NHL playoffs standings update: Phoenix eyes top spot

We’re getting near the part of the season where every game involves a heavy dose of scoreboard watching. Teams not only need their two points, but some help from other teams to either grab a playoff spot or take a better playoff position headed into the post season. We’re going to start updating the playoff picture daily here on Pro Hockey Talk, starting today as we gear up for matchup between the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers, two teams fighting for the final spot in the East.

After the jump, the standings of the Eastern and Western conferences, as well as some thoughts on each.

Western Conference

DIV GP W L OT Pts GF GA DIFF Home Away L10 Streak
1
Chicago Blackhawks
CEN 71 45 19 7 97 234 179 +55 26-7-3 19-12-4 4-4-2  
2
San Jose Sharks
PAC 71 43 18 10 96 231 187 +44 22-6-8 21-12-2 3-6-1 Lost 4
3
Vancouver Canucks
NW 72 44 24 4 92 236 187 +49 26-8-2 18-16-2 6-2-2  
4
Phoenix Coyotes
PAC 72 45 22 5 95 198 177 +21 26-10-2 19-12-3 8-2-0 Won 8
5
Los Angeles Kings
PAC 70 41 24 5 87 207 185 +22 20-12-3 21-12-2 5-4-1 Won 1
6
Nashville Predators
CEN 72 41 26 5 87 203 201 +2 21-12-2 20-14-3 7-3-0 Won 5
7
Colorado Avalanche
NW 70 40 24 6 86 211 185 +26 22-11-2 18-13-4 5-5-0 Lost 1
8
Detroit Red Wings
CEN 71 35 23 13 83 193 192 +1 19-10-5 16-13-8 7-2-1 Won 1
9
Calgary Flames
NW 71 36 26 9 81 181 177 +4 18-16-3 18-10-6 7-3-0 Won 2
10
St Louis Blues
CEN 71 34 28 9 77 194 196 -2 12-17-5 22-11-4 7-3-0 Won 2
11
Dallas Stars
PAC 71 31 27 13 75 206 227 -21 20-10-6 11-17-7 3-6-1 Won 1

 

There are three big races right now, that will have a major impact on the playoff picture in the West. First, the Chicago Blackhawks have been able to — somehow — overcome the San Jose Sharks for the lead in the conference. Thanks to the Sharks’ unseemly losing streak, they’ve opened the door for a three-way battle for tops in the West that includes…. the Phoenix Coyotes.

Yes, the franchise and team that was the laughing stock of the sports world last summer has now snuck into the picture for the No. 1 seed in the West, riding an incredible eight-game winning streak. A win today against the Dallas Stars — coupled with a San Jose loss to Edmonton — and the Coyotes could find themselves in first place in the West. Incredible.

The other race is towards the bottom of the conference, with the Detroit Red Wings trying to hold off the Calgary Flames. Mathematically, this is the closest race but they also have St. Louis and Dallas still within shooting distance as well. The Stars are too inconsistent to put together the sort of streak needed to be considered seriously, but a losing streak of any kind by those above them and it’s certainly a possibility. The Red Wings have a chance to open up their lead today, as they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Eastern Conference

DIV GP W L OT Pts GF GA DIFF Home Away L10 Streak
1
Washington Capitals
SE 72 48 14 10 106 283 203 +80 26-4-4 22-10-6 7-1-2 Won 1
2
Pittsburgh Penguins
ATL 72 42 24 6 90 224 205 +19 21-10-4 21-14-2 6-2-2  
3
Buffalo Sabres
NE 70 38 22 10 86 195 177 +18 21-9-6 17-13-4 5-4-1 Won 2
4
New Jersey Devils
ATL 71 42 25 4 88 189 169 +20 24-10-1 18-15-3 5-4-1 Lost 1
5
Philadelphia Flyers
ATL 71 37 29 5 79 211 196 +15 21-12-2 16-17-3 4-4-2 Lost 1
6
Ottawa Senators
NE 72 37 30 5 79 194 212 -18 23-10-4 14-20-1 2-7-1 Lost 5
7
Montréal Canadiens
NE 72 36 29 7 79 196 198 -2 18-13-4 18-16-3 7-2-1  
8
Boston Bruins
NE 70 31 27 12 74 174 180 -6 14-14-6 17-13-6 4-5-1 Lost 1
9
Atlanta Thrashers
SE 71 31 29 11 73 215 229 -14 18-13-5 13-16-6 4-5-1 Won 3
10
New York Rangers
ATL 71 31 31 9 71 185 195 -10 15-17-6 16-14-3 4-4-2 Lost 2
11
Carolina Hurricanes
SE 71 30 33 8 68 198 221 -23 19-14-3 11-19-5 6-3-1 Won 2

 

Currently, the Washington Capitals are the only team that’s locked up a division title, but the Sabres have a good firm grasp on their lead in the Northeast division; I doubt the Ottawa Senators are going to go off on any sort of winning streak anytime soon. The Capitals also have a good firm lockdown on the No. 1 spot in the conference.

There are still some good races to keep an eye on. The Penguins, thanks to an overtime loss to the Hurricanes yesterday, have opened up a shot for the New Jersey Devils to take over the lead in the Atlantic division, although New Jersey was shutout yesterday against St. Louis as they failed to take advantage of Pittsburgh’s slip. Neither team plays today.

Finally, we have the most intriguing race in the NHL. Everyone’s attention has been on the battle between New York and Boston for 8th in the conference, all the while the Atlanta Thrashers have snuck into the picture and threaten to knock both out of the playoffs. The Rangers and Bruins have been amazing to watch, as they’ve stumbled and struggled to even muster a fight when the opportunity arises to make a move.

Don’t take your eyes off the Ottawa Senators, however. They’re historic fall could take them out of the playoffs, opening up the chance for two of the Atlanta, New York and Boston trio to make the playoffs. And then, most likely, get promptly ousted by the Washington Capitals.

Scroll Down For:

    Scott Darling: Latest goalie beaten from center ice (Video)

    Leave a comment

    Here’s a thought: considering an 82-game regular season and about a two-month-long postseason, it’s almost a little surprising that we don’t see more center-ice goals.

    Such a goal can happen in so many ways. A puck can take an odd bounce. A goalie might take his eye off the puck for a second while deciding what to do next, much like an NFL receiver who drops an easy pass while dreaming of those sweet, sweet, yards up ahead.

    So, let’s not be too hard on Carolina Hurricanes goalie Scott Darling, who padded Mika Zibanejad‘s already-robust goal totals with the center-ice flub you can see in the video above.

    If you prefer a GIF form, this one nails the spirit of the thing:

    (Agreed, little emoticon monkey. Agreed.)

    Since we’re on the subject of goals netminders would want back even more than usual, we might as well also consider Tyler Ennis beating Chad Johnson here:

    Ouch. Hey, we’ve all been there (vaguely speaking).

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks – Lightning, Wednesday Night Rivalry

    Getty
    1 Comment

    The latest edition of “Wednesday Night Rivalry” features a rematch of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, as the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Chicago Blackhawks.

    During that competitive series, the Blackhawks were the favorites. The tide has turned now, however, as the dynamite duo of Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov have propelled the Bolts to the upper crust of the NHL. Chicago, meanwhile, strains to remain a contender.

    But it’s worth noting that the Blackhawks cannot be taken lightly. They still feature Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Corey Crawford, so tonight should provide plenty of entertainment.

    Along with watching on NBCSN, you can also check the action out on online and via the NBC Sports App.

    CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

    The NHL has seen a pretty big spike in goal scoring this season

    Getty
    1 Comment

    If it seems like there have been more goals scored in the NHL this season you would be correct.

    As the season gets ready to move into its second quarter the league announced that there have been 1,924 goals scored this season, the highest total since the 2005-06 season when the league had 2,008 goals scored through the first quarter.

    Third on the list was the 2006-07 season when 1,905 goals were scored.

    You might remember the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons as being that brief spike in goal-scoring coming out of the lockout when the league cracked down on obstruction and interference, resulting in far more power plays and power play goals. In the years since the league saw a steady decline in both power plays and goals.

    The league has made a point to try and crackdown on slashing and faceoff violations this season. That has not really resulted in a significant increase in the total number of power plays, but teams are converting on more of their power play opportunities.

    There has also been a pretty dramatic increase in even-strength scoring (that is up 10.9 percent from a season ago at the same point).

    That overall increase in scoring has also trickled down to the individual player level where 30 players (minimum 10 games played) are averaging more than a point per game.

    At Thanksgiving a season ago only 11 players were averaging at least a point per game.

    Only eight players finished the season (minimum 40 games played) with a point per game average.

    For years everyone has had theories as to why goal scoring has decreased and what can be done to change it. Bigger nets? Smaller goalie equipment? More power plays? The reality is that goal scoring did not decrease for any one reason, it was likely a combination of factors, from goalies getting bigger and better, to teams becoming more structured and defensive, to power plays decreasing. The league has made a few small changes along the way to help remedy it and so far this season it seems to be reversing a little.

    Whether or not it continues remains to be seen. It is, however, a pretty encouraging start.


    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

    How the Oilers became the NHL’s biggest disappointment

    Getty
    14 Comments

    At the start of the 2017-18 season the Edmonton Oilers were one of the top Stanley Cup favorites.

    They were one game away from reaching the Western Conference Finals and they have the reigning league MVP and scoring champion (and arguably the game’s best player). All of that seemed to indicate a team that was on the verge of taking another major step and breaking through as one of the league’s elite teams. Their preseason Stanley Cup odds from Bovada were second best in the league to only the back-to-back champion Pittsburgh Penguins. The bandwagon was filling up.

    Here we are not just a quarter of the way through the season and there is no debating that the Oilers have not only failed to reach those sky-high expectations, they are clearly the league’s biggest disappointment.

    Entering play on Wednesday — and following an 8-3 drubbing at the hands of the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night — the Oilers have the third worst points percentage in the league, ahead of only the Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres. Their minus-19 goal differential is fourth-worst. They have managed to win just four games in regulation with only two of them coming over the past month.

    So, how did they get here? Let us try to figure it out.

    It starts with the people upstairs

    Three years ago the Oilers were given a gift from the hockey draft gods when they won the lottery and the right to select Connor McDavid. It was the fourth time in six years they won the top pick and this time were able to pick a player that would quickly become the best offensive player in the league. Since McDavid entered the league he has more than lived up to the hype with a 1.18 points per game average that is tops among all players (minimum 100 games played) during that stretch.

    As great as McDavid has been, he can not do it all on his own. This is not the NBA where one or two great players can carry a team deep into the playoffs (or even into the playoffs at all). There has to be a supporting cast around them, and the Oilers have quickly sabotaged their chances to do that through some brutal roster and asset management.

    Let’s just examine some of the moves made by Peter Chiarelli since taking over as the Oilers’ general manager.

    His first move was to trade two top-33 picks (No. 16 overall and No. 33 overall) to the New York Islanders for defenseman Griffin Reinhart. The Islanders used that pick to select Matthew Barzal, currently one of the top rookies in the NHL this season. Reinhart played 30 forgettable games with the Oilers before moving on to the expansion Vegas Golden Knights this season.

    [On fire vs. fireable: Blues humiliate Oilers]

    Then came the one-for-one trades: Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson, and then Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome.

    Both trades have played a significant role in reducing the team’s scoring depth.

    Since being traded Hall’s 26 goals and 74 points would make him the third most productive player on the Oilers. His point total this season alone would make him the team’s second-leading scorer behind McDavid. Eberle’s 14 points would make him the team’s fourth-leading scorer.

    The return for the Oilers has not come close to matching that production. Larsson is a solid, if unspectacular defenseman, while Strome’s offense has been non-existent. Even at his best Strome was never quite on par with what Eberle has shown to be capable of on a regular basis. Those trades have devastated the Oilers’ scoring depth and are now left with a team that is 27th in the league in goals scored and seems to be unable to generate any offense when McDavid is not on the ice.

    In three years Chiarelli has traded two picks in the top-33 of a draft, a top-line forward and gave Kris Russell, a borderline second-to third-pairing defenseman to help improve the defense and the team is still desperate for defensive help.

    That is a lot of bad roster management, and it is wasting what might be some of McDavid’s best years in the league.

    Cam Talbot can’t get a break

    Literally, he can not get a night off.

    The Oilers’ goals against numbers improved dramatically a season ago and a lot of credit for that improvement was directed toward the additions of Larsson and Russel. The reality is that a lot of it had to do with Talbot helping to solidify the goaltending position.

    His save percentage wasn’t anything spectacular and at .917 was fairly close to the league average. But Talbot played 72 games and if you can get average to slightly above league average goaltending for 72 games that is going to be a positive value to your team, especially with where the Oilers were coming from in recent seasons. His performance, combined with his durability to play that many games, probably shaved 15 goals off the Oilers’ goals against totals.

    Talbot has not been as strong so far this season, and given that he has already played a league-high 19 games you have to wonder if maybe that workload is starting to catch up with him.

    Since the start of the 2016-17 season Talbot has played in 93 regular season games. Only three other goalies have played in more than 80 and only one (Frederik Andersen, 85) has played in more than 83. He has faced 2,688 shots.

    That does not include the 13 playoff games and 437 shots he faced in the playoffs. That is a ton of work for a goalie over a season-and-a-quarter.

    The Oilers have no adequate backup that can give him any sort of a break.

    Lucky or unlucky?

    There does seem to be an element of some bad luck to the Oilers’ struggles this season. Their possession and shot attempt numbers are among the best in the league, and they do seem to be struggling with some poor percentages on the offensive end.

    When it comes to the save percentage numbers and Talbot’s struggles it is worth wondering if that extensive workload over the past two seasons has started to wear him down.

    It is also worth wondering if they had a lot of players play over their heads a season ago, specifically when it came to players like Patrick Maroon and Mark Letestu. That duo combined for 43 goals a season ago. They have combined for 8 so far this season. That puts them on pace for about 15 over 82 games. Combine that with the offense they are losing going from Eberle to Strome, as well as the absence of Hall and that is a big chunk of offense going away and helps explain how a team with Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkings all averaging close to a point-per-game is 26th in the league in goals scored.

    You might be reading all of this and thinking to yourself, relax, Gretz, it’s only Thanksgiving. Still a lot of hockey left to be played. Sure, there is a lot of hockey remaining in the season. The problem for teams like the Oilers is NHL history tells us the standings do not tend to change much once the calendar rolls over to December. Currently the Oilers are already seven points out of a wild card spot in the Western Conference and eight points out of one of the three playoff spots in the Pacific Division.

    Points are difficult to make up as the season goes on and teams that are already this far out do not tend to make them up.

    Perhaps the Stanley Cup for this Oilers team was a little too premature, mainly because they have managed to squander any chance of building a competitive team around the best player in the world through some terrible roster management.

    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.