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NHL Predictions: Which 16 Teams Will Make the Playoffs?

Liz BrownsteinContributor IJune 18, 2016

NHL Predictions: Which 16 Teams Will Make the Playoffs?

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    When approaching 60 games played for each team, it's time to crack down and try and predict who will be the eight teams in each conference that will have extended seasons while hunting for Lord Stanley.

    With races to make it into the top eight heating up, the final standings can really be determined by one point or one win.  

    Here is my list of the 16 teams who battled hard enough to earn their spot in the postseason showdowns to fight for the Cup.

West No. 1: Vancouver Canucks

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    Rich Lam/Getty Images

    Games Played: 59

    Points: 83

    Record: 37-13-9

    In all honesty, this should not be a surprise to see the Canucks leading the West and possibly the entire league.  The Vancouver club that has hit the ice this season has been the best in franchise history, and this is a team that has gotten several looks as major Cup contenders.

West No. 2: Detroit Red Wings

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Games Played: 57

    Points: 76

    Record: 35-16-6

    Detroit is a team who I have always loved to compare to wine in that the team seems to only get better with age.  Detroit has quite a few veterans on their team, and even with all that experience, there is not much of a dip in determination proving they, too, can make their trip into the postseason worthwhile.

West No. 3: San Jose Sharks

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Games Played: 59

    Points: 70

    Record: 32-21-6

    San Jose is my pick for the leaders of the Pacific Division, but in reality, the Pacific is one of the most up-on-the-air groups in the league with just a three-point difference between the first and fifth place in the Pacific.  San Jose, despite not having a good reputation in the postseason, has proven they know how to turn on the jets in order to get into the playoffs.

West No. 4: Phoenix Coyotes

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Games Played: 59

    Points: 71

    Record: 31-19-9

    The Phoenix Coyotes have quietly snagged the No. 1 position in the Pacific Division and hold that post by just one point.  The precarious nature of that lead is why I think they will lose that title to the Sharks, but this team has showed that, even though they could be called a "dark horse" team, they are still capable of winning.

West No. 5: Anaheim Ducks

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Games Played: 58

    Points: 68

    Record: 32-22-4

    For the Anaheim team that was initially seen as having this as a "rebuilding" year, the So Cal sports club has really shown what they are made of.  With some recent additions including Francois Beauchemin, Anaheim could stay securely in the playoff race, even though this would put them in the third seat in the Pacific.

West No. 6: Nashville Predators

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    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    Games Played 58

    Points: 70

    Record: 31-19-8

    The Nashville Predators seem to be a consistent silent threat in the Western Conference. The Preds have consistently flown under the radar, and them being so quiet has made them pretty consistently overlooked. Nashville really deserves more respect and more of a playoff look than they are often given, however I expect them to see them for a while longer in the postseason.

West No. 7: Dallas Stars

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    John Grieshop/Getty Images

    Games Played:  58

    Points: 68

    Record: 31-21-6

    For a team that wasn't expected to rank very well, Dallas has really shocked the standings, even holding the lead in the Pacific Division for most of the season.  During the preseason, most people counted Dallas well out of the postseason, however they have really stepped up how no one expected them to, and for that, they get my nod in the seventh seat.

West No. 8: Calgary Flames

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Games Played:  60

    Points: 68

    Record: 30-22-8

    Calgary is a team who was previously out of the playoff seats, even now currently sitting in ninth, however the Flames have been hot since, and that streak doesn't seem to be fading.  The Flames have gone 7-1-2 in the last 10 games, and if they continue at this rate, they could be squeaking by into that last spot in the West for the postseason.

East No. 1: Philadelphia Flyers

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Games Played:  57

    Points: 81

    Record: 38-14-5

    Again, the top teams are the easiest teams to call, and leading the East is the red-hot Flyers team who have taken control of their conference this season.  Philadelphia was a seventh-seeded team in last year's playoffs, yet they made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, and this year, that team has continued winning, sitting them in on top of the East.

East No. 2: Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

    Games Played:  58

    Points: 74

    Record: 34-18-6

    With big names like Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis leading this Tampa Bay team, it should not be a surprise at all that Tampa Bay has my blessing in the second seat in the East and on top of the Southeast Division.  The Lightning have had a great season, and they are expected to make it into the postseason, as well as last through a few rounds of the playoffs.

East No. 3: Boston Bruins

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Games Played:  58

    Points: 71

    Record: 32-19-7

    The Boston Bruins have struggled a bit lately, going 5-5-0 in the last 10 contests, however I see the boys from Boston snapping out of this rut and holding onto the title in the Northeast Division.  Tim Thomas has been a miracle-worker between the pipes, and he has really helped to hold his team high in the rankings, and easily in the postseason seats.

East No. 4: Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Games Played:  59

    Points: 76

    Record: 36-19-4

    For a team that is two years removed from a Championship, their presence in the postseason is, at the very least, expected.  The Penguins are going to be facing some rough times with how many injuries they have been cursed with lately, however once captain Crosby returns, the Penguins will pick up speed again and will sit comfortably in fourth going into the playoffs.

East No. 5: Washington Capitals

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Games Played:  70

    Points: 59

    Record: 30-19-10

    For a team that was the Presidents' Trophy winners last year, Washington has had a pretty disappointing year, especially when spotlighting Alexander Ovechkin.  Ovie averaged over a point-and-a-half per game last season, and this season is barely making it to an average of one point per game.  The Caps will make it into the postseason, but unless they really step up their game, they wont make it through many rounds in the playoffs.

East No. 6: Montreal Canadiens

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    Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

    Games Played:  59

    Points: 69

    Record: 31-21-7

    The Canadiens have been strong defensively all year, mostly because of the stellar play of goaltender Carey Price.  Even though they are ranked a disappointing 24th in the league in goals per game, they are an impressive eighth in goals allowed per game, allowing an average of just 2.49 goals against.  That stinginess might not last through the postseason, however it will help Montreal into the playoffs.

East No. 7: Carolina Hurricanes

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    Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    Games Played:  58

    Points: 62

    Record: 27-23-8

    It took Carolina a while, but they have finally settled into what kind of team they are, and with that, they are seated an impressive 10th in the league in goals per game with a 2.86 average.  With some big names like Staal and Skinner playing well, they could really make an impressive run in the postseason this year.

East No. 8: Buffalo Sabres

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Games Played:  56

    Points: 60

    Record: 27-23-6

    Buffalo is my bold pick for this list, and the main reason why I have the Sabres jumping into the postseason ranking is because they have turned things around recently, and with more games left in the season, they have more time to tally up the points.  Buffalo hasn't been struggling too much in scoring goals; they are ranked 11th in goals per game with a 2.86 average, however their defense and goaltending need to stay hot if they wanna fulfill this prediction and make it to the playoffs.

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