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The NHL season is a full 10 weeks old. The Devils, Predators and Sharks all are making moves, while Pittsburgh is among the notable teams sliding. A few divisions are starting to open up, leaving the other teams in them to solidify a Wildcard spot. Only one division is led by two points, and even that (Pacific) can’t change hands with a win due to tiebreakers. There’s plenty going on right now, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Thursday, December 15, before the day’s games:
San Jose is trying to carve out a spot in the bottom of the bracket while they challenge Dallas for the division, but have lost three in a row. Minnesota is a bit better at home and away, and are 7-2-1 in their last 10. Minnesota is an all-around better team in this match-up.
Both teams are on winning streaks, but Chicago has more points in recent history compared to Nashville. Chicago’s powerful road record pretty much assures at least one win in Nashville. Nashville’s defense hasn’t been quite what they had hoped for, which is good for Chicago’s West-leading offense.
Dallas is only ranked #3 by virtue of leading a division; they’re like the Seattle Seahawks of the NHL, only less embarrassing. St. Louis has four more points, two more non-shootout wins and a significantly better defense (one away from being tied with Boston and the Rangers for the league’s best). St. Louis hasn’t always been the best on the road, but they have four chances to get a win, which shouldn’t be a problem with those odds.
Both teams score a lot and don’t give up much, though Detroit is better overall. Vancouver is a better road team, but they’re still no match for Detroit’s league-best 12-2-1 home record. With both teams so strong, it should come down to who can make a few more saves, and so far, that’s clearly Detroit.
New Jersey is doing better, but they still have a negative goal differential. That doesn’t bode well for them against the NHL’s best offense. Philadelphia also has the league’s best road record (11-3-1). They also have the league’s most non-shootout wins. The scale is clearly tilted towards Philadelphia here.
Boston has settled their brief hiccup by building a three-game winning streak. They’re tied for the league’s best defense and have the league’s third best offense. Buffalo isn’t doing too well lately, and shouldn’t expect to have any more playoff success against Boston than they’ve recently experienced.
This match should be interesting. Florida is 6-7 at home, but five of those losses garnered a point. Both teams are better on the road, but Toronto isn’t QUITE as good as Florida, though. Plus, Florida has actually beaten Boston this year, and it only took them one try. In the end, Florida should win in a VERY close battle.
Both teams would be quite similar, if Pittsburgh didn’t have three additional regulation losses. Sidney Crosby is having injury issues again, and Pittsburgh has been slipping down the standings in the meantime. New York‘s league-leading defense (along with Boston) will look to stifle struggling Pittsburgh, and with the momentum going the way it is, the Rangers shouldn’t have much trouble doing so.
Tags: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, NHL Playoffs, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks