March 21, 2012
The 2011-12 NHL regular season is nearing an end, which means that the best part of the season is just beginning—the playoffs. While hockey fans know that the NHL playoffs bring an unmatched intensity from every team, just who those teams will be is the question at the moment.
With 10 games to go for most teams, there are plenty of teams in contention. Conference standings are tight but what’s the most intriguing are the incredibly close divisional races right now. One thing this season promises is that fans won’t know the final playoff standing until the waning seconds of the season.
Here’s a look at the current conference and divisional standings:
Wow! Fans are in for a treat over the next three weeks.
Eastern Conference Breakdown:
In the Atlantic Division, the New York Rangers have been on top most of the season, but thanks to some dazzling play from Evgeni Malkin and an added boost from Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins are red-hot. In fact, the Penguins are 9-0-1 in their last 10 games and Crosby has 21 points in just 12 games this season. This is the strongest division in hockey as the Philadelphia Flyers have 92 points and the New Jersey Devils have 89 points at the moment. If I was a bettin’ man, I would have to say that this year’s Stanley Cup Champion will come from this division.
Believe it or not, the Northeast Division doesn’t belong to the Boston Bruins as many thought it would. The Ottawa Senators are hot on their heels down the stretch. With the Bruins struggling lately, fans are left to wonder if the defending champions have enough to fend off the Senators.
The Southeast Division will be a fight to the finish. Currently the Florida Panthers lead the way with 85 points, but the Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets and Carolina Hurricanes are battling for a spot in the playoffs. The Panthers have separated themselves from the pack with five straight victories, but the dust won’t settle on this division until the final horn blows.
Western Conference Breakdown:
The Central Division is the best division in the conference with a surprising leader. The St. Louis Blues currently lead the entire conference with 100 points and are a league-best 29-4-4 at home this season. The Nashville Predators, Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks also currently reside in the playoffs—but things could change by the time it’s all said and done.
The Northwest division belongs to the Vancouver Canucks, which is no surprise. The division also has the Colorado Avalanche who are currently seventh in the conference with 85 points and the Calgary Flames, who are currently 11th with 82 points. That’s how close the bottom of the Western Conference is—three points separates five teams. Whoo! This is what fans love to see.
The Pacific Division is by far the most tense. The Dallas Stars lead the division with 85 points and sit in third in the conference standing. Here’s the kicker—the San Jose Sharks currently sit fourth in the division and 10th in the conference with 82 points. It’s anyone’s ballgame down the stretch in the division. Who knows how it’ll end up? One thing is for certain, it sure will be exciting.
Here’s how close things actually are—in the entire NHL, as of March 21 only two teams have clinched a playoff berth(NY Rangers, St. Louis Blues)and only one team has technically been eliminated(Columbus Blue Jackets).
What’s not to love about that? The playoffs begin now.