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The season is almost half over, and the Devils are on pace for 46 points. Eight teams have already surpassed that mark. The Penguins and Red Wings have relatively comfortable leads for now, but have games out of hand to worry about. The Bruins are starting to pull away from the Canadiens, and still have a top-5 pick right now courtesy of Toronto. And four of the West’s playoff teams are tied at one point ahead of the next hopefuls. There’s still a lot to be decided on this season, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Thursday, December 30, before the day’s games:
The West’s premier rivalry is back in the picture. Detroit is back in place at the top of the West, but Chicago is deflating a bit after winning the Cup. With Chicago’s talent dip and Detroit’s much better road record, Detroit once more has the better of the rivalry.
Vancouver has six points and a game in hand in their division, and could take #1 with wins in their games in hand there. The Sharks have lost two in a row, including a shutout at home. Vancouver’s playing even better than usual this year, and should make a deep run.
Dallas is 5-3-2 in their last 10, while Halak has led the Blues to four straight wins. Both teams have a propensity for shootouts; Dallas is 4-3 while St Louis is 3-3. Dallas has won all three meetings so far this season, and with their 12-5-3 home record, they have a definite edge.
Both teams have played 36 games, but Los Angeles‘ defense has helped them get three more wins. Colorado‘s offense has gotten them this far, but it’ll be extremely difficult for them to maintain their position.
The Canadiens pulled it off before. And if the Islanders can shut down Crosby’s point streak, why not Carey Price? Montreal has lost its last two, and seven of its last nine, but they still have a great defense, just not the best offense. The problem for them? The Penguins are great at both.
Washington is trying to reestablish dominance over their division, and Atlanta would be a good candidate to do that against. Atlanta has lost its last four, gaining only a point from Tampa. The Thrashers are a lot like Colorado: explosive with the puck but implosive in the net. Washington definitely has the tools to take advantage of that.
Each team has won 3-2 on the road this season. Boston is still iffy at home, and the road is where the Rangers are best. Boston has won its last three, and has four pretty winnable games ahead of them, and they do have Tim Thomas. As long as Tuukka Rask stays away from the series, Boston should do pretty well.
The Flyers have given up 11 goals in their last two games, including a 5-0 loss at home to the Panthers. The Lightning won both games so far in the series, both games being in Philadelphia. Philadelphia put up seven goals in the second game, only to lose. But don’t count Philly out yet; Tampa has given up 120 goals so far.
Tags: Atlanta Thrashers, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, NHL Playoffs, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals