After a rousing Olympics, containing some fantastic hockey games, there was a ton of questions about whether or not the NHL was going to be able to sustain the momentum. Many people cited that the NHL and the Olympics were two completely different styles of play, and the NHL play simply wasn't as exciting. Well if this year's playoff race is any indication, then those who think that the NHL play isn't are exciting are dead wrong.
We are currently smack in the middle of one of the better playoff races in a long time, and I'm not just talking about teams who are trying to make the playoffs. Gary Bettman and the NHL are probably giddy about the prospect of the Phoenix Coyotes being poised not only to make the playoffs, but to win their division and maybe even the Western Conference. On a personal note here, major props to the team and their fans who have shown a ton of heart this year.
The West is also showing a serious fire when it comes to who does make the playoffs. With the Detroit Red Wings holding the 8th and final playoff spot (with 87 points) they are a full four points in front of the next closest team (Calgary Flames) who has 83 points. But questions are swirling around whether or not the Colorado Avalanche (89 points) or the LA Kings (90 points) are going to be able to sustain their recent play in order to make the playoffs.
Join me after the jump for the East ...
Then we move to the East, which while not as competitive as the West points-wise, is much more comparative when it comes to who will actually make the playoffs. In the 8th and final playoff spot in the East is the Boston Bruins with 78 points. Behind them-and in 9th and 10th place respectively-are the Atlanta Thrashers (76 points) and the New York Rangers (with 75 points).
And while you might not think that this is all that competitive many more factors have come into play over the last week or so. The Ottawa Senators, who are in 5th with 83 points, have only won 3 of their last 10 games; it will be interesting to see if they can pick up their play come crunch time. The other issue if the 7th place (with 80 points) Philadelphia Flyers, who are without Jeff Carter the rest of the way and have some serious goaltending deficiencies (to say the least). You also have to speculate that the Boston Bruins are contenders to drop out of the top spot, depending on their play over the next few games.
It should also be noted here that the Washington Capitals are the only team in the East to clinch a playoff spot with an unreal 109 points.
Regardless any way you look at it things are looking good for the NHL. The action has been intense, the games have been great, and if nothing else these next two weeks will be like extra playoff games. Which is exactly what the NHL wants to keep their momentum.