Inside the Eastern Conference Standings – November 25

Every now and then, we’ll take a look at each conference’s standings to see if there are any trends or quirks that explain why some teams are failing and others are overachieving. Obviously, these results will reveal bigger truths once we advance later into this season … but it’s still fun and interesting to take a peek at bigger picture numbers.

Check out last month’s edition of the Eastern Conference Standings here.

Which teams are the hottest and coldest? Which teams are road warriors and who depends too much on home cooking? Let’s take a look.

Washington might require the Presidents’ Trophy.

The Capitals are easily one of the most dangerous and talented teams in the NHL once again. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are their usual all-world selves, but the real highlight is that Alexander Semin is (gasp) playing some defense and generally acting like a guy who can make a lot of money this season.

That being said, much like Superman, the Capitals are a little too dependent on The Phone Booth. They are 10-1-1 at home and 5-5-1 on the road.

The road hearty Bruins

At home, Boston is the definition of mediocre: 4-4-2. Yet away from Beantown, the Bruins are bold: 8-2-0 so far. There’s a chowder joke somewhere here, but I’d rather not make it.

The almost equally road hearty Atlantic

The Philadelphia Flyers (6-2-2), Pittsburgh Penguins (8-3-1) and New York Rangers (7-4-0) are all above .500 on the road. So what’s the difference? While the Penguins and Rangers come in at-or-below .500 at home, the Flyers are a robust 9-4-0.

Why the Flyers might be the best in the East

The Caps and Flyers boast identical 15-6-2 records, but Philly’s goal differential (+28) grossly outclasses Washington’s (+11).

The Islanders are lonely

It might not be by much, the Devils have a lot more hope than the Isles right now. If you combine all the other Eastern teams’ losing streaks (nine in a row overall) they don’t match the 14 game drought in Long Island.

Florida must improve at losing

Look, it’s really sad that charity points exist, but that doesn’t mean that a team shouldn’t exploit them. The Panthers are 9-11-0, the only Eastern team without an overtime or shootout loss. Perhaps that explains why they’re the third worst team in the conference despite having a +2 goal differential.

(To be fair, they’ve only played 20 games so far.)

Tampa Bay cannot be ignored, Toronto might get worse

The Lightning played four more games on the road than at home, with only the Islanders suffering from the same negative disparity at this point. That difference might not be enough for them to catch up with the Capitals in the Southeast, but it will certainly help them stay ahead of the other division runner-ups.

Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs might tumble even more going forward, having played 12 games in Toronto and only eight on the road.

Mild Devils rebound?

If one seemingly hopeless team can turn things around (aside from the short on games played Panthers), it might be the Devils. For them, a 4-5-1 run in 10 games is actually pretty solid. Small victories, right?

Video: Stamkos lights up Leafs during first game in Toronto since re-signing with Bolts

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 15:  Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning takes a break during a off-day practice session prior to Game Two of the Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 15, 2016 at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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For those Maple Leafs fans who once hoped Steven Stamkos would go to free agency and sign in Toronto, what transpired Tuesday will probably sting for a bit.

Playing in Toronto for the first time since he re-signed with the Lightning, opting not to test the open market and potentially signing with what is essentially his hometown team, Stamkos scored 1:19 into the contest, after getting sent in alone and beating goalie Frederik Andersen.


That one might hurt.

There was even a smattering of boos directed at Stamkos, who has never played a game for the Leafs, when he first touched the puck during Tuesday’s contest.

You’ll recall that last season, the Stamkos-to-Toronto speculation dominated headlines at times. A bit of a “circus,” indeed.

There were even ‘Sign Stamkos’ signs being handed out to fans prior to a game between the Lightning and Maple Leafs last season.

It’s official: Crosby makes season debut for Penguins

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 18:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the New York Rangers in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 18, 2015 in New York City. The Penguins defeated the Rangers 4-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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All signs pointed to it happening earlier in the day, but it is now official: Sidney Crosby is making his 2016-17 debut on Tuesday night when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Florida Panthers.

Crosby, the captain of the Penguins and the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner, missed the first six games of the season due to a concussion. He was injured during practice following the World Cup of Hockey where he led Canada to a championship. Given how much time he missed a few years ago with a concussion only missing six games a positive development for both him and the Penguins.

Crosby will open the game skating on the Penguins’ top line alongside wingers Patric Hornqvist and Scott Wilson.

Along with Crosby return to the lineup, goaltender Matt Murray is also in uniform for the Penguins for the first time this season and will serve as Marc-Andre Fleury‘s backup.

Murray, who took over the starting job in the playoffs last year when Fleury was sidelined at the start of the first round, was injured at the World Cup while playing for Team North America and has been sidelined since.

Even with the return of Crosby and Murray on Tuesday the Penguins are still missing a pretty significant player as defenseman Kris Letang remains sidelined with an upper body injury.

WATCH LIVE: Sabres at Flyers

PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 11: Radko Gudas #3 of the Philadelphia Flyers and Jake McCabe #29 of the Buffalo Sabres fight in the third period at Wells Fargo Center on February 11, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers won 5-1.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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The Buffalo Sabres visit the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. This match-up features two teams off to slow starts and looking to work their way up the standings in their respective divisions.

You can check out the action on NBCSN or the NBC Sports’ Live Extra (7:30 pm ET).


Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Flyers put Raffl (upper body) on IR

NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Sabres vs. Flyers; Ducks vs. Sharks

Bylsma: ‘We need to get more’ out of Reinhart

Flyers put Raffl (upper body) on IR

Philadelphia Flyers left wing Michael Raffl (12) maintains control of the puck against New York Rangers center Derick Brassard (16) during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
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After missing the last week with an upper-body ailment, Flyers forward Michael Raffl has been placed on injured reserve.

To fill his spot, the Flyers recalled Taylor Leier from AHL Lehigh Valley.

Raffl, 27, has appeared in three games this season, scoring once while averaging 12:21 TOI per night. He hasn’t suited up since a 7-4 loss to Chicago on Oct. 18, failing to suit up for Thursday’s loss to Anaheim, Saturday’s win over Carolina and yesterday’s 3-1 defeat in Montreal.

The Flyers are taking on Buffalo tonight (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Philly could make this IR designation retroactive to last Tuesday, which is when Raffl last played. It’s unclear how GM Ron Hextall will handle Raffl’s $2.35 million cap hit with regards to IR, but he’ll need to do some adjusting soon once injured defenseman Michael Del Zotto and forward Scott Laughton get back in the mix.