Some NHL news and notes as we get down to the last 2 weeks of the regular season:
2 big wins for the NY Islanders this week to keep themselves in 2nd place in the Metropolitan Division and remain only 1 point behind the Washington Capitols for the top spot and 2 points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Doing it typical Islander fashion with defense and goaltending with Robin Lehner pitching his 5th shut out of the season against the Arizona Coyotes today 2-0. Still worried about the lack of goal scoring with only 16 goals in the last 9 games. Their defensive style could work in the playoffs but the Eastern Conference is so loaded with prolific goal scoring teams playing from behind might be a difficult task. We could possibly have a huge showdown for the division title in the last game of the regular season as the Islanders play at Washington. Both teams will go 100% if it is for division to avoid in all likelihood playing Pittsburgh in the 1st round or at least maintaining home ice. And the big x factor for the Islanders is all of their 1st round home playoff games would be played in Long Island instead of Brooklyn.
If you are a Toronto Maple Leafs fan you have to be concerned how this team is playing as we get close to the playoffs. They are solidly 3rd in the Atlantic Division but have lost 6 of 9 and all of those wins are against non-playoff teams. They had a 4 game stretch during this span of giving up 23 goals and now in their last 4 games have only scored 7 goals and lost to the worst team in the league the Ottawa Senators 6-2 and NY Rangers 2-1 in OT. They have 3 straight games against non playoff teams this week but end the season with 4 straight against playoff teams. They are pretty much locked in to playing the Boston Bruins in the 1st round but will have to be at their best to have any chance of winning that series.
A heartbreaking loss for the Montreal Canadiens tonight losing 2-1 in OT to the Carolina Hurricanes ending their 3 game winning streak as Carey Price had the shut until the last 5 minutes of the game and eventually gave up the OT winner. However the Canadiens do still hold the last playoff spot and Price has led the way giving up less than 2 goals a game in his last 6. A possible playoff type game this week at they play at Columbus Thursday night and as of this writing have a 4 point lead on the Blue Jackets. Their last 5 are ridiculously tough with Columbus, Winnipeg and Washington on the road and Tampa Bay and Toronto at home.
A disastrous road trip for the Blue Jackets as they have played themselves out of the playoffs with 3 straight losses and try to salvage the last game of the road trip against the Vancouver Canucks tonight. If they lose tonight it might be a must win game against Montreal at home Thursday night.
You can pretty much put a fork in the Philadelphia Flyers for the playoffs this year losing their last 3 of 4. Their Tuesday night loss against Montreal all but eliminated them.
And just like the Columbus Blue Jackets the Arizona Coyotes have played themselves out of the playoffs with a disastrous 0-4 road trip and now have lost 5 straight and trail the Colorado Avalanche by 1 point for the last playoff spot. They have only scored 5 goals total during this losing streak. This losing streak typifies the big weakness for the Coyotes in not having that tip of the spear goal scorer or that line that can produce goals in bunches. A monstrous game Friday night at Colorado that could determine their playoff fate.
You thought that one of the more consistent teams in the NHL would not go in a slump but the San Jose Sharks have now lost 5 straight. They have given up 23 goals during this losing streak and have lost to non playoff teams Florida, Anaheim, and the LA Kings. Shark fans better hope that goaltender Martin Jones hasn't been overworked and stays healthy once the playoffs start since back up goaltender Aaron Dell is not the answer. They are staring down a playoff match up with the Vegas Golden Knights and have a huge match up at home Saturday night against Vegas which could possibly determine home ice in the 1st round.
Even though they lost in OT 2-1 at Chicago tonight the Colorado Avalanche did salvage a point and have played themselves into the last playoff spot winning their previous 4 games including huge wins at Minnesota and Dallas. Goaltender Phillip Grubauer has almost single handedly carried the Avalanche during this run giving up only 6 goals in his last 5 starts. Playoff like match up against Arizona at home Friday night.
Impressive run by the St Louis Blues winning their last 4 out of 5 and pretty much securing themselves a playoff spot. A huge road win at Pittsburgh and home wins against Edmonton, Detroit, and Tampa Bay. They only trail the Nashville Predators by 2 points for the 2nd spot in the Central Division with a game in hand and 5 of their last 6 games are against non playoff teams so a realistic shot of grabbing home ice for the 1st round of the playoffs.
The Minnesota Wild are only 2 points out of a playoff berth but have the toughest road to get there with their last 6 games all against playoff teams and have lost their last 8 of 11.