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Five weeks into the season, and Chicago remains just about the only sure thing right now. The East is stacked top to bottom, and the West isn’t much different. Even the other teams on the outside are shuffling around, trying to make their moves and occasionally making headway. It’s still tough as ever to predict what the final standings will be like, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Saturday, February 23 at 7:00pm:
The Ducks have now won five in a row and nine of ten. The Coyotes haven’t been doing bad themselves, but they’ll need to get a lot better on the road and really hunker down at home to pull off the upset.
The Sharks have stabilized for the moment, but they’re still not in a good place at all. Vancouver is 7-1-2 in their last 10, and is more than capable of bringing it to San Jose on both sides of the puck.
Neither side is at its best right now, and both are around .500 in terms of goal differential. St Louis scores, while Nashville makes stops. St Louis has been unremarkable at home, while Nashville is hit or miss anywhere. If the games stay close, Nashville’s five extra time wins give them the edge, but St Louis can’t be counted out either.
Philadelphia is back into the picture after a disappointing season so far, while Montreal has quietly worked their way up to the #1 spot. Compared to all 30 teams, though, Philadelphia may have the third most goals (58), but are the NHL’s worst with 62 goals allowed. Against a team with Montreal’s abilities, that just won’t cut it.
Ottawa is already out an elite defenseman for the season (thanks to Pittsburgh and Matt Cooke), and they suffered a scare with their elite netminder against the Rangers. The Senators are still two points away from tying the best mark in the East, but the Penguins’ crushing offense should be able to break through Ottawa’s defense sooner or later.
The Devils are still very much a top team, but Boston is only down at #5 because they’ve played an NHL-low 14 games. Boston has either three or four games in hand on all their closest competitors, one of the league’s best defenses, and remains in a good position to seize control of the East.
Tags: Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, NHL Playoffs, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks