With most NHL teams at 20-22 games played and American Thanksgiving only days away, the league has officially hit its quarter mark.
Most pundits and past years’ statistics say that at this point in today’s NHL, the playoff teams have already come into focus.
In other words, if you’re not in a playoff spot now, it’s going to be difficult to do over the next five months, despite about 75 percent of the games left.
But that isn’t a certainty. Anything could happen in the next few months when injuries, slumps and other misfortunes are always possible.
Here’s my playoff predictions (who makes it from each conference) with their current record and position and reasons why they’ll end up there, at the quarter mark:
- Montreal Canadiens (16-4-2 34P, 1st in Atlantic) – The Habs have built too much of a lead in the Atlantic to be caught and with Carey Price they’ll continue to fly.
- Tampa Bay Lightning (10-9-3 23P, 4th) – The Bolts may be in fourth in the Atlantic currently, but they only trail the second-place Senators by two points. This team is too good to fall into Wild Card contention, let alone missing playoffs.
- Detroit Red Wings (11-8-2, 24P, 3rd) – This will be a heavily contended spot between the Wings and Sens but I’m going with the veteran savvy team.
- New York Rangers (16-3-2 34P, 1st in Metro) – Henrik Lundqvist is playing out of his mind, the offense is still deep and Keith Yandle has looked better this season. Also wouldn’t be surprised if they added a marquee name at the trade deadline.
- Washington Capitals (14-5-1 29P, 2nd) – This team was built for the playoffs, but the Caps will still excel in the regular season. The postseason is where they’ll do more damage.
- New York Islanders (10-8-3, 23P, 4th) – They may lose Travis Hamonic at some point this year, but the Islanders showed last year how skilled and tough they are. That will continue farther into this season.
- Pittsburgh Penguins (12-8-0 24P, 3rd in Metro) – This team has had some problems over the last few years. This year, Sidney Crosby isn’t scoring, but the Pens are deeper than they’ve been lately and that will at least earn them a playoff spot.
- Ottawa Senators (10-5-5 25P, 2nd in Atlantic) – The magic from late last season has continued and Erik Karlsson is playing better than ever. As long as the goaltending hold up, they’ll be in the postseason.
- Dallas Stars (17-4-0 34P, 1st in Central) – With Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, the two-headed monster in net and a revamped defense, the Stars will continue to hold onto control of the Central.
- Chicago Blackhawks (11-8-2 24P, 5th) – Chicago may be sitting low right now, but they’ll rebound. The new additions haven’t had much trouble adjusting to playing with the Hawks.
- Nashville Predators (11-6-3 25P, 4th) – The Preds are struggling with scoring lately, but once that’s fixed — and it will be — Nashville will be hard to stop with its defense and goaltending.
- Los Angeles Kings (13-8-0 26P, 1st in Pacific) – The Kings are looking like their old self. They’re fast, tough and skilled and there’s no reason to believe they won’t beat out the rest of the Pacific.
- San Jose Sharks (13-8-0 26P, 2nd) – San Jose has shown what it can do this season. They’re in the middle of a six-game winning streak and Martin Jones has been an answer in net.
- Anaheim Ducks (7-10-4 18P, 5th) – After a slow start, the Ducks are only four points behind the Canucks for third in the division. Them and the Coyotes won’t be able to keep up once the Ducks are back, no matter how slowly it takes.
- St. Louis Blues (14-6-2 30P, 2nd in Central) – The Blues are dealing with a lot of injuries and I believe eventually that will catch up with them. They’ll still make the playoffs, but maybe not in the spot they’d like.
- Minnesota Wild (11-5-3 25P, 3rd in Central) – The fifth Central team to make it from the Central in my predictions, Minnesota has looked much better than at some points last season. I don’t know if they’re good enough to run with the big dogs of the West, but the postseason is definitely in contention.