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NHL Playoffs: 4 Bold Predictions for the End of the Regular Season

Louis HamweyAnalyst IIIMarch 27, 2012

NHL Playoffs: 4 Bold Predictions for the End of the Regular Season

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    The NHL regular season is coming to a close, as teams have only a handful of games left before the long arduous road of the playoffs.

    The 75 games they played up to this point have all been to get into position to make the final push at the end. For some it will be enough, but for others they will spend it looking back on missed opportunities.

    The NHL playoffs are the most exciting event in this traditional series format.

    The short rest in between games, the tension that picks up night to night and the winner-take-all mentality make it an entertaining month in sports. Over the next two weeks, we will discover who will get to take part in this event.

    Here are four bold predictions for what will unfold as the season comes to a close.

The Capitals Will Miss out

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    The Washington Capitals have had an abysmal season by not only their standards, but the standards of any team.

    The Capitals are loaded with talent—including superstar Alex Ovechkin. But, none have shown their quality this year as Ovechkin himself posts career lows in nearly all statistical categories.

    A dysfunctional locker room led to the sacking of coach Bruce Boudreau, one of the game's most respected. Interim head coach Dale Hunter has done little to solidify this group.

    With 84 points, they sit precariously in eighth place with Buffalo in the East and second in the southwest division. However, they do not have a schedule that necessarily favors their odds.

    Three of their last six games are against playoff teams including trips to Boston and New York, as well as hosting Florida. They play what could be the most important game of the season tonight against Buffalo where a win will go a long way in keeping them in the playoff hunt.

    But with the Sabres coming into the match riding a four-game win streak, it is looking like the Capitals will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

Los Angeles Will Sneak in

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    What was predicted to be a breakout season for the Kings has been a struggle instead. The likes of Dustin Brown and Justin Williams finally had some support as the Kings brought in Mike Richards to boost that attack.

    Add in the fact that they have one of the best defenses in the league comprised of young studs in Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson, and it's easy to see why Kings fans were excited about the future.

    While the defense held up their end of the bargain, mostly on the play of goalie Jonathan Quick, the offense has stalled and is the worst in the league heading into tonight. With only 175 goals, they have been at a premium and their average of 2.1 GAA is not justified in the standings.

    Jeff Carter was brought in at the trade deadline to hopefully give them that extra push, but it has been a failure thus far, with Carter only getting nine points through 16 games with the team.

    Though the Kings currently sit in ninth place in the west, they are only a point back of Pacific rivals Phoenix and have a relatively easy scheduled to finish out the year.

    Playing Calgary, Minnesota and Edmonton twice gives them a great chance of pushing though. Their only tough games come in back to back matchups against the division leading Sharks where both wins could get them the division title and have them going in as the third-seeded team.

Detroit Will Be the No. 1 Seed in the West

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    What Detroit has done this year with their record-breaking streak of home wins was incredible, but it may not even be the most unprecedented thing to occur this season.

    That may go to the St. Louis Blue’s coming out of nowhere to be the front-runner for the President’s Trophy.

    They currently sit atop the West with 103 points and have done it all in a very informal way. Using two goalies, they have by far the best defensive record in the league and a hard-hitting back check has made it impossible for teams to ever really feel comfortable in the zone.

    However, this untested way of doing things may begin to falter with this young group down the home stretch. Their schedule may not pose very many problems in terms of talent, but it is loaded with teams playing for their playoff lives like Phoenix, Dallas and Nashville.

    Compare that to the veterans of Detroit, who know all too well how to handle the early April stretch going into the playoffs and you could see how they could overcome the six points they trail St. Louis by. Add in the fact they play four of their last six at home and Detroit looks all the more likely to go in as the No. 1 seed.

Pittsburgh Will Be the Best Team Going into the Playoffs

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    It all started two weeks ago when Sidney Crosby made his return to the Pens lineup against the New York Rangers, a game they won 5-2. Since that time, they average over four goals a game and are 5-1-1.

    Getting Crosby back was like picking up the best free agent in the history of the game right in the middle of the season. What makes them even better is the fact that Evgeni Malkin has carried the team thus far and kept them in the playoff race all along.

    Now, with two of the game's very best lined up with one another, there is no telling what they can do.

    The schedule for the Pens is not an easy one. They finish out the year hosting Philly twice, New York once and round out a trip to Boston. But if they can get by all those teams, they will be the hottest club going into the postseason.

    I believe that we have not yet seen Crosby giving it his all. Smartly, the Pens have been keeping his minutes down so as not to risk a repeat injury and have probably asked him to hold back when he is on the ice.

    There is no reason to risk it given the fact that they are performing so well without him.

    I expect that he will begin to go all out as they approach the playoffs, making the Pittsburgh one of the last teams anyone wants to meet.

What Predictions Do You Have for the End of the Season?

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    The playoffs are the best part of the NHL year, but the lead up can be just as exciting. These predictions above are just a few of the things that may happen as the regular season draws to an end.

    What else do you see happening? Are my predictions likely? Or do they move from bold to idiotic?

    As always, please leave your comments below and thanks for reading!

     

    Follow me on Twitter: @thecriterionman

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