by Quinny McKean
With the 2010 Olympic Games coming to a close, the NHL season is back in action after being paused since February 12th. The playoff race is extremely tight right now, and the eight playoff spots for each conference are up for grabs.
If the playoffs were to start today, the eight Eastern Conference teams would consist of: Washington Capitals, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffalo Sabers, Philadelphia Flyers, Boston Bruins, and Montreal Canadiens. The Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Rangers are only one point behind the eighth place Canadiens, and are very much still alive in the playoff race. There is a twenty six point differential between the current first place Capitals (90 pts.) and the current eighth place Canadiens (64 pts.) It can be assumed that the first five teams should most definitely keep their playoff spots, but the remaining three are open to anyone.
In the West, the eight current seeds are: the San Jose Sharks, Chicago Blackhawks, Vancouver Canucks, Phoenix Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche, Nashville Predators, and Calgary Flames. The Detroit Red Wings, who made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals last year, trail by one point to the Flames who have 69. The two conferences have comparable situations, as the last few spots will be exciting competitions, and the top seeded teams have almost obtained a definite spot.
As an avid follower of hockey, I predict the last three spots in the Eastern Conference to the 6th place- Buffalo Sabers, 7th place- New York Rangers, and 8th place- Philadelphia Flyers. From what I’ve seen, the Rangers, currently in 10th place, have put together a solid winning streak in the past two games defeating the Penguins and the Lightning. The Sabers continue to strive with USA Olympic goaltender, Ryan Miller, who is only performing better as the season progresses. The Flyers seem to be anxious for a playoff spot after three straight years of disappointment, and are playing with a clear objective in mind.
In my opinion, the last three Western Conference spots will result in this order- Colorado Avalanche at 6th place, Detroit Red Wings grasping 7th, and the Calgary Flames hanging on to 8th. It is guaranteed to be an exciting last two months of NHL hockey due to such a close point differential among the desperate teams. If my predictions pan out, an exciting first round matchup would take place between the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils. Hockey does not get much more competitive than it does when these two clubs face each other!