The NHL schedule is officially in the home-stretch, with a few teams having as few as seven games left to play before the clock stops on the regular season. Only two teams have a full ten games left, and that’s the St. Louis Blues, and unfortunately for them, the Calgary Flames.
What that means in these tight tables, is that a winning streak can go a huge way to getting a team into playoffs or into the playoff spot they want, and a losing streak can see a team freefall out of contention.
A good number of teams are mid-streak right now, and the standings reflect that. Here are those teams, and starting with the hot ones, and working down towards the Carolina Hurricanes, who are as cold as the ice they play on.
Washington Capitals – 5 straight wins
Victims: Caronlina, New York Islanders, Florida, Tampa Bay, Montreal
Commentary: It’s not just a five-game win streak, they’re 9-1-1 in their last 11. This was supposed to be the season that the Southleast division dropped the “l,” and used it to spell legit. The Hurricanes made some deals to contend, the Caps are still the Caps, the Panthers won the division last year, the Lightning have high-end talent, and the Jets weren’t all that terrible, except…they were all terrible. Every last one of them. All it was going to take for some team to claim the division was to put together a streak and roll over some weak teams, and the Caps, the team with the most real talent in the division, got it together first.
I’m a believer in Adam Oates, and I’m impressed with the way he’s pulled this team together after their rough start.
St. Louis Blues: – 5 straight wins
Victims: Minnesota, Chicago, Colmbus, Detroit, Nashville
Commentary: At last, the Blues are doing what we expected them to. After a 109-point season last year and not losing anything much off the roster (and adding highly-touted rookie Vladimir Tarasenko), expectations were high for the Blues. They struggled for awhile, but have found their stride thanks to their goaltending finally getting their ish together (Elliot has back-to-back shutouts after being hot garbage early in the season), and the trades they made at the deadline have only made them better. With Bouwmeester and Leopold in the mix, their top six of…
Bouwmeester – Pietrangelo
Leopold – Shattenkirk
Jackman – Polak
…might be the best in the league.
Dallas Stars – 3 straight wins
Victims: Anaheim, San Jose, Los Angeles
The Stars essentially waved the white flag on the season at the deadline, moving Jaromir Jagr to Boston, captain Brenden Morrow to Pittsburgh, and Derek Roy to the Canucks at the deadline. Then their starting goaltender Kari Lehtonen tweaked himself (lower body injury)…and they got hot.
Maybe it’s players trying to take advantage of the added opportunity, maybe it’s a team trying to prove they were more than a few name players, maybe it’s coaching, but whatever it is…this is happening. They’re now in ninth and two points out of playoffs behind the Detroit Red Wings. As Keanu Reeves would say: whoa.
Chicago Blackhaws – 3 straight wins
Victims: Nashville, Nashville, Minnesota
Commentary: Their three game win streak is just another clump of pure W’s on a schedule packed full of them. If you go back a few more games, they lost in a shootout to the Blues (so they got a point), then beat Detroit, and again, beat Nashville. Man, the Hawks are single-handedly burying Nashville.
We know Chicago is stacked. Points in six straight is just more proof.
Vancouver Canucks – 3 straight wins
Victims: Edmonton, Calgary, Phoenix
Commentary: I can’t be alone in thinking that the Canucks have been bad this season. And I don’t mean that the Canucks have actually been bad, they just haven’t been holy hell Canucks good, so by contrast to their previous Presidents’ Trophy winning years, they’ve gone largely unnoticed. But here we are. They’ve roughed up three straight teams they’re supposed to beat, Minnesota’s been struggling something fierce of late, and Vancouver basically has the Northwest Division and thus, the three-seed sewn up.
Edmonton Oilers – 3 straight losses
Conquerors: Vancouver, Los Angeles, Anaheim
Commentary: It’s not like the Oil have lost to the dregs of the league or anything, but at this time of the year as a team battling for the eighth and final playoff spot, you might have to beat a few teams who are decent at the sport of hockey. The Oilers have scored 0, 1, and 1 goals over the past three games, and for a team with a high-flyin’ young offense…that ain’t gonna cut it.
Nashville Predators – 4 straight losses
Conquerors: Columbus, Chicago, Chicago, St. Louis
Commentary: Division game, division game, division game, division game. No points. And just like that the Predators find themselves five points out of a playoff spot with a mere seven games left on their schedule (they have the most games played in the conference, actually). The long and short of it: those were huge games, they lost them, the Preds aren’t making playoffs.
Ottawa Senators – 5 straight losses
Conquerors: Toronto, Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Tampa
Commentary: As Ian Mendez tweeted this morning, the Senators still have an 89.6% chance of making playoffs despite this skid, but man, there are definitely a couple people in Canada’s capital giving the old double-collar tug and looking in the rearview mirror. They’ve now been caught in points for sixth by the – double-checks – New York Islanders, and sit two points ahead of the ninth-place Winnipeg Jets (with two games in hand) and four points ahead of the tenth-place New Jersey Devils. If they can right the ship soon they’ll be fine, but things are getting dicey. They’ve survived through injuries all season, which has been unfathomable, but asking a lot of those lesser players for this long was bound to catch up eventually.
Carolina Hurricanes – 6 straight losses
Conquerors: Montreal, Washington, Tampa, New York Rangers, Boston, Pittsburgh
Commentary: Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye. The ‘Canes are one frustrated group right now. It wasn’t that long ago that they were sitting atop the Southeast Division standings and holding that three-seed in the East, but things have fallen apart for the ‘Canes, largely due to the absence of Cam Ward. Ellis and Peters simply haven’t been that great. The scariest part? If you look back seven games, they beat Winnipeg. Before that they lost to the Washington, Tampa Bay, New York Rangers, Florida, New Jersey, Winnipeg and Toronto. That’s 13 losses in their last 14 games, over which they grabbed the shootout point a single time. For a team that’s 16-21-2, that’s a shwack of losses over a short span.
If I’m a ‘Canes fan, I switch to rooting for losses and eyeing one of those top picks. If you’re going to miss the post-season, you may as well pick up a treasure along the way.