Part 1 as we are at the 3/4 mark of the NHL season we will take a look at each team and where they are now as a franchise:
Anaheim Ducks Always a very consistent playoff team over the years the wheels have completely come off losing 24 of 29 including 11 straight while scoring less then 2 goals a game during this stretch which cost coach Randy Carlyle his job. Will not be a playoff team and the obvious priority for the off season will be finding goal scoring
Arizona Coyotes Battling hard to snag one the last playoff spots in the Western Conference they have won 5 of 6 with a grinding disciplined style and Darcy Kuemper went from backup to being one of the best goalies since the start of the year. Their highest goal scorer on the season is Alex Galenychuk with only 14 goals but they are 2nd overall in killing the power play,
Boston Bruins A serious playoff threat who have won 10 of 12 with one of the best goal scorers in the league in David Pastrnak and 2nd in power play efficiency. The key is keeping defensemen Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy healthy. Both goalies Tuuka Rask and Jaroslav Halak have been outstanding and it will be interesting to see who starts in the playoffs and how long of a leash each will have if they struggle.
Buffalo Sabres After a promising start the Sabres have slowly faded out of playoff contention losing their last 6 of 7 as the defense has sprung leaks. They were prognosticated to improve this year but not make the playoffs. They are on the upward curve and 1st overall pick 18 year old Swedish defenseman has had a solid rookie season and will be a future all star for many years.
Calgary Flames They were looked at as a possible playoff contender but have exceeded all expectations with the most points in the Western Conference and are red hot right now winning 7 straight and only giving up 12 goals in those games. Outstanding goaltending from David Rittich and now the red hot veteran Mike Smith have propelled them into the top slot and getting their usual all star season from Johnny Gaudreau. Elias Lindholm, Matt Tkachuk, and Sean Monahan all have 25+ goals and defenseman Mark Giordano is 2nd in the league in plus/minus at +31. Can you still trust this unproven team in the playoffs even as the possible #1 seed?
Carolina Hurricanes A big playoff push by the Hurricanes winning their last 12 of 16 and would be in if the season ended today. Have only given up 11 goals in their last 9 games and the goalie rotation of Petr Mrzak and veteran Curtis McElhinney has emerged as one of the best in the league. Sebastian Aho has put together an all star season and getting Jordan Staal back in the lineup and acquiring former Winter Hawk Nino Niederreiter with 9 goals in 17 games has given them more scoring threats.
Chicago Blackhawks Still lingering in playoff contention they have been piling up the goals with Patrick Kane on track for 50 goals and Alex DeBrincat on track for 40+ goals but the defense and goaltending have been woeful and it might be time to move on from Corey Crawford.
Colarado Avalanche Another team right on the fringes of the playoffs with high scoring forwards Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog each with 33 goals plus the breakthrough season of Mikko Rantanen will need the power play kill to improve and hope that Semyon Varlamov gets hot between the pipes.
Columbus Blue Jackets We'll see if acquiring Matt Duchene from Ottawa can propel the Jackets into the playoffs. Sergei Bobrovsky who in all likelihood (future Blackhawk?) will be with another team next year is the key. Remember this team had the Caps down 2-0 in the 1st round of the playoffs last year winning both at Washington before the Caps came back and won the series and the Stanley Cup so they are more than capable of making a run if they get in.
Dallas Stars This team is a real enigma with tons of talent but so inconsistent and now right on the cut off line for the playoffs. If they get in they would be a very dangerous lower seed but who knows how they will play down the stretch. Maybe this team will come together if they get in after the owner ripped the star players in the middle of the season.
Detroit Red Wings Still in rebuilding mode so no surprise they will miss the playoffs. We'll see if their longtime GM Ken Holland who built the Red Wing glory years and preaching patience will be around for the long haul. Future Seattle Totem GM?
Edmonton Oilers Losing 11 of 12 from Mid-January to Mid-February pretty much eliminated this under achieving team from any playoff contention. The Oiler fan base is getting very restless with the organization with another playoff flame out. Wasting the prime years of Connor McDavid.
Florida Panthers Many people thought this would be a playoff team but just another inconsistent year and is the end near for Roberto Luongo who has seen better days.
Los Angeles Kings The Ilya Kovalchuk experiment failed miserably and a lack of goal scoring has doomed this team. Will Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty be around for the rebuild or will they tear it all down?
Minnesota Wild Recently lost 9 out of 10 but have won 4 in a row to get back into the battle for a playoff spot. I still think Dallas and Colorado are more talented teams but I think Bruce Boudreau behind the bench will find a way to get his team into the post season. Zach Parise still going strong at age 34 as the leading goal scorer.