Since everyone is doing their best to try and fill out their NCAA college basketball bracket, I figured I would delve into the world Bracketology with an NHL edition of it. That’s right, we’re only three weeks away from the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs and there’s still a lot of jockeying for position.
Some teams have clinched spots, while others are scrambling for a way to get in. I’ll take a look where (or if) each team could be seeded. Remember, there are divisional playoffs and a new playoff format.
If you like (or don’t like) what I’ve got to say, please leave a comment below or reach me on Twitter @DanMountSports.
While this may not be the madness of March, there could be some potential bracket busters. Let’s take a look at who’s and who’s out. Let’s go division-by-division. (These records and points are as of Tuesday.)
Record: 49-17-6, 104 points (1st in Eastern Conference)
The skinny: The B’s have already clinched a playoff spot and have been one of the hottest teams in the league. Boston has a six-point lead over Pittsburgh as of Monday, but is tied with St. Louis on points for the President’s Trophy.
Projected seed: The Bruins are a lock for the top seed in the East barring a collapse and a surge by the Penguins. They’ll be one of the favorites for the Stanley Cup.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Record: 39-24-9, 87 points (2nd in the Atlantic)
The skinny: The Ning have motored right along since the trade for Ryan Callahan that sent old captain Martin St. Louis to New York. Tampa has a recently recovered Steven Stamkos back to his scoring ways, but defense is the team’s calling card with Ben Bishop being a breakout star in net and Jon Cooper’s defensive system taking hold.
Projected seed: They’ll slug it out with Montreal for the second seed. I think defensive hockey will serve the Lightning and they’ll just hang on.
Record: 40-26-7, 85 points (3rd in Atlantic)
The skinny: The Habs find ways to win (even if it’s a little shady according to Ottawa fans.) They have a stellar goalie in Team Canada’s Carey Price and can score a lot of goals.
Projected seed: I have the Canadiens finishing third behind Tampa Bay, but that could change if they get hot. Remember, the top three teams in each division are guaranteed playoff spots. This spot is critical because you don’t want to get dragged into the wild card fight.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Record: 36-29-8, 80 points (tied for 4th in Atlantic, holds first wild card spot via more wins)
The skinny: It’s not been a good last couple of weeks for the Buds, as they’ve lost some close ones and have gotten some horrible goaltending from James Reimer. (His wife even got blasted on Twitter.) The Leafs can scores, but can’t stop a beach ball from going in.
Projected seed: If Toronto doesn’t find some way to shore up their defense, I think it finishes on the outside looking in. Washington is desperate for a playoff spots and there are a few teams in the Metropolitan Division that are turning it on at the right time.
Detroit Red Wings
Record: 33-24-14, 80 points (tied for 4th in Atlantic, holds second wild card spot)
The skinny: The Wings continue to stay in the playoff fight despite having multiple guys on the IR. Heck, you could almost call these guys the Grand Rapids Red Wings after all of the AHLers on their squad. Detroit has made the playoffs 22 straight years.
Projected seed: Can this young team hold up to the stress of a playoff chase? Gustav Nyquist looks like he wants to carry this team on his back. It’s going to be a dogfight, but I’m not going to bet against the Wings. They make it in by the skin of their teeth.
Out of it: Ottawa, Florida, Buffalo.
Record: 46-20-5, 97 points (1st in Metropolitan, 2nd in Eastern Conference)
The skinny: The Pens have had the division sewn up for a while. It’s just a matter trying to catch Boston.
Projected seed: I don’t think they can catch the Bruins, but wining the Met will work.
New York Rangers
Record: 40-29-4 (84 points, 2nd in Metropolitan)
The skinny: Henrik Lundqvist may have found himself again as he broke the team’s all-time wins and shutout marks. Can Marty St. Louis step up and finally score some goals?
Projected seed: The Rangers have better goaltending than the Flyers and look to be getting Alain Vigneault’s system. I think they get the two seed.
Record: 38-25-7, 83 points (3rd in Metropolitan)
The skinny: Remember when the Flyers fired Peter Laviollette? Craig Berube has righted the ship and Claude Giroux has carried this team.
Projected seed: There are a few teams bunched up for the playoff spots. Can Steve Mason hold out be the goalie to the lead the orange and black to the playoffs? I think Philly gets a spot, but I think the Rangers leapfrog them for second.
Record: 34-27-11, 79 points (4th in Metropolitan, 1 point behind in wild card)
The skinny: Alex Ovechkin has done all he can to carry the Caps, but can he get some help?
Projected seed: I think the acquisition of Jaroslav Halak gives Washington a fighting chance. I think they leapfrog Toronto for the wild card.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Record: 36-29-6, 78 points (5th in Metropolitan, 2 points behind in wild card)
The skinny: The Jackets have left points on the table after losing to the Islanders and Rangers.
Projected seed: Columbus has made a run, but Sergei Bobrovsky and the gang could be out of gas.
New Jersey Devils
Record: 31-28-13, 75 points (6th in Metropolitan, 5 behind in wild card)
The skinny: The Devs keep hanging around, but need to get a move on if they want a playoff spot.
Projected seed: I just don’t think New Jersey can score enough to get into the mix.
Out of the running: Carolina, N.Y. Islanders.
St. Louis Blues
Record: 48-16-7, 103 points (1st in Central and Western Conference)
The skinny: The Blues made some great moves in getting Ryan Miller and have the defense that can stand up to the powers like Chicago, San Jose, Anaheim and L.A. Can they score is the question?
Projected seed: The top seed in the west in not sewn up as the Sharks are two points behind. I do think they win the Central.
Record: 41-16-15, 97 points (2nd in Central)
The skinny: The Hawks are the champs until someone knocks them off. However, having Patrick Kane out for the rest of the regular season will hurt their chances of catching the Blues.
Projected seed: It’ll be tough, but the Blackhawks will hold off the Avalanche for the second seed.
Record: 44-21-6, 94 points (3rd in Central)
The skinny: No matter where they finish in the playoff race, Patrick Roy has done a phenomenal job getting this team to this point.
Projected seed: I think they’re pretty much in, but I don’t think they can catch Chicago.
Record: 37-24-11, 85 points (4th in Central, holds first wild card spot)
The skinny: I really don’t know how the Wild has done it. They’ve lost both top goalies in Josh Harding and Nicklas Backstrom. However, Darcy Kuemper and Ilya Bryzgalov have steadied the ship.
Projected seed: Right here. Not catching Colorado and have this spot pretty much locked up.
Record: 34-26-11, 79 points (5th in Central, 1 point behind second wild card)
The skinny: The Stars pretty much eliminated Winnipeg on Monday, but are still dealing with the loss of Rich Peverley and the injured Kari Lehtonen.
Projected seed: Mike Smith of Phoenix could be out after an injury, I like Dallas’ chances of catching the Coyotes.
Out of it: Winnipeg, Nashville.
San Jose Sharks
Record: 46-18-9, 101 points (1st in Pacific, 2nd in Western Conference)
The skinny: The perennial underachievers have a solid mix of young and old.
Projected seed: Already clinched a spot, but they’ve got Anaheim breathing down its neck. I like Anaheim just a bit better.
Record: 46-18-7, 99 points (2nd in Pacific)
The skinny: Teemu Selanne knows it’s probably his last chance to get another cup, and the Ducks have a solid goalie in Jonas Hiller.
Projected seed: I think the Ducks can take the Sharks, and grab the Pacific’s top seed.
Los Angeles Kings
Record: 41-25-6, 88 points (3rd in Pacific)
The skinny: This team is could be a bracket buster. I’m sure both Anaheim and San Jose will want to avoid Los Angeles.
Projected seed: Locked into third, but will be a tough out.
Record: 34-26-12, 80 points (4th in Pacific, holds second wild card)
The skinny: I figured Phoenix would challenge, but Mike Smith being out hurts if he is gone.
Projected seed: This fan base needs a playoff appearance in the worst way. However, they need to stop this two-game losing skid. It’ll be tight with the Stars.
Record: 33-30-10, 76 points, (5th in Pacific, 4 points behind second wild card)
The skinny: Despite all of the drama surrounding Roberto Luongo, the Canucks are still in it.
Projected seed: Vancouver needs a lot of help, but I don’t think Eddie Lack can carry them to a spot. If Luongo can’t, I don’t think Lack can.
Out of it: Calgary and Edmonton.
It’s that time of the week where I look at the super, stupid and surprising with First star, Worst star and Who blew up the Death Star?
Ottawa’s Ales Hemsky gives us an early goal of the year candidate with this nifty move against Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay is on the bad end again of this week’s honors as Alex Kilorn boards Toronto’s Paul Ranger. To be fair, Ranger did change his body the last second, but Kilorn should know better.
Who blew up the Death Star?
Check out this wacky scene from the AHL’s game between the Rockford Ice Hogs and Chicago Wolves. The Ice Hogs’ Bobby Shea crawled after the Wolves’ Ty Rattie.
That’s it for today. Take care.
Dan Mount is an NHL columnist is for TJRSports.com. He is based out of Watertown, N.Y.