Thursday, December 1, 2011

The good, the bad, & what's in the middle



As most teams hit or approach the 25-games-played mark, let's take a look around the league and see how the season is shaping up.

THE GOOD

- The Minnesota Wild have decided they're not going to be helping anybody into the playoffs next April - in fact, at the pace they're winning, they just might be in contention for the Presidents' Trophy themselves. They currently sit atop the NHL with 33 points.

- After lingering near the bottom of the league for October, the Boston Bruins remembered that they're the defending Stanley Cup champions. They had a historic November, going a staggering 12-0-1 during the past month. This not only catapulted them up to 2nd in the East / 4th overall, but they now lead the league with a mind-blowing +31 goal differential. Guess somebody learned from Chicago's mistakes last year...

- Likewise, over in the West, the Vancouver Canucks have quietly resurged, now up to 29 points, which puts them 6th in the West with a +13 goal differential. The interesting story for the Canucks is the goaltending controversy: backup Cory Schneider is currently outplaying the well-paid Roberto Luongo - and getting the starts, too.

- Detroit also remembered that hey, they're the Red Wings, and they now sit atop the Central division with 31 points. If Jimmy Howard can stay healthy, then Detroit should have no problem making yet another post-season appearance come April.

- The Florida Panthers continue to impress, currently holding the top slot in the Southeast division and #3 in the East. If you bet money on that pre-season, then go play Powerball.

THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD

- Toronto has begun slipping in the standings. They started the season extremely strongly, and built up enough points that even if they "return to form" (that is, the form we're used to seeing them at), chances are still very, very good that the Maple Leafs will hold on to a playoff position. There's no reason they shouldn't - Leafs are peppered across the leader boards; and they currently have 30 points, good enough for 4th in the East. However, their backup goalies need to tighten up, and/or James Reimer needs to get healthy and get back in the net for them.

- The Chicago Blackhawks are doing very well as far as the standings go - they continue to fight it out not only for first in the Central and the West, but the league overall. However, while their consistency issues are nowhere near the nightmare they were last year, the team is still struggling to put together a long string of games where the team looks as solid and capable as they're capable of being. The talent is there; but the Hawks need to find their drive to keep it up through the rest of the season.

- Ottawa has taken a bit of a punch to the gut, slipping to 8th in the East. Chances are good that we will see the Senators continue to flirt with a playoff berth for the rest of the season, but Washington, Tampa Bay, and Montréal - all regular post-season teams - are also fighting for playoff positioning. Surprisingly, the bottom-8 race in the East is currently closer than the race in the West. Who might end up in the final top 8 for the East is anybody's guess right now.

- Edmonton continues to be exciting to watch, but they've dropped down the standings to 10th in the West. If they can be more consistent about their play, then the Oilers might actually find themselves in playoff position.

THE UGLY

- The Blue Jackets are currently on pace for a 51 point season. On average, it takes ~98 points to make it into the playoffs in the Western Conference. At only 15 points right now, the Blue Jackets would have to get 83 points out of their remaining 58 games - in other words, a record no worse than say, 39-14-5 (or, at very minimum, 41-16-1). So let's say that it will take Columbus 16 games to be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs - which means they may be out the picture as early as January 7th.

- The Anaheim Ducks are close behind CBJ, with tonight's win giving them just 3 points' advantage over CBJ. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that Teemu Selanne definitely does not want to go out on a season like this; if the Ducks can't climb into contention, will the Finnish Flash be back for one more season?

- So far, the Blues, the Capitals, and the Hurricanes have all fired their coaches and brought in new blood. How far behind can teams like the Flames, Ducks*, Blue Jackets and Islanders be?


* Even as I wrote this, the Ducks were busy firing their coach, and hiring Bruce Boudreau - who just got fired from the Washington Capitals earlier this week. Well, uh, at least the previous Ducks coaching staff went out on a win. 

1 comment:

  1. Great incite! What are your views on the Rangers? Do you think they have a shot for a deep playoff push?

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    ReplyDelete

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