Thursday, March 19, 2015

Who's the scariest seed in the NHL?

So this NHL season is winding down to a close, and the playoffs are coming for 16 special teams. Each of the top 3 teams in the divisions are seeded 1-3, with 2 playing 3 and 1 playing one of the two Wild Cards from the conference (the leader with the most points plays the worse WC team and vice versa). Of course, there's a difference between an 82 game marathon and a 7 game sprint, so let's take a look at which teams in each seed look most dangerous right now.

All data is accurate before games played March 19, 2015. All photos are from unless stated otherwise

#1 Seed: Montreal Canadiens

There's a reason the picture up there is of Carey Price, the man is practically unstoppable this year. Not only has he almost guaranteed a playoff spot, but there's a good chance he gets some hardware in Vegas this summer. But in the playoffs, it's a pretty well known fact that a great goalie becomes even more important, and is just about essential. Montreal knows this all too well, as they mowed through the first two rounds of the playoffs last year before Price got hurt in the Eastern Conference Final, which they subsequently lost. New York is also a great #1 seed, especially if Lundqvist comes back strong, but St. Louis and Anaheim aren't the strongest contenders from the West.

#2 Seed: Tampa Bay Lightning

Oddly the #2 seeds aren't doing so hot right now. Both the Islanders and Nashville have losing records in their last 10, and Vancouver, while good recently, isn't even guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. Going back to what I said earlier, the Lightning know about losing your goalie in the playoffs, and Ben Bishop has been pretty darn good himself.  I wouldn't be surprised if any of the other #2 seeds crash out in the first round, but I'm definitely pulling for Tampa. And not just because they would likely play Detroit.

#3 Seed: Chicago Blackhawks

The Hawks are just about the hottest team in the NHL, and could very well end up in the #2 or even winning the division. They're 8-1-1 in their last 10 (not playing the best competition, but still) and that's without their best player. As you may have heard, Patrick Kane is out for the rest of the regular season, but the rest of the team (particularly the first line of Jonathan Toews-Marian Hossa-Patrick Sharp) has picked up the slack and then some. 3 points in 2 games against the Rangers, a drubbing of the Islanders and Sharks, along with solid performances across the board have the Hawks getting points in every game in March, and we're over halfway done with the month. Nobody wants to face them, and, if Kane's injury heals as diagnosed, by the conference finals, they could get even better.

Wild Card #1: Minnesota Wild

When did Devin Dubnyk become an NHL star goaltender? I don't know, but right now he's hot, and the Wild are going from playoff bubble to almost a lock. They have more points than Vancouver, the #2 seed in the Pacific (Vancouver has played one less game), but due to the Hawks above, they aren't likely to get out of the wild card spot, unless Nashville's freefall continues unabated.

Wild Card #2: Boston Bruins

Boston is in a precarious position in the East, just a few points ahead of Ottawa and Florida. But they have the personnel to make a run should they make the playoffs. Tuukka Rask (aka Milk Crates) has been playing well, like all the goalies in this list, and if the Bruins can get it together, they might be able to shock a division winner.

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