8 Most Inconsistent Teams at the One-Third Point of the NHL Season

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2013

8 Most Inconsistent Teams at the One-Third Point of the NHL Season

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    The big stories in the NHL this season have been the record getaway by the Chicago Blackhawks and the stellar starts of the Anaheim Ducks, Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins.

    They have been strong, opportunistic and consistent.

    However, the vast majority of teams have not had that same type of consistency.

    Some of these teams are quite talented and have had problems playing to their potential. They may be good teams or they may be struggling to play respectable hockey.

    Here's a look at eight of the most inconsistent teams in the NHL as we cross the one-third mark of the season.

Pittsburgh Penguins

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    The struggles of the New York Rangers means the Pittsburgh Penguins should be the top dog in the Eastern Conference.

    The Penguins are leading the Atlantic Division, but they are not playing as well as the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins. The Penguins have eight regulation losses and they have not been very strong in the defensive end of the ice.

    In the Penguins' 7-6 victory over Montreal Mar. 2, the defense constantly let the Canadiens back in the game and it took an overtime goal by Brandon Sutter to give the Pens the victory in a game where the offense gave them more than enough firepower.

    The Penguins have given up 64 goals through games up to Mar. 3, and if they fall short this year, it looks like their ordinary defense will be the primary reason.

San Jose Sharks

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    The San Jose Sharks started off the season on fire. It looked like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau had heard all the whispers about the Sharks no longer being a contender in the Western Conference and played with added inspiration. They reeled off seven straight wins to start the season.

    But instead of going Chicago Blackhawks on the rest of the league, the Sharks stopped scoring key goals. That's been their biggest issue.

    Thornton has disappeared for long periods and Marleau has slowed down after a remarkable hot streak at the start of the season.

    The Sharks are in a five-way tie for fourth place in the Western Conference, but they are just one point ahead of the Phoenix Coyotes and Nashville Predators, who are tied for ninth.

    They are eight points behind the Anaheim Ducks, so a division championship looks like it is out of their reach at this point.

Washington Capitals

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    Some critics might say that the Capitals have not been inconsistent this season—they have merely been bad.

    The Capitals are tied for 14th place in the Eastern Conference with 17 points. However, the Capitals are playing much better after a brutal start.

    Washington got out of the gate with a 1-5-1 record as Alex Ovechkin appeared to lose his scoring mojo while the Capitals goaltending and defense was nearly non-existent.

    However, rookie head coach Adam Oates appears to be getting through to his players. They have won six of their last nine games (as of Mar. 4) and goalie Braden Holtby has recorded shutouts in two of his last three games.

    The Caps are showing signs of becoming the team that defeated the Boston Bruins in the first round and took the New York Rangers to seven games during last year's playoffs, but they need to continue to string wins together.

Edmonton Oilers

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    Inconsistency is the watchword of the Edmonton Oilers.

    That's not necessarily unexpected. While the Oilers have a boatload of young talent that includes Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz, that group makes mistakes.

    Sometimes, they turn the puck over too often and on other occasions, they lack the timing to execute plays that their talent should allow them to make.

    The Oilers can light up the scoreboard, but they also go through long stretches of failing to execute properly. The Oilers have enough talent to make the playoffs, but they are tied for 12th in the Western Conference.

    They have not played well at home and if they want to earn a spot in the postseason, they have to do much better than 4-4-2 on home ice.

Philadelphia Flyers

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    The Philadelphia Flyers looked like they were going to play their way right in the bottom tier of the Eastern Conference through the first four weeks of the season.

    The Flyers were not scoring enough clutch goals and they were doing a poor job defensively. More than their efficiency on the ice, the Flyers didn't have the compete level of their opponents.

    However, just when it looked like Philadelphia was going to mail it in, the Flyers have started to turn their season around. The Flyers have won five of their last seven games and they have been much tighter defensively.

    The fact that they have dropped their last two meetings with the last-place Florida Panthers after beating them 7-1 tells you just how inconsistent Peter Laviolette's team has been this season.

Nashville Predators

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    The Predators are on the outside looking in at this point in the season, even though goalie Pekka Rinne is playing as well as ever for head coach Barry Trotz.

    The Predators go through long stretches where they can't score. Nashville has scored one goal or less in four of their last five games and even Rinne can't win when he doesn't get decent offensive support.

    Nashville may not have elite talent, but they have to find ways to score or they will fall behind badly in the Western Conference and they won't make the playoffs.

    Colin Wilson and Martin Erat are the only Predators who have scored 10 or more points and that's not good enough.

Tampa Bay Lightnning

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    The Lightning have the best goal scorer in hockey in Steven Stamkos (15 goals) and quite a bit of individual talent in Martin St. Louis, Victor Hedman, Vincent Lecavalier and Sami Salo.

    However, the Lightning have struggled badly after a solid start. The Lightning are in 13th place in the Eastern Conference. They are probably not going to make the playoffs unless they can catch the Carolina Hurricanes in the Southeast Division, whom they currently trail by six points.

    The Penguins have dropped their last four games and head coach Guy Boucher may not have much job security since the Lightning failed to make the playoffs last year.

Calgary Flames

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    The Calgary Flames evened their record at 8-8-4 when they registered a 4-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks Mar. 3. That win moved the Flames into a tie for 12th in the Western Conference.

    Playing defense is an idle thought in Calgary. The Flames have given up 68 goals, ranking 27th in the league.

    While they were able to beat a tired Vancouver team, they had lost their previous two games to the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild.

    General manager Jay Feaster must be getting the idea that his team is not good enough to win in the Western Conference, but he still clings to hope and has not started to sell off his best assets.

    If he ever decides to go into rebuilding mode, the Flames may trade Jarome Iginla to a Cup contender and give the team's long-time star a legitimate chance to win the Stanley Cup.