The playoffs are far from set, but there are a few teams that have locked up their spots in the playoffs. Let’s take a look at them briefly, before the final spots are decided in the coming days. In all likelihood the Western Conference is going to come down to the final day of the season. The Eastern Conference has a better chance of being resolved earlier, and is a far more settled conference, as evidenced by the fact that there are 5 teams that have booked their tickets in the East, as opposed to only 3 in the West.
In the East, we have the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightening, and Boston Bruins. Of the five teams, only the Bruins have actually locked up their spot at the top of their respective divisions, but all five are going to be in the playoffs. There are plenty of things to look at from the five teams, and we’ll get into a playoff preview series in the coming days/weeks as teams secure their spots. For now, suffice it to say that there are few real surprises, and outside of the Devils epic collapse to start the season, and the Lightening perhaps playing stronger than some might have expected, the Eastern Conference looks pretty settled.
In the West, only the Detroit Red Wings, Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks can say with any certainty that they’ll be playing hockey after the regular season concludes. However, unlike the Eastern Conference, only one division championship is actually up for grabs, with the Red Wings and Canucks already securing their places. Vancouver has even gone one farther than that, locking up home-ice advance throughout the playoffs with a dominating performance over the course of the regular season. Heading into the playoffs, the Canucks have to be viewed as one of the favorites to lift the cup, although to be honest I just don’t see it. I think they’ll fail fairly early, if not in round 1, and will come up short in the quest.
There are plenty of playoff scenarios to imagine, and we’ll go into some of them soon, but for now the NHL has identified precisely half of its field for the playoffs, and the next week will bring some very interesting games in the East and in the West.