The Western Conference Standings look like this:
Based on those current standings and recent trends it looks like it will take at least 89 points to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference and at least 92 points to make the playoffs in the Western Conference. Given those cutoffs the following 6 Eastern Conference Teams appear to be long-shots to make the playoffs and could be "sellers" at the trade deadline: 10) New York Islanders; 11) Atlanta Thrashers; 12) Florida Panthers; 14) Toronto Maple Leafs; and 15) Carolina Hurricanes. The following 5 Western Conference Teams also appear long shots as well: 11) Minnesota Wild; 12) Anaheim Ducks; 13) St Louis Blues; 14) Columbus Blue Jackets and 15) Edmonton Oilers. While it's still mathematically possible for any of these 11 teams to make the playoffs, they basically have to start their playoff run now, and it's even harder to forecast and see them in the playoffs given the two week break for the Olympics in February. As such trying to look at them and their chances of winning the Stanley Cup is very difficult and my odds-making would basically group them all into a "field" right now any one of whom has odds of winning the cup of 125+ - 1.
Looking at the other 19 current contenders by Conference and from my perspective things shape up like as follows. From the Eastern Conference:
1) New Jersey Devils: Currently atop the conference with 63 points in 42 games and the best winning and points capture percentage in the NHL. 31-10-1 with 124 GF and 90 GA. In general consensus is that the Devils are the Beasts of the East and one of the 3 strongest teams in the NHL today. Based on their play to date and their +24 overall goal differential, as well as the disciplined play and the great season so many Devils including Martin Brodeur are having, assuming they stay as healthy as they are now or better, I'd put the Devils at 2-1 to make the finals and as such 3-1 to win the cup.
2) Buffalo Sabres: Currently in second for the Conference with 61 points and a 28-11-5 record and 10 points/5 games up on the Boston Bruins in the Northeast Division, the Sabres fortunes seem to rest squarely on the shoulders of goaltender Ryan Miller, however the Sabres current overall goal differential of +21 is also worth noting as is their 7-1-2 record in their last 10 games. The only thing keeping the odds of the Sabres winning their way to the Stanley Cup finals is who they've played against when they accrued their 11 losses and 5 overtime losses so far this season as it's likely the Sabres will need to get by either the Devils or the Capitals in one of the earlier playoff rounds to make it to the finals this season and they haven't matched up that well against either this year. Odds of making it to the finals 3-1; odds of winning the Cup 6-1.
3) Washington Capitals: Currently in third in the Conference with 60 points, a 27-11-6 record and up by 16 points/8 games on the Atlanta Thrashers in the Southeast Division. The Caps are in a similarly solid position relative to their path to the finals. To get to the finals the Caps will likely have to go through New Jersey or Pittsburgh or both. The Caps have played the Devils four times this season and only figured them out in their last meeting; they have not yet played Pittsburgh yet this season, but they should match-up at least as well against the Penguins as they did last season and that resulted in a 7 game playoff series. The Caps positive goal differential of +41 is second in the NHL only to Chicago. The odds of making it to the finals 2.5 - 1; odds of winning the Cup 5 - 1.
4) Pittsburgh Penguins: Currently in fourth place in the Conference and second in the Atlantic Division with 57 points, and a 28-17-1 record, the Penguins are six points ahead of 5th place Boston but the Bruins have two games in hand. The Penguins have a positive goal differential of +20 and at time have looked like they could repeat this season; at other times they've looked like they are likely to make an early exit from the Playoffs. Odds of making it to the finals 3.5-1; odds of repeating for the Cup 7-1.
5) Boston Bruins: Currently in fifth place in the Conference and second in the Northeast Division with 51 points and a 22-15-7 record. The Bruins have struggled this season and been quite streaky. They clearly could use some more firepower and have the fewest goals (114) for of any team Eastern Conference team in playoff contention and Tim Thomas has been good but not superhuman like last season so the Bruins 107 GA is solid but not as notable as the Devils (90) or the Sabres (102), finally their GFG/GAG differential of + 0.16 goals a game means they have been and will likely continue to play tight games the rest of the season, that can be both mentally and physically tiresome, additionally the Bruins haven't matched up well against the Devils, Caps or Penguins so far this season. Odds of making it to the finals 6-1; odds of winning the Stanley Cup 13 - 1.
6) New York Rangers: Currently in sixth place in the Conference and third place in the Atlantic Division with 50 points and a 22-17-6 record. What can you say about the Rangers this season? Mercurial? Streaky? Odds on making it to the finals 15-1; odds of winning the Stanley Cup 32-1.
7) Ottawa Senators: Currently 7th place in the Conference and third in the Northeast Division with 48 points and a record of 22-19-4. The Senators have been hot and cold all season, currently they are cold having lost their last three games. They will be a bubble team throughout the remainder of the season but they will probably make the playoffs. Odds on making it to the finals 25-1; odds of winning the Stanley Cup 50-1 because of their abysmal record on the road (6-11-1), they've played poorly against the teams they'll need to go through to get to the finals and and the fact whatever happens they won't have home ice advantage.
8) Montreal Canadiens: Currently 8th place in the Eastern Conference and fourth in the Northeast Division with 48 points and a record of 22-21-4; the Habs are 6-3-1 in their last 10 and looking like a possible 5th or 6th place team. Odds of making it to the Stanley Cup finals 15-1; odds of wining the Cup 30-1.
9) Philadelphia Flyers: Currently 9th in the Conference and fourth in the Atlantic Division with 47 points and a 22-19-3 record including going 7-3-1 in their last ten and being on a three game winning streak. While showing some life, as well as having made a coaching change to get a spark it's still a long road ahead for the Flyers who have a average GF/GA per game differential of +0.20 goals/game which is better then the three teams ahead of them in the standings. Odds of making it to the Stanley Cup finals 15-1; odds of winning the Stanley Cup 25-1.
From the Western Conference:
1) Chicago Blackhawks: Currently 1st in the NHL, 1st in the Western Conference and 1st in the Central Division with 66 points, a record of 31-10-4 and 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. The second highest scoring team in the league with 151 goals for and the second stingiest defensive team in the league with 99 goals against. The Blackhawks have been doing it all with a high Octane offense and team defense along with consistent, unspectacular, but solid goaltending by Cristobel Huet. Odds of making it to the Stanley Cup Finals: 2-1, Odds of wining the Cup: 3-1.
2)San Jose Sharks: Currently 2nd in the Conference and, 1st in the Pacific Division with 63 points and a 28-10-7 record. The Sharks are 8-2-0 in their last 10 games and are almost as tough on the road this season as they are at the Shark Tank. Could this year be the year for the team from Silicone Valley --- you never know. Odds of making it to the Stanley Cup finals: 2.5 - 1, Odds of winning the Cup 4-1.
3) Calgary Flames: Currently 3rd in the Western Conference and 1st in the Northwest Division with 57 points and a 26-14-5 record. The Flames have been tougher on the road then at home so far this season and they've been pretty tough at home; they've also been exceptionally strong against Eastern Conference teams. Odds of making it to the finals: 3-1; odds of winning Lord Stanley's Cup: 5-1.
4) Phoenix Coyotes: Currently 4th in the Conference and 2nd in the Pacific Division with 57 points and a 26-15-5 record. The Coyotes have been the surprise team of the season this year so far. The 'Yotes have played solid hockey on the road playing above 0.500 hockey and have been giant killers at home this season going 16-6-2 in Glendale. Odds of making it to the finals: 6-1; odds of winning the Cup: 10-1.
5) Vancouver Canucks: Currently 5th in the Western Conference and 2nd in the Northwest Division with 56 points, a 27-16-2 record, a GF-GA differential of +36 in 45 games played and a record of 7-1-2 in their last 10 games. The Canucks have added a higher octane offense to their traditional solid defense this season and appear determined to make a solid run to bring Lord Stanley's Cup in June to the same ice that will host Olympic Gold in February. Odds to make the finals: 4-1; odds of winning the Cup: 8-1.
6) Colorado Avalanche: Currently 6th in the West and 3rd in the Northwest Division with 56 points and a 25-15-6 record. The Avs are the other surprise team in the West and they've been riding the solid goaltending of Craig Andersen along with playing disciplined solid hockey to consistently sound results so far this season. However, there marginal GF-GA differential of +3 over 46 games means for them to go deep to the playoffs Andersen will have to be hot from now through June if they are to go all the way. Odds to make the finals 9-1; odds of winning the Cup 17-1.
7) Nashville Predators: Currently 7th in the West and 2nd in the Central Division with 55 points and a 26-16-3 record. The Preds continue to do more with less than pretty much any other team in the NHL on a regular basis. I think the Predators are a balanced team with just enough firepower and two very undervalued but very talented goaltenders such that if they have a hot goalie to ride, they could easily be the "Cinderella" team in the West during this seasons playoffs. Odds of making the finals 15-1; odds of winning the Stanley Cup 27-1.
8) Los Angeles Kings: Currently 8th in the Western Conference and 3rd in the Pacific Division with 53 points in 45 games played and a record of 25-17-3. LA is a solid young team being built from within and on their way to being a powerhouse getting closer to being one. Odds on making it to the finals 15-1; Odds on winning the Stanley Cup 30 - 1.
9) Detroit Red Wings: Currently in 9th in the Conference and 3rd in the Central Division. The Red Wings have been hit by injuries this season and are missing a few parts that departed following last season's Cup Finals. Detroit will continue to fight for a playoff spot with the 5 teams currently ahead of them but until they get healthy and in shape they won't be able to dominate as they have in the past. However, if they hit April in stride, playing their usual solid hockey, they'll once again be able to do some damage in the playoffs. They are perhaps the hardest team in the league right now to handicap/forecast. Odds of making it to the finals: 17-1; Odds of winning the Stanley Cup 32-1.
10) Dallas Stars: Currently in 10th in the Western Conference and 4th in the Pacific Division with 49 points and a 19-14-11 record. The Stars are a week of 0.500 hockey from dropping into the "field", they are also a week of 0.800 hockey from being in 6th or 7th place as well so that's why they aren't "in the field". Teams like the Stars with 11 OTL's are what have lots of folks talking about reexamining how three point games are handled, but i think I've expended enough bytes of cyberspace that my views are well known. Odds of making the finals: 30-1; odds of winning the Stanley Cup: 80-1.
These are just my own subjective thoughts and forecasts, the math and analysis behind these estimated odds range from considered thoughts to wild ass guesses. So anyway all I'm trying to do here is get a little thought and discussion going from a Caps fan perspective.
Next up Tampa Bay on Tuesday.
LETS GO CAPS!!!