1. Washington Capitals: 70 Points (32-10-6)
The Capitals’ 14-game point streak came to an end last night with a 3-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators. It was the Caps’ first regulation loss in January and their first since December 27th. During this 14-game streak, the Caps scored six or more goals six different times and earned four shutouts. Their 2.97 even strength goals per 60 is second in the league only behind the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Since December 27th the Caps have scored 68 goals, which is 16 more than the second place Minnesota Wild, and have a 64.7% goals-for percentage, meaning they score almost two goals for every one they let in. To that end, their 31 goals against are the third-fewest in the league over this time span.
2. Columbus Blue Jackets: 68 Points (32-11-4)
Since winning 16 straight games the Blue Jackets have gone just 5-6-0 in their last 11 games, causing them to drop to second in the Metropolitan Division. Over the past week, the Jackets have had no problem scoring. In five games they were able to score 16 goals and maintain a shooting percentage of over 10%. The Blue Jackets won a very high scoring 7-6 game against the Senators on Sunday which saw Columbus score three unanswered goals to force overtime.
Columbus’s struggles are in the crease. Since losing Curtis McElhinney on waivers to Toronto, the Jackets have gone 4-5-0. Both backups they have tried, Anton Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo, have sub .900 sv%. The Blue Jackets have remained committed to rotating their goaltenders evenly, but that plan may not work for much longer. The Jackets will most likely have to lean on Sergei Bobrovsky down the stretch due to not having a reliable backup. (Sound familiar?)
3. Pittsburgh Penguins: 65 Points (30-12-5)
Before losing last night to the St Louis Blues, the Pens were one of the hottest teams in the league. The Pens won four straight, scoring four or more goals in each of these games, and have been almost flawless on special teams. The power play has converted on 42.9% (!!!) of their opportunities and their penalty kill unit has successfully killed 91.7% of their penalties.
Interestingly enough the Penguins are relying on Matt Murray who has started all five games over this span. In the past, the Pens have rotated goalies, but that stopped last week. A possible reason? The Pens could be shopping around veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to teams such as the Stars or Blues, who have been rumored to be interested in acquiring a goaltender.
4. New York Rangers: 63 Points (31-16-1)
The Rangers turned around their play last week earning a 3-1-0 record. However, New York keeps getting bit by the injury bug this season and have lost Kevin Hayes for 2-3 weeks with a lower body injury. Hayes is currently tied for third on the team in total points with 35 and third on the team in goals with 16. The good news for the Rangers is that they lead the league with an 11.7 s% which means they should be able to maintain their offense in Hayes’s absence.
The most interesting thing around Hayes leaving with an injury will be their possession numbers. Right now the Rangers’ 47.4% corsi-for is the 6th lowest in the league. Hayes brings the team average down with a 43.9 cf%. With the Rangers having goaltending issues this season, improving possession numbers may be what they need to get Henrik Lundqvist’s performance and confidence on the rise.
5. Philadelphia Flyers: 52 Points (23-19-6)
The Flyers had their rest period last week resting from January 16 to 20. The Flyers have done just enough to tread water since earning an overtime victory Sunday against the Islanders. In a reversal of fortune, the Flyers had one of the lowest shooting percentages in the league last week, 4.8%, but were actually able to get a win due to goaltending.
The Flyers split time between goaltenders Michal Neuvirth and Steve Mason, which ended up being a tale of two goalies. When Mason started it was the best of times, with Neuvirth it was the worst of times. Neuvirth was yanked just two periods into his start against the Devils, when he had a .880 sv% and let up four goals. Mason fared better earning a .929 sv%.
6. New York Islanders: 49 Points (20-17-9)
The New York Islanders are on a five-game point streak with four wins in five games. This stretch has put the Islanders within reach of a wild card playoff berth. The Islanders started their win streak with a 4-0 win against the Bruins, fired their coach, and continued this streak with Doug Weight under the helm.
Since the coaching transition, the goaltending has greatly improved. Over three games Thomas Greiss recorded a .971 sv% and earned a 2-0-1 record, recording shutouts in both wins. The move to recall Jean-Francois Berube looks to be paying off as he also earned a .944 sv% in his lone start from last week. The most amusing performance is that of Nikolay Kulemin who recorded two goals from two shots last week. The Isles should just keep feeding him the puck to see how long that streak keeps up.
7. Carolina Hurricanes: 49 Points (21-19-7)
The Carolina Hurricanes have royally struggled over their last four games. Granted each of these games came against one of the top three teams in the league, but this was a test that the Canes failed. The Canes entered this stretch just one point out of the playoffs and now sit four points out and tied for 6th place in the Metro.
The Canes during this stretch have looked lost on the ice, losing momentum and never getting it back. On Monday they quit on Cam Ward in the third period which allowed the Caps to pile it on for a 6-1 win. This was the same case against the Blue Jackets last Tuesday, and the Pens on Friday.
This is common for young teams with young leaders, they need someone to step up in the locker room to get through these rough patches. The lone bright spot in this stretch is that the Canes power play drought is over as they have now scored power play goals in back to back games. The Canes have one more chance to earn a win and have something positive to think about during the all-star break with a game against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.
8. New Jersey Devils: 49 Points (20-20-7)
The New Jersey Devils have won four out of their last six games, mainly on the back of their goaltending. During three of these wins, the Devils only gave up a single goal. This is similar to the successful start to the season that they had. If their goaltending has a good night they can win, but if they struggle even in the slightest they fall. Over the stretch, both Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid have at least a .930 sv%. In both of their losses, the Devils goaltending has registered under a .900 sv%.
The struggles from the Devils come from the fact that they are the worst possession team in the league. The Devils only possessed the puck 42.1% of the time over this span, well below the 50% average. This possession discrepancy leads to the Devils being outshot 119-94, their 94 shots the lowest total of any team over this span.