NHL Rankings: Picking Division Winners at the NHL All-Star Break
Nobody is a surefire division champion this season.
The Atlantic has three teams that are poised for a long postseason run.
The Sharks are always favored across the country in the Pacific, but the rising Kings cannot be overlooked.
LA gave San Jose a scare in the postseason last year.
Boston is a juggernaut in the Northeast, but Ottawa has risen from the dead this season and Toronto looks like they will participate in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since the lockout this season.
The Wild looked like the team to beat in the Northwest, but lost ground in December due to injury, allowing Vancouver to take control of the division.
Florida looked in control of the weak Southeast Division and had all but punched their first ticket to the postseason since the being swept by the Devils in 2000.
Then the Washington Capitals came surging back and the Panthers’ in Central Florida, the Lighting, caught fire.
Oh yeah, and then there’s the Central.
The league’s toughest division will produce four teams that all could hoist Lord Stanley’s mug over their heads at the end of the season.
Chicago and Detroit will be favored out of that division, but don’t sleep on Nashville and St. Louis come playoff time.
The Predators have been there before and the Blues have a tough building to play in—remember, they used to be in the playoffs every year.
The following is a look at who’s a contender and who’s a pretender in each division.
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The Rangers, Flyers and Penguins could all win this division.
Philly has been inconsistent and Pittsburgh injured, meaning the Rangers may capture their first division title since winning the Atlantic in 1994—the year the division was formed.
New Jersey has played well recently, but will be vying for a playoff spot rather than a division title this season.
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Boston will probably win this division, but Ottawa will keep it interesting.
Currently, Boston sits four points ahead of Ottawa for the division lead, but Boston is playing better hockey.
The Bruins have a plus-69 point differential.
Ottawa? They are minus-three.
Toronto looks like a playoff team for the first time since the lockout.
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This division is up for grabs.
I see Washington holding it down for a fourth straight year and the two Florida teams vying for a late seed in the playoffs.
Florida got off to a good start early, but Washington is on a roll and was able to hold off the Bolts for the title last season.
Tampa Bay has heated up and could nip their Floridian brethren for a playoff spot in a division where nobody is accumulating points.
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This is the NHL’s strongest division.
The Red Wings, Blues, Predators and Blackhawks should all make the playoffs.
It’s just a matter of who wins the division.
The good money is on Detroit, a team that has won the Central nine of the last 10 seasons.
That does not mean that they will be the last team standing, however.
St. Louis will enter the postseason with nothing to lose and the Blackhawks and Predators will not be overwhelmed by playoff hockey having been there before.
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Minnesota looked to have this division on lockdown, but suffered myriad injuries to key players and Vancouver capitalized on the Wild’s misfortunes.
Currently, the Northwest is the Canucks’ to lose.
Minnesota, Colorado and Calgary will vie for a late seed in the playoffs.
Of those three teams, the Wild and Avs have shown that they are capable of stringing together wins for an extended period of time—something that will serve them well down the stretch.
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The Pacific looks like a two-team race between the Sharks and Kings.
Los Angeles has a great squad, but expect San Jose to earn their fifth division title in as many years.
Dallas and Phoenix showed promise early in the season, but have hit serious road bumps and now will be looking to get a late seed in the playoffs.