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.

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    Capitals have big plans for Dmitry Orlov, but there is just one problem . . .

    WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 25: Dmitry Orlov #9 of the Washington Capitals celebrates after scoring a goal in the second period against the Winnipeg Jets at Verizon Center on November 25, 2015 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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    Dmitry Orlov is still without a contract for the upcoming season.

    A restricted free agent, the 25-year-old defenseman had eight goals and 29 points last season, while making $2.25 million in salary for the season, as per General Fanager. His previous two-year contract had an annual cap hit of $2 million. But with training camps approaching, he remains unsigned for right now.

    As noted before, there is a cap crunch for the Capitals heading into the new season. Orlov is the only RFA left for the Capitals to re-sign.

    From the Washington Post:

    According to generalfanager.com, Washington has $3.4 million in salary cap space left, but to allow for in-season roster flexibility or a 14th forward, the Capitals have around $2.6 million to devote to re-signing Orlov.

    Still, despite that fact, the Capitals coaching staff has big plans for Orlov for the upcoming season.

    “I envision him playing with a [Matt] Niskanen or a [John] Carlson, probably more prime minutes as we try even out our defense a little bit in terms of [workload],” said Capitals head coach Barry Trotz, as per CSN Mid-Atlantic.

    “It’s a great opportunity for him. He’s at the right age where he can really contribute. We’ll look for his contributions on the power play, the penalty kill, playing in that top-4 on a pretty regular basis. I just think it’s right for him.”

    Maurice: ‘Zero repercussions’ for Jets prospect Laine following offseason knee surgery

    MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MAY 21: Patrik Laine #29 of Finland looks on against Russia at Ice Palace on May 21, 2016 in Moscow, Russia. Finland defeated Russia 3-1.(Photo by Anna Sergeeva/Getty Images)
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    With NHL training camps approaching and the beginning of the World Cup of Hockey next month, Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice had some good news to report.

    It appears that forward Patrik Laine, the second overall selection in this year’s draft behind Auston Matthews, is progressing well from the minor knee surgery he underwent following the NHL scouting combine. That same operation kept him off the ice when the Jets held their development camp early in July.

    “He was held out of (Jets) development camp for precautionary reasons, but he’s back to full training and has been for quite some time,” Maurice told NHL.com.

    “There will be zero repercussions moving forward.”

    Laine, the reigning World Hockey Championship MVP from earlier this spring, was named to Finland’s World Cup team. The tournament begins Sept. 17. Finland begins the competition the next day against Team North America.

    After an unbelievable 2015-16 season — he was named the Finnish league’s playoff MVP and won gold for Finland at the 2016 world juniors with seven goals and 13 points in seven games — Laine now looks to make the leap to the NHL.

    With his shot and skill — not to mention an entry-level deal with that carries an AAV of $3.575 million, including $2.65 million annually in performance bonuses, as per General Fanager — he’ll be given plenty of opportunities.

    “Patrik is going to be able to do all those things he’s always been able to do,” Maurice continued.

    “How long it takes him to do it, I don’t know, but he’s going to get a chance to play. He fits in to what we’re trying to do as a hockey team, so you’ll live with some mistakes that are youth-generated, but he’s a very special talent and I would not be surprised if he comes in and is able to finish and put up numbers.”

    Capitals coaching staff remains intact, after close calls for Reirden and Lambert

    PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 10:  Assistant coach Todd Reirden of the Washington Capitals talks to the power play unit during a time-out against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 10, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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    ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — After the best regular season in franchise history, the Washington Capitals almost lost two assistant coaches to other NHL teams.

    Todd Reirden was a finalist for the Calgary Flames’ head coaching job and Lane Lambert for the Colorado Avalanche’s. The Flames hired Glen Gulutzan in June, and then after the abrupt resignation of Patrick Roy the Avalanche hired Jared Bednar last week. That left Jack Adams Award-winning coach Barry Trotz’s staff intact for another run at the Stanley Cup.

    Trotz was selfishly glad to still have Reirden and Lambert on the bench, especially considering the Capitals have most of their players back and are again a Cup favorite.

    “You never like to lose high-quality people and coaches, but at the same time these are guys that if they’re not replacing me, they’re replacing someone else in the league,” Trotz said Tuesday. “Both of them were right there in the end. It says a lot about them. It says a lot about our program here in Washington.”

    Reirden and Lambert contributed to and benefited from the Capitals’ success last season, which ended with a second-round loss to the eventual Cup-champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Reirden comes back for 2016-17 as an associate coach after being given that promotion Monday when the team announced he’ll run training camp while Trotz is on Canada’s staff at the World Cup of Hockey.

    Going through the experience of interviewing is something Reirden believes will help him and Lambert moving forward.

    “We went through those situations, both of us, with different teams, but not for one second was I disappointed about coming back and being a part of this team,” Reirden said. “We’ve invested a lot in the last two years and our growth of our team in two years I think has been outstanding.”

    The success so far has made Reirden and Lambert two of the more sought-after assistants in the NHL. Reirden learned just how competitive the process of earning a head job is and was able to help Lambert through his situation two months later.

    Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan had a more difficult decision to make on Lambert, too, given that Joe Sakic of the Avalanche asked permission to talk to Lambert a month before the start of camp. Trotz had to come up with four or five potential replacements but agreed that Lambert should get the chance to interview.

    “It might’ve been a different decision if it was the Rangers or someone else calling that you play a lot more,” Trotz said. “But for the most part I think we’ve developed a relationship with our staff that if you get an opportunity to move up, we want to give you that opportunity.”

    Next year one if not both will be in the mix for vacancies and likely gone. Players understand that’s part of the business

    “Todd is certainly on the horizon, I think,” Niskanen said. “He’s probably going to get a chance. Selfishly I was hoping that it waits another season, at least, and I think that’s good for our team, too.”

    The future looks bright in Toronto, but no sense rushing prospect Mitch Marner

    SUNRISE, FL - JUNE 26:  Head coach Mike Babcock (R) of the Toronto Maple Leafs talks with Mitchell Marner (L) after being selected fourth overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center on June 26, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    This post is part of Toronto Maple Leafs day at PHT…

    What remains for Mitch Marner to accomplish in junior hockey? What’s the point of another year in the Ontario Hockey League?

    Selected fourth overall in the 2015 NHL Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs, Marner has posted back-to-back 100-point seasons with the London Knights in the OHL.

    Actually, that’s understating his production. In his draft year, he scored 44 goals and 126 points in 63 regular season games. The following season, he played in six fewer games, with 39 goals and 116 points. He won a Memorial Cup in London this year and was the OHL’s playoff MVP.

    That’s quite a list of accomplishments. However, it’s possible that following Maple Leafs training camp, the highly touted forward prospect could be sent back to junior. After turning 19 years old in May, he’s not yet eligible to play a season in the American Hockey League. So the options for him next season include making the NHL, getting sent back to junior or potentially playing in Europe. According to the Toronto Star, Marner doesn’t seem into the latter option.

    Skill isn’t an issue.

    The more pressing concerns facing Marner are size and strength. He’s listed at five-foot-eleven-inches tall and, as per the Leafs, 160 pounds. There were reports this summer Marner tipped the scales at 163 pounds.

    The Maple Leafs continue through their rebuild.

    Retaining the No. 1 overall pick that turned into Auston Matthews (he’s Under Pressure) is a boon for the task the Maple Leafs are currently undertaking. They also have forward William Nylander, who had six goals and 13 points in 22 games with the big club last season.

    Head coach Mike Babcock told TSN that Marner has a “good chance” of making the Maple Leafs roster this upcoming season. The big focus, the coach continued, isn’t so much about putting on weight, but getting stronger.

    “I want to make sure I feel comfortable enough to go out against men and play hard, and make sure I can go out there and do the things that I like to do,” Marner said earlier this summer.

    The speed of today’s game has allowed for smaller players — Johnny Gaudreau, Brendan Gallagher, Max Domi to name a few — to excel. This is something Marner himself has pointed out.

    “The NHL’s changed. It’s not about height. It’s not about cross-checking as hard as you can. It’s not about hooking. A lot of those will get you a penalty nowadays,” Marner told Sportsnet.

    “It’s about the speed game now; it’s about thinking. If you have the brain to play in the NHL, you can play. If you can dodge hits, you can play. It’s up to you to put the work in.”

    It’s understandable for Maple Leafs fans to want to see Marner in the NHL as soon as possible.

    With the talent the Maple Leafs have been adding to their system, the future looks bright. With that in mind, it doesn’t make sense to rush a player of Marner’s talent into the NHL if his body isn’t physically ready for the demands.

    Canada’s world junior team, which looks to reclaim gold on home ice, would certainly welcome the news.