It may seem hard to believe, but we are already at the midway mark of the NHL season. There is still an awful lot of hockey to be played, as well as the trade deadline, where big changes can happen, to come, but we thought it would be fun to look at the current state of the playoff standings. We will break it all down by conference, separating the teams into 3 distinct groups: playoff lock, on the bubble, possibly out. Let’s start making some predictions for your NHL bets.
Halfway through regular season: Projections for all 32 teamsEASTERN CONFERENCE
Playoff Locks – Lock is a pretty terrible phrase to use, since teams can go off the rails rather quickly, but even at this stage of the season, there are a few teams who look certain to be in the playoffs. The Boston Bruins are a dead certainty to be there, as they have opened up a huge lead at the top. I would also put the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Carolina Hurricanes in this category.
On the Bubble – The New Jersey Devils have cooled off after a great run of form, but they are certainly good enough to be in the playoff mix. The Washington Capitals should also be okay, but after that, there are a bunch of teams very much on the bubble. The Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers, and Pittsburgh Penguins look set to be in a Wild Card battle, with the New York Islanders and Buffalo Sabres in the hunt.
Possibly Out – The Florida Panthers are on 40 points and still close enough to the playoff line to be in the mix, but below them, things are starting to look grim for some teams. The Red Wings, Senators, and Flyers could get back into the mix with a good run, but things look to be over for the Montreal Canadiens and Columbus Blue Jackets.WESTERN CONFERENCE
Playoff Locks – Things are a good deal tighter in the West, and I have to say that picking a playoff lock is no easy task at this point. I would say that the Vegas Golden Knights should be in. The Dallas Stars and Winnipeg Jets are looking like they are in a 2-horse race for the Central Division, so I would put them in, too.
On the Bubble – This, in my opinion, is where the majority of the teams in the West reside, as there is no real runaway team like there is in the East. The LA Kings look good to get in, but the Seattle Kraken worry me heading into the second half. The Minnesota Wild, Calgary Flames, and Edmonton Oilers are all in at the moment, but it is tight at the playoff line. Nashville, Colorado, and St. Louis are all within striking distance.
Possibly Out – All of the teams mentioned to this point have 43 points or more. The teams sitting below that are all in the 24-37 point range and in serious danger of elimination, sooner rather than later. Those teams are the Sharks, Coyotes, Ducks, and Blackhawks. Unless these teams make some sort of dramatic changes in the second half, none of them will get close to the postseason.