The NHL playoffs are approaching, and many hopeful fan bases are anxiously watching every minute of play as the season winds down. There are many teams that can become the champion. It can be hard to separate which teams will be in the running once the pucks start flying in mid-April, and which teams are just faking it and hoping they make it.
Washington Capitals (47-25-7, 101 Points, First in Metro)
How many times have the Capitals fallen victim to the hype? How much longer will they continue like this? They have been very middle-of-the-road in the East, with 48 points since the beginning of 2018. The Caps are led by their captain, Ovechkin, who has 83 points this season (45G, 38A). They don’t have too much depth, with eight players above 30 points. Their inconsistencies continue in net with Holtby, who currently has a record of 32-16-4, a GAA of 3.01, and a save percentage of .907. If their depth doesn’t start to show up, the season might be coming to a screeching halt.
Toronto Maple Leafs (47-25-7, 101 Points, Third in Atlantic)
The Leafs have been stellar this year and has the record to prove it. With 55 points in 2018, they are tied with Pittsburgh as the second hottest team. Led by their top six point scorers, all of whom have at least 50 points, they are one of the youngest teams and have some of the best upside in the league. They have stayed relatively healthy compared to other teams in their division, which might come back to harm them in the playoffs. They’ll be tired, as a dozen of their skaters have played over 70 games this season. Their goaltender, Andersen, is also nearing 70 games. He is currently 37-20-5 with a 2.83 GAA and a .917 save percentage. If the wear and tear of the season or the inexperience of the team catches up with them, they may be a first round out.
New Jersey Devils (42-28-9, 93 Points, Fifth in Metro)
The Devils currently occupy the second wild-card spot in the East. Currently ninth in the East since the new year with 41 points, they are lead by Hall, who has scored 89 points (37G, 52A). They are a team of little depth, however, as they have only five players above 30 points. They also don’t have a definite starter, as both Kinkaid (24-10-3) and Schneider (17-15-6) have both played in 39 games. As the playoffs approach, it looks like Kinkaid is going to be the starter in the playoffs, with marginally starts (2.84 GAA and a .911 save percentage) than Schneider. These still aren’t very overwhelming, though, and will likely be their downfall against whatever team they will face in the first round.
Minnesota Wild (43-25-10, 96 Points, Third in Central)
The Wild are more than likely going back to the playoffs again this season. They are the fifth best team in the West since January 1, with 53 points since then. They aren’t going to catch the Jets, so all they need to do is hold off the tight wild-card race. Both Colorado and St. Louis are looking for that spot in order to avoid either of the one seeds. Led by Staal, the 74 point scorer (40G, 34A) is paving the way to a hopeful fan base to get out of the first round. They have taken three losses on the blue line, including Suter, who is out for what is likely to be his team’s entire playoff run. Suter was a major part of this team and had 51 points this season (6G, 45A). Their keeper, Dubnyk, is 33-15-7 with a 2.57 GAA and a .917 save percentage. This team is likely going to have to face a very hot Winnipeg team, which means another out from the Wild.
Colorado Avalanche (42-28-9, 93 Points, Fourth in Central)
The Avs have been one of the best stories this year. Having the sixth best point total since the first of the year with 51, they have excelled since the Duchene trade. At one point, they were threatening the top of the Western Conference. The 94-point scorer MacKinnon leads the team into what is currently the second wild-card spot (38G, 56A). The problem with Colorado is that they don’t have the top end talent other teams that are contending have. The goaltending hasn’t really been there this year with Varlamov, who has gone 24-16-6 with a 2.68GAA and a .920 save percentage. Likely facing Nashville if everything is maintained, the Avs are looking like a first-round elimination.
St. Louis Blues (43-29-6, 92 Points, Fifth in Central)
The Blues are on the outside looking in but are only down one point on Colorado with a game in hand. Unfortunately for the Blues, that game in hand is looking even more like it’s going to disappear, as they are losing to the Caps 3-2 with 4 minutes left in the third. The Blues are led by Schenn and Tarasenko, who have 65 (26G, 39A) and 63 (31G, 32A) points. Allen has been looking human, especially compared to how he played in the playoffs last season. He is currently 27-22-3 with a 2.71 GAA and a .906 save percentage. St. Louis has been very lackluster since the new year, with 42 points since putting them in 10th in the West. If they do make the playoffs, they will have to go through either Nashville or Vegas. Both teams will probably run over them, meaning another disappointing season for the Blues.
Anaheim Ducks (41-25-13, 95 Points, Third in Pacific)
The Ducks have been in the middle of the pack in the West since the start of the year with 51 points. They don’t have many high point scorers this year. Their leading scorer is Rakell with 66 points (32G, 34A). They have somewhat decent depth, but that depth isn’t producing at the rate that they should be. In net is Gibson with a record of 31-18-7, a GAA of 2.43, and a save percentage of .926. That pedestrian stat line is likely going to hurt them come playoff time if they do get in.
Los Angeles Kings (43-28-8, 94 Points, Fourth in Pacific)
The Kings are fighting for a spot in the playoffs, currently sitting in the first wild-card spot. They have been middle-of-the-road with 43 points since January 1. They are led by Kopitar, a 90 point scorer (35G, 55A). The team doesn’t have too much quality depth and have been fairly quiet in the second half of the season. In net is Quick, and at 31-27-3, he isn’t exactly doing them any favors. Despite the poor record, he has a decent GAA (2.37) and save percentage (.923). If they do make the playoffs, they are going to have one of the toughest routes to the cup.