Vote: Which Division Is the Toughest in the NHL?

Dan CarcilloAside from the (nearly) immortal Chicago Blackhawks, both conferences are wide open this season.

No team is further than six points out of a playoff spot entering action on Saturday, and the top five teams points-wise in the East are separated by a mere four points. As far as the West is concerned, Anaheim and Vancouver have stayed competitive while Chicago has opened up an eight-point lead in the standings. Each division has been extremely competitive this season, especially with points being at a premium.

The Northeast is certainly the closest of the bunch, Montreal enters Saturday holding a slight lead over Boston, Toronto and Ottawa. The Northeast will more than likely go down to the final week of the season, moving forward with four out of five teams being competitive.

The Atlantic division was certainly the strongest last year, and it remains competitive in 2013. Pittsburgh currently sits atop the division with 32 points, but all five Atlantic teams remain in the playoff hunt. Then there is the Southeast, but the less said about that division, the better. The Hurricanes lead the pack for now, but it’s anyone’s guess who will emerge as the likely No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Out west, Chicago is running away with the Central but the rest of the division still houses some strong teams. Detroit, Nashville and St. Louis all remain competitive with great chances to make the playoffs. Anaheim is leading the Pacific, which is arguably the strongest division out west. The surprising Ducks have 37 points, while the Kings, Sharks and Coyotes are all holding or on the cusp of playoff berths for now. The weakest division out west is probably the Northwest, where the Canucks currently lead. Minnesota is staying competitive, but the division will be lucky if they send two teams to the playoffs this season.

With such parity throughout the NHL, it should make for an entertaining end to this season. While there hasn’t been any cross-pollination between the conferences yet — and there won’t be until the Stanley Cup Final — the six division races are certainly heating up at the season’s midway point.

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