We are less than 24 hours away from faceoff!
At 3:00 ET on Saturday, the 2013 NHL regular season will kick off. The stakes are even higher than usual in this regular season, as there will only be 48 games instead of the usual 82. This pretty much guarantees some major surprises, especially after last year's improbable playoff outcome.
With an extra 34 games, some big changes usually take place after the first 48. However, that will not be the case this year.
If last season ended after 48 games, the standings would have looked a little different. Keep in mind that not all 30 teams played their 48 games at the same time, so I had to individually look up the records of each team after 48 games.
Here is what the standings would have looked like:
1. New York Rangers (31-12-5; 67 points)
2. Philadelphia Flyers (29-14-5; 63 points)
3. Pittsburgh Penguins (27-17-4; 58 points)
4. New Jersey Devils (26-19-3; 55 points)
5. New York Islanders (19-21-6; 44 points)
1. Boston Bruins (32-14-2; 66 points)
2. Ottawa Senators (26-16-6; 58 points)
3. Toronto Maple Leafs (24-16-5; 53 points)
4. Montreal Canadiens (18-21-9; 45 points)
5. Buffalo Sabres (19-24-5; 43 points)
1. Washington Capitals (26-19-3; 55 points)
2. Florida Panthers (22-15-11; 55 points)
3. Winnipeg Jets (22-20-6; 50 points)
4. Tampa Bay Lightning (21-23-4; 46 points)
5. Carolina Hurricanes (16-24-8; 40 points)
1. Detroit Red Wings (32-15-1; 65 points)
2. St. Louis Blues (29-13-6; 64 points)
3. Chicago Blackhawks (29-13-6; 64 points)
4. Nashville Predators (28-16-4; 60 points)
5. Columbus Blue Jackets (13-29-6; 32 points)
1. Vancouver Canucks (29-15-4; 62 points)
2. Minnesota Wild (23-18-7; 53 points)
3. Colorado Avalanche (25-21-2; 52 points)
4. Calgary Flames (22-20-6; 50 points)
5. Edmonton Oilers (18-26-4; 40 points)
1. San Jose Sharks (28-14-6; 62 points)
2. Los Angeles Kings (23-15-10; 56 points)
3. Dallas Stars (25-21-2; 52 points)
4. Phoenix Coyotes (21-19-8; 50 points)
5. Anaheim Ducks (18-23-7; 43 points)
Looking at the division standings, it is clear how much of a difference 34 more games can make. Three of the six division winners at this point in the season ended up not winning the division in the end, the top four in the Central Division were completely jumbled around, Buffalo almost went from last in the Northeast to a playoff spot, and Phoenix overcame a 12-point deficit to win the Pacific Division.
Now, let's take a look at what the playoffs would have looked like:
1. New York Rangers vs. 8. New Jersey Devils
2. Boston Bruins vs. 7. Florida Panthers
3. Washington Capitals vs. 6. Ottawa Senators
4. Philadelphia Flyers vs. 5. Pittsburgh Penguins
1. Detroit Red Wings vs. 8. Minnesota Wild
2. Vancouver Canucks vs. 7. Los Angeles Kings
3. San Jose Sharks vs. 6. Nashville Predators
4. St. Louis Blues vs. 5. Chicago Blackhawks
Even though 15 of these 16 teams went on to make the playoffs (sorry Minnesota, maybe this will be your year), we would have seen some extremely different matchups. The Penguins would have still played the Flyers, but Philadelphia would have had the home-ice advantage. Also, Vancouver would have still played Los Angeles, but as a two-vs.-seven matchup instead of a one vs. eight.
Interestingly, the Detroit Red Wings would have been the top seed in the Western Conference, as this was before the injuries hit and the wheels came off a little.
So, one thing is for sure: The 2013 standings have a very good chance of looking completely different than anyone's projections. Once the clock hits three tomorrow, the march toward the playoffs will be on. Every team has a clean slate, and there are absolutely no guarantees.
Enjoy the season!