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Inside the Eastern Conference Standings – December 26

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.

Want to compare and contrast? Check out the November and October editions of the Eastern Conference standings analysis.

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.

Tampa Bay should rise.

With Atlanta briefly stealing the top spot normally held by Washington, Tampa Bay kinda-sorta slipped under the radar. If there’s one team that should be even better going forward, it’s the Lightning because:

  • They hold two games in hand over the Caps and Thrashers.
  • Most importantly: they’ve only played 14 games at home versus 21 on the road. They have 27 games in Tampa Bay for the rest of the regular season versus only 20 more away from their arena.

Carolina and Florida are justified in a little schedule griping.

Much like Tampa Bay, Carolina and Florida are dealing with some odd early season scheduling. Unlike the Lightning, those teams sit outside the playoff picture to boot.

Along with playing overseas, the Hurricanes have played 14 games in Carolina versus 19 on the road. They cannot complain much louder than the Panthers, though, as Peter DeBoer’s squad played 13 games in Sunrise and 20 away from home so far.

Philadelphia and Washington must face the possibility of a 4/5 seed series.

Because they’re both facing stout divisional competition and will face more road games than home contests going forward. The Capitals have played in the most games (37) of any team in the East (although the Thrashers played in 37 as well). Washington already played 21 at home, so they’ll face five more road contests.

The Flyers must face the Penguins’ push, Pronger’s injury and more road contests (five more as well) too. Then again, they have 10 wins on the road already so they don’t have to worry as much as the Capitals, who own a 7-8-1 away record so far.

Who knows how that will shake out, but unbiased hockey fans would surely get a treat if those two teams met in the first round.

Road warriors

The Penguins (12-4-1) and Rangers (12-6-0) are the best teams in the league at bringing their shows on the road. Again, the Flyers are pretty efficient away from Philly too (10-2-3) while the Lightning are scrappy but not elite away from Tampa Bay (10-8-3).

This indicates that the Atlantic Division teams are going to be tough outs in the playoffs.

A long season in Long Island

The Islanders have played the least games (32) of any team in the NHL. If any fan base could get a fast forward button, it would probably be theirs (or the Devils’ fans, I guess).

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Overall, I think that the Capitals might be in a little trouble (at least as far as winning a division title is concerned) while the Flyers might face a bump in the road. The Lightning could move up while the Hurricanes and Panthers probably have the best chance among the teams outside of the top eight to make a run for the playoffs.

Oh, it wasn’t quite bold print worthy, but with Boston’s two games in hand and the Canadiens facing three more games on the road than at home for the rest of the season, the Northeast Division race could be awfully interesting too.

And, yes, the far-off possibility of a Flyers-Capitals first round series does get me kind of excited.

Optimism won’t come as easily for Lightning after ugly loss to Canucks

TAMPA, FL - MARCH 17:  Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes a save in front of Alex Burrows #14 of the Vancouver Canucks at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on March 17, 2014 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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Maybe the Tampa Bay Lightning aren’t “figuring things out” after all.

They were able to find the bright side of recent troubles, but what do you really say after a 5-1 loss to the struggling Vancouver Canucks?

The Lightning have lost two straight, six of seven and seven of nine during a deeply worrisome run. While they did generate more shots on goal tonight, they’ve now given up at least 30 in all but three of their contests since the start of November.

If the playoffs began today, the Lightning would easily miss them.

“It’s time for us to step up here,” Ben Bishop said after a game in which he was pulled heading into the third period. “Nobody is going to feel bad for us.”

Blame it on injuries if you’d like, but Steven Stamkos isn’t coming back anytime soon. If they don’t get things back together, they won’t be playing for much once he can return.

Flyers wouldn’t give up in seventh straight win; Oilers couldn’t protect a lead

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 08:  Claude Giroux #28 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates after scoring a second period goal against the Edmonton Oilers at Wells Fargo Center on December 8, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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One team just can’t be denied. At times, the other team just can’t seem to defend.

It was a pretty wild one between the Edmonton Oilers and the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night, with the ultimate result being a 6-5 win for the Flyers.

The ride was bumpy, dramatic and will probably provide Oilers head coach Todd McLellan with a lot of “teaching moments” (or, let’s be honest, reasons to yell really loud).

Things started promising enough for the Oilers, who built an early 2-0 lead thanks to a goal and an assist by Leon Draisaitl. You could then cue the horror music, as the Flyers scored three goals in a minute and 12 seconds to grab a brief 3-2 lead:

There might be some concern about a young team like the Oilers cratering from such a letdown, yet they bounced back … to an extent.

Edmonton rattled off three unanswered goals, giving them a 5-3 lead about five minutes into the third period. It seemed like it would be a redemptive moment after that three-goal blunder.

Then there was another three-goal blunder.

Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux and Michael Raffl helped the Flyers rattling off another three unanswered goals, giving Philly a seventh consecutive win.

The Oilers? They didn’t even get what sometimes feels like a customary “charity point” by getting to overtime. Three isn’t a magical number for Edmonton lately, as they’ve now lost three in a row. It’s probably safe to say that this one will burn the most.

Avalanche beat Bruins, even as Pastrnak remains almost unstoppable

BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 08: Nikita Zadorov #16 of the Colorado Avalanche slides for the puck ahead of David Pastrnak #88 of the Boston Bruins during the first period at TD Garden on December 8, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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David Pastrnak is scoring at an astounding pace. Sometimes it’s still not enough to earn a win for the Boston Bruins.

The 20-year-old wunderkind scored both of the Bruins’ goals on Thursday, giving him a patently absurd 18 in 23 games. Pastrnak now has five goals in his last three games (not to mention a five-game point streak with those five goals and two assists).

Calvin Pickard was perfect against Bruins not named Pastrnak, however, and the Colorado Avalanche beat Boston 4-2.

Perhaps part of the problem was that the Bruins “other” MVP wasn’t in action, then. Tuukka Rask has been right up there with the NHL’s best, but it was Anton Khudobin in net, and he gave up four goals on just 22 shots.

Rather than taking a step up the ladder, Pastrnak’s made leaps. Similarly, Rask is more than merely rebounding from what was – for his lofty standards – a disappointing campaign in 2015-16.

The Bruins need more from their supporting cast members, however, especially when one of these two players can’t suit up.

BREAKING: Carey Price’s composure

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Even the best goalie in the world – one who makes it look easy – can lose his cool sometimes.

(Heck, that used to be the domain of Patrick Roy, right?)

It was quite the sight on Thursday nonetheless: Carey Price absolutely lost his cool and went after Kyle Palmieri during the Montreal Canadiens’ game against the New Jersey Devils. You can watch that spectacle in the video above.

Palmieri received an interference penalty while Price received a roughing double-minor. Apparently fits of Price anger are rare:

By Hockey Reference’s numbers, Price has accrued 39 penalty minutes in 465 career regular season games and eight in 54 playoff contests before tonight’s outburst.

Perhaps it’s just one of those nights.