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14 weeks into the season, and all teams have played more than half their games. The race in the East has gotten quite cluttered for the final spots, while Minnesota is still poking their nose around the playoff race. The Central and Atlantic Divisions are still close at the top. It will be a tough time for contending teams while getting their players ready for the Winter Olympics, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Wednesday, January 8, before the day’s games:
With a so-so few weeks, Phoenix is treading water in the second Wildcard spot. Anaheim has won four in a row and 14 of 15. Anaheim’s 18-0-2 record, along with all the momentum they have, make them a mid-season Cup favorite.
Los Angeles has hit a very light rough patch; it’s not much at all, but still enough for San Jose to move three points ahead. The home team has won all three games in the season series so far, and Los Angeles’ league-best 91 goals allowed make them a threat to anyone. But in a series that favors the home team, San Jose has the offense and a shiny 15-1-3 home record.
Vancouver has lost their last five games now, even if they have gotten points out of the last two. Chicago has a 10-game point streak going, and has points in 14 of their last 15. Chicago’s offense has been carrying them all season, and they show no signs of slowing down.
The Blues have soared their way to six straight wins, which has them a mere two points behind Chicago. Colorado is locked in at #3 for the moment, and it will be difficult for anyone to overcome an opponent with a goal differential of 58.
In their last two games, both at home, Toronto has gotten zero points and been outscored by a combined total of 12-4. Pittsburgh is far too good to be beaten by a team that plays like that for any length of time.
Washington has been having trouble getting anything going lately, and Philadelphia has taken advantage with a two-point lead over the Capitals. In an overall weak division, the Flyers are going in the right direction, while the Capitals are only 7-8-4 on the road. That won’t get them too far.
Detroit, in their position, is looking to get a Wildcard spot first and foremost. But between Boston and Pittsburgh, it’s a pick-your-poison situation. Detroit has but six home wins all season long, which is dead last among all 30 teams. 13 road wins will help, but while Tuukka Rask has hit a bump in the road, Boston can still get excellent play all around at any moment. And with 18 home wins, tied for second in the league, TD Garden minimizes whatever advantage Detroit can have on the road, something they’ll need in order to make a run.
This is a close series; Montreal is a point behind, but Tampa has a game in hand. Boston is only two points ahead of Tampa, leaving the Atlantic as the most wide open division. Tampa has scored a little bit more than Montreal, and is a little bit better at home. That’s not enough to define any appreciable advantage, but the Lightning have been doing all they have without their best player in Steven Stamkos on the ice.
Tags: Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, NHL Playoffs, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals