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A full 20 weeks into the season, and the standings are still bunched up, Rangers aside. Divisions are tight, #8 seeds are tight and the President’s Trophy is tight (the only close race involving the Rangers). So much could change in the blink of an eye, let alone the remaining 20+ games, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Thursday, February 23, before the day’s games:
Phoenix has won three in a row, and is 8-1-1 in its last 10. However, Vancouver has the West’s best offense, a good accomplishment with Detroit and Chicago afoot. Phoenix is a decent team, but Vancouver is just too good.
The Sharks are fortunate division winners get the top seeds, but even that is only clinging on by points percentage right now after four straight losses (the last three in regulation). Chicago has really righted the ship with four straight wins after nine losses. With victories over the Rangers, Blues and Red Wings, Chicago has all the momentum right now.
St. Louis still has an excellent home record despite losing to the struggling but good Bruins, their first home loss in a month. Nashville has already clinched the season series and has won two straight, but St. Louis still has a defense that rivals that of the Rangers. Any sort of overconfidence will doom Nashville here.
Boston is coming off a huge win in St. Louis, a good sign for them to be sure. Ottawa may have won four straight and is just two points behind the Bruins, but they have four games out of hand, and they have the same offensive/defensive strength/difficulty that the Leafs have.
Behind four wins in a row, New Jersey has vaulted all the way to #4. Philadelphia is good on the road, but they haven’t been terribly good lately. Racking up the points and home-rink advantage, New Jersey should be able to pull off a hotly contested contest.
Tags: Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, NHL Playoffs, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks