By Megan Snyder
It is now April, as your calendar may have informed you. If you are anything like me, you are sick and tired of March Madness and seeing people complain about how awful their bracket turned out to be on Facebook. Something great and wonderful is now looming on the horizon: the NHL playoffs!
The beginning of this season saw the realignment of the east and west divisions, moving some teams to a completely different conference. Schedules were shifted ,and teams that normally play each other during regular season did not meet. With only days until the first playoff game, berths in the playoff standings have yet to be clinched, leaving the standings open for the wild cards in each conference.
Sixteen teams will compete in the playoffs in a new bracket-style, set format, which is new for the NHL this season. Wild card teams will be thrown into the mix as berths are clinched. In the first round, the division winner with the best record in each conference will be matched against the wild-card team with the lesser record. Sounds pretty simple, right? At this particular moment, there are currently eight teams with clinched berths, including the Stanley Cup Champions of the 2012-2013 season, the Chicago Blackhawks, the St. Louis Blues, and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Many teams have been challenged by injury this season, including in recent weeks, the Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Red Wings have been without at least six of their key players for about half of the regular season, but beat one of the best teams in the league, the Boston Bruins. The Blackhawks lost two key players in as many weeks but came back yesterday to beat the St. Louis Blues in an intense matchup.
Still with 55 games running through this Sunday, April 13, there are plenty of shifts to be played, goals to be scored and berths to be clinched.