Around the Rink: Why Can’t the NHL Playoffs Start Already?

AROUND THE RINK is a new weekly hockey segment on the NHL and all of its teams. Every Wednesday we go over what’s new with your favorite teams, your favorite players, as well as the crazy things going on within the National Hockey League.

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins: The Bruins are in free fall. They are 4-6-0 in their last 10 games, have lost three in a row and are in danger of losing their number 2 seed to the Ottawa Senators. The worst of it is replacement backup goaltender Marty Turco looked awful in his Bruins debut last night against the Tampa Bay Lightening. Probably the most up and down team this season.

Sabres Goalie Ryan Miller has been a key part of their playoff push.

Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres are making a statement, perhaps not for this season but definitely for next season: We will not go quietly. The Sabres are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games, and are only 4 points out of the 8th and final playoff spot.

Carolina Hurricanes: Put up a good fight against a much superior New York Rangers squad last night, but ended up losing the game 4-2. They’re still in the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, and most definitely won’t make the playoffs this season.

Florida Panthers: Speaking of teams that might lose their top seed in the Eastern Conference, how about the Florida Panthers? Another team that has been reeling the past couple of weeks and is about to lose their top seed to either the Capitals or the Jets. It’s going to come down to a photo finish in the Southeast this year.

Montreal Canadiens: Erik Cole got a little excited tonight after he scored against the Ottawa Senators. He high fives the referee!

New Jersey Devils: Ilya Kovalchuk was named the NHL’s second star of the week. One of the main points they brought up was his two way play, and his ability to play defensively and help his team win. Too bad it took him leaving Atlanta to become a complete player, they could have used someone like that down there.

New York Islanders: Talk about a stumbling block. The Islanders took a terrible loss to the New Jersey Devils last Saturday night. After taking the 1-0 lead late into the third period, the Islanders gave up two quick goals in the last minute to lose the game 2-1. Terrible.

New York Rangers: Ho hum, the Rangers are still the top dog in the East, but that might change quickly if the Penguins continue to surge in the standings. Tomorrows game against Sydney Crosby will be huge.

Ottawa Senators: The Ottawa Senators are in prime position to take over first place in the Northeast Division from the Boston Bruins. Wait, what did I just say? I still don’t believe it.

Philadelphia Flyers: Ilya Bryzgalov has become a sensation. He’s had three straight shutout appearances, most recently against the New Jersey Devils in a 3-0 victory. The Flyers had played them a few days before and had lost 4-1 with Sergei Bobrovsky in net. Coincidence?

Pittsburgh Penguins: As if the Penguins couldn’t get any better, tomorrow night will welcome the ever anticipated return of Sydney Crosby to the lineup versus the New York Rangers. I’m sure everyone and their mother will be tuning in.

Tampa Bay Lightning: One bright spot for the Tampa Bay Lightening is Steven Stamkos, who last night scored his 50th goal of the season. Impressive feat from an unbelievable superstar, and even more impressive at his young age.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Remember a couple of weeks ago when the Leafs had a chance to make the playoffs? Well, they are 1-8-1 in their last 10 games, and have fallen to 12th place in the East. Looks like Leafs new head coach Randy Carlyle will have to wait until next year to start working.

Washington Capitals: Mostly positives for the Capitals this week. The team has found it’s stride late in the season and forced themselves into the 8th and final playoff spot in the East. Whats better is that Dale Hunter finally looks like he knows what he’s doing.

Winnipeg Jets: Jets are involved in a tight race in the Southeast. They have to compete with the Capitals and Panthers, who both seem to be playing much better than they have been in the beginning part of the season. It may come down to only two of the three teams will make it, which in that case I see the Jets becoming the odd man out.

 

Western Conference

Anaheim Ducks- Reigning Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry suffered a shoulder injury against Dallas last week, and it caused him to miss a game for the first time in 272 contests….

Calgary Flames- The Flames might have to rethink their prospect-development strategy in light of the way 19-year-old Sven Baertschi has been playing. Typically, the Flames like to keep their prospects in the minors for several years, giving them lots of seasoning. However, due to a rash of injuries and emergency call-ups, the Flames were getting a little thin at forward. So, they decided to call-up Baertschi, the 11th overall selection in the 2011 draft, from his junior team. He’s played three NHL games now, and has goals in two straight games, both of which were Flames victories…

Chicago Blackhawks- They came back to beat St. Louis on Tuesday night, overcoming a 3-1 deficit to win 4-3 in a shootout. They became the first team all season to beat the Blues in a game where St. Louis had scored three goals….

Colorado Avalanche-Despite being sick enough to miss morning practice,19-year-old  Avalanche rookie Gabriel Landeskog fought through the illness and became the youngest member of the Avalanche franchise to ever score a game-winning goal in overtime when he tallied in extra time against the Ducks Monday night. Check it out:

 

Columbus Blue Jackets- Fun fact: only two Blue Jackets have a positive plus/minus rating right now: center Derek McKenzie, and newly acquired defenseman Jack Johnson. Columbus’ farm team isn’t much better- only six players on the current Springfield Falcons roster have a positive plus/minus rating. Not too encouraging for the future…

Dallas Stars- Goaltender Kari Lehtonen has been a huge part of the Stars’ 10-0-1 run in recent weeks. He’s coming off back-to-back shutouts vs. the Ducks (2-0) and Wild (1-0), and has nine of the Stars’ 10 wins during their hot streak…

Detroit Red Wings- They’re 3-6-1 in their last 10 games, and are clearly missing playmaking center Pavel Datsyuk. They’ve only scored two goals in each of the last two games, both of which were losses (3-2 to Nashville, 5-2 to Los Angeles)….

Edmonton Oilers- LW Taylor Hall has been hot lately, tallying goals in three straight games. Edmonton might want him to stop though- they’ve lost all three of those games. And the last time Hall didn’t score? Four games ago against San Jose…and a 3-2 Oilers win.

Los Angeles Kings- Los Angeles is one of four teams currently tied for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. L.A., Colorado, Calgary and San Jose are all jockeying for the last spot right now, and all of those teams have earned at least a point in their last two games.

Minnesota Wild- Goaltender Matt Hackett continued his impressive rookie season against Dallas on Tuesday night, stopping 24 of 25 shots in a 1-0 loss. Goal scoring has doomed the Wild all season, and the stat lines of guys like Hackett pay the price. All three Minnesota goalies (Hackett, Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding) have goals-against averages in the 2 range, and save percentages north of 91%, but the Wild’s league worst offense (150 goals this season) has doomed each netminder to a losing record.

Nashville Predators- Nashville has won three straight, and is position to possibly catch slumping Detroit for the fourth seed in the Western Conference. They’re only two points back with a game in hand on the Red Wings…

Phoenix Coyotes- After going 11-0-1 in February, March has been cruel to the desert dogs. Phoenix has won only one game in March so far, posting a 1-4-2 record so far this month. They’re currently the seventh seed in the Western Conference with 79 points, but four teams (Calgary, Colorado, Los Angeles and San Jose) are right behind them with 78 points. If they want to make the postseason for the third straight year, Phoenix is going to have to rediscover the magic that made them so dangerous a month ago….

San Jose Sharks- Logan Couture became the Sharks’ first 30-goal scorer of the 2011-12 season after he netted San Jose’s only two goals in a 3-2 loss to the Flames. This gives him at least 30 goals in each of his first two full NHL seasons….

St. Louis Blues- How’s this for a ridiculous statistic: St. Louis has only lost four games in regulation at home all season. That’s the kind of home-ice advantage a team wants in the playoffs, and there’s a strong possibility that the Blues, who lead the Western Conference by six points, could lock up the first seed and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs…

Vancouver Canucks- Did the Canucks know something the rest of the league didn’t? Since trading away Cody Hodgson for Zach Kassian, Hodgson doesn’t have a single point in eight games in Buffalo after racking up 33 in 63 games with the ‘Nucks. Of course, Kassian hasn’t been much better, with only two points (one goal, one assist) in six games since joining Vancouver, but he wasn’t known for his offensive game anyways….

 





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