inside the standings

Andrej Sekera, Brad Boyes, Nathan Gerbe

Northeast Division Watch (March 11)

Every week, we’ll provide updates for each division. The biggest contenders and/or closest races will receive the greatest amount of attention.

Bold = playoff contender; Italics = likely lottery fodder.

Northeast Division outlook (March 11 -March 18th)

1. Boston Bruins (38-20-9 for 85 pts; 67 Games Played)

Current streak: Three losses in a row.

Week ahead: Three road games – vs. Islanders (Friday), Columbus (Tuesday) and Nashville (Thursday).

Thoughts: There are two basic ways the Bruins can react to all of the Chara-broiled controversy: they can either shrink away from physical play for fear of criticism or take an “us against the world” mentality. If their feud with the Canadiens wasn’t already bitter, this certainly made it so, but the bottom line is that Boston still has the inside track to take the Northeast.

2. Montreal Canadiens (37-24-7 for 81 pts; 68 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Away vs. Pittsburgh (Sat), home vs. Washington (Tues) and home vs. Tampa Bay (Thurs).

Thoughts: For unbiased fans, it’s tough to root against the Habs (but for once, it’s tough to root for them for reasons beyond their gorgeous uniforms and rich history). Hopefully Max Pacioretty will play again some day, but it certainly won’t be anytime soon. Don’t expect Montreal to get much sympathy on the ice, either, as they play three playoff-quality teams this week.

3. Buffalo Sabres (33-26-8 for 74 pts; 67 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Away vs. Toronto (Sat), home vs. Ottawa (Sun) and home vs. Carolina (Tues).

Thoughts: The Sabres are finally in the top eight, as their hard work and the struggles of others allowed them to slide into seventh place. In fact, they’re actually in much better shape than the eighth-place Rangers because they’ve played in two less games. Instead of the previous notion that the bottom spot in the East coming down to Buffalo, Carolina and whatever other bubble teams made it into the conversation, things seem even more complicated.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs (29-29-10 for 68 pts; 68 GP)

Current streak: Three straight losses.

Week ahead: Home vs. Buffalo (Sat), home vs. Tampa Bay (Mon), @ Carolina (Wed) and @ Florida (Thurs).

Thoughts: If the Leafs are going to make a legitimate run, they’re going to need the Sabres and other teams to stumble. They have a good chance to trigger that response, as they play Buffalo on Saturday and Carolina on Wednesday. Of course, losing three games in a row won’t help that cause.

5. Ottawa Senators (24-34-9 for 57 pts; 67 GP)

Current streak: Away vs. Tampa Bay (Fri), @ Buffalo (Sun), home vs. Pittsburgh (Tues) and home vs. New Jersey (Thurs).

Thoughts: Trading for Craig Anderson might hurt their chances of landing the best pick possible, but if they keep him around, it might just be worth it. Playing the next four games might make that discussion moot anyway, because it’s very possible they can go 0-for-4 this week.

Northwest Division Watch (March 11)

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Every week, we’ll provide updates for each division. The biggest contenders and/or closest races will receive the greatest amount of attention.

Bold = playoff contender; Italics = likely lottery fodder.

Northwest Division outlook (March 11 -March 18th)

1. Vancouver Canucks (44-16-9 for 97 pts; 69 Games Played)

Current streak: Four straight wins.

Week ahead: @ Calgary (Sat), home vs. Minnesota (Mon), home vs. Colorado (Wed), and home vs. Phoenix (Fri).

Thoughts: The Canucks have taken the last week to remind the entire Western Conference that they’re the team to beat this year. After a lackluster effort against the Predators at home, they came back with a couple dominating performances in southern California, a win in Phoenix, and a spectacular shootout victory in San Jose. Anyone who thought they had peaked too soon might want to take a step back. Right now they’re the best in the West and are at the top of their game.

2. Calgary Flames (36-25-9 for 81 pts; 70 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Home vs. Vancouver (Sat), home vs. Phoenix (Tues), home vs. Colorado (Thurs).
Thoughts: Ever since Christmas, the story has been the same. The Flames win and win often. They’ll have a huge showdown with the rival Canucks over the weekend and then a rematch of the 1-0 defeat against the Coyotes on Tuesday. Jay Feaster and Brent Sutter told the team they wanted to win 2 out of every 3 games—they might need to keep up that pace just to make the playoffs.

3. Minnesota Wild (35-26-7 for 77 pts; 68 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Three road games: @ Dallas (Fri), @ Vancouver (Mon), @ San Jose (Thurs).
Thoughts: The good news for the Wild is they are only 2 points out of a playoff spot and would win the tie-breaker with every relevant team with 33 regulation/OT wins. The bad news is they are still in 11th place and in the time they should be making a push, they’re 4-4-2. Falling flat on their face in a big game against Nashville was not the way they wanted to start their final push.

4. Colorado Avalanche (26-32-8 for 60 pts; 66 GP)

Current streak: Lost two in a row.

Week ahead: Home vs. Anaheim (Fri), @ Nashville (Sat), @ Vancouver (Wed), @ Calgary (Thurs).
Thoughts: It seems like only a couple of months ago when people were talking about the Avs as one of the young, exciting teams in the league. Unfortunately, anything that could go wrong has gone wrong and golfing season can’t come soon enough. The best news for fans in Colorado? They’re currently looking at the 3rd overall pick in June’s draft.

5. Edmonton Oilers (23-37-8 for 54 pts; 68 GP)

Current streak: Two losses.

Week ahead: @ Detroit (Fri), @ Pittsburgh (Sun), home vs. Phoenix (Thurs).

Thoughts: As if the Oilers needed a reminder where they stand right now, they recently traveled to Philadelphia and Washington and lost by a combined score of 9-1. In 10 days, they’ve lost their top 4 scorers (3 injured, Penner via trade). Forget throwing in the towel—the Oilers might want to just forfeit the rest of their games to avoid any potential problems for next year.

Atlantic Division Watch (March 9)

Darroll Powe, Marc-Andre Fleury

Every week, we’ll provide updates for each division. The biggest contenders and/or closest races will receive the greatest amount of attention.

Bold = playoff contender; Italics = likely lottery fodder.

Atlantic Division outlook (March 9 -March 15th)

1. Philadelphia Flyers (41-19-6 for 88 pts; 66 Games Played)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Away vs. Toronto (Thursday), home vs. Atlanta (Saturday) and @ Florida (Tuesday).

Thoughts: Look, I don’t think the Flyers are going to lose their Atlantic Division lead to the scrappy but undermanned Penguins. Still, if Pittsburgh were to make headway, it would be soon. Philadelphia plays four of their next five games away from Cream Cheese Land. Granted, the Flyers have a nearly identical road (20-9-3) vs. home (21-10-3) record, but if you want straws to grasp … there you go.

2. Pittsburgh Penguins (39-21-8 for 86 pts; 68 GP)

Current streak: Two straight wins.

Week ahead: Home vs. Montreal (Sat), home vs. Edmonton (Sun) and away against Ottawa (Tues).

Thoughts: The Penguins are turning heads with their all-out effort, although one cannot help but wonder how much damage they can really do during the playoffs in their current format. If they want to maintain their fourth seed, they better play well in the next week or so, because they finish the season with four of their last five games on the road.

3. New York Rangers (35-29-4 for 74 pts; 68 GP)

Current streak: Two straight wins.

Week ahead: @ Anaheim (Wed), @ San Jose (Sat) and home vs. Islanders (Tues).

Thoughts: A late slump sunk the Rangers into a race with the Sabres, Hurricanes and x amount of bubble teams for one of the last two playoff spots in the East, so now they need to make the most of every game. The Islanders would be the cherry on the top of a tough week, but the Long Island gang has been awfully pesky lately. As most weeks, the Rangers should feel disappointed if they come away with less than four points.

4. New Jersey Devils (30-32-4 for 64 pts; 66 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: @ Atlanta (Fri), home vs. Islanders (Sat) and home vs. Atlanta (Tues).

Thoughts: It’s been a long time coming, but I think I’ve stumbled on a good (if obscure) parallel for these Devils. Have you ever played a fighting game such as “Mortal Kombat” or “Street Fighter” in which you fought poorly until you were down to the “Danger” mark? You know, that spot when one more leg sweep or blocked jump kick would cause your doom? Those are the times when you’re most dangerous; you get to play with that sense of freedom and danger that you never play with when you’re running with a full bar of health. The Devils are really scary right now, but can they really dodge every fireball thrown their way for the next month?

5. New York Islanders (26-32-10 for 62 pts; 68 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Home vs. Boston (Fri), @ New Jersey (Sat) and @ Rangers (Tues).

Thoughts: After Friday’s home game against the Bruins, the surprisingly surging Islanders play their next five contests on the road. Maybe they can sit in their hotel rooms and read the memo that they’re supposed to tank right now. Don’t get me wrong, the team’s probably tired of losing, but what good will moving up a few rungs on the ladder really do? Just saying.

Central Division Watch (March 8)

Chicago Blackhawks v Detroit Red Wings

Every week, we’ll provide updates for each division. The biggest contenders and/or closest races will receive the greatest amount of attention.

Bold = playoff contender; Italics = likely lottery fodder.

Central Division outlook (March 8 -March 14th)

1. Detroit Red Wings (39-19-8 for 86 pts; 66 Games Played)

Current streak: Three losses in a row.

Week ahead: Home vs. Los Angeles (Wednesday), home vs. Edmonton (Friday) and @ St. Louis (Saturday).

Thoughts: For any Red Wings fans who might fear the concept of the Blackhawks taking the Central Division against high odds, look on the bright side: Detroit’s been better on the road this season. The veteran squad currently has a 22-9-4 record in away games, probably aided in some way by the fact that the team tends to draw their own fans during most – if not all – road games.

2. Chicago Blackhawks (37-23-6 for 80 pts; 66 GP)

Current streak: Eight wins in a row.

Week ahead: Three road games – vs. Florida (Tues), Tampa Bay (Wed) and Washington (Sun) plus one home game against San Jose (Mon).

Thoughts: So, could the Blackhawks actually take the Central? Probably not, but they do have one big thing going for them: three more games against the Red Wings this season. If they could pull off the unlikely feat of beating Detroit those three times in regulation, that would bridge the six point gap between the two teams in a vacuum. Again, it’s tough to imagine that happening, but it’s possible.

3. Nashville Predators (33-24-9 for 75 pts; 66 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Away vs. San Jose (Tues), home vs. Minnesota (Thurs), home vs. Colorado (Sat).

Thoughts: The Predators are stumbling badly right now, going 2-5-1 in their last eight games. They are still in the chase for a lower seed spot though, but every loss is going to hurt (especially if they fall in regulation). Thursday’s game against the Wild is the biggest of the week, but every game is big for Barry Trotz’s gang going forward.

4. Columbus Blue Jackets (31-26-8 for 70 pts; 65 GP)

Current streak: Five straight losses.

Week ahead: Home vs. St. Louis (Wed), home vs. Los Angeles (Fri) and @ Carolina (Sat).

Thoughts: While the Predators still have an excellent chance to make the playoffs, the Blue Jackets are fading quickly. They’ve lost five games in a row after an impressive 8-1-1 run. There are going to be some disappointed teams once the West bubble bursts and it’s looking more and more like the Jackets will be one of them.

5. St. Louis Blues (29-28-9 for 67 pts; 66 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Away vs. Columbus (Wed), home vs. Montreal (Thurs) and home vs. Detroit (Sat).

Thoughts: With all the quality teams in front of them, it’s almost certain that the Blues should be thinking about the draft more than the playoffs right now. Sure, a comeback might be mathematically possible, but it’s hard to imagine them even getting in the top 10 (let alone the playoff eight).

Southeast Division Watch (March 7)

Semyon Varlamov, Steven Stamkos

Every week, we’ll provide updates for each division. The biggest contenders and/or closest races will receive the greatest amount of attention.

Bold = playoff contender; Italics = likely lottery fodder.

Southeast Division outlook (March 7 -March 13th)

1. Washington Capitals (36-20-10 for 82 pts; 66 Games Played)

Current streak: Four wins in a row.

Week ahead: Away vs. Tampa Bay (Monday) and two home games – vs. Edmonton (Wednesday) and Carolina (Friday).

Thoughts: In all the times we’ve published Southeast Division Watch posts, this is the first time that the Capitals are atop the division. Of course, that could change in tonight’s huge game in Tampa Bay. That’s not to say today is the only important one, as they face playoff desperate teams in Carolina and then Chicago next week.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning (37-21-7 for 81 pts; 65 GP)

Current streak: Three losses in a row.

Week ahead: Three home games – vs. Washington (Mon), Chicago (Wed) and Ottawa (Fri) plus a road game against Florida (Sat).

Thoughts: Again, the biggest game for both the Lightning and Capitals is tonight, but the match against the Blackhawks is big too. Tampa Bay still has an excellent chance to win the Southeast, but they need to turn around their recent slump.

3. Carolina Hurricanes (31-26-9 for 71 pts; 66 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Home vs. Atlanta (Wed), @ Washington (Fri) and home vs. Columbus (Sat).

Thoughts: The Canes earned a big overtime win against Buffalo last week, but that only gave them an extra point against the hard charging Sabres. They’re now one point behind Buffalo, with one less game remaining. To keep this a two-horse race for the eighth place spot, they need to win against the Thrashers on Wednesday.

4. Atlanta Thrashers (27-28-11 for 65 pts; 66 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Away vs. Carolina (Wed), home vs. New Jersey (Fri) and @ Philadelphia (Sat).

Thoughts: It might already be too late, but if not, this will be a big week for the Thrashers to prove themselves as still viable. In the next two weeks, they play against Carolina and Buffalo once plus the Devils and Flyers on two occasions. The way things are going, it probably won’t work out, but they can make an impact on their situation in the next 14 days or so.

5. Florida Panthers (26-31-9 for 61 pts; 66 GP)

Current streak: Five straight losses.

Week ahead: Three home games – Chicago (Tues), Ottawa (Thurs) and Tampa Bay (Sat).

Thoughts: If you’re questioning the decision to put the Panthers in italics, try this on for size: they haven’t earned a regulation win in their last 12 games. The Panthers play their next six games in Sunrise, so maybe they can move them back into the convoluted Eastern Conference playoff bubble again after two weeks. So we’ll just have to wait and see.