With most teams having just 5 or 6 games left to play it is really getting down to crunch time in the playoff races and there is still a lot left to be decided. Here are the predicted standings as of March 28th.
Eastern Conference Predicted Standings
I think we can pretty much give Buffalo top spot in the eastern conference and I am fairly confident that Atlanta will be able to hold on to top spot in the Southeast division and the 3rd seed. After that pretty much everything is still up in the air. New Jersey and Pittsburgh are going to battle it out for top spot in the Atlantic division and the second seed and the loser there will battle it out with Ottawa for 4th spot and home ice advantage when they meet in the first round.
The Rangers, Carolina, Montreal, Tampa, Toronto and the Islanders are going to battle it out for the final 3 spots. Despite Lundqvist looking very ordinary last night against the Canadiens I still believe that the Rangers will make the playoffs and most likely will grab the final playoff spot. After that, anything can happen but with that said, I don’t like the Islanders chances with DiPietro injured. Tampa is having goaltending problems again and have lost 5 of their last 7 games and given up 12 goals in their last 2 games. Carolina looked downright horrible last night against the Leafs but have a chance to redeem themselves tonight against the lowly, but well rested, Flyers. That leaves the two Canadian teams, Toronto and Montreal, who are both playing very good hockey right now. Montreal has won 5 in a row and the Leafs, aside from 15 minutes in the third period against Buffalo on Friday have been outstanding. The Leafs have outscored their opposition 16-4 in the past 4 games not counting that 15 minute disaster. Maybe that gives the Leafs and Habs the inside track on the final couple of playoff spots but with the inconsistency shown by most of the teams in the playoff race throughout the season anything can still happen.
Here are the six teams remaining schedules.
Rangers(5): at Phi, vs Tor, at NYI, vs Mtl, at Pit
Toronto(6): at Atl, vs Pit, at NYR, vs Phi, at NYI, vs Mtl
Montreal(5): at Ott, vs Buf, vs Bos, at NYR, vs Tor
Islanders(6): at Buf, vs Ott, vs NYR, vs Tor, at Phi, at NJ
Carolina(6): at Phi, vs TB, at Fla, at TB, vs Atl, vs Fla
Tampa(5): at Car, vs Was, vs Car, vs Fla, at Atl
Western Conference Predicted Standings
It was a nice late season surge but I am now prepared to call the Colorado Avalanche’s playoff hopes as good as done. Yes, I realize that the Avalanche and Flames still play each other twice but even if the Avalanche win both of those games they will still have to make up 3 points in 4 games. Certainly not impossible but 3 of those 4 games are against Minnesota, Vancouver and Nashville. Even getting 2 wins against those teams is going to be tough.
Despite the playoff race being all but done, the race for playoff positioning is still going down to the wire on several fronts. Detroit and Nashville are in a dog fight for top spot in the central division and in the conference with the Ducks. Vancouver and Minnesota are in a battle for top spot in the Northeast division and it isn’t out of the question that Vancouver could even get into the fight for top spot in the conference or at least over take the Ducks for second seed.