With the playoffs rapidly approaching, now is not the time for any club to have an oil change. Rather a modest winning streak helps ail all questions about whether a team did enough at the trade deadline to help push forward and try and secure a playoff spot. This is exactly the tale of two teams who are heading in opposite directions after last night’s action on the ice.
In Detroit it was the visiting St. Louis Blues who escaped the Joe Louis Arena with a 1-0 victory over the host Red Wings. The win was the Blues fourth straight and helped them leap frog the Red Wings in the standings for seventh in the west. The additions of Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold have had an immediate impact which reinforces why the Blues were winners at this year’s deadline.
The Ottawa Senators are heading the other way of the Blues, having lost four straight after last night’s 2-1 loss to the Florida Panthers. The self titled “Pesky Sens” have been anything but since the trade deadline where they failed to make a move that would help improve their club despite missing three key players. Craig Anderson has returned in goal but the absence of Jason Spezza up front and Eric Karlsson on the blue line might be too much for this club to overcome. Maybe standing pat at the deadline wasn’t a good idea?
Don’t look now but the Washington Capitals are also hot. Riding a four game winning streak of their own, the Caps find themselves surging up the Eastern conference standings and now sit in third place after bumping the Winnipeg Jets out of the division lead. Alex Ovechkin is scoring goals like he was when he first entered the league and Adam Oates looks like a genius, finally getting the results that he was seeking early on. Those that preached patience with Oates and his new systems also deserve credit given many were calling for his head when the Caps stumbled out of the gate. Last night the Capitals beat the Lightning 4-2 to go two points up on Winnipeg.
The Minnesota Wild look to be playoff bound and have their defensive systems in tow after a 3-0 victory over the Columbus Jackets last night. Niklas Backstrom made 24 saves for the goose egg to pull the Wild within two points of the idle Vancouver Canucks for the Northwest division lead.
Meanwhile the magical ride that the Blue Jackets were on seems to be over as they’ve lost two in a row and now sit four points out of eighth. With still plenty of points to be had, the Jackets need to get hot immediately and beat the teams that are ahead of them. Regardless if they make the playoffs, it’s been a great story in Columbus to see the Jackets defying the critics and staying in the playoff hunt this long.
Finally, in San Jose it was the Dallas Stars with a 5-4 shootout win over the Sharks to help the gutted Stars stay within striking distance of eighth place. The moderate fire sale that the Stars endured at the trade deadline meant they were all but throwing in the towel on the playoffs this year, but the win was their second straight and now just sit four points back of Detroit. Like the Blue Jackets, it’ll be difficult for the Stars to overcome the deficit, but the club has shown tremendous resilience and are playing great hockey despite losing their top three forwards.
Only five games on the slate tonight but there are plenty of playoff implications with all but one game having bearing on the jockey for the postseason positions.