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The Olympics are over, and it’s time for teams to get back to work. The bubble teams especially will have a tough time keeping ahead of the competition; even the Central Division is wide open. And with the Wildcards still anyone’s guess, much is up for grabs. With 25 games (or less) remaining for all teams, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Wednesday, February 26, before the day’s games:
Dallas is in front for now, but it’s a five-team race for the final Western spot. Anaheim is still far ahead of the Stars, and not just because they’ve played 60 games. The sheer offensive power and decent defense while they’re at it give the Ducks a distinct edge.
Despite having the second-best defense in the NHL, the Kings continue to slide, and could be in danger of losing their spot altogether in quick fashion. Especially being 22-4-3 at home, look for the Sharks to take advantage.
The Wild have breathing room for the first Wildcard spot, but still have plenty of road issues that can be rough on them in a lengthy series. St Louis easily has the best goal differential in the league, an is enjoying their games-in-hand tiebreaker over Chicago. Minnesota can hold their own enough in the frigid Northlands, but will have some serious tests in hostile St Louis.
Chicago is killer with the puck, but consistency, especially on defense, is keeping them from opening up space. Each side has a lopsided home win in the season series so far, but Colorado also has an OT win in Chicago. If Colorado can hold off Chicago’s offense, they have the chance for the upset, but it will take non-stop hard work to get enough done.
Detroit is on top of a six-team dogfight for the final East Wildcard, but meanwhile, Pittsburgh continues to firmly rule the East. Goal differential will hamper Detroit if they make it to the postseason, and Pittsburgh is a prime team to make them pay for that right away.
Philadelphia has won four straight, with the most impressive of the wins being in San Jose. The Rangers have won five of six in their own right, and have a better defensive situation. It’s anyone’s series, though home-rink for Game 7 is always nice.
Both sides are similar in terms of offensive production, though the Bruins have given up a whopping 57 fewer goals than Toronto. Tuukka Rask is fresh off a bronze medal Sochi performance (which could easily have been at least silver had he not been ill in the semis). The Bruins are used to disappointing Toronto and have done very well at home, which puts Toronto in a tough spot.
Tampa is better offensively, but they haven’t been able to translate that into anything more than a one-point, one game-in-hand lead over Montreal. The road team has won each game so far in the season series by a score of 2-1, each game in at least overtime. Tampa can still get things done, but could really use a healthy and focused Steven Stamkos to tip the scales.
Tags: Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, NHL Playoffs, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs