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With about 10 games and less than three weeks left on the schedule, it’s getting desperate for many teams. There have been several surprises this season, especially the Coyotes, who were even in second place in the West Monday, tied with Chicago with 97 points. The Devils and Penguins are fighting over their division, while the Sharks and Blackhawks are fighting over the West.
The Maple Leafs are doing their best to get the Bruins a top draft pick. Keep up the good work, boys. At this point, only one team (Washington) has even clinched a playoff birth, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Tuesday, March 23 at 11:30pm:
With a shutout victory over Phoenix, Chicago has secured the top spot in the West. Detroit kept pace at the latter end of the West’s brackets with a Stanley Cup Final rematch. The Blackhawks lead the season series 3-2, with the finale also serving as the season finale for both teams. By having the more consistent and better season, Chicago has the edge this time around in hockey’s version of Red Sox/Yankees.
The Sharks got back on track in Minnesota after a six-game losing streak, while Colorado lost out to the Kings. Despite an earlier loss to Edmonton, San Jose is hanging in there, while Colorado’s brilliant beginning to their season has faded. In the end, San Jose’s offense looks to carry them into Round 2.
Both teams suffered embarrassing losses Tuesday, Nashville versus Dallas and Vancouver in Edmonton. These two have split the season series, with each capturing a game on the other’s rink. Still, Vancouver should have a relatively easy victory. The reason? Their 48 to 1 goal differential advantage speaks for itself.
Phoenix had a nine-game win streak snapped by Chicago Tuesday, which kept them from leading the West. Phoenix does have an eight-point edge, but the Kings have three games in hand. Both teams have been huge surprises this year, and are pretty similar in records and stats. It could definitely go either way, especially since the road team has won the majority of games in the season series thus far.
This one will be ugly. Don’t get your hopes up with Boston’s dominating performance over Atlanta; Boston has always been strong against Atlanta this season, but not against many others. Washington has scored a league-leading 283 goals (ahead of Vancouver’s 238). There’s just no way Boston’s league-worst 180 goals can hope to compete over seven games.
New Jersey has finally clawed their way back into the #2 seed with a 6-3 rout of Columbus. Montreal is hanging at the bottom of the brackets without too much urgency, but they’re only one point away from being backed down into facing Washington. Montreal is about a .500 team, while Brodeur recorded his 40th win of the season (again), and Kovalchuk is now around to spice things up. The Devils will look to make some noise in the playoffs, something Montreal doesn’t want to experience.
Buffalo has five points and three games on Ottawa, so they’re pretty safely in line for #2 or #3. Philadelphia has a weak road record and defense, which will hurt them greatly with only three games in Philly. And Buffalo won both games in Philadelphia this year. And they have Ryan Miller.
Ottawa has had a rough year on the road, going 15-20-1. One of those wins was in Pittsburgh, but one of their 24 home wins (24-10-4) was also against Pittsburgh. The teams have been similar defensively, but offensively Sidney Crosby is leading a 5th best in the league 225-goal surge, having scored 45 (20%) of them. Only in the #4 spot by virtue of not being a division leader, Pittsburgh has no intentions of losing out in the 1st round.
Tags: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, NHL Playoffs, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals