Historically, by December 15th the teams that will make the playoffs have generally staked their claim on a spot, and with a few exceptions, it’s largely true again this year.
In the Atlantic, we have Montreal, Detroit and Boston in the top 3 spots. The Bolts are a surprise outlier after making the Stanley Cup Final last year, but early season injuries have pummeled the team, and they are a good candidate to knock the 4th place Senators out (who are riding some pretty unsustainable shooting percentages right now).
The Penguins are on the outside looking in when it comes to the Metropolitan (with Washington, Islanders and Rangers at the top), but they have two games in hand on the Devils with only 1 fewer point. Do we really think the Devils are a playoff team? I don’t think so.
The Central is an absolute dogfight, and the currently-5-points-back Jets unfortunately look like they’ll be the team on the outside. Dallas, Chicago, St. Louis, Minnesota and Nashville are just too good. The Central will definitely send five teams to the playoffs this year.
And that leaves us the insanity that is the Pacific Division. How crazy is it? Let’s recap:
- First place, with 40 points, belongs to the Los Angeles Kings, possession monsters who shockingly missed the playoffs after wining the Cup in 2014.
- Second place, with 30 points, is the Arizona Coyotes. They were expected to be basement dwellers this year, but incredible rookie performances by Max Domi and Anthony Duclair have won them a lot of close games.
- Third place, also with 30 points, is the Vancouver Canucks. They have won only 11 games, but have 8 extra points from OT losses.
- In fourth is San Jose with 29 points. They have 14 wins like the Coyotes, and have been hampered by injuries to some key players.
- Fifth and sixth is Calgary and Edmonton, each with 28 points and 13 wins. Both are riding 5 game winning streaks. Both are young and flashy and capable of pulling off upsets.
- Last is Anaheim with 27 points, which is a shocker. Expected to run the table this year, the Ducks had a horrible start to the season, and working their way back up the table has been difficult.
You’ll notice the difference between second place and last place is three points. 3! In the Atlantic, Metro, and Central, the differences are 13, 16 and 9 respectively. We’ve never seen a division so close at this point of the season. The Kings will almost certainly take one spot, and I’m confident the Central will take another, leaving the rest of the division battling for the last 2 spots.
My prediction: the Sharks will get healthy and Martin Jones continues his breakout season, leading San Jose to a comfortable second place in the Division. The Ducks will claw their way into the last spot in the final week of the season, fending off the streaking Oilers who finish a couple points out of the playoffs in 4th place. The Canucks go on a terrible losing streak in January, fire the coach and GM, and the Sedins twin-gle handedly keep the team from sliding further than 5th place. The Flames can’t get any semblance of goaltending and fall to 6th. The Coyotes fall apart after the mid season mark, and end up in the Auston Matthews lottery.
We saw some pretty straight-forward victories this week, as Rhys, Chris and Jace all took 7 wins from their matchups, while Davin took 4, and Frank and Brett both took 3.
We saw crazy lopsided goalie stats, with Davin and Brett and Chris pulling sub-1.600 GAAs and SV%s over .9435 while their matchups were….worse. Much worse.
No change in the standings this week, and next week we have Rhys (65-39-6) versus Frank (33-64-13) in a battle of first and worst, Davin (54-47-9) and Jace (60-40-10) battling it out for second place, and Brett (39-58-13) and Chris (48-51-11) fighting to join the contenders.
Best and Worst This Week
Goals – Jace 25 / Chris & Davin 8
Assists – Rhys 29 / Frank 10
+/- – Brett 7 / Chris -20
PPP – Jace 19 / Davin 6
SHP – Jace 3 / Chris and Frank 0
FOW – Davin 235 / Brett 114
ATOI – Frank 20:58 / Davin 20:11
SOG – Jace 165 / Frank 89
W – Chris 4 / Rhys 1
GAA – Davin 1.476 / Rhys 3.015
SV% – Davin .9524 / Rhys .9036
This was the closest spread we’ve seen in ATOI this week, as everyone was under 21:00 and over 20:00…including Davin, who broke the 20 minute barrier for the first time! Frank’s 20:58 was also good for the category win, and his first time taking a non-goalie category this year.
Pour out one for Brett who got 2 short handed points…and lost because Jace got 3. Pour another one out for Chris who hits 10 weeks without collecting a SHP.
Justin Faulk has played his entire career for a rather bad Carolina Hurricanes team, and as such he’s been largely under the radar. His last year was his best, scoring 49 points and playing every single game for the ‘Canes, even earning a few Norris votes at the end of the year.
This year Carolina isn’t much better, but Faulk has blown up, having picked up 12 G and 13 A for 25 points, 12 of those coming on the powerplay as his usage has inched up over 25 minutes per night. At this rate, he’s bound to smash his career high for points, and will be in serious consideration for the Norris…to date, only Erik Karlsson and John Klingberg have picked up more points.
Faulk’s career shooting percentage is just about half of his current 12.9%, so we imagine his scoring rate will decline a little. But right now, 60 points seems like a very reachable goal.
Watching the Waiver Wire
– This week Davin picked up Jared Spurgeon from Rhys. This marked Davin’s second time making a successful waiver claim.
Dan Boyle had a monster week, picking up 2 G and 2 A with 2 PPP as the Rangers finished up their Western Canada road trip. Boyle is a streaky scorer, and at 39, who knows how much he has in the tank, but he’s also been promoted to running the first power play unit, so now’s the time to jump on the Boyle bandwagon.
Dennis Wideman still hasn’t collected a goal this year, but he’s been an assist machine this year, picking up 3 more this week. He’s also good for close to 23 minutes a night, and can be counted on for several SOG per game.
It’s interesting that, in a league made up of 2/3 Oilers fans, no one has picked up Anders Nilsson yet. He’s backstopped the Oilers to 5 straight wins with sparkling numbers, save for the 4 goals he let in on Friday against New York. It seems like he has a lock on the starter position in Edmonton, so is he the real deal? Has he fixed the goalie situation in Edmonton?
Semyon Varlamov is back to putting up the kind of numbers his talent can produce, with 1.46 GAA and .946 SV% this week. He’s still only at .903 on the year, and that number is practically guaranteed to rise. Could this be the beginning of his upswing?
Mathieu Perreault doesn’t garner as much attention as other Jets, but he’s collected an incredible 19 assists this season, good for 10th in the NHL. His 4 point night against Columbus this week certainly added to it, but with 23 points already this year, he’s practically guaranteed to eclipse his career high of 43.
Joel Ward is a classic middle-6 forward, capable of moving up and down the line-up, playing the skill game or the heavy game, and he’s thriving in his first year in San Jose. When he signed as a free agent in SJ, many wondered if his production in Washington was a product of the system; so far, it seems like the Sharks hit the jackpot, as Ward is on track to break 50 points for the first time in his career.