The NHL all-star break is over and it is now time for teams to put up or shut up when it comes to making their push for the playoffs because about a month from now they will have to decide once and for all whether to be buyers or sellers in the trade deadline market. So, I figure this is a good time to take another look at where each team stands when it comes to playoff positioning.
The predicted standings below are utilize our knowledge of past performance and past schedule of strength and develop an estimated future schedule of strength and ultimately a prediction on the final point totals for each teams. Lets take a look at what they show.
Eastern Conference Predicted Standings
|Pos||Team||GP||Pts||Schedule Strength||Future GP||Future SchedStr||Pred Pts||Total Pts|
Wow. Talk about a tight playoff race. In my opinion Buffalo, New Jersey, Atlanta and Ottawa are all but locks to make the playoffs. Montreal should make the playoffs based on their excellent start to the season but I can’t call them a lock because I believe their mediocre play of the last month and a half is more indicitave of their talent level than their first 30 or so games. But, they should be able to hold on to a playoff spot. Carolina should make the playoffs as well because I expect them to improve a bit as their defense gets healthy again. At the other end of the spectrum you can certainly count the Flyers out of a playoff spot and Florida and Washington don’t appear to have any reasonable chance to make the playoffs either.
And that leaves us with the amazing race for the final couple of playoff spots. Pittsburgh’s 2 wins post all-star break has given them a slight edge but with all the youth on that team they are likely to suffer from inconsistant play and that will stop them from separating from the pack. After that we have the pack including Rangers, Islanders, Lightning, Maple Leafs and Boston all predicted to be within 2 points of each other. And honestly, it is all but impossible to predict who will make the playoffs from that group. Probably the team that can avoid those lengthy slumps (i.e. losing 8 of 10 games) will make the playoffs but it is wide open.
Western Conference Predicted Standings
|Pos||Team||GP||Pts||Schedule Strength||Future GP||Future SchedStr||Pred Pts||TotalPts|
The western conference playoff race isn’t near as tight as the eastern conference race. Teams that I believe are all but sure bets to make the playoffs are Nashville, Anaheim, Detroit, San Jose, Dallas and Calgary. I am not quite ready to put Vancouver in that group but their hot streak of late has them in a relatively comfortable position as well. Despite the recent surges by Phoenix and St. Louis I don’t feel either of them really have a chance at the playoffs. They just got too far behind early on and have too many teams to catch and pass to make the playoffs. So, those two teams along with Columbus, Chicago and Los Angeles are likely to be early golfers this spring.
That really leaves just 3 teams, Minnesota, Edmonton and Colorado, (4 if we include Vancouver) fighting for the final playoff spot (or two). Of those three teams I would have to give the edge to Minnesota right now. They seem to have the least number of holes in their lineup and Gaborik is now back and playing well. I am a bit surprised at how well Colorado has done this year but their success has largely been a result of Sakic’s excellent play (improved play from last season) and the play of rookies Stastny and Wolski. Peter Budaj has played well in goal and is slowly being given more games. If those 4 players continue their excellent play Colorado should stay int he playoff hunt. For me, Edmonton’s playoff chances are the most precarious of the three. I believe the Oilers are in tough to make a playoff spot with their current roster. They are really missing the steady force (both offensively and defensively) that Pronger provided on the blue line and none of their other defensemen have adequitely stepped up their play. They really need another top pairing type defenseman as well as a bit more consistency from their forwards if they really want to make a strong push for that final playoff spot.