With the All-Star break out of the way it is now time for the playoff push. Most teams now have less than 30 games left in the season.
The NHL trade deadline is less than a month away, usually teams are actively looking to make deals. An unusually close playoff race this year means that the trade deadline may pass quietly compared to past years. While there are teams looking to improve, the issue is finding a trade partner.
Currently the West has 11 teams within 10 points. Unless somebody really falls apart and quickly it will be rough to find trade partners within that bunch.
The East is not as close but there are still plenty of teams fighting not only for a spot, but also for playoff positioning.
Which teams will make it, which ones have a chance and who should already be making tee times.
Edmonton – 38 Points
With 38 points the Oilers sit 15th in the West. They are 15 points out of 14th. There is no way to sugar
coat it, the Oilers are just plain bad. They have lost 19 of 22 games.
Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin has a 3.44 goals against average which has lead to the Oilers having a league worst -50 goals differential.
There are some bright spots for the future with rookies Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle playing well this year. They will continue to gain valuable experience this season but the Oilers will be hitting the golf course early.
The Blues sit in 14th place, which sounds bad, however it is only 7 points out of the last playoff spot.
They recently received a huge boost to the lineup when Andy McDonald returned after missing 24 games with a concussion. When McDonald went down he was leading the team in scoring so his return should give the team some added scoring punch.
A rough January, in which the team went 2-8-2, dropped them down the standings. They should rebound with McDonald back as well as the recent return of TJ Oshie. If David Perron can make a comeback from his concussion the Blues should be able to make a big push for one of the final playoff spots.
Columbus is part of the mass of teams in the West fighting for a playoff spot. Currently they have 55 points and are tied for 12th in the playoff chase.
While they may hang around for a while longer the Blue Jackets will not be playing in the post season. Steven Mason hasn’t been able to regain the magic in net from his rookie season.
On top of that the team is ranked 26th in the penalty kill.
Rick Nash is having another good year. Derick Brassard is having his best year yet and RJ Umberger has been solid. But their effort isn’t enough as the Blue Jackets will not make the playoffs.
Colorado sits 12th with 56 points.
The big news out of Colorado is that Peter Forsberg is making a comeback. The looming question is can Forsberg return to his former stellar level of play and lead the Avalanche into the playoffs. The bet here is that while he will show flashes of brilliance he will not be able to stay on the ice long enough to really benefit the team.
The Avalanche can score with anybody as they rank fifth in the league for goals scored.
On the down side they have given up the second most goals.
While they will play in some high scoring, exciting games they will not be playing in the playoffs. They will finish the season in the role of spoiler as they end with a stretch of six games, five of which are against teams fighting for a playoff spot. The only noise they will make will be perhaps knocking one of those teams out of contention.
The defending Stanley Cup Champions find themselves sitting in 11th spot with 58 points.
Ten players who were on the Stanley Cup team were moved during the off season. While the belief was that the moves still left the core intact it appears that depth and chemistry were sacrificed.
Marty Turco was brought in to solidify what was considered a shaky goaltending tandem on Antti Niemi and Chistobal Huet. However, Truco's stats thus far are below what the Blackhawks had in net last season.
The talent is there to make a run, the question is if the team still has the hunger and drive. Many championship teams falter the next year. It appears that the Blackhawks will join the list of championship teams that miss the playoffs the following season.
Calgary was once left for dead this season but has rebounded nicely by getting at least one point in 15 out of their last 18 games. They now sit in a tie for ninth will 59 points
While many players have picked up the pace after a rough start none are lighting the league on fire. Also there really isn’t an area where the team excels at. They are middle of the pack in goals for and against, penalty kill and power play.
While they will be in the race until the end, they will not jump the other teams in contention to earn a playoff spot.
Minnesota is tied for ninth with 59 points. They play a very slow, deliberate style that most teams do not want to see in the playoffs.They have scored and given up 134 goals this season. They will not dazzle anyone with a high scoring game but they simply just grind out wins.
Their longest winning streak of the season was four games, which they followed up with a three game losing streak. After a rough five game stretch to start to season they have played pretty even and haven’t had the major ups and downs that other teams seem to suffer.
Like the grinding team that they are, they should grind out the rest of the season and grab one of the last two playoff spots
The Kings hold the eighth spot in the standings right now with 60 points.They have solid goaltending, however, there is concern over the stamina of goalie Jonathan Quick. After a heavy workload last season, he struggled late in the season and in the playoffs. He is behind last year’s game pace right now, will he get enough rest to maintain his level of play through the remainder of the season?
The Kings do enough things right to be able to secure one of the last two playoff spots.
The Coyotes sit in the seventh spot with 61 points. The team doesn’t have any breakout scorers, however, they seem to get production from a lot of players. Eight have already scored double digit goals with two more only a shot away.
This depth has them sitting tenth in the league in goals scored per game at 2.76. They sit middle of the the pack on defense.
Ilya Bryzgalov has struggled of late but Saturday’s shutout of the Wild should help him right the ship.
The Coyotes should see some post season action this year.
Anaheim has been on a roll lately winning seven of their last 10 games. The streak has pushed them up sixth place 62 points.
The concern with the Ducks will be the workload of goalie Jonas Hiller. While he has been playing great this season and even made the All-Star Game he is now battling some fatigue issues. So far he has faced the most shots of any goal tender this season making his GAA of 2.56 even more impressive. The issue is will he or will not be able to keep up that pace?
The team has signed Ray Emery to a two-way deal with the hopes of him going to the minors. He is trying to come back from the catastrophic avascular necrosis injury, the same one that ended Bo Jackson’s career. While it is a low risk move, it’s nothing that will help them this year.
With a defense allowing teams to get off that many shots and a goalie already tiring the Ducks will fade as the season progresses and will miss the playoffs
San Jose is as close to being the division leader as they are to being out of the playoffs. Currently they have 62 points and sit fifth in the standings.
Their recent 8-2-1 run has helped them close the gap on division leader Dallas.
They are ranked in the top half of the league in goals for and against. They seem to get scoring from enough players to survive any one player’s slump. Not only will the Sharks makes the playoffs but they fight Dallas for the third seed and division title.
Nashville sits fourth with 63 points. The Predators have been able to take advantage of the Red Wings recent struggles to close the gap to five points. With the Wings getting healthy though the Predators will not be able to catch them.
Goalie Pekka Rinne leads the team’s strong defense as they are fourth in goals against. The team will safely make the playoffs, likely as the fourth seed.
The Stars lead the Pacific Division with 65 points placing them as the third seed currently.
While making the playoffs seems like a safe bet the bigger issue is staying ahead of the Sharks.
Dallas has been hit by the injury bug lately with Adam Burish, Krys Barch, Ray Sawada, Jamie Benn and Tom Wandell all going down recently. The injuries have forced the team to call players up from the minors.
The key for the Stars is how quickly they can get healthy to help their depth.
Based on the amount of injuries the Wings have had and that they have been to key players it is amazing that they are in second with 68 points.
They have struggled recently by going 4-5-1 over their last 10 games, including getting shut out in back to back games. Help is on the way though as Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom are both scheduled to return in the next few days.
The Wings will make the playoffs as no worse than the second seed. Their recent slide has left them nine points behind Vancouver for the top spot. Once healthy they will make a run at the top spot.
Two issues for the Red Wings are back up goaltending and fatigue. Chris Osgood isn’t scheduled to be back until March. Joey MacDonald’s 3.65 GAA in games he has started hasn’t instilled much confidence. If Osgood can return quickly to help take the load off of Howard it will greatly help.
The bigger fatigue issue is for Henrik Zetterberg. His ice time is slightly up but more of a concern is the extra attention he now gets from other teams. The constant hits and physical abuse takes its toll. If Datsyuk, Holstrom and the other players can get back quickly the help and rest that Zetterberg will be able to get will be invaluable come playoff time.
It’s no real leap of faith to say that the Canucks, with 77 points will make the playoffs.
The Canucks are a potent, balanced team as they are second in goals scored and third in goals against.
The issue right now is the injury to their best defensemen Alex Edler. They are a solid, deep defensive team but can they maintain their spot without Edler? They may already have an answer in Sami Salo who just started playing in the minors in an effort to come back from tearing his Achilles tendon. If he can come back and stay healthy once here the Canucks should finish the season strong.
Goalie Rick DiPetro being knocked on his can and out of action for 4-6 weeks, with one punch seems to sum up the Islander’s season. They sit in the 15th spot in the East with 41 points.
Kevin Poulin was already playing better than DiPetro so the injury to DiPetro will allow the rookie Poulin to continue his growth. With the long term contract DiPetro signed the best move for the team may be to trade Poulin away in order to get players to help them now.
The Isles will play better with Poulin in net but their offense can’t score enough to help. They will be nowhere near the playoffs this season.
Ottawa sits in a tie for 13th place with 42 points. They only have one win in their last 10 games.
Their anemic offense just can’t score and their porous defense will not stop anyone. Expect them to continue to fall into the last spot in the East
The Devils have made a run lately going 9-1-2. The push has them tied for 13th with 42 points.
Brodeur was banged up in his last game and left after the first period. The injury is thought to be minor which is a relief to the Devils as he has played some great hockey over this recent stretch.
The problem for New Jersey is that they simply fell too far back to start the season. They are 16 points out of a playoff spot. While they will continue to close the gap they will not be able to overcome the deficit and will miss the playoffs.
Toronto sits in 12th place with 47 points.
Rookie goalie James Reimer has played well since his call up in January but the Maple Leafs simply can’t score enough to help any goaltender.
Their recent 3-6-1 skid is just a sign of things to come. Reimer will keep them in more games than they should be but unless he can also start scoring then Leafs will finish far off the playoff pace.
The Panthers are in 11th place with 52 points. They are six out of the eighth spot.
Despite having two bright spots with Dmitry Kulikov and Keaton Ellerby the Panthers defense is suspect, solid goaltending has kept them closer than they should be.
Expect much if the same for the rest of the season. No major skid but also no major rush to make the playoffs either.
Buffalo sits in 10th place with 53 points.
With Thomas Vanek on a bit of a tear having 19 points over the last 14 games and the return of Drew Stafford from Injury the Sabres will hang around the playoff race.
Unless they make a trade to add some help though they don’t have enough to make the playoffs.
Atlanta sits in a tie for eighth with 58 points.
The Thrashers started the season hot, some would even say they even overachieved but a recent skid has them dropping down the standings. Over their last 15 games they have given up at least three goals in 12 of them.
Their power play is nonexistent and with their inability to stop anyone from scoring expect the free fall to continue.
The Hurricanes are in a tie for the eighth spot with 58 points. With the Thrashers dropping and no other team really stepping up the Hurricanes look secure for a playoff spot. They score enough but give up too many shots to do any damage once the playoffs start.
The Rangers sit in the seventh spot with 62 points.
With several players recently returning from injury and others nearing a return the Rangers should get a boost. They should be more concerned about moving up the standings than worried about anyone catching them.
Montreal sits in sixth spot with 65 spot.
The Canadiens have been moving up the standings. They are now only two points behind Boston for the Northeast lead.
They are secure in their playoff spot, the real race for them is with Boston and the effort to secure home ice for at least the first round.
The Capitals are in fifth spot with 68 points.
The focus now is catching the division leading Tampa Bay Lightning who they trail by three points. Their newly developed passion for defense has helped propel them up the standings.
They may not catch the Lightning but they should pass the Penguins for the fourth spot.
The Penguins sit in fourth place with 72 points.
Despite the loss of Sidney Crosby the team has played very well going 8-4-1. Losing Evgeni Malkin will be too much for the team to overcome. While making the playoffs seems rather certain, they will likely drop a spot or two by the time the playoffs start.
One positive is that they have built a nice cushion as they sit 14 points above ninth place. If Crosby can return soon the slide shouldn’t be too bad.
Boston is in third place with 67 points.
The main challenge for the Bruins is staying ahead of Montreal. Boston plays stellar defense and behind the amazing play of Tim Thomas they have given up the fewest goals in the league.
They are a lock to make the playoffs and even with the recent loss of Marc Savard for the season they should be able to hold off the Canadiens.
Tampa Bay sit second with 71 points.
Tampa has some amazing fire power with Steven Stamkos and Martin St Louis on the team. The down side is that those two have scored over 37 percent of the teams goals. Other players are going to need to step up on a regular basis to help them team maintain their standing.
The addition of Dwayne Roloson has helped improve a shaky goaltending situation.
Washington will make this a battle for the division title.
The Flyers are in first with 75 points.
They lead the league in scoring and are in the top ten in goals against. With Pittsburgh dealing with injuries the Flyers are safely in the top two spots. They only need to hold off Tampa Bay for the top spot which they should be able to do.
The most impressive stat of this team is that only two players on the roster have a minus plus/minus rating and neither of those players have played in more than 31 points.