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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: Canucks escape Arizona with another win for the moms

at Pepsi Center on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.
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With their mothers traveling on the road trip — Matt Bartkowski‘s mom, Beth, has become a cult hero in Vancouver after another priceless media interview — the Canucks took back-to-back wins, moving them right back into the thick of the playoff fight in the Western Conference.

After beating the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, the Canucks held on for the 2-1 victory in Arizona on Wednesday, despite being without Brandon Sutter (broken jaw), Alex Edler (broken fibula) and Derek Dorsett, who was scratched from the lineup due to illness, as per Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy.

It was only a few days ago, following a home loss to the Calgary Flames, that it felt like the Canucks’ playoff hopes were essentially dashed. They fielded their healthiest lineup in months and couldn’t score and couldn’t win.

Two quick wins later, they’re two points out of a Wild Card spot in the West, despite getting outshot in Arizona.

Up by a goal in the third period, defenseman Alex Biega played the hero, pulling the puck out of the crease after it got by Ryan Miller on a backhand shot from Kyle Chipchura, maintaining Vancouver’s lead.

Phaneuf burned on Zetterberg game-winner in Sens debut

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A day after getting traded out of Toronto, Dion Phaneuf made his Ottawa Senators debut.

It ended with a 3-1 road loss for the Senators, and Phaneuf getting burned by Henrik Zetterberg on the eventual game winner early in the third period.

Zetterberg picked up the puck near the Ottawa blue line, beat Phaneuf to the outside, slipped the puck under the stick of the Sens’ newest blue liner and quickly roofed his shot on Craig Anderson.

“He made a real good play and you’ve got to give credit when credit is due,” Phaneuf told the Ottawa Sun.

“I put my stick there, he put (the puck) under and he made a good shot. I’ve got to have a better stick in that situation, but you’ve got to give him credit for that play.”

Phaneuf finished the night with a minus-one rating and two hits in almost 22 minutes of ice time, putting him second among Sens defensemen in that category behind Erik Karlsson, who played a whopping 33:30.

Phaneuf drilled Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser with a hard slap shot early in the third period.

DeKeyser played one more shift — all of 10 seconds — before exiting the game.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.

Video: Wideman hearing ‘a tricky case’ as NHLPA hopes to get 20-game suspension reduced

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There is no certain timeline for when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might rule on Dennis Wideman‘s appeal, according to a report from hockey insider Darren Dreger on NBCSN, as the Calgary Flames defenseman hopes to get his 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson reduced.

“Now, ultimately what they’re hoping from a Wideman perspective and the Players’ Association is that commissioner Gary Bettman will rule and he will reduce the number of games suspended down from 20,” said Dreger during a segment on NBCSN.

“Is he going to reduce it by three games? Five games seems a bit of a stretch. And when might he do that? There’s no timeline on this.”