The Playoff Push

This weeks column is a look at who has hurt and helped their positions most. Some teams did pretty well, and are cruising towards the second season. Other teams had either the their talent faults exposed or their character faults.

(Standings as of Monday, March 14)

West:

1: Vancouver Canucks

Last three: The that last three games have all been wins, that said they allowed more than a goal per game above their season average in them.

Big One: This weeks biggest game has to be against the Coyotes, with the seepage in goal, facing the NHL’s ninth ranked offense should be a good litmus test for who the are today.

2: Detroit Red Wings

Last three: A 2-1 loss to the Kings, an overtime win over the Oilers and a win over the Blues didn’t make for a very impressive week in Motown.

Big One: With the hungry Predators looking to get back into the top eight, Saturday’s game should be circled on the calendar. The Red Wings’ division rivals have taken three of four this season.

3: San Jose Sharks

Last three: A win over Nashville, and taking extra time to lose to Vancouver and the New York Rangers with only a three point lead in their division.

Big One: The Stars are surging, but Chicago’s potent offense can not be overlooked, and is this first chance the Sharks have to right the ship.

4: Los Angeles Kings

Last three: Three regulation wins over Detroit, Columbus and Dallas are as good a way to spend a week as the regular season allows.

Big One: The Predators are again a key to the week of a playoff bound team.

5: Phoenix Coyotes

Last three: The Coyotes drubbed the Ducks, shut out the Flames, and lost in overtime to the Canucks, and find themselves just three points out of the division lead.

Big One: Pick one! A rematch with the desperate Flames, a match with the gutsy spoilers in Edmonton or another round with Vancouver, each will tell the team something about themselves.

6: Dallas Stars

Last three: After losing two of their last three, the Stars need to get shining before many people buy into them as anything but a formality for their first round opponent.

Big One: You can’t bounce back better than by starting your homestand with a win against your division leader. The Sharks visit the lone star state Tuesday night.

7: Chicago Blackhawks

Last three: What an ugly week to have the headdress on your jersey. Losses to the Panthers, Capitals, and Lightning even getting at least one point in the last two make it hard to see this week as anything positive.

8: Calgary Flames

Last three: The Flames hung a W against the Stars, in a shootout. Since then they were shutout by the Coyotes, and dropped their last game to the Canucks.

Big One: Their rematch with the Coyotes, and the importance of winning in sixty minutes can’t be overstated.

Team to watch in the West:  The ninth place Nashville Predators who currently own the best record in the conference.

East

1: Philadelphia Flyers

Last three: Wins over the Oilers and Maple Leafs led into an overtime loss to the Thrashers, possibly the softest five points any team has collected this month.

Big One: A rematch with the Thrashers probably decides if Atlanta sees the playoffs for the first time in a long time. If the Flyers go in expecting them to let their guard down they might not even get the loser point.

2: Washington Capitals

Last three:  As has been standard fare for the defense this season, the Capitals showed up strong allowing only four goals in three games. They also scored eleven goals on route to winning all three games.

Big One: The Red Wings will be a test of steel on steel for the Capitals not just for their own quality, but because it will be the second of a back to back set that starts in Montreal the night before.

3: Boston Bruins

Last three: Being outscored 12-6 is the opposite of the Bruins winning formula. Not surprisingly they had a bad week gaining just one point against the Buffalo Sabres and officials.

Big One: Pick one! A: The bottom feeding the BlueJackets and the immediate rebound B: The very tough defense of the hungry Predators C: The game against the pesky Maple Leafs they should beat but have trouble with.

4: Pittsburgh Penguins

Last three: The Penguins held Buffalo, and Edmonton to one goal each but were shutout by Montreal.

Big One: A week with only one game leaves their tilt with the Senators more important than it might otherwise be.

5: Tampa Bay Lightning

Last three: Not the flashiest week to be a Bolt. Losing to the Panthers and Senators back to back is not acceptable, the shootout win over Chicago is their sole grace note of a tepid week.

Big One: Working against the stingy Habs defense could either rekindle the fire or signal early golf season.

6: Montreal Canadiens

Last three: Beating the Bruins soundly, and shutting out the Penguins gave them four points, the loss to the Blues didn’t make as big an impression on them as it might have had Max Pacioretty not been injured so badly.

Big One: A from the Capitals who have suddenly rediscovered their offense is the marquee event of the week for the Canadiens, possibly for the whole NHL.

7: Buffalo Sabres

Last three: Allowing 10 goals in three games isn’t the best formula for success, but will get the job done if you score fourteen as the Sabres did.

Big One: Blackening the eye of the Hurricanes on Tuesday might just knock Carolina out of the race and let the Sabres concentrate on their own games a bit more.

8: New York Rangers

Last three: The Rangers only allowed seven goals last three games. Given that they faced the Flyers, Sharks and Ducks that’s a nice number.

Big One: When the Habs visit Thursday the blue shirts should get set their phasers on regulation-win and give Lundquist enough support to go home happy.

Team to watch in the east: The Capitals seem to have found their scoring. If this holds true they just doubled their chances of making it out of the first round.

 

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