With less than 10 games in the regular season left, some teams are already in playoff mode to qualify for the playoffs. The races taking place in the East has been really something to watch the last couple weeks, both in the Atlantic and Metro divisions. The Metro teams have been battling for top overall seed and the President’s trophy for most points in a season, teams being the Capitals, Penguins, and the Blue Jackets. Washington who is top dog with 104 points, Pittsburgh with 103 points and Columbus with 101 points for the season is still anyone’s guess who will be atop the division. Who knows who will win the Metro but who ever does will have an easy road for the playoffs, whether Washington, Pittsburgh, or even Columbus wins the division will likely be the number 1 overall seed and host at their respective cities. There is only 1 team in the west that has hit the 100 point mark for the season and that’s the Chicago Blackhawks, who sit at 102 points for the season, they have a shot at the President’s Trophy as well as the 3 teams in the Metro.
The Atlantic division this year has in my mind regarded as the red-headed step child, where there is good teams but not as quality as you’d think. Montreal has been up and down and all around this season so it’s kind of hard to imagine what and how far they can advance this post-season. It is nice to see 3 Canadian teams qualified for the playoffs now, being the Canadiens, Senators, and the Leafs. The Atlantic is still up for grabs between the Canadiens and the Senators, separated by 1 point in the standings, and no other team is within reach of overtaking either the Habs and Sens. The other interesting race is for the 2nd wild card spot in the east, with the Isles, Bruins, and the Bolts. the Isles currently hold the 2nd wild card spot trying to fend off Boston who a couple of weeks ago was in a playoff position being 3rd in the Atlantic division. The Isles have played solid hockey and with the return of Halak in net has really boosted the teams confidence. We can’t forget about the resilient Tampa Bay Lightning, who are 1 point out of the 2nd wild card spot as of now, Kucherov and Drouin and company have climbed into the picture without captain Steven Stamkos again for the 2nd year in a row. If the bolts can win some key games in the future they can be a very dangerous team to match-up against. Possessing speed and quality scoring on the roster the Bolts can just about skate with any team.
The western race is still wide open, being with less than 10 games left only 1 team has qualified for the playoffs and that is the Chicago Blackhawks. Chicago seems primed and ready to go after another Cup, which could be their 4th in 7 years. The Central division has been musical chairs up till about 2 weeks ago when Minnesota had setbacks and gave up the 1st spot in the division. I feel the Hawks will win the Central just because Minnesota is 8 points back in the standings and st. Louis and Nashville are tied with 85 points on the season. St. Louis holds the 3rd spot in the Central and Nashville holds the 2nd wild card spot. Either way both teams will qualify for the post season, and out of both of these teams I have to favor the Preds in this instance. Nashville has been more of a consistent team than the Blues, maybe due in part to the roster moves that St. Louis has made in the off-season and at the trade deadline with Shattenkirk. Depending how the remaining games play out for the Blues and Preds will they be in the same positions or will they swap spots.
The Pacific has had some good hockey drama, closer than we may think the Sharks and Ducks are tied with 91 points on the season with San Jose holding the top spot, Anaheim holding the 2nd spot in the division, and Edmonton only 2 points back from them. Calgary is in the 1st wild card spot chasing the Oilers being 3 points back of Edmonton. These 2 teams have been battling all year round to get to this point, and with the draft picks and additions made in free agency Calgary and Edmonton seem to be bringing back a winning tradition that both of those teams experienced back in the 80’s.
The west has been decided who will get in the post-season, we’re just waiting for the seeding to be decided, and oh what a finish it will be! We all can enjoy this part of the year, well some of us can, to those whose teams are on the bubble in the east may have a hard time sleeping at night, lol. For some players it’s another chance to add to their teams legacy and history, for others it will be the first time to experience the NHL playoffs for the first time. So trim your beards and get ready to grow that playoff beard in full effect!