With the All-Star break over, it’s time for the NHL playoff races to intensify. Every week, we’ll provide updates for each division’s outlook. The biggest contenders and/or closest races will receive the greatest amount of attention.
Bold = playoff contender; Italics = likely lottery fodder.
Atlantic Division outlook
1. Philadelphia Flyers (33-12-5 for 71 pts; 50 Games Played)
Current streak: Two wins in a row
Week ahead: Road vs. Tampa Bay (Tuesday), home against Nashville (Thursday) and home vs. Dallas (Saturday).
Thoughts: The Flyers have a challenging week ahead for them, although they at least won’t have to deal with any back-to-back games. The Lightning, Predators and Stars are all capable opponents so this will be an interesting test for Philly.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins (31-15-4 for 66 pts; 50 GP)
Current streak: Two game winning streak
Week ahead: road vs. Rangers (Tues), home against Islanders (Wed), home vs. Buffalo (Fri) and away against Washington (Sun)
Thoughts: With Sidney Crosby out indefinitely (perhaps until the playoffs, even?) and Evgeni Malkin banged up in his own right, it seems like the Penguins should focus on staying in the four to six seed range because the Flyers are pulling away.
3. New York Rangers (29-20-3 for 61 pts; 52 GP)
Current streak: One loss.
Week ahead: home vs. Pittsburgh (Tues), home vs. New Jersey (Thurs) and away against Montreal (Saturday).
Thoughts: The Rangers’ hopes of winning the division are extremely slim, so they should instead try to get healthy for the playoffs. It looks like the break will do them some good, as they look to integrate some important pieces back into the lineup soon.
4. New York Islanders (15-27-7 for 37 pts; 49 GP)
Current streak: three game losing streak
Week ahead: @ Atlanta (Tues), @ Pittsburgh (Wed) and home vs. Ottawa.
Thoughts: Time to get some more draft picks, Garth.
5. New Jersey Devils (16-30-3 for 35 pts; 49 GP)
Current streak: one game losing streak.
Week ahead: vs. Ottawa (Tues), @ Rangers (Thurs), home vs. Florida (Fri) and road vs. Montreal (Sun).
Thoughts: If Lou Lamoriello isn’t already working the phones to move nonessential vets, then maybe he really did “lose it.”