NHL Predictions: Which 16 Teams Will Make the Playoffs?

Liz BrownsteinContributor IFebruary 19, 2011

NHL Predictions: Which 16 Teams Will Make the Playoffs?

0 of 16

    TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 08:  The original Stanley Cup rests in a vault at the Hockey Hall of Fame on November 8, 2010 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
    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

1 of 16

    VANCOUVER, CANADA - FEBRUARY 12:  Brothers Daniel Sedin #22 and Henrik Sedin #33 of the Vancouver Canucks talk during a break in in NHL action against the Calgary Flames on February 12, 2011 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo
    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

2 of 16

    DENVER - DECEMBER 27:  Nicklas Lidstrom #5 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrates his third period goal with his bench against the Colorado Avalanche looks on at the Pepsi Center on December 27, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The Red Wings defeated the Avalanche
    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

3 of 16

    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 17:  Joe Thornton #19 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates with teammates after the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena on January 17, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Sharks defeated the Coyotes 4-2.  (Photo by Chr
    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

4 of 16

    GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 07:  Scottie Upshall #8 (L) of the Phoenix Coyotes scores a second period goal against the Colorado Avalanche and is joined by Kyle Turris #91 (C) and Shane Doan #19 (R) at the Jobing.com Arena on February 7, 2011 in Glendale, Ariz
    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

5 of 16

    DALLAS - OCTOBER 26: (L-R) Toni Lydman #32, Corey Perry #10, Teemu Selanne #8 and Ryan Getzlaf #15 of the Anaheim Ducks celebrate Selanne's third period goal against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center on October 26, 2010 in Dallas, Texas. Th
    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

6 of 16

    NASHVILLE, TN - JANUARY 02:  Ryan Suter #20, Shea Weber #6, and Jerred Smithson #25, congratulate teammate Nick Spaling #13 of the Nashville Predators on scoring a goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets on January 2, 2011 at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashv
    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

7 of 16

    COLUMBUS, OH - DECEMBER 6:  Brad Richards #91 of the Dallas Stars is congratulated by Tom Wandell #23 of the Dallas Stars after scoring to tie the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on December 6, 2010 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by
    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

8 of 16

    DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 14:  The Calgary Flames celebrate their victory over the Colorado Avalanche defends at the Pepsi Center on February 14, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Flames defeated the Avalanche 9-1.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
    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

9 of 16

    SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 16: Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky #35 of the Philadelphia Flyers is congratulated by teammates after defeating the Florida Panthers on February 16, 2011 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. The Flyers defeated the Panthers
    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

10 of 16

    NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 23: Steven Stamkos #91, Martin St. Louis #26, and Mike Lundin #39 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrate a goal by St. Louis during an NHL hockey game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on December 23, 2010 in New
    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

11 of 16

    DETROIT, MI - FEBRUARY 13:  Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins celebrates a first period goal with Michael Ryder #73 and Gregory Campbell #11 while playing the Detroit Red Wings on February 13, 2011 at Joe Lewis Arena in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by
    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

12 of 16

    DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 16:  Jordan Staal #11 of the Pittsburgh Penguins is congratulated by his teammates for his second period goal against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on February 16, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Gett
    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

13 of 16

    SAN JOSE, CA - FEBRUARY 17: Nicklas Backstrom #19 of the Washington Capitals celebrates with teammates John Carlson #74 and Alex Ovechkin #8 after scoring a goal against the San Jose Sharks in the third period during an NHL hockey game at the HP Pavilion
    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

14 of 16

    MONTREAL, CANADA - FEBRUARY 12:  Members of the Montreal Canadiens celebrate their 3-0 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs during the NHL game at the Bell Centre on February 12, 2011 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Canadiens defeated the Maple Leafs 3-
    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

15 of 16

    TORONTO,ON - DECEMBER 28:  Eric Staal #12 of the Carolina Hurricanes receives congratulations from his teammates after scoring his second goal in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on December 28, 2010 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario. (Ph
    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

16 of 16

    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 08:  Jordan Leopold #3 of the Buffalo Sabres is congratulated by teammates after scoring a second period goal against goaltender Jason LaBarbera #1 of the Phoenix Coyotes during the NHL game at Jobing.com Arena on January 8, 2011 in
    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.