With just a mere 13 games left in the NHL season let’s take a look at the current playoff seeding’s in the NHL. After a stellar season by the New York Rangers they are sitting atop the Eastern Division with 95 total point and 44 wins so far. The Rangers have been led by Superstar Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist who accomplished 25 wins in 39 starts. The Rangers also have the 2nd leading goal scorer in the NHL in Rick Nash. Nash has 39 goals in 68 games and has been beneficial in the Rangers ongoing success this season. The Montreal Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders are pushing for the #1 spot in the East as well. The Canadians are sitting on a respectable 93 points while Tampa and the Islanders have (91 and 90) points respectively.
As the next few weeks go by we may see Pittsburgh or Detroit fall out of playoff contention and into the wild card slot. The way the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins have been playing as of late it is fair to assume they have a great shot at making a push for the playoffs out of the East. The Penguins recently lost both of their superstar players Malkin and Crosby to injury. These setbacks will cause issues for the Penguins as they have already admitted that they struggle without the two stars on the ice. If Pittsburgh can get healthy in the next few weeks they should be fine, but that is asking a lot of the oft injured Penguins.
The Eastern Conference is shaping up nicely, it’s looking like one of the more competitive leagues in sports. The East has a plethora of talented teams who are all led by veteran players. Teams like the Detroit Red Wings who are led by Pavel Datsyuk and the playmaking Henrik Zetterber can never be overlooked coming out of the East. Their poise, veteran leadership and resiliency will make them a contender. The Montreal Canadians who are led by Max Pacioretty and Malcolm Subban are also a team to keep an eye on. The Canadians have been hot as of late and are looking to make a deep Eastern Conference playoff run. Another team out of the East many people are overlooking are the Washington Capitals who have two of the most skilled and poised offensive threats in all of hockey when you consider how valuable Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are. The Caps have the talent to make a real Stanley Cup push if they can manage to get some strong wins in their next few games. The question just remains if these teams are actually capable of playing consistent line to line hockey when the time comes.
Some of the stars from the East this year have been the Capitals Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Ovechkin leading in assists and goals. Backstrom has an impressive 53 assists through 70 games while Ovechkin has 45 goals in 70 games. These two have always been on the same page creating shots and racking up points for the Washington Capitals in their tenure together. Unfortunately they may not have done enough this year as the Caps are sitting on 84 points and are currently 4th in the Wildcard standings. Another bright spot and guy who is having one hell of a year and is looking like he is even in the running for MVP is John Tavares of the NY Islanders. Taveras has been around forever it seems like. The guy is only 24 years old and currently in the prime of his career. He is leading the NHL in points with 72 over 71 games. Taveras has been the key proponent in the Islanders success this season and he will hope to continue is streak going into the playoffs.
As we take a look at the Western Conference The Anaheim Ducks lead the way with 95 points and 44 wins. The Ducks have looked like the best team in the West all season, led by Ryan Getzlaf who has amassed 64 points in 68 games and Corey Perry who has accomplished 47 points in 56 games. The Ducks are 6-4 in their last 10 games. A solid record considering they just played some very good teams who needed wins. The Ducks hold their own destiny in their hands and they should be able to create a path to the Stanley Cup if they can continue to play consistent offense and continue to get top notch performances in goal.
Two other big time teams in the East are the St. Louis Blues and the Nashville Predators. The Blues have been on a tear this season they have both amassed 93 points this season.The Blues are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games and look to continue their dominance as the playoffs near. The Blues are currently ranked 3rd overall in NHL power rankings for good reason. St. Louis has one of the most dominant offenses in the league led by Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko. Tarasenko is currently the Blues leading point scorer with 67 points in 69 games. He has amassed 34 goals this season and has been pivotal to the success of the Blues. Steen , Jaden Schwartz, David Backes and T.J Oshie have all been putting up consistent numbers all year. The Blues front men have had a huge impact on the dynamic of their season and if they can manage to get hot in the playoffs they will definetly be a team to keep a serious eye on.
The Nashville Predators behind the goaltending of Pekka Rinne were looking like one of the top teams in the NHL from the start of the year. Unfortunately the Predators have failed to keep their record afloat as they have managed only 2 wins in their last 8 games. The Predators have reached a part of their schedule that they knew would be hard. The fact that they cannot seem to pull wins out vs anyone right now seems very disheartening. The Predators are going to have to score more goals offensively and get back on defense if they stand to come out of the Western Conference this year.
One team out of the West that we can never over look is the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks have been a perennial powerhouse lately. The Hawks have amassed 88 points in 68 games as they look to make a late top seed push in the West. The Blackhawks have been led by Patrick Kane and Jonathon Toews this year . Kane who has 64 points in 61 games along with a new found confidence in his wrist shot has looked to be the impact player we all predicted he would be at the beginning of the season. The Canadian superstar Toews has done his fair share of stick work as well this season gathering 55 points in 68 games while leading the Blackhawks while Kane was injured. Chicago has the opportunity to win another Stanley Cup this season if they can get production from the young Brandon Saad who has been invaluable to them this year. Veteran goalie Corey Crawford and forward Patrick Sharp will have to show up come playoff time. I see Chicago winning in the first round but they will really have to bring their A game to continue to win games deeper in the Western Conference playoffs.
Some big time players from the Western Conference this year have been Vancouver’s Henrik and Daniel Sedin. The Sedin twins are having an efficient year, they have 45 (Henrik) and 44 (Daniel) assists respectively and are the key playmakers in Vancouver’s often high octane offense. They have led Vancouver to 82 points over 68 games as they continue to try to make a playoff push out West. The Western Conference point leader is currently the St. Louis Blues Vladimir Tarasenko who has 67 points and has looked like a promising fit for the Blues. The leading goal scorer out West is Joe Pavelski of the San Jose Sharks with 32 goals scored in 68 games. Pavelski has really become a huge threat for San Jose as his offense has led to some very dynamic defeats of top tier teams. If Pavelski can stay hot San Jose should be able to make a solid playoff run in the oncoming weeks.