Winners and Losers from Week 11 of the 2013 NHL Season
Week 11 of the 2013 NHL season provided hockey fans with thrilling action on the ice and plenty of excitement off of it with the amount of trades involving top-tier players made on Wednesday.
As teams help newly-acquired players adjust to their coaches and style of play, this is the week where clubs will need to end their losing streaks or reaching the postseason will be a nearly-impossible goal.
As of April 8, there are five teams in both conferences combined that have losing streaks going into an important Week 12 of the season. These teams must improve soon to remain in the playoff race and have an opportunity to earn a spot in the 16-team tournament for the Stanley Cup.
Let's look at the winners and losers from Week 11 of the 2013 NHL season.
Winners: Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals
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The Washington Capitals are on a four-game winning streak and have made up tremendous ground in the standings over the last month to overtake the Winnipeg Jets for the top spot in the Southeast Division.
One of the keys to Washington's recent success is its high-powered offense that is firing on all cylinders. The Capitals rank seventh in goals scored and first in power-play success. This team has an 8-1-1 record in its last 10 games, and in that span, Washington has scored 10 power-play goals.
Star forward Alexander Ovechkin has played an important role in the team's offensive success with an astounding 13 goals in his last 10 games, which has drawn him level with Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos for the league lead in goals scored (25).
Ovechkin was a major disappointment earlier in the season, but over the last month, he has become one of the league's most unstoppable players, which is what we expected from the Russian winger at the start of the year. The Capitals captain is now a legitimate candidate for the Hart Trophy because of his role in the team's climb up the standings.
The Capitals have a tough schedule for the rest of the season, but since they are playing as well as any team in the NHL at the moment, it would be shocking if they failed to qualify for the playoffs.
Winners: Brian Elliott and the St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues are playing their best hockey at the perfect time of the year, and the team's four-game winning streak has bolstered its chances of making the playoffs.
The Blues won all four of their games last week and currently sit in seventh place in the Western Conference standings with a four-point lead on the ninth-place Phoenix Coyotes with a game in hand.
St. Louis earned impressive victories over four quality teams last week by defeating the Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild and the Detroit Red Wings.
The most encouraging sign from the Blues' current winning streak is the improved play of veteran goaltender Brian Elliott, who has won his last three starts after entering last week with a disappointing 3-6-1 record.
Since starting goalie Jaroslav Halak has battled injuries recently and young backup Jake Allen does not have much NHL experience, the Blues need Elliott to play well consistently and give the team a chance to win each game that he starts.
In addition to Elliott's fantastic play in net, special teams also played a large part in the Blues' success last week. St. Louis has scored one power-play goal in its last four games, but despite the lack of production, the passing and movement with the man-advantage has been solid. In that same span, the Blues killed off all 12 of the penalties they had taken.
St. Louis has a difficult schedule for the remainder of the season, but as long as the team's goaltending and special teams stay strong, the Blues will make the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
Winners: Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres
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The Buffalo Sabres have climbed from bottom of the Eastern Conference standings and now find themselves just four points out of a playoff spot.
The Sabres are on a three-game winning streak that started with an impressive 4-1 victory which snapped the Pittsburgh Penguins' historic 15-game win streak.
Star goaltender Ryan Miller has been excellent in the team's recent run of success with three straights wins, which includes victories over three of the top eight teams in the East (Pittsburgh, Ottawa and New Jersey).
For Buffalo to make the playoffs, Miller has to be spectacular for the rest of the season, but as we have seen in the past, the 32-year-old goaltender is capable of dominating his opponents for long stretches of a season.
Even though the team moved some important players at the trade deadline (including captain Jason Pominville and defensemen Jordan Leopold and Robyn Regehr), Buffalo won't be an easy team to beat and will compete for a playoff spot over the next few weeks.
The Sabres do have a tough schedule for the rest of the season, but a lot of the teams they will play in April are the clubs that are ahead of them in the East standings.
Winners: Cory Schneider and the Vancouver Canucks
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The Vancouver Canucks have taken over the top spot in the Northwest after a bad start to the month of March allowed the Minnesota Wild to make the race for the division title competitive.
Vancouver has won two straight games (including eight wins in its last 10 games) and its power play has finally started to improve. The Canucks have scored on the power play in back-to-back games for the first time since the middle of February, and for this team to win in the playoffs, its power play has to be effective because Vancouver ranks 15th in goals scored at even strength.
The most encouraging part of the Canucks' recent success is the consistently strong play of No. 1 goaltender Cory Schneider, who has started 10 straight games with an 8-1-1 record. Schneider has firmly established himself as the team's best netminder, and he is starting to look more comfortable as the starter with each game.
With an easy schedule for the rest of the season, expect the Canucks to capture their fifth straight division crown.
Losers: New Jersey Devils
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With their shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday night, the Devils have lost seven straight games for the first time in 27 years. They have also lost 20 of their last 27 games.
Just a few weeks ago, it looked like New Jersey was not going to be fighting for one of the final few playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, with a fifth or sixth place finish a likely possibility for this team.
However, the Devils' recent losing streak combined with the improved play of the New York Rangers, New York Islanders and Sabres has made missing the postseason a very real possibility just one year after this team reached the Stanley Cup Final.
New Jersey sits in ninth place in the East and two points behind the Islanders and Rangers, who occupy the final two playoff spots.
Scoring goals has been a major problem for the Devils in their losing streak. New Jersey has failed to score more than two goals in six of its last seven games, and top-line winger David Clarkson has scored one goal in his last seven games.
The absence of superstar forward Ilya Kovalchuk, who is out of the lineup with a shoulder issue, is really hurting the Devils' ability to be productive offensively on a consistent basis.
If the Devils' offense does not improve soon, this team will fall further down the standings and miss the playoffs.
Losers: Ottawa Senators
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Fans expected the Ottawa Senators to fall down the standings when superstars such as top defenseman Erik Karlsson and No. 1 center Jason Spezza suffered injuries and were going to be out of the lineup for many months, but this team has still found ways to win games.
However, with a four-game losing streak and the Rangers and Islanders both just two points behind them for sixth place in the East standings, the Senators are now in the midst of an intense playoff race.
Scoring goals is a real issue for Ottawa because it hasn't scored more than two goals in each of the last four games (all losses), and the power play has failed to convert on any its last 17 opportunities.
The Senators also need to play better defensively in the third periods of games because they have been outscored 7-2 in the final 20 minutes during their losing streak.
Ottawa has to play six teams in the playoff race over its last 10 games of the season, which will make holding on to a playoff spot a difficult challenge.
Losers: Carolina Hurricanes
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The Carolina Hurricanes' four-game losing streak has put them eight points behind the New York Islanders for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Sports Club Stats gives the Hurricanes just a 3.5 percent chance to reach the postseason.
Carolina ranks 27th in goals against, 28th in power-play success and 28th in penalty killing, so it's not hard to understand why the team has lost 11 of its last 12 games.
The Hurricanes have allowed four goals or more in each game of their current losing streak (outscored 18-5 in that span), and the team has also failed to finish games with just one third-period goal in its last four matchups.
Eight of the Hurricanes' final 11 games are against teams in a playoff spot in the East, including two matchups with the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Unless Carolina improves dramatically over the next few weeks, the team's playoff drought will soon extend to four seasons.
Losers: Nashville Predators
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The Nashville Predators have lost four of their last five games (including three defeats to the Chicago Blackhawks) and the team's hopes of making the playoffs continue to crumble with each disappointing result.
Since the Predators have already played 40 games and sit five points back of the Detroit Red Wings for the final playoff spot in the West, it would be a surprise of Nashville made the postseason. No one else in the West has played 40 games yet, which means all of the teams ahead of the Predators in the standings have one or two games in hand.
Nashville has been outscored 9-4 in its three-game losing streak and the power play has converted on none of its six opportunities in that span. Overall, the Predators rank 27th in goals scored, 20th in power-play success and 27th in penalty killing.
If star goaltender Pekka Rinne does not play well on a consistent basis, it's very tough for Nashville to beat the best teams in the West. He has just one win in his last seven starts and doesn't look like the Vezina Trophy caliber goaltender that fans expected him to be going into this season.
With five of their final eight games against teams in the top eight of the West standings, there is a strong chance that the Predators' two-year playoff appearance streak will end in 2013.