Wednesday, March 19, 2008

T minus 10

Getting down to the wire, only a few teams have 10 games left, everyone else with 8 or 9... pretty much all of which are divisional games. As we've reached this late point in the season, things have sorted out a bit, but still some intriguing (and some not so intriguing) races left. It's likely that some unexpected things will happen other than what's below, but at this point, here's what seems to be in play.

Western Conference:
1. Who will finish 1st? Likely Detroit, but it doesn't really matter.

2. Who will finish 2nd? Now, here's a more interesting question. It's all but guaranteed that 2nd will belong to the winner of the Pacific Division, with the "non-winners" in the Pacific finishing 4th and 5th... and having to play each other. Here's to hoping that the Sharks can hold on to their 5 point (with one game still in hand) lead and Anaheim and Dallas have to beat up on each other in the first round.

3. Who will finish 3rd? It's a four team race right now with Minnesota, Calgary, Vancouver and Colorado within 2 points of one another. I'm sure each team would like to take the Central Division, but the reality is that the three teams that don't still "should" take spots 6-8 and make the playoffs. Anything is possible, but all of these teams have enough talent that a current 4+ point cushion over teams on the outside will likely be enough.

Eastern Conference:
1. Who will finish first? Again, same as in the West, it doesn't seem terribly important. Here, it's a closer race, though, with 3 if not 4 teams having a legitimate shot.

2. Who will make the playoffs, period? Here's where things get interesting. The Rangers and Bruins are in 6th and 7th respectively, 5 & 3 points up on 9th place Washington, but with the Caps having played one more game than either team.

Assuming that NY and Boston are safe (which could easily come into question with a loss or two), then you get to the 8th place Flyers... who have been free-falling as of late and are 2 points up on Washington and 3 up on Buffalo (with the Sabres having a game in hand). This 8th spot (again, if not the 6th and 7th) likely will be up for grabs until the end with either the Sabres or Caps pushing to make the dance. It's possible the Panthers could even pop into the Flyers spot, but not terribly likely given that they're 4 back and have the two other teams between them and Philly.

What do I think will happen? I think the West will pretty much play out as it stands now and in the East, I think the Flyers will make way to the Caps.... with the Sabres potentially taking the Bruins spot should they implode. The Caps will be particularly interesting to watch as they're on a 6 game roadtrip (what, is the Circus in town?), but I think they're up to the task. Again, it will be all about... resiliancy.

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