As the NHL season reaches the 20 game mark, marquee teams are struggling to get into the playoff picture. While young and upcoming teams are showing they are the teams to beat this season. With American Thanksgiving approaching, the Central Division playoff picture is in line with most NHL predictions and prognostications. While the order may not exact, the teams certainly are.
With St. Louis leading the charge in the Central Division, teams like Winnipeg, Nashville, and Chicago are trying to play catch up. As it stands now all these teams would be in the playoffs, but things could change with four months to go in the season. If things were to stay the same, there would be a 75% chance of these teams would be in the playoffs come April. Will that happen, let’s dissect each teams chances.
NHL Playoff Predictions
St. Louis Blues – 90%: There is no reason to think the St. Louis Blues will miss the playoffs. The Blues are the best team in the Western Conference if not the NHL. St. Louis is rolling on all cylinders and will run away with the Central Division. Players like Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Alex Pietrangelo are having career seasons and there are no signs of them slowing down anytime soon. Jake Allen has proven to be the number one goalie the Blues have been missing. Could this be the year the Blues get over the hump? Many fans are hoping they can with this group.
Winnipeg Jets – 80%: If anyone thought the Winnipeg Jets would be in a playoff position after their poor start, they would be lying to themselves and you. Right now, Winnipeg has a good chance of making the playoffs as they sit in second in the division. The Jets have found a good combination of speed and skill across four lines. Heach coach Paul Maurice made a crucial move to help the Jets turn the season around. He promoted Connor Hellebuyck to the starting goaltender and the move has paid dividends for the Jets. Finally having stability in goal has allowed the players to take off and play with more confidence. There is no reason for the Jets to falter and miss the playoffs.
Nashville Predators – 75%: Nashville is another team that came out of the gates slow. Losing in the Stanley Cup Final definitely played a factor for the Predators. After fighting through fatigue, the Predators are starting to find their magic they had in the playoffs especially on home-ice. The Predators are getting steady goaltending and great play from their forwards and defense. As the Predators inch closer to the top spot in the division, it appears that the climb will be too great. Finishing in either the second or third spot will ultimately be their fate.
Chicago Blackhawks – 60%: Hard to imagine the Blackhawks would be in this position fighting for their playoff lives. Chicago has nobody to blame but themselves for being in this position. Instead of improving the team, general manager Stan Bowman hurt the team. Losing key players that were vital to the Blackhawks championship teams was a shock to the locker room. That is something that players still have not gotten over. Most games have been a struggle for Chicago and that is something will continue throughout the season. Ultimately Chicago will end up getting in the playoffs just because of their championship mindset.
Dallas Stars – 40%: Many believed at the start of the season the Dallas Stars would be one of the teams to represent the Central Division in the playoffs. Things have not gone according to plan for Dallas. With all that being said, Dallas still has a chance to make the playoffs, all be it a small one. Being one point behind Chicago for the final wild-card spot, the Stars have work to do if they want to be there once the seasons ends in April. Dallas has flaws that need to be fixed quickly. However, that is easier said than done. If Dallas gets more consistent play there is a chance to make the playoffs. But if things don’t change, the Stars on the outside looking in.
Colorado Avalanche – 30%: Colorado came out like a team with something to prove. After being the laughing stock of the league last season, the Avalanche were near the top of the division. As the season progressed things for Colorado have gotten worse. Colorado finally made the decision to move on from Matt Duchene, which allowed them to get younger as an organization. As the team gets younger, there will be struggles. There were no expectations for Colorado to make the playoffs to begin the season and that has not changed. Even with only being a few points out of a wild card position, there is no reason to believe Colorado would make the playoffs.
Minnesota Wild – 20%: As the season began, Minnesota had expectations of being a playoff team. No one could foresee the injury bug hitting the Wild this hard. So far this season, the Wild have 55 man games lost to injury. Players like Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund, and Nino Niederreiter have been among those who have appeared on the injury report. Having such a poor start to the season, the Wild find themselves playing from behind. With so many teams in front of them, the Wild chances of making the playoffs are not good at all.
Will the standings hold up come the end of the season, stay tuned to find out!
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