Chicago Blackhawks and 10 Teams Who Must Improve in Second Half
As the NHL season approaches its end, teams are now preparing to make their final pushes into the playoffs.
The race is heating up, and with most teams having played around 55 games, time is dwindling for teams on the outside looking in. There is little margin for error at this point in the season, as one cold streak can send a team packing early.
For these 11 teams, their current play or overall play in the first half has been alarming, and if it continues, there will be no playoff hockey for them.
11. Calgary Flames
Currently sitting in a tie for ninth place in the Western Conference, the Calgary Flames trail eighth-place Phoenix by a mere two points.
All in all, the team is relatively lucky to be sitting in the playoff picture given its minus-17 goal differential.
The Flames will need to be much better on the road if they hope to stick in the race. Their 11-14-6 road record is not nearly good enough, and if they continue this trend, they will be passed in the standings very quickly.
10. Florida Panthers
Leading Washington by four points in the Southeast Division, Florida scored a big win against New Jersey on Saturday.
However, Washington still has the offensive firepower with Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and company, so the Panthers will have to be much better to fend off a surge from the Caps.
Florida hasn't made the playoffs in the last 10 seasons, and it remains to be seen how its inexperience will factor in the rest of the way.
9. Philadelphia Flyers
After a strong start to the season, the Flyers were sitting pretty near the top of the Eastern Conference for most of the first half.
However, the Flyers have been sputtering of late, and although they currently sit in a tie for fourth place in the East, only eight points separate them and the ninth-place Capitals.
With over 25 games to be played for all teams, there is a lot of time to make up ground. The Flyers will need to play better for them to be safe and gain home-ice advantage in the first round.
8. Toronto Maple Leafs
A recent hot streak catapulted Toronto into eighth in the East, but the Leafs have dropped three straight now and have little room for error. Only one point separates Toronto from ninth-place Washington, which as previously stated, has the capability to make a run.
The Maple Leafs are a game below .500 on the road, which will have to be improved upon as well to keep Toronto afloat.
7. Minnesota Wild
Minnesota has hovered around the bottom of the playoff race for much of the season but currently sits in 12th place in the West.
The Wild may be in 12th, but they are very much alive as they are a mere four points behind eighth-place Phoenix. However, if they want to make a run in the West, they'll have to start scoring, because their 29th-place scoring rank will not cut it.
6. Colorado Avalanche
In a tie with Calgary for ninth place, Colorado and its 7-1 shootout record has been teetering right above .500 for much of the season.
The Avalanche are going to need to start scoring more than they give up, because their minus-13 goal differential is not indicative of a playoff team.
The Avs are hanging around the bottom of the playoff standings, and they will need to play better hockey down the stretch to secure a playoff birth.
5. Winnipeg Jets
From a poor season last year in Atlanta, Winnipeg is very much alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race in its inaugural season.
Sitting four points behind Toronto for the final spot, Winnipeg and its rejuvenated fanbase are attempting to come back with a bang.
Despite its minus-22 goal differential, Winnipeg, led by Evander Kane and its young core, will need to step up its offense to keep its season going.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning
Before the start of this year, few thought that Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning would be sitting in a tie for 12th in the East at this point in the season, a mere point above last-place Carolina.
Tampa Bay's first half has been pretty bad by its standards, having allowed the most goals in the league (185). A 9-17-4 road record needs to be reversed quickly, and the Lightning's goalies are going to need to start stopping some shots very quickly.
3. Ottawa Senators
Having allowed almost as many goals as Tampa Bay, Ottawa is also going to have to cut down on its goals allowed.
The Senators are also going to have to start playing better, because only two wins in their last 10 games is not a trend that they want to continue.
With an aging core, consisting of guys like Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza, their window of opportunity may be closing.
2. Washington Capitals
Washington hasn't had too much trouble winning at home this season, as its 19-8-2 home record indicates, but the road hasn't been too kind. With only nine wins in their 27 road games, the Capitals won't stick around very long if they can't start winning games away from home.
With guys like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin, nobody wants to meet them in the playoffs, but they'll have to get there first, which means putting multiple wins together and showing some consistency.
1. Chicago Blackhawks
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. After heading into the break near the top of the Western Conference, Chicago is currently riding an eight-game losing streak.
Clinging to the sixth seed and only five points ahead of Calgary and Colorado, who are tied for ninth, Chicago needs to snap out of it in a hurry.
For a team with Stanley Cup potential in all facets of its game, this type of play is unacceptable. Wake up, 'Hawks.