The playoffs are nearly upon us and plenty remains undecided, but how would things look with next season's new alignment?
1) Anaheim Ducks: 59 pts in 42 games (21 ROW)
2) Vancouver Canucks: 52 points in 41 games (19 ROW)
3) Los Angeles Kings: 52 points in 42 games (22 ROW)
1) Chicago Blackhawks: 68 points in 41 games (26 ROW)
2) St. Louis Blues: 48 points in 41 games (20 ROW)
3) Minnesota Wild: 47 points in 41 games (18 ROW)
Western Conference Wild Card Standings:
1) San Jose Sharks (Pacific): 49 points in 41 games (14 ROW)*
2) Dallas Stars (Midwest): 45 points in 41 games (19 ROW)*
3) Winnipeg Jets (Midwest): 44 points in 42 games (20 ROW)
4) Phoenix Coyotes (Pacific): 43 points in 41 games (15 ROW)
5) Edmonton Oilers (Pacific): 39 points in 41 games (14 ROW)
6) Nashville Predators (Midwest): 38 points in 42 games (13 ROW)
7) Calgary Flames (Pacific): 36 points in 41 games (16 ROW)
8) Colorado Avalanche (Midwest): 34 points in 42 games (13 ROW)
Chicago v. Dallas
St. Louis v. Minnesota
Anaheim v. San Jose
Vancouver v. Los Angeles
1) Pittsburgh Penguins: 64 points in 42 games (29 ROW)
2) Washington Capitals: 48 points in 42 games (20 ROW)
3) New York Islanders (Atlantic): 47 points in 42 games (18 ROW)
Northeast/Southeast (Looking forward to Bettman's "Senisble Geographic Division Name")
1) Montreal Canadiens: 57 points in 41 games (23 ROW)
2) Boston Bruins: 56 points in 41 games (22 ROW)
3) Toronto Maple Leafs: 51 points in 41 games (23 ROW)
Eastern Conference Wild Card Standings:
1) Ottawa Senators (N/SE): 48 points in 41 games (17 ROW) *
2) New York Rangers (Atlantic): 46 points in 41 games (17 ROW)*
3) Detroit Red Wings (N/SE): 45 points in 41 games (17 ROW)
4) Columbus Blue Jackets (Atlantic): 45 points in 42 games (14 ROW)
5) New Jersey Devils (Atlantic): 40 points in 41 games (13 ROW)
6) Buffalo Sabres (N/SE): 40 points in 42 games (12 ROW)7) Carolina Hurricanes (Atlantic): 36 points in 41 games (17 ROW)
8) Tampa Bay Lightning (N/SE): 37 points in 41 games (16 ROW)
9) Philadelphia Flyers (Atlantic): 37 points in 41 games (16 ROW)
10) Florida Panthers (N/SE): 32 points in 41 games (10 ROW)
Pittsburgh v. Rangers
Washington v. Islanders
Montreal v. Ottawa
Boston v. Toronto
Changes Since Last Time
•The Wild have won only 1 game in regulation or OT in the last two weeks, but still sit comfortable in a playoff position, 3 points up on Winnipeg and 4 on Phoenix.
•A big jump for the Blues, from the bottom wild card team up into 2nd in their division.
•The Coyotes have been on a bit of a tear and moved up in the West, but still aren't a playoff team yet.
•The Jets' terrible play of late has dropped them not just from the real playoffs but these fakes ones too as they been passed by St. Louis and Dallas.
•The Stars are on the opposite trajectory, moving from the outside of the brink to the inside, taking over the #2 wild card position.
•The Devils don't have a single ROW in the past two weeks and have dropped from 2nd in the Atlantic to well out of the playoffs. Ouch.
•The East's playoff bubble is a lot more competitive than the West, which is the exact opposite of reality (thanks to #Lumbus and #Troit moving East). The Red Wings, Devils, and Blue Jackets all lost their playoff spots in the last two weeks with the Rangers, Islanders, and Capitals getting hot and moving into playoff positions. That could all change again (well, not the Devils, who now look destined to be the 3rd team since the 2005 lockout to miss the playoffs the year after going to the Finals) as Detroit and Columbus sit tied one point back of the New York squads.
last two Western Conference champs, the Kings and Canucks, would (still) face
off in the first round for the 3rd time in the last 4 years. (Just like
it's set to happen now!)
•All of the division crowns appear to have been sewn up except the Northeast/Florida Division where Montreal and Boston look like they will battle it out until the final days of the regular season.
•Unlike two weeks ago when I did this, none of the top 8 in either current conference would miss the cut under the new alignment. That could change tonight if the Red Wings beat the Predators and move one point ahead of the Rangers who would have a game in hand.
The biggest thing I'm taking from this is that currently, the Western Conference really is a lot stronger, top to bottom than the East. In the West, you have 11 teams who are either firmly entrenched in playoff spots (Chicago, Anaheim, Vancouver, Los Angeles, San Jose) or with legitimate playoff aspirations (St. Louis, Dallas, Minnesota, Detroit, Columbus, and Phoenix). In the East, even though the playoff threshhold is higher, there are really only 9 playoff hopefuls (Pittsburgh, Montreal, Boston, Toronto, Washington, Ottawa, the Isles and Rangers, and Winnipeg). There a lot more bottom-feeders back east (Buffalo, New Jersey, Florida, Tampa, Philly, and Carolina) than out west (Nashville, Colorado, Edmonton, and Calgary) and I feel like any of the four weakest teams in the West would still clobber any of those eastern teams.
That is going to change next season. Yes, it's going to take having more teams, but the Eastern Conference will finally be a bit more competitive.