7) in Washington.
Here’s a series that should be fun to watch; the teams have split the series this year so far, but the Bruins still haven’t won 10 road games (9-7-4). Still, with two games less than Penguins played, the Bruins could conceivably match them. Especially if Thomas and Rask don’t take their eyes off the prize, Boston could pull it off.
Tags: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, NHL Playoffs, Ottawa Senators, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals