An updated look at the Playoff Picture
1. Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks can coast into the playoffs with a 15 point lead over their nearest division ‘rival’.
Good news: Healthy up front and a rested Roberto Luongo. Last years team captain spent 68 regular season games in the crease. This year he’s already had more nights off than he did all of last season.
Bad news: Their blueline has taken a beating, and it is unlikely some top performers will make it back before the playoffs begin if at all.
2. Detroit Red Wings.
The Red Wings also hold a double digit lead over their nearest division opponents, the Blackhawks and Predators, who both have games in hand.
Good news: Jimmy Howard has improved his save percentage and goals against average.
Bad news: Neither of the two is anywhere near that of other division leaders goaltenders.
3, San Jose Sharks
Right now, the Sharks are currently holding a narrow lead in the Pacific Division, which is arguably the toughest in the NHL
Good news: With a power-play that ranks in the top five the Sharks have as good a shot as the other four teams at winning the division.
Bad news: Bottom feeders Florida, Toronto, and Columbus have all scored more goals at home than the Sharks.
With ten points separating nine teams it’s hard to know who will be golfing and who will be resting for the second season on April 11th. The current herd is here, and may it thin soon.
4. Phoenix Coyotes
The ‘Yotes may resolve their playoff hopes before their ownership situation; fortunately neither situation seems to bother them.
Good news: Phoenix recently put together an impressive eight-game win streak over some good teams, including the Philadelphia Flyers.
Bad news: They followed that up with a two-game slide in which they gave up as many goals (13) as the previous five.
5. Los Angeles Kings
LA’s resident ice lords are something of a mystery. With its goal differential, and the fourth best goals against in the league, you’d think they’d be higher in the standings.
Good news: They might get reinforced at the trade deadline.
Bad news: It could work out as well as Marco Sturm.
6. Minnesota Wild:
The Wild are doing some pretty impressive stuff to be in the playoff picture especially considering they have such a thin squad.
Good news: They are as dangerous as any team being in top third in the league in penalty kill, goals against and power-play.
Bad news: The Wild are only 18th in blocked shots and 23rd in goals for they are likely to be exposed early in the playoffs.
7. Dallas Stars:
Dallas isn’t doing so hot of late. Some trace it to the game against the Bruins, others point to the injury to Brad Richards.
Good news: They not only are likely to get Richards back but keep him.
Bad news: Their recent slide dropped them out of a once comfortable division lead all the way to a precarious bubble position.
8. Calgary Flames:
Calgary’s heroes have burned through their opponents for the past few weeks. If they manage to make it into the playoffs I can’t imagine anyone wanting to play them.
Good news: The Flames have figured out a way to win and they are doing it with consistency.
Bad news: Despite a journey into playoff contention, Homer could have written the final verse of the regular season is six weeks away.
9. Chicago Blackhawks
The defending Stanley Cup champions have had a rollery coaster season, but they will probably be among the top eight when pity points stop being handed out.
Good news: The Hawks have games in hand on most of the rest of the pack.
Bad news: Their penalty kill needs improvement.
10. Nashville Predators:
After having held down the fourth spot in the west for long enough to tempt many to ink them in their or aim higher, the Preds’ recent four-game slide to other members of the pack has them in a position where there is no margin for error.
Good news: Nashville has one of the best defenses in the entire NHL.
Bad news: An upcoming string of road games against the Flames, Canucks and Sharks could decide their season.
11. Anaheim Ducks:
The Ducks have also carved a notch on their bedpost for holding the division lead.
Good news: Only eight road games remaining.
Bad news: They have the divisions worst goal differential, and only Colorado and Edmonton have allowed more goals in the west.
12. Columbus Blue Jackets:
The next six weeks will likely to decide how long the tenure of coaching and management lasts in Columbus after the season.
Good news: The Blue Jackets have as many as three games in hand on the rest of the pack.
Bad news: This team has no identity. There is no single thing they can pan point to as a strength that puts them in the top third of the league in a major category.
13. St. Louis Blues:
If there is a team that is more unpredictable over the last three or four seasons than St. Louis then I must have missed them because I’m just baffled by this team.
Good news: The Blues were recently shaken up with the injection of Calder Trophy hopeful Kevin Shattenkirk and forward Chris Stewart.
Bad news: Like the Blue Jackets, the Blues have no read identity.
1. Philadelphia Flyers
With a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals that left them wanting more they came into the season, climbed to the top of the hill in the East and dared anyone to knock them off.
Good news: The Flyers have overcome their injuries and have the biggest lead in the conference.
Bad news: Their power-play is ranked in the mid 20’s. It appears Goliath may want to be cautious.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Bolts are having an impressive turnaround under new ownership and management. Having Steven Stamkos hasn’t hurt either.
Good news: Offensively, the team is stacked and explosive.
Bad news: They have given up more goals than any team in the top eight in either conference.
3. Boston Bruins
The Black and Gold have had a successful shakedown cruise with trade pieces Tomas Kaberle, Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley rolling to five solid wins on their road trip that saw them beat the Flames and Canucks back to back.
Good news: Tuukka Rask is slowly returning to his rookie season form from 2009-10.
Bad news: Management is confident enough in their defensive depth to have signed Shane Hnidy, who hasn’t played in 10 months.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins have done an amazing job hovering in place for at least one round of home ice advantage.
Good news: Jordan Staal is back and has been their best player.
Bad news: Evgeni Malkin’s gone ‘till November and there’s no sign of Sidney Crosby.
5. Washington Capitals
The Capitals have not looked like it’s old self this season. If you stripped the names from the standings and goals for and against I doubt anyone would line up Washington right.
Good news: The Caps have the seventh best penalty kill, and fifth best defense overall.
Bad news: No one has seen a power-play they recognize as belonging to the Capis since last year.
6. Montreal Canadiens
Montreal’s one true love was written off by almost everyone when they traded Jaroslav Halak off for not a lot, and yet Carey Price has been top notch,
Good news: The emergence of young studs like P.K. Subban have helped keep the Habs aloft.
Bad news: A casualty report that looks like something out of World War II has to come home to roost sometime.
7. New York Rangers
Can anyone figure out this team? The Rangers have tons of talent–even with their share of injuries–and they are a barely above average team.
Good news: The Blueshirts won’t have to worry about facing the Flyers on the last day of the season to decide who makes the playoffs.
Bad news: With Marc Staal and Marian Gaborik out for awhile, and the other injures, its anyone’s guess on how long this team can stay in the top eight.
8. Carolina Hurricanes
The city of Raleigh hosted the All Star game in January, but they’d also like to host Cup parade too in seasons end. But for now the ‘Canes have a good chance of sneaking into the playoffs if they play their cards right.
Good news: The ‘Canes added depth at the blueline before the deadline.
Bad news: Captain and catalyst Eric Staal will miss a little bit of time with an apparent head injury. No Staal, no playoffs.
9. Buffalo Sabres
Terry Pegula’s Buffalo soldiers are marching along better than they have in months. The Sabres picked up the inconsistent, but highly talented Brad Boyes last night from the St. Louis Blues.
Good news: The Sabres have as many as three games in hand on the teams around them and Ryan Miller.
Bad News: With the off ice distractions–and the loss of captain Craig Rivet–it will take some good bounces to make it to the postseason.
10. Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs somehow crawled within screaming distance of the playoffs after going 5-1-4 in their last 10.
Good news: They have gotten an offensive boost of late with Joffery Lupul.
Bad news: Goaltender James Reimer, who kept finding a way to win, is injured.
11. Atlanta Thrashers
With new questions arising about the Thrashers potential movement, its no wonder they’ve been a bit ruffled on the ice.
Good news: Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler can help shore up their defense enough to make their chances of getting into the postseason much better than they were two weeks ago.
Bad news: Commitment level on this team has been questioned even by its own ownership.