Every year, the magazine publication The Hockey News has an issue before the start of the season in which the writers and analysts “predict” where each team will land in the standings at the start of the playoffs, which, at this point, are six days away!
Now, with the end of the season right around the corner, the race is tight. The Eastern Conference has only one spot left for the eighth place team, which will either be the Washington Capitals or the Buffalo Sabres. All the other spots have been clinched. The Western Conference has seventh and eighth place still up for grabs, with only five points separating the seventh and tenth place teams. If the season ended right now, the Phoenix Coyotes and San Jose Sharks would participate in the post season, as they would take seventh and eighth place respectively. In hockey, two points are granted to the winner of a game. The losing team gets no points, unless the contest runs into OT or a shootout. In those cases, the losing team would be awarded one point for the tie at the end of regulation.
Now, back to the predictions. Granted, the season is not over quite yet, but we are pretty darn close. The Hockey News predicted that the Washington Capitals would take the Eastern Conference title like they did last year. Wrong. They are fighting with the Sabres to see who will move on. What they didn’t predict was the coaching changes that the Capitals went through. They fired their head coach Bruce Boudreau; he quickly snatched up another team when the Anaheim Ducks hired him. They replaced Boudreau with Dale Hunter, who is just hanging on to playoff hopes.
The New York Rangers were envisioned to be seventh, and this is clearly wrong because they have been riding high on the top of the Eastern Conference for the entire season. If the Washington Capitals make the playoffs, it will be a rematch of the 2010‐2011 first round series between the Caps and the Rangers. Only last year, it was the eighth place Rangers who snuck into the mix and lost to the first place Capitals in the first round.
The Tampa Bay Lighting and the Montreal Canadiens were predicted to be in the playoff mix, landing in sixth and eighth place. This is a distant dream for each team who will finish probably in 11 for the Lighting and 15 (last place) for the Canadiens.
In the West, Vancouver was predicted to finish first, and that is most likely going to be the case; however, the St. Louis Blues are only two points behind them with an amazing season under their belts and stellar goaltending from Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot.
The President’s Trophy Award is still up for the taking, given to the team with the most points in the league at the end of the regular season. The New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks are tied at 109 points. Who will take it?
Once the playoffs start, it’s anyone’ game. You work all season to get there, and once you are in the mix, everything starts from scratch.