NHL Week in Review (March 20-26)

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The NHL season can be a long one with 82 games seeming like a marathon that includes physical contact every step of the way.

There is rarely a team that can make that journey through an entire season playing their best hockey.

At some point in the season, a team will suffer a handful of losses and go on a bad stretch.

What every team wants to avoid though is a bad streak that sets them apart from the playoff race when it comes down to that time.

A lot of that comes down to timing as every team will not be great all year but if a team starts falling off at the wrong time it won’t matter how long their bad streak goes.

When a team doesn’t start their season well it doesn’t matter as much because they can come out of it and still make a run at the playoffs.

When it gets to the end of the season though any extended bad stretch can end a team’s hopes of making a run.

The Vancouver Canucks are getting a lesson in that in a big way this year after looking like the only hope for a Canadian team to make the playoffs.

In the west they were right in the fight for the wild card and although they had some room to make up they still had a decent chance of making a run at the playoffs.

Then in the last few weeks, they have struggled to score goals and it has sent them plummeting down the standings.

They went from having a real shot at the playoffs to being eliminated from the playoffs altogether.

It is the perfect expression of a team that just got cold at the wrong time of the season.

They weren’t necessarily a dominant team all year but having a bad run with so little time to make up for it doesn’t do them any good.

They are not alone in their late season struggles as the East has their own team that is coming very close to dropping out of the playoffs with only a few weeks left.

The Boston Bruins didn’t start the season the greatest way but found their groove midway through the season.

They rose to the top of the division and seemed like they were easily set to make the playoffs.hockey-sidebar

Lately, though they are falling off of the pace and are getting dangerously close to dropping out of the top three and out of the playoffs altogether.

Their slow fall could turn out to be worse than the Canucks as they may go from a good spot to not even getting a chance at the Stanley Cup.

Not every bad streak is going to see teams fall out of the playoffs but some could end up being bad when it comes to that second season.

For the Chicago Blackhawks and the Los Angeles Kings, their recent issues could mean wasted seasons.

Both teams were two of the best this year and seemed like they were headed for a meeting in the western final, a familiar sight recently.

Those great starts turned out to be essential as neither have looked like the dominant teams they were earlier in the year.

They aren’t going to be out of the playoffs as the Kings have already clinched their spot and the Blackhawks look like a good bet to make it, whether it is the wild card or a divisional spot is up for debate.

Both will likely enter the playoffs and will be teams to watch but how much gas is left in the tank for either team?

They may have looked good a month ago but momentum is an interesting thing and going into the playoffs without it has crippled any number of great teams.

For a number of these struggling teams how they approach the next few weeks could be the difference between missing the playoffs and making a serious run at the Stanley Cup.

Overtime
(Other News this week in hockey)

Heading to China
The Kontinental Hockey League is entering the market that every major league wants to get into as they will put an expansion team in China next year and they will start with a big name as Ilya Kovalchuk is set to leave St. Petersburg for the new team

Changes in Ottawa
The Ottawa Senators have spent a long time with the same management group but that might change soon as owner Eugene Melnyk hinted at massive personnel changes this off-season with the Sens likely missing the playoffs for another year

First Man In
The World Championship is coming up and the US team has already announced their first member as likely #1 pick in this year’s draft, Auston Matthews has been named to the team bringing more excitement for the annual tournament

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Key Scores:
Pittsburgh Penguins 6 – 2 Washington Capitals
– The Penguins are making a serious run late in the season and they are trying to show everyone that they are here to compete as they took on their rivals in the Capitals and beat a team that is quickly on their way to the President’s Trophy

Dallas Stars 6 – 2 Chicago Blackhawks
– The Blackhawks continued to struggle to find their way back to the winning path while the Dallas Stars found their way to the playoffs in beating Chicago and clinching their playoff berth as one of the steadier teams in the league

Philadelphia Flyers 4 – 2 Colorado Avalanche
– The Avs had a slight edge over the Wild in the wild card but they lost that advantage in this game as the streaking Flyers continued to play strong and beat the Avs as Colorado’s path got slightly more difficult

St. Louis Blues 4 – 0 Vancouver Canucks
– Yet again the Canucks were shut out as their chances for a playoff berth ended with the loss while the Blues had another strong performance that earned them a playoff spot and kept them in the battle for the division title

Next Week:
Buffalo Sabres vs. Detroit Red Wings (Monday. March 28th; 7:30 pm ET)
– The Sabres are not making the playoffs this year but the Red Wings are still in the fight as they continue to try to extend their NHL-record 23-year playoff streak with every game becoming much more important as the days move on

Colorado Avalanche vs. St. Louis Blues (Tuesday, March 29th; 8:30 pm ET)
– Both teams have plenty to play for as the Blues may be headed to the playoffs but they want that division title meanwhile the Avs need every win to help them get that wild card spot that they are fighting with Minnesota to earn

Columbus Blue Jackets vs. New York Islanders (Thursday, March 31st; 7:00 pm ET)
– The Islanders were right at the top of the division until a few weeks ago as they fell out of the top of the division and now are playing one of the worst teams in the league trying to find their way back to the top three

Ottawa Senators vs. Philadelphia Flyers (Saturday, April 2nd; 1:00 pm ET)
– The Sens are simply playing to go out on a good note while the Flyers are in the heart of a fight hoping that they can solidify their spot in the playoffs and continue their strong run into the second season to make a serious run

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