If the NHL season ended today...
With the playoff picture starting to round into shape, here's a look at what we could potentially see come early April:
(1) Buffalo vs. (8) N.Y. Rangers
An all-New York State match-up. The Rangers have been maddeningly inconsistent this season, and they continue to employ one of the softest defence cores in the league, but the top-end talent would make this a fairly interesting series.
(2) New Jersey vs. (7) N.Y. Islanders
The Islanders have been fairly strong and consistent the past few weeks, and picked up some nice talent at the trade deadline. The Devils have been playing as stultifying a game as ever and would probably win this series by scoring a total of seven goals in six games.
(3) Tampa Bay vs. (6) Atlanta
It's starting to look relatively likely that these two Southeast Division clubs will butt heads, but given they've been headed in different directions for a few months now, I'd go with the Lightning. An interesting series, to be sure, given all of the snipers in both line-ups.
(4) Ottawa vs. (5) Pittsburgh
A great match-up, one that would generate terrific ratings for the CBC in the first round. Who wouldn't want to see one of the Eastern Conference's established 'good' teams faceoff against these young upstarts?
(1) Nashville vs. (8) Calgary
A tough draw for both teams, as this could go either way. It's hard to believe the Flames haven't been able to gain any ground on anyone in the West the past few weeks.
(2) Anaheim vs. (7) Minnesota
Oh dear God not again.
(3) Vancouver vs. (6) San Jose
Another terrific series, one that would serve as the perfect back half of the Senators/Penguins doubleheader. Evgeni Nabokov is playing well enough lately to make this a goaltenders' duel.
(4) Detroit vs. (5) Dallas
The four-five match-up is always a grudge match in the West. Detroit is on pace to finish with the second-highest point total in the league, meaning Marty Turco's knees would be knocking just at the thought of this being his shot at postseason redemption.