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Projecting the field: Post All-Star break pace

by Corey Masisak
Imagine Minnesota edging out Dallas for a playoff spot on the final day of the season? Or New Jersey not only making the playoffs but reaching the No. 7 seed and setting up a rematch from last season with the Philadelphia Flyers?

Take a look at how the NHL standings would finish the season if the teams continue at their current post-All-Star break pace, and both of those scenarios play out. It is a pretty simple excercise -- calculate how many points each team will collect in the final four-plus weeks of the season based on its pace from the ASG break until now and then add to the current total.

The Devils have become the No. 1 story in the NHL because of their incredible turnaround. If they keep up their post-ASG pace, not only will they make the playoffs but in comfortable fashion.

The Devils would finish with 94 points -- tied for Seventh most in the Eastern Conference with the Buffalo Sabres. New Jersey claims the seventh seed because the Devils currently would hold the tiebreaker (non-shootout wins). The Devils and Sabres would make the playoffs, while Toronto would just miss out in ninth place.

Carolina and the N.Y. Rangers have been slumping of late, and if those two clubs don't snap out of it they are in danger of falling out of the race long before the final days of the season. Given how well they've played of late, the Islanders would climb all the way to 12th in the East.

Other items of interest in the East from this excercise include Boston cliaming the top seed, Washington winning its fourth consecutive division title and getting Southeast rival Tampa Bay in the first round and Montreal climbing to fourth and grabbing home ice for a rematch with Pittsburgh from last season.

The Western Conference standings have four sets of teams finishing the same number of points, but the two tied for eighth would certainly be the biggest news. The Wild best the Stars because they currently hold the tiebreaker.

Chicago's strong play of late could help the Blackhawks chase down the Red Wings, but Detroit captures the Central Division and the No. 3 seed based on the tiebreaker.

The Red Wings and Blackhawks would see the Kings and Flames in the first round, with Los Angeles besting Calgary for the No. 5 seed based on the second tiebreaker (head-to-head) but those two teams still have a game to play. Still, the Flames climbing from 14th place in the West

San Jose climbs to second with some cushion thanks in part to having collected the second-most points in the NHL since the ASG break after New Jersey. The Sharks would face Phoenix, as the Coyotes and Wild would beat out Dallas, Anaheim, Nashville and Columbus for the final two spots in the crowded Western Conference.

The race for the top spots in the draft lottery are also quite interesting. The hot play of the Islanders (and corresponding slumps by Colorado and Atlanta) have the five teams with a chance at the No. 1 pick being the Avalanche, Ottawa, Edmonton, Florida and the Thrashers.

Obivously teams will get hot and go into slumps during the final month of the season, but consider this a one-day snapshot based on how teams have been playing for the past five weeks or so.

Post All-Star Game pace
Eastern Conference W-L-O Projected Pts.
Boston 10-4-1 107
Philadelphia 7-7-1 103
Washington 10-5-1 103
Montreal 9-5-2 99
Pittsburgh 7-6-4 99
Tampa Bay 6-6-3 98
New Jersey 14-1-1 94
Buffalo 9-4-3 94
Toronto 10-3-4 89
Carolina 6-7-3 86
NY Rangers 6-9-1 85
NY Islanders 10-5-3 79
Atlanta 3-9-2 74
Florida 4-9-4 72
Ottawa 5-9-1 65
Western Conference  W-L-O Projected Pts.
Vancouver 11-6-0 112
San Jose 13-3-0 108
Detroit 9-6-2 104
Chicago 11-3-2 104
Los Angeles 9-3-4 99
Calgary 11-3-3 99
Phoenix 9-6-1 95
Minnesota 9-6-2 93
Dallas 6-8-2 93
Anaheim 7-6-1 92
Nashville 6-7-3 90
Columbus 8-5-3 90
St. Louis 7-8-2 82
Edmonton 8-9-0 69
Colorado 1-12-2 64

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