The NHL's Seven Eastern Conference Teams You Won't See Past April 12
We're 50 games in for every team in the NHL now, and the playoff race is beginning to heat up (obviously). The amount of mediocrity in the league is amazing, but no matter the current strength of the league, the top eight in each conference will go on to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Which means seven will be going home without a chance at Lord Stanley. Will the Islanders be one of those seven representatives from the Eastern Conference? Keep clicking and find out.
It definitely didn't take 50 games to tell the Hurricanes weren't going very far this season. They're currently dead last in the conference and just one point ahead of Edmonton for worst in the league. They're 28th in goals scored and goals against.
A team that went to the Eastern Conference finals just eight months ago seems lost.
Toronto Maple Leafs
It's been a rough couple seasons for Brian Burke and company. They're well on their way to a team record fifth straight season without qualifying for the playoffs. They have promising talent in Phil Kessel and Alexei Ponikarovsky, but their goaltending has been awful.
Toronto won't be seeing a first-round opponent anytime soon without a somewhat reliable netminder.
Luckily for Tomas Vokoun, matching goaltender equipment with jerseys (as NOT noted above) has no barring on a team's playoff chances. Unfortunately, injuries do.
The fractured tibia of leading scorer Nathan Horton will keep him out until mid-March, which will certainly hurt the offense. And while Vokoun is notorious for "stealing" wins, the team needs to score a bit in order for him to be given a chance to.
Sunday night, as the final horn sounded in Carolina after the 'Canes 5-1 victory over Boston, Bruins play-by-play man Jack Edwards said "the Bruins have hit rock bottom." I'd say. They've lost five in a row to fall out of the playoff picture at the moment, while scoring the least amount of goals in the league.
After winning 53 games last season, they've shown no signs of being anywhere close to that caliber this year.
I remember texting my friend in the beginning of December, asking if he thought the Thrashers had a chance at the Southeast Division. His response: "You serious?" Turns out he was right.
I gave the Thrashers a lot of credit early on in the year. They've since fallen back down to earth, and in their almost God-given place outside the playoff picture. With the almost certain trade of star winger Ilya Kovalchuk pending, they're almost as certain a lock as any team to not make it.
This is the first team that would make the playoffs if they started today but that I'm predicting not to. Why? I can't explain it with any kinds of fancy stats, but I just don't see this team as a team built to make the playoffs. I mean, of course they are built to get there, as every team is.
But there are several teams in the Eastern Conference playoff race that have more stable goaltending situations, while also being able to light up the lamp a little more than Montreal can. They're honestly just not that good off paper, and they are painstakingly inconsistent.
For example, they've just won two in a row, but are 4-6 in their past 10. Going 4-6 in the next three 10-game sample sizes will not get Montreal into the playoffs, and I don't see them being much better than that.
New York Rangers
It's not fair that Henrik Lundqvist is in the picture displaying how the Rangers won't make the playoffs, because without him the Rangers would be lost. As they would be with Marian Gaborik. The Rangers have scored 137 goals this season, and Gaborik is responsible for 29 of those.
But outside Gaborik, only two Rangers have double-digit goal totals. New York has shown on several occasions to go on painful goal scoring droughts, something a playoff-hopeful team can't do as often as they do. They currently sit eighth in the Eastern Conference, but I just don't think they're good enough offensively to stay there.