The NHL season has about another month to go and teams are starting to make a push for the postseason. Several improved their organizations with the trade deadline two weeks ago. Others haven’t needed a new player to spark them. They are improving with the players they already had.
With every winner comes a loser, and there are several teams that had playoff aspirations, but as the season approaches the postseason, it is looking more and more likely they’ll be staying home.
We looked at some of the teams who are peaking at the right time, and others that haven’t been able to get out of their own way.
Vegas Golden Knights
Since getting Mark Stone from Ottawa the team has gone 4-0, separating itself from the surging Arizona Coyotes in the standings. They have outscored those opponents 16-6.
The team had been mired in a slump, but acquiring Stone has been a huge move for the team. Forward Max Pacioretty said the team is ready for the playoffs.
“Going through that little bit of down time, we kept saying that would make us better at the end of the year,” Pacioretty said. “Hopefully we can still say that, but that makes this great play as of late feel a little bit better and makes us realize we’re a good group and gives us confidence going forward.”
They will get tested on Wednesday when the host division rival Calgary, who is currently in first place.
Chicago is not going to make the playoffs, but they have been a dream for over bettors. The Blackhawks have hit the over 22 out of their last 23 times, including their last 15 games.
Sunday the streak was in jeopardy as the team traveled to San Jose. The over/under was 6.5 and the game was 4-2 with 22 seconds remaining. That is when Melker Karlsson scored in an empty net to give the overs the victory. They have the best over record at 43-18-4.
A month ago the defending Stanley Cup champions Washington were four points behind Metropolitan Division leaders the New York Islanders. Now, though, the Capitals have leaped over the Islanders and are two games in front of them in the division.
Washington is on a four-game winning streak and is 7-3 in their last 10 games. Their biggest test is March 16 when the travel to Tampa Bay for what could be a preview of the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Penguins are fighting for a playoff spot, and have been losing ground to the teams they are competing with for the postseason. A month ago Pittsburgh had the most points between themselves, Montreal, Columbus and Carolina.
The top three will go to the playoffs, and now Pittsburgh is tied for third with the Canadians, and Columbus is just two points behind. The Penguins did shuffle their lines after an embarrassing loss to the last-placed Buffalo Sabres. They defeated Montreal so maybe this will push them into the playoffs.
New York Islanders
The feel-good story of the NHL suddenly doesn’t feel as good. The Islanders, who signed coach Barry Trotz, were in first place in the division, ahead of the Washington Capitals, the team that refused to give Trotz a raise after winning the Stanley Cup.
Now New York is in second place and has lost two straight games. Carolina is only three points behind them. Another month of struggles and it’s not inconceivable that the Islanders could miss the playoffs.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings weren’t going to the playoffs, but it was thought they wouldn’t fall this far this fast. Los Angeles is 1-6-3 in its last 10 games, and they have a firm grip as the worst team in the Western Conference.
The only goal left for them is to jump over rival Anaheim. They are three points away from the Ducks, but it is far more realistic that they could end up with the worst record in not just the west, but the NHL.