Hockey Projections: Conferences Looking Top-Heavy

Not every year will be the Los Angeles Kings’ year. Nor will every year see a team that was an afterthought in the regular season go on a playoff tear to take the Cup. This year in the NHL, it is becoming increasingly difficult to envision a team that is currently fighting for its playoff existence making a deep run in the Spring. Though things are far from set, here is a very early look at potential playoff matchups and, perhaps, even a Stanley Cup prediction (read on):

Current Seeds (entering play 3/5/15)
Atlantic Central
1 Montreal 1 Nashville
2 Tampa Bay 2 St. Louis
3 Detroit 3 Chicago
Metropolitan Pacific
1 New York Rangers 1 Anaheim
2 New York Islanders 2 Vancouver
3 Pittsburgh 3 Calgary
Wild Card Wild Card
1 Washington 1 Winnipeg
2 Boston 2 Minnesota

Quick take: Games in hand is the most important stat of all for some teams right now. In the East, the Rangers are tied with the Islanders with 85 points but have two games in hand. Five of the six teams trailing Boston for the final wild card spot have played more games than the B’s. In the West, St. Louis trails Nashville by four points in the Central, but have two additional games. And those aforementioned Kings have as many points as Calgary, their Pacific Division rival, even though they are three points back of Minnesota, the second wild card team. My hunch is Darryl Sutter’s bunch finds a way to get back to the dance here in 2015.

Projected final standings: These are based on teams’ rate of play with games in hand factored in. Boston is in good position to get in despite trailing the first wild card, Washington, by nine points, because no one behind them has cared to take the reins and make a move. The Kings will find a way to get in, which will likely leave Calgary on the outside looking in. The Flames are without Mark Giordano the rest of the way and would also trail the Wild by three points for the second wild card.

Atlantic Central
1 Montreal (top seed) 1 Nashville
2 Tampa Bay 2 St. Louis
3 Detroit 3 Chicago
Metropolitan Pacific
1 New York Rangers 1 Anaheim (top seed)
2 Pittsburgh 2 Vancouver
3 New York Islanders 3 Los Angeles
Wild Card Wild Card
1 Washington 1 Minnesota
2 Boston 2 Winnipeg

Montreal def. Boston, 4-2 Anaheim def. Winnipeg, 4-3
Rangers def. Washington, 4-2 Minnesota def. Nashville, 4-2
Detroit def. Tampa Bay, 4-3 St. Louis def. Chicago, 4-2
Pittsburgh def. Islanders, 4-1 Vancouver def. Los Angeles, 4-2
Montreal def. Rangers, 4-3 Anaheim def. Vancouver, 4-2
Detroit def. Pittsburgh, 4-1 Minnesota def. St. Louis, 4-1
Detroit def. Montreal, 4-2 Anaheim def. Minnesota, 4-1
Anaheim def. Detroit, 4-2

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