With the passing of the trade deadline earlier this week, we are reaching the final stretch of the season. I’d like to take a second to take a look at the remaining teams on the bubble, and why they will or will not be making the playoffs.
Starting in the Eastern Conference, Toronto, currently sitting in 5th place has a total of 44 points. With 11 games remaining in their season, they’re looking to finish strong, and make their first playoff appearance in 7 seasons, which happens to be the longest drought in the NHL currently. I like Toronto’s chances getting in this season, they’ve been playing well, getting points in 8 of their last 10. I’m looking for them to finish around the 6 spot.
The Southeast division proves to be one of the more exciting in the NHL this season. With the Washington Capitals currently sitting at 3rd in the conference, they have only 38 points. The Capitals have turned their season around, they have points in eight of their last ten games. With Winnipeg looking like they’re going to fall off the grid, Washington is my pick to win the division and sneak into the 3rd seed, leaving the Jets out in the cold.
The Ottawa Senators have been a pleasant surprise in the NHL this season. After losing Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek, and former Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson, they have still been able to keep up with the rest of the East. However, they’ve lost their last three and have a poor road record thus far, and are setting out for a five game road trip before coming back to Ottawa to play five of their last six. I’m not sold on this teams ability to win on the road, but I do believe they slip into the play offs at the 7 seed.
The New York Rangers have been an interesting team this season, trading for superstar Rick Nash in the off-season, this team had high expectations. The Rangers are tied for the league low with the Colorado Avalanche with 89 goals on the season. I expect the Rangers will make the playoffs, but I wouldn’t have too much hope for them getting too far once their in. I believe New York will slip into the 8 seed rounding off the Eastern Conference.
The New Jersey Devils and the Winnipeg Jets have both found themselves on the losing side lately. and that doesn’t bode well for their playoff chances at this point. New Jersey 2-4-4 in their last ten, have found a way to get the overtime point, but need to finish games and come out with the extra point. Without Ilya Kovalchuk, I don’t see the Devils getting in. Like the Devils, the Jets are having a hard time getting wins, losing five straight now and winning only 3 of their last ten. I don’t think Winnipeg will be able to recover enough to make a push into the top 8.
On to the Western Conference, it’s as close as it’s ever been with only a four point difference from 4th place to 8th place, and only four points separating the 8th seed from the 12th seed. The current 6 seed Minnesota Wild have been one of the streakier teams we’ve seen this season. They’ve lost 3 straight now and the schedule isn’t getting any easier for them. I know the Wild have the skill to get in this season, but if they’re going to make any push once the playoffs have started, they’re going to have to start playing with some consistency. I don’t think the Wild will keep up with the Canucks to win the Northwest, but I believe the Wild will finish right where they sit now in the 6 spot.
The Detroit Red Wings are currently in 7th spot in the West and have a tough road ahead of them if they’re going to get in for their 22nd consecutive playoff appearance. With the positive play from Danny Dekeyser the other night in Colorado, Detroit may finally have a defense that can help keep some pressure off of Jimmy Howard, who will have to be at the top of his game if Detroit expects to get in. Detroit has the skill and the depth, I think they finish right where they’re at in the 7 spot.
The St. Louis Blues are currently sitting in the 8th spot with 42 points and a 3 point cushion over the 9th seeded Edmonton Oilers. The Blues have been playing well, especially since picking up Jay Bouwmeester from the Calgary Flames before the deadline. However, the Blues have 12 games in 21 days to finish the season. Even if the Blues do keep up and play well in the final stretch, they’ll be gassed by the time we get to April 27th. With Jaroslav Halak out at the moment, Jake Allen and Brian Elliot will have to step up and help keep St. Louis in the race. I think the final three weeks will prove to be to busy for the Blues and they fall out of the top 8.
The Edmonton Oilers have points in 7 of their last 10 games and are playing for the last spot in the West now. The Oilers are hot right now, and they had won 5 straight before losing the second game of a back to back to Vancouver. The Oilers have a really tough schedule going forward, including three games against the 2nd seed Anaheim Ducks. Specialty teams will be a huge part of the Oilers game whether they get in or not. They’re 3rd ranked power play has fueled their offense of late and they’re going to have to keep it up if they want into the playoffs. The Oilers also have a penalty kill ranked 8th in the league at 84% that can help drive them in. I expect the Oilers to pass the Blues, and get into the 8th seed.
Finally, we have the Columbus Blue Jackets. Sergei Bobrovsky has been playing fantastic, and the Jackets have won 3 of their last 4, and just aquired Marian Gaborik from the New York Rangers at the deadline. Gaborik should give the Jackets an immediate offensive boost, and the defense has been playing well this season. The Jackets are still in building mode, and from what I’ve seen this season, they’re doing a pretty good job of it. I don’t expect Colombus to get in, the road record has not been stellar this season, and six of their last 7 games are away from home.
This final few weeks of this shortened season prove to be exciting. There are a lot of teams on the bubble and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.
Topics: Bubble Teams, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Ottawa Sentors, Playoffs, St.Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets