With All-Star weekend officially over, it is now crunch time in the NHL. The unofficial second half of the season is about to begin. These next few weeks will give us some amazing hockey as the contenders will separate themselves from the pack, while the underdogs will sneak into the post season.

This is how I think the rest of the season will play out.

1. Edmonton Will Miss The Playoffs 

Even with McDavid and Draisaitl, the Oilers are a mediocre team at best. One point separates first from fifth in the Pacific. Edmonton at the moment are in second but I don’t think they will be there come the end of the season.

  1. Vancouver 58 points
  2. Edmonton 57 points
  3. Calgary 57 points
  4. Arizona 57 points
  5. Vegas 57 points 

Throw in Chicago and Winnipeg with 54 points in the mix for the wild card spots and Edmonton has their work cut out for them. The Oilers do have games in hand on every team I have mentioned but I don’t feel they will be able to make it count. Vegas is heating up, Arizona is turning heads and in all honesty I really do feel like Vancouver will finish in first.  The Oilers will be in the battle for the wild card spots no doubt. In all honesty, the defense-core and goalie situation will be the death of the Oilers.

2. Nathan MacKinnon Will Finish As The Leagues MVP

MacKinnnon currently sits third in league scoring with 72 points in 49 games. With 30 goals and 42 assists, MacKinnon is on pace to shatter his career highs. Last season he finished with 99 points but I’m certain this season he will cross the 100 point mark.

Mix in the great play of the Avalanche this year and I feel like it is MacKinnon’s to lose. Whether or not he can finish with more points than McDavid is up for debate but I don’t think it should effect if he wins or not. MacKinnon may not have the skill McDavid has but he has the drive and the will.

 

3. Maple Leafs Will Sneak Into Playoffs, Make Run To Conference Final

Sitting four points behind Carolina for the final wild card spot, The Maple Leafs are in tough. Their nine day break couldn’t have come at a better time. Things are looking very bad for the Leafs at the moment but I feel they will be able to make a run. They have 31 games remaining in the season, winning 20 of them should push them into the playoffs. They would finish with 97 points and I have the confidence to say that they will be able to pull this off.

There is no doubt that other than Boston, no one will want to face the Leafs in the playoffs. With the way Matthews and Marner are scoring mixed with the play of Andersen, the Maple Leafs could be the strongest wild card team ever if they are healthy. In the past few season the Maple Leafs have had strong regular seasons, while falling short in the playoffs. This season I think it will go the other way around.

4. Florida Panthers & Colorado Avalanche Will Play For The Cup 

I’m calling it now, it will be a rematch of the 1996 Stanley Cup finals. Come June, I think Florida and Colorado will battle it out. Now before I explain who I think will win the cup, let me show you who I think will be in the playoffs.

                                                     Atlantic         Metropolitan           Central          Pacific 

(1)      Tampa Bay       Washington                Colorado         Vancouver 

                                          (2)      Boston                Pittsburgh                   St. Louis           Calgary 

                                          (3)     Florida                 Carolina                    Dallas                Vegas 

(Wild Card)      Columbus  /  Toronto                          Arizona / Chicago 

In the first round I think there will be a few upsets, I feel like both Washington and Pittsburgh will be eliminated. The reigning champs, St.Louis will fall short and lose to Dallas. While I think Florida will do what the Leafs couldn’t and knock out Boston. Also Tampa Bay will sweep Columbus, payback for last year.

1st Round Matchups 

TB vs CBJ 4-0 / BOS VS FLA 2-4 / WAS vs TOR 2-4 / PIT vs CAR 3-4 

COL vs CHI 4-0 / STL vs DAL 3-4 / VAN vs ARI 4-2 / CGY VS VGS 4-2 

In the next round, Florida will overpower a rested Tampa. The Leafs will make easy work of the Hurricanes. Dallas will give Colorado a fight but they will fall short and Calgary with their playoff experience  will defeat Vancouver.

2nd Round Matchups 

TB vs FLA 1-4 / CAR vs TOR 2-4 / COL vs DAL 4-3 / VAN vs CGY 1-4 

Calgary and Toronto will fight tooth in nail to give us an all Canadian Cup final but they will both fall short. Colorado will have a repeat of last season, eliminating Calgary in five games. For Florida, it will be the experience of their coach Joel Queenville that will be the difference. He has won multiple Stanley Cups and knows exactly how to get them past the Leafs. I think the series will go the distance with Florida taking it.

This playoff run with inspire the Maple Leafs. Coming so close to playing in the Cup Final will start the fire and the belief that this run was not a fluke.

  Conference Finals 

Florida vs Toronto 4-3 / Colorado vs Calgary 4-1  

5. MacKinnon Will Lead Avalanche To Promise Land 

By the time the Cup Final begins, the Avalanche will be well rested. Colorado will win the series in five games winning the cup at home. Unlike in 1996, Florida will win one game but I don’t think they will have enough in the tank after a long series vs. Toronto.

MacKinnon will finish as the playoff MVP but this will be a team effort. Unlike many teams in the NHL relying on a few players to get the job done. The Avalanche are a strong team from top to bottom.

However, there is one reason why they will win the Cup. There is a trend that the last few winners have in common, they have a former Maple Leaf on their team. The Penguins had Kessel, the Blues have Bozak and the Avalanche have Kadri. It’s a trend I really don’t like but I feel it’s one that will continue.