We are here everyone! The week before the trade deadline has arrived and teams are either going to make the move that gets them to the playoffs or a Stanley Cup Championship, or the move that will cripple the franchise long term. Either way, all the on-the-second panic and incorrect analysis is going to be fun.
Speaking of panic and fun, what on earth is happening in the Western Conference? Within a few weeks, the Kings and Wild are back in the playoffs while the Sharks and Flames seam to be falling apart. One of them will be analyzed along with three other teams in the latest edition of the Nerdy 30.
30. Buffalo (82-game standings points pace: 55 points, Last Week: 30)
29. Edmonton (Pace: 61 pts, LW: 29)
28. Arizona (Pace: 63 pts, LW: 28)
27. Columbus (Pace: 78 pts, LW: 26)
26. Toronto (Pace: 72 pts, LW: 27)
25. New Jersey (Pace: 81 pts, LW: 25)
24. Philadelphia (Pace: 85 pts, LW: 24)
23. Carolina (Pace: 71 pts, LW: 23)
22. Ottawa (Pace: 83 pts, LW: 22)
Oh Philadelphia. You just can’t ever have a week where any of your sports teams can be boring. Either that or Sal Poalantonio will stop at nothing to keep making your city interesting. Either way, the Flyers were in the beginning of an 8-1-3 hot streak since I last wrote about them and looked as if they could join Florida on the outside looking in for the playoffs, but instead they lost to Carolina 4-1 and were outplayed from the start last night.
That being said, Philadelphia’s defense has now looked like a much better unit than it has been from the beginning. They are still in the bottom third in the league when blocked shots and shots off target are added, but the Flyers are close to league average when giving up shots on goal during regulation. Moving up Matt Read and Sean Couturier to the second line with Wayne Simmonds has really helped on improving the team’s defense along with having a reconfigured blue line that sees Nick Schultz with Mark Streit and Michael Del Zotto play with Brayden Coburn.
This will never excuse the incredible amount of bad contracts that will haunt this team for a decade, but the star power of this team will forever give Philadelphia a Yin-Yang affect as well.
- 21. Colorado (Pace: 85 pts, LW: 21)
- 20. Calgary (Pace: 93 pts, LW: 20)
- 19. Florida (Pace: 89 pts, LW: 19)
- 18. Montreal (Pace: 113 pts, LW: 17)
- 17. San Jose (Pace: 91 pts, LW: 18)
- 16. Vancouver (Pace: 100 pts, LW: 16)
- 15. Dallas (Pace: 85 pts, LW: 15)
Don’t look now, but the Sharks hockey team is exactly resembling the Sharks dance team since the Super Bowl was over: horribly uncoordinated. They have now gone 3-6-2 throughout the month of February and have used 24 skaters in the process, including the legendary Daniil Tarasov and Melker Karlsson. Injuries have had a lot to do with the mess San Jose is in right now, especially on the back end with Marc Edouard-Vlasic and Justin Braun, but the lack of talent in the bottom six forward group has now reared it’s ugly head in the worst way possible.
Fans and pundits alike were wondering what GM Doug Wilson and Sharks management were doing after only trading away defenseman Dan Boyle but not continuing the rest of a supposed rebuild. As mentioned a few weeks ago, the Pacific Division is awful and the rest of the Central Division is catching up to San Jose so fast, there may not be a fourth playoff spot available. Simply put, now is not the time to be as bad as Columbus and Colorado defensively as San Jose has been all month.
- 14. Anaheim (Pace: 112 pts, LW: 14)
- 13. Boston (Pace: 92 pts, LW: 12)
- 12. Minnesota (Pace: 94 pts, LW: 13)
- 11. Winnipeg (Pace: 97 pts, LW: 9)
- 10. Washington (Pace: 102 pts, LW: 11)
- 9. New York Rangers (Pace: 111 pts, LW: 10)
The Rangers are the biggest reason why you need to look at the standings with an 82-game pace instead of how many total points teams have collected, no matter how many games everyone has played. Since November, they just always look like they have two games less than anybody else in the NHL. If the season were to continue as it is, the Blueshirts would win the Metropolitan Division and, once again, play Washington in round one of the playoffs.
Now it seems like the Rangers are the same team since they were last written about on this website. They are still a high PDO team and their puck possession is solid but not elite. However, they are now 26-6-2 since December 8th. This is due to the increased production from the top two lines lead by Rick Nash and Derek Stepan respectively. Both players are averaging close to a point per game during that span and both have seen their on-ice shot attempt generation increase dramatically.
The thing I’d be concerned the most, like all Rangers fans and stats nerds alike are too, is Alain Vigenault’s love affair of using Tanner Glass. According to Domenic Galamini’s hero charts, Glass is the worst offensive player in the NHL amongst qualifying forwards and is third worst in overall puck possession. Yet, he keeps getting playing time and is destroying everyone else’s production along with him: especially last year’s playoff hero, Dominic Moore. Take note of this as the Rangers try to hope that their 9% shooting percentage at even strength doesn’t regress horribly and that the wins keep coming from either the same or different avenues.
- 8. Los Angeles (Pace: 98 pts, LW: 8)
- 7. Detroit (Pace: 107 pts, LW: 7)
- 6. St. Louis (Pace: 109 pts, LW: 5)
- 5. Tampa Bay (Pace: 106 pts, LW: 4)
- 4. Pittsburgh (Pace: 105 pts, LW: 6)
- 3. Nashville (Pace: 120 pts, LW: 2)
- 2. New York Islanders (Pace: 108 pts, LW: 3)
- 1. Chicago (Pace: 104 pts, LW: 1)
Even if their most local rivals look to have more standings points than them, let there be no mistake who is the best team in the Eastern Conference, let alone the Metropolitan division. Since February 8th, the Islanders have gone 8-3-1 and have generated more total shot attempts than anybody else in the NHL. Even without Mikhail Grabovski, who is out with concussion-like symptoms, this team is so deep all over the place that it probably won’t matter.
Their most recent exclamation mark that they have arrived is Islanders management recently re-signing defenseman Nick Leddy to seven years at $5.5 million per year. At 23 and being considered one of the better defenseman in the NHL based on Dominic Galamini’s work, he certainly deserves that contract; especially now that the Islanders still have plenty of cap space to go around towards their depth of talent. It certainly is fascinating that Long Island would just splurge so much now while Columbus was in the exact same situation last Summer and decided to play an embarrassing starring contest with Ryan Johansen’s extension.