NHL Week in Review (March 18-24)

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There really is no story in the NHL this week that is any bigger than the NHL Playoff race that continues to roll on. With only two weeks left in the regular season there will be plenty to look for as teams begin to find out where they will stand at the end of the season. With teams looking to figure out where they are races begin to form as there is plenty to try to win with the playoffs on the horizon. There are the teams at the top of the league looking to get their hands on the President’s Trophy for being the top team in the league. In this race sits the unlikely St. Louis Blues, the New York Rangers, and the reinvigorated Pittsburgh Penguins. All three have their chance at the title but it might come down to the Penguins, who just recently got back the best player in the NHL Sidney Crosby, and the St. Louis Blues, who have surprised everyone this year and became the first team to clinch a playoff spot last week. There are also the teams looking to win their division who will be clinching their title and in the process clinch a berth in the playoffs. With only the Vancouver Canucks clinching a division so far there are plenty of division races to watch. The biggest one may be in the Atlantic where the Rangers lead and the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, and New Jersey Devils all have a shot at the divisional crown. Meanwhile in the West the Pacific division is a close one with Dallas leading the division and the Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes coming close. The Coyotes and Kings are also in the middle of another battle in the NHL as one of the closest battles involves teams that cannot afford to lose the race. This is the battle for 8th place and 7th place in the conference in what is the difference between playing in the postseason and missing the postseason. The Eastern Conference’s battle for the last playoff spots is a close one with Ottawa and Buffalo keeping the 7th and 8th spot. On the outside looking in is the Washington Capitals who are the closest to earning a spot if they can put together some key wins in the last few games. The Winnipeg Jets are slightly further out of the race but still have a chance at making the playoffs in their first year back in Winnipeg if they can continue to win and get some help from Washington and Buffalo losing. In the West there are a number of the teams looking to get their chance to play in the playoffs. As it stands the Phoenix Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings hold the 8th and 7th spot but they are under some big pressure form a number of teams. Outside of the playoffs sits Colorado, San Jose and Calgary who all have a shot at the playoffs. The San Jose Sharks are in 9th tied with Colorado and will simply need to win games and take advantage away from the other teams. Colorado is one of the closest and need to win most of their remaining games as they are far ahead of the rest in games played. The Flames are also in the fight and will need a little bit of help if they hope to get in to the playoffs this year. There is also another race going on outside of the playoffs as teams begin to fall out of any possible chance of making an appearance in the postseason. As of right now the Columbus Blue Jackets and Edmonton Oilers are the only teams that will not make the playoffs but are not the only teams that will be fighting to stay out of last place. Then again there may be some advantages to finishing last as that team will get the chance at the #1 draft pick with the bottom five teams having a chance at the pick in the NHL Draft lottery. Columbus leads the race that nobody wants to win with the Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders and Minnesota Wild sitting in the bottom five of the league. With all of these races going on there will be plenty to watch in the last two weeks of the season as the Stanley Cup Playoffs are right around the corner.

As teams look towards the playoffs there are plenty of ways to begin to prepare but one is much rarer. This is the addition of a new player as it rarely happens at this point in the season with most movement happening before the Trade Deadline. The Trade Deadline is a representation of the end of the moves and the beginning of the final stretch. This did not stop the Nashville Predators who signed Alexander Radulov who had spent the last few year in the KHL in Russia. The Radulov signing brought a former NHLer and former Predator back to where he last played and has done some good for the Preds. The Predators have had a good season this year putting themselves in good position to make another appearance in the playoffs. They have not clinched a spot yet but they are not far off and if they can continue playing like they have this season they could be favorites to make a serious run at the Cup. Adding Radulov to a team that is already rolling will only help the Predators in their hopes to get to the Cup. The only issue that the Predators have is that they have struggled to score goals but the addition of Radulov could fix this. Radulov was the goal scorer for the Preds before he left for the KHL and since he left nobody has stepped in to make up for the loss of offence. The return of Radulov could make the Predators a serious contender as he will provide them with some much-needed offence as they begin their march towards the Stanley Cup. It was a strange move for the Predators as they added a key piece to their team only two weeks before the beginning of the playoffs. With the addition the Preds turned some heads and made themselves a good bet in the playoffs. Radulov will have his two weeks to prepare for the playoffs as he looks to make an impact for a team that is hoping this year will be theirs as the NL prepares for the most exciting part of the season.

 

NHL Playoff Picture

 

Eastern Conference:

1. X*New York Rangers (101)

2. *Boston Bruins (89)

3. *Florida Panthers (86)

4. X-Pittsburgh Penguins (98)

5. X-Philadelphia Flyers (96)

6. New Jersey Devils (90)

7. Ottawa Senators (86)

8. Buffalo Sabres (84)

 

9. Washington Capitals (82)

10. Winnipeg Jets (78)

11. Tampa Bay Lightning (75)

12. Carolina Hurricanes (75)

13. Toronto Maple Leafs (75)

14. New York Islanders (71)

15. Montreal Canadiens (71)

 

Western Conference:

1. X*St. Louis Blues (101)

2. Y-Vancouver Canucks (99)

3. *Dallas Stars (87)

4. Detroit Red Wings (95)

5. Nashville Predators (94)

6. Chicago Blackhawks (92)

7. Phoenix Coyotes (87)

8. Los Angeles Kings (86)

 

9. San Jose Sharks (86)

10. Colorado Avalanche (86)

11. Calgary Flames (83)

12. Anaheim Ducks (75)

13. Minnesota Wild (72)

14. Edmonton Oilers (69)

15. Columbus Blue Jackets (55)

 

*-Division Leader

X-Clinched Playoff spot

Y-Clinched Division

Eliminated from Playoffs

 

Key Scores:

Los Angeles Kings 5 – 2 San Jose Sharks

– The battle of California took on more meaning as both the Kings and Sharks were looking to take the win and put themselves in the playoffs but only the Kings took home points that helped them move into the 7th spot this week

 

Chicago Blackhawks 2 – 1 Vancouver Canucks

– The Blackhawks-Canucks rivalry is an intense one and with both teams looking straight into the playoffs they met again as the Blackhawks took the two points and continued to create space between them and the Western Conference playoff race

 

Pittsburgh Penguins 5 – 1 Nashville Predators

– The Pens continued to look like the best team in the NHL as they beat a good Predators team using their superstars in Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby and putting every team on notice scoring 5 goals against Pekka Rinne

 

Vancouver Canucks 3 – 2 Colorado Avalanche (OT)

– Colorado needed the win to take a playoff spot for the time being but they could only get one point as they looked to put the Canucks off-balance with their speed but the veteran team got the best of the youth taking 2 points on the day they clinched the Northwest division

 

Next Week:

Ottawa Senators vs. Winnipeg Jets (Monday March 26th; 8:30 pm)

– The Sens sit in 7th place and are holding on to a playoff spot but are beginning to struggle while the Jets are looking to get back to their winning ways and move into a playoff spot to give their fans playoff hockey once again in Winnipeg

 

Buffalo Sabres vs. Washington Capitals (Tuesday March 27th; 7:00 pm)

– The thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race could be affected by this game in a big way as the Caps look to continue their hold on the 8th place spot while the Sabres are looking to fight their way into that spot

 

San Jose Sharks vs. Phoenix Coyotes (Thursday March 29th; 10:00 pm)

– The Phoenix Coyotes entered the playoff race after struggling and giving up their 7th spot and they will hope to end their slide by beating the San Jose Sharks who are on the outside looking in and will hope to earn some needed points to enter a playoff spot

 

Calgary Flames vs. Vancouver Canucks (Saturday March 31st; 10:00 pm)

– The Flames are on the outside of the playoffs and will have the most difficult paths to the playoffs but will be looking to get some much-needed points against the Division Champion Vancouver Canucks who are looking to start a hot streak into the playoffs

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