Just a week away from the beginning of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, teams are still jockeying for playoff positioning – whether it’s for an actual playoff berth or just for seeding purposes. Who do the top four teams in each conference want to face in the first round? Who do they want to avoid? Also, who is the dark-horse that everybody would like to stay away from?
1. Washington Capitals
They DO want: Buffalo… Alex Ovechkin and company went 3-0-1 against the Sabres this season. I think the Caps could make it a quick series.
They DON’T want: Montreal… I don’t think the Caps would lose again, but do they really want to go head-to-head with the team that spoiled their season a year ago?
2. Philadelphia Flyers
They DO want: Montreal… A date with the Canadiens in the first round would be ideal for the Flyers. It’s a great matchup for Philly.
They DON’T want: NY Rangers… I don’t think they would want any piece of their division rival Rangers. For a struggling team like the Flyers, I wouldn’t want to face Henrik Lundqvist.
3. Boston Bruins
They DO want: Buffalo… Boston beat them last spring in the first round and has the edge on the Sabres at every position.
They DON’T want: NY Rangers… The B’s lost three of four to Lundqvist and company, including this week’s comeback at MSG by the Rangers.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins
They DO want: Buffalo… If Pittsburgh finds a way to win the division, the Pens probably wouldn’t mind facing Buffalo; they have had their number in the last few years.
They DON’T want: Tampa Bay… They will likely face the Bolts in the first round, which could be dangerous, with the firepower like Stamkos, St. Louis and Lecavalier.
The dark-horse: Buffalo Sabres… Even though they match up poorly with some teams noted above, Ryan Miller is the ultimate equalizer. If he comes back healthy, the Sabres have the potential to make some noise. They have been one of the best teams in the conference since mid-February.
1. Vancouver Canucks
They DO want: Dallas… If the Stars happen to sneak in, Vancouver, who convincingly swept the season series, should be able to get by without a hitch.
They DON’T want: Anaheim… The Ducks have made it tough on the Canucks over the years and knocked off the Presidents’ Trophy winners in 2009 (San Jose).
2. San Jose Sharks
They DO want: Nashville… Even though their playoff series were four and five years ago, Team Teal would go into the series with the mental edge right off the bat.
They DON’T want: Anaheim… I don’t think the Sharks want any part of their in-state rivals. The Ducks upset them in 2009 and could possibly do it again.
3. Detroit Red Wings
They DO want: Phoenix… As a franchise and as a team, the Wings have a lot more experience. It showed last spring and it probably would again.
They DON’T want: Nashville… Detroit’s division rivals took four of six in the season series, and play the Wings tough every meeting.
4. Nashville Predators
They DO want: Los Angeles… Though the Kings have a size advantage, the Preds have Jonathan Quick’s number, while the Kings will definitely be missing Anze Kopitar.
They DON’T want: San Jose… If the Preds happen to slip in the standings, they don’t want any part of the Sharks, who have made it look easy against Nashville in past postseasons.
The dark-horse: Anaheim Ducks… I don’t think the Ducks can win the Cup, but their top line can certainly carry them into the second or third round. The wild card here is Jonas Hiller. If he overcomes the vertigo, and they get contributions from Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan, this is a team no one wants to face.
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