With 62 days of hockey left before the league’s top 16 teams compete for the Cup, the playoffs are looming ever closer, and teams are grasping at a spot. Let’s say the season ended today, and tomorrow starts the Stanley Cup Playoffs, who is in, who is out, and where are the Philadelphia Flyers in this mix?
Philadelphia sits at third in the Metropolitan Division, and seventh in the Eastern Conference with 66 points. In the Metro, the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets are tied for fourth with 63 points each, however Washington has played one game more than Columbus. Philadelphia also has played one more game than Columbus, but with a three point lead on them, Philadelphia can’t be tied or overcome in the standings by just one game. So Philadelphia avoids the wild card, and is set to battle in the playoffs.
So who would everyone play?
The Boston Bruins (37-16-4, 78 pts) would face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs (32-22-6, 70 pts). This is an intriguing
matchup for a couple reasons. First, the two are Atlantic Division rivals, so there is bound to be some bad blood before the puck is even dropped in the series.
Second, it would be a rematch of the first round battle between both teams in last year’s playoffs. In game seven, the Bruins were down 4-1 to the Leafs with just over half a period left. The team rallied behind their home crowd to tie the game at 4-4 before eventually winning the game in overtime, sending the Leafs back to Toronto with their head in their hands.
Next, the Tampa Bay Lightning (33-20-5, 71 pts) would play the Montreal Canadiens (32-21-6, 70 pts). Again, two Atlantic Division rivals face each other in a series where there is sure to be some fireworks. The Lightning led both the Leafs and Canadiens by one point, but have played less games than both teams. So as the season winds down, these teams position could change constantly, and most likely will.
The next matchup would see the Pittsburgh Penguins (40-15-3, 83 pts) and Detroit Red Wings (26-20-12, 64 pts) go head-to-head. On paper, Pittsburgh wipes the floor with Detroit, while taking names and cashing checks in the process. Pittsburgh is the only team above 80 points in the East, the top seed, and loaded with some of the NHL’s best players. But this is an interesting prospective series.
Detroit has played 58 games so far this season. Daniel Alfredsson has only played 46 games; Todd Bertuzzi has only played 44; assistant captain Pavel Datsyuk has 37 games played; Johan Franzen, 31 games played; and Captain Henrik Zetterberg has 45 games under his belt. Those five players can make up 5/6 of their top two forward lines on any given night, yet they are still staying in the playoff picture, which shows how incredibly deep they are.
It could be a nightmare matchup for Pittsburgh if they face a healthy Detroit team. Pittsburgh is top heavy with talent, and Detroit has enough star power themselves to hang with the Penguins, so this is a battle that would be won by bench play. If this matchup were to become reality, it would probably be the most exciting to watch because of the big hits, dazzling dekes and elevated playoff performance of some of the NHL’s biggest names.
The final series would feature the New York Rangers (32-24-3, 67 pts) against the Philadelphia Flyers (30-23-6, 66 pts). The only Eastern Conference matchup that would pit Metropolitan Division rivals against each other.
New York and Philadelphia have battled it out in the regular season for decades, spanning all the way back to their first ever meeting in 1967. However, they haven’t met in the playoffs since 1997.
These two teams are not friendly, there is not secret about that. However, it would be more like a hockey game rather than a boxing match, unlike the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh series two seasons ago; but an ugly hockey game to say the least. Most goals would be garbage goals won in the trenches, powerplays and penalty minutes wouldn’t be scarce, and haymakers would be thrown. These teams would relish ending the other’s season with the flick of a wrist.
Pittsburgh has the one seed locked in, unless they put it in neutral and the Bruins get red hot. Tampa Bay, Montreal and Toronto will be fighting for the second and third spot in the Atlantic, while Detroit will be battling with teams in the Metro for a wild card position. The Rangers, Flyers, Blue Jackets, Capitals and Hurricanes will all be fighting for second and third in their division, as well as for a wild card spot.
There is going to be playoff-like hockey in March as all these teams fight for their position in the postseason. It’s a great time to be a hockey fan.
My final standing predictions:
- Tampa Bay
- NY Rangers
HartnellDown Tracker: Scott remains at 201 HartnellDowns for the season.