There are 16 days left in the NHL regular season. There are 16 teams that make the playoffs. It takes 16 wins to earn the Stanley Cup…seems as good a time as any to forecast the finish.
- Pittsburgh Penguins are red hot and need just two more points (they will not win a tiebreak) than the New York Rangers over the last nine games to catch them in the Atlantic Division.
- Boston Bruins have a three-point lead in the Northeast Division and a game in hand over the Ottawa Senators. They are on a tough Pacific Coast trip, but their experience should allow them to hang on.
- Florida Panthers have four points and a game in hand over the Washington Capitals. However, they are playing not to lose their division and are not as good as Boston, who they are a full game behind and on the wrong end of a tiebreak.
- New York Rangers might have the second-best record in the NHL (third at worst) coming out of the best division and be only a fourth seed.
- Philadelphia Flyers are coming around thanks to Ilya Bryzgalov finally playing well, but it is too late to change their position in the standings.
- New Jersey Devils will give Martin Brodeur one final run at his fourth Stanley Cup, but will be a sixth seed despite having a better season than the winner of either of the other Eastern Conference divisions.
- Ottawa Senators should be able to hold onto at least some of their three-point lead over Washington.
- Washington Capitals are much better than their record, so they should hang on to this spot since they not only have a one-point lead over red hot Buffalo, but will own the tiebreak.
- St. Louis Blues have the best home record in the NHL, and play four of their last seven in the Gateway City. They have the best defence, a game-and-a-half lead and the tiebreak over the Vancouver Canucks.
- Vancouver Canucks play in a weak division and know what it takes to win in early spring.
- Los Angeles Kings got everything they wanted from the trade for Jeff Carter. They are in first place right now and are hot, so they should be able to weather five of their last eight on the road since two of them are in the same time zone.
- Nashville Predators made moves to be a better team than they were for most of the season. They are just one point behind the injury-riddled Detroit Red Wings and own the tiebreak.
- Detroit Red Wings have six of their final eight at home, where they hold the league’s second-best record. They should start to get players back before it is too late, so they can hold some of their one-game lead over the Chicago Blackhawks.
- Chicago Blackhawks are probably better off losing the fifth seed to the Wings, anyway—L.A. is no cakewalk, but they are also no Nashville.
- Dallas Stars manage to hold onto the seventh spot by virtue of the regulation/OT win tiebreak over the San Jose Sharks despite losing four of six to them.
- San Jose Sharks just squeak into the playoffs thanks to the point lost from Shane Doan’s suspension and the tougher schedules of the Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche.