With 15 or so games left in the NHL season, certain teams can start saying "playoffs" without being completely terrified of jinxing things beyond all measure. That being said, things on each side of the playoff picture are still very tight in both the Eastern and Western conferences and a lot can change, and usually does, going into the home stretch of the regular season. With the trade deadline having come and gone, it is really down to who can peak at the right time and who can hold onto a playoff spot and make it into springtime hockey. For the rest of them, its nearly time to start getting out their golf clubs or getting ready for some pre-season baseball.
The potential for big moves is still very much present in the NHL playoff picture as it stands, particularly in the Eastern Conference where the majority of the points are held in the top few spots. This means that pretty much anyone from 3rd to 12th, can move around enough to lose a playoff spot or make a drive for one at the end.
5 Ottawa Senators
4 Toronto Maple Leafs
3 Minnesota Wild
Having only registered one win so far in March over 4 attempts, against the lowly Flames no less, the Wild aren't exactly on top form going into this crucial part of the season. To make things worse, they face the streaking Bruins in the coming days, and the Detroit Red Wings who are currently in the middle of the Eastern Conference melee for a playoff spot, so points will not be easy to come by. Combine this with two more dates with the St. Louis Blues, another try with Boston, and one each with Chicago and Pittsburgh and the run in for the Wild seems pretty bleak. It's certainly going to be a fingernail biting time if you're a Wild fan over the next few weeks, with any and all points looking like a blessing. They are really going to have to make sure to grab the points in the "easier" games as they hope to make their way into playoff hockey.
2 Phoenix Coyotes
1 Detroit Red Wings
As a team who seem to always make the playoffs, Detroit cannot be counted out of this season yet, even though they find themselves sitting in around 10th place in the Eastern Conference with only 15 games to go. As well as needing their own results to start turning around, the Red Wings really need to see some of the teams above them start to panic about holding on to a playoff spot. With a few dates with Columbus - those will be 4 point games without question - and a few with Toronto, there is certainly space to make up the points they need to make it to the playoffs this year. Detroit have the experience and the depth as a squad, which they'll rely on with Datsyuk and Zetterberg out, to make the change happen, and even though they are down in tenth right now in the Eastern Conference, Detroit tops our list as they have made it happen time and time again in regards to playoff hockey.
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