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Less than 20 games remain, and while some teams have started making their moves, others are suddenly finding themselves in hot water. The Wildcard spots are among those still in the running, while St Louis and Boston are among those teams making strides in their division. Plenty of time remains for everyone to do something worthwild, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Wednesday, March 12, before the day’s games:
The Stars picked up a dramatic overtime win in St Louis in their first game following Rich Peverley’s collapse. Still, the Blues have made themselves into the best team in the NHL. Dallas showed that they can win in St Louis, but they’re still in line to have to do it at least one more time.
Chicago hasn’t been doing much of anything wrong, but the Blues have opened up a three-game lead in the division with 17 games to go. Chicago still has the better offense, but has let Colorado get dangerously close. With two home losses to Colorado already, the Blackhawks find themselves in hot water despite their play; they can’t afford any mistakes.
The Wild have lost two games in a row, both shootouts at home; with Anaheim‘s offense and home record, Minnesota will be under intense pressure to hold serve on their own rink. Anaheim hasn’t had an easy time themselves lately, but Minnesota will have to scrape together some more momentum in order to overcome the still dangerous Ducks.
Los Angeles‘ winning streak is now up to eight games, but their earlier rough patch is locking them into #3 in the Pacific. The Sharks have been keeping pace, including scoring a total of 15 goals in their last three games. The Sharks have failed to get points in at home in just four games all season, an NHL-low. Even with their large winning streak, nothing is a given for the Kings.
Pittsburgh continues to roll, while Philadelphia is still teetering immediately between #2 in the division and missing the playoffs entirely. When one game can result in such a huge swing either way, Pittsburgh will be able to get an exhausted Philadelphia team that has expended much energy just getting into the brackets.
Columbus has won five of six and is just one win away from rising up in the seeding. Interestingly enough, the road team has won all three games of the season series so far. Henrik Lundqvist provides elite goaltending talent for the Rangers, but the Blue Jackets have been flying under the radar all season, which could make them a dangerous team for those who aren’t completely prepared.
Tampa is on a five-game losing streak, though they have gotten points from their last two (shootout) losses. Boston got a shootout victory over Tampa, and has been scoring like crazy on their five-game winning streak. Boston has swept the season series as well, including shutting Tampa out twice. Look for Boston to make it through this round relatively easily.
A nice week overall moves Toronto up to #2 in the division. A rough West-coast road trip has given Montreal only two points, and those had to come in a shootout. Many teams have had the same problem at some point during the season on the West coast, so we can’t fault Montreal for that. Toronto is the only playoff team to give up at least 200 goals, so if Montreal can pump up their offense, they can take control of the series.
Tags: Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, 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