The All-Star weekend is always the unofficial halfway point of the season, but this year brings an odd spread of games played thanks to COVID postponements and the previously scheduled Olympic break. While the Anaheim Ducks have played in 48 of their 82 games already, the New York Islanders have just 39 completed.
Despite still more than half the season remaining for some teams, many believe the Eastern Conference playoff picture is essentially already finalized. The Boston Bruins, currently sitting in the second wildcard spot, have a nine-point lead on the Detroit Red Wings despite having played four fewer games. The Islanders perhaps have a better shot if they were to catch fire in the second half, because of the number of games they’ve played to this point.
In the West, it’s not nearly as clear-cut. The Calgary Flames currently sit in the final wildcard spot, but are just three points behind the Anaheim Ducks for a divisional position with six fewer games played. In fact, the Pacific division in general will be an interesting race given how few games the Flames and Edmonton Oilers have played so far. Both of those teams could potentially contend for the division lead–currently held by the Vegas Golden Knights–with a relatively short winning streak. In the Central, it’s a little tighter, but the St. Louis Blues, currently in a wildcard position are still in danger of being caught by those pesky Pacifics.
Even teams like the Dallas Stars, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, and Winnipeg Jets aren’t really out of it at this point, despite rollercoaster seasons each. Winnipeg, once considered a Stanley Cup contender, has been brutal of late and now sits nine points behind the Flames for the last spot, but has also played just 42 games. There is still plenty of season left for them to make a push, though they’ll need better play from the leadership group in order to do it.
So which team that’s currently outside the playoff picture will end up making it? We’ve included the most likely answers below, but if you feel confident in someone else make sure to explain why in the comment section.
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