1. Carolina Hurricanes: 100 Points (46-15-8) 69 GP
The Carolina Hurricanes are just the second team in the NHL to reach the 100-point mark this season. This is also the first time in franchise history that the Canes have had back-to-back 100-point seasons. Even with 100 points though, the Canes are still in the thick of it. Their next four games are against the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, and Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Canes will need more performances from Sebastian Aho like he had on Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers. Aho registered his third hat trick of the season which is the second most in the league this season behind only Tage Thompson’s four. It also ended his season long seven-game pointless streak.
Since the all-star break Aho has been feast or famine. He has 12 points in 18 games with all points coming in multi-point games. He scored those 12 points in only five games. With Andrei Svechnikov out, the Canes have to get more consistency out of their top players to win consistently. They have just 16 goals in their last seven games which is just 2.28 goals per game and ranks 31st in the league in offense.
2. New Jersey Devils: 98 Points (45-18-8) 71 GP
Since pulling even with the Carolina Hurricanes in the standings, the New Jersey Devils have a 1-2-2 record and now sit two points behind the Canes having played two extra games. That stretch featured all three of this season’s games against the Tampa Bay Lightning where they went 1-1-1. In their lone win against the Lightning, Jesper Bratt scored a hat-trick in a come-from-behind 5-2 win. Bratt is now the third 30-goal scorer for the Devils this season as he joins Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes. Timo Meier has over 30 goals as well, but most came when he was with the San Jose Sharks still.
Meier with his fourth goal since being traded to the Devils pic.twitter.com/k6KjjyJ5tP— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) March 22, 2023
30 goals is the highest single-season total for Bratt, besting his 26 goals last season. His 63 points are also just 10 points shy of matching his career best. On a contract season, he is proving his $5.45 million contract is a bargain. He is also proving that he is not a one-and-done player and that he is still growing into his final form. He like, Meier, is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights and could be due a huge raise in a franchise-defining offseason.
3. New York Rangers: 92 Points (41-20-10) 71 GP
A loss last night to the Carolina Hurricanes ended the New York Rangers’ four-game winning streak and Rangers’ fans hopes that they would be able to move up to the second or even the first seed. With the loss, their chances of improving out of third place in their last 11 games is just 5%. Even with the chances slimming, the Rangers and their fans have a lot to be excited about in the last 11 games.
There are 5 teams who have scored 5 goals in a game at least 20 times this season:— RangersMuse (@nyrangersmuse) March 20, 2023
- Edmonton Oilers
- Boston Bruins
- Buffalo Sabres
- Tampa Bay Lightning
- New York Rangers
The Rangers are the only team of those five to be undefeated in their 5+ goal efforts pic.twitter.com/cRLoXah0W4
The team proved why no one will want to play them in the first round. They had a fantastic weekend winning two games by a combined score of 13-0 against the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Nashville Predators. Against the Predators on Sunday, the Rangers scored six goals in a single period. K’Andre Miller also became the first defenseman in Rangers history to record four points in a single period. They have scored 24 goals in their last five games good for 4.8 goals per game. They are only going to get better as their new players and lines have more time to gel.
4. York Islanders: 82 Points (37-27-8) 72 GP
The New York Islanders went 2-1 on their West Coast road trip and upon returning home, beat the Toronto Maple Leafs by a score of 7-2. The Isles are now three points clear of the Florida Panthers for the first wild card position. Isles goaltender, Illya Sorokin, has flown a bit under the Vezina radar due to the performance of Linus Ullmark of the Boston Bruins, however, he ranks in the top four in the NHL for goalies who have played 30 or more games in both goals against and save percentage.
Sorokin is ready to be the goaltender that can steal a series in the playoffs. He has recorded a .925 save percentage and 2.36 goals against in 53 games played which includes 51 starts. His five shutouts are also tied for the most in the league with Alexander Georgiev and Darcey Keumper. He has saved 21.11 goals above expected which is also second in the league behind only Ullmark. He’s the main reason the Isles only have let up 2.68 goals against per game which is the fifth-best in the league.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins: 78 Points (34-26-10) 70 GP
With the Pittsburgh Penguins' 2-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators and the Florida Panthers' 5-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings, the Penguins now sit outside a playoff position. They now sit one point behind the Panthers with a game in hand. The loss came against goaltender Dylan Ferguson in his first-ever NHL start. The debutante stopped 48 of the 49 shots he faced and out-dueled Penguins regular started Tristan Jarry who only stopped 19 of the 21 shots he faced. This has been the issue for the Pens this year who have just looked pedestrian.
The Penguins have gotten completely healthy — and productive — seasons from 35 year-old Sidney Crosby and 36-year-old Evgeni Malkin.— Danny Shirey (@DannyShireyPGH) March 21, 2023
They have a negative goal differential and are out of a playoff spot 70 games into the season.
The Penguins have also not had a reprieve from the injury bug. Their latest case is Marcus Pettersson, who was added to LTIR retroactive to March 18th. Pettersson was injured in the second period of the Penguins' 6-0 loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday. Defenseman Taylor Fedun has been recalled in his place. Fedun is 34 years old and has not played in the NHL since the 2020 playoffs when the Penguins lost to the 12th-seed Montreal Canadiens in the play-in round.
6. Washington Capitals: 74 Points (33-31-8) 72 GP
The Washington Capitals expect to get defenseman, John Carlson, back at some point this season. The team revealed he suffered a fractured skull when he took a slapshot to the head on December 23rd. The defenseman also had to have surgery to re-attach his ear after the horrific injury. It’s good news to have a timeline for the defenseman who hopes to return as early as this week. He has returned to practice this week with a non-contact jersey. The loss of Carlson has been huge for the Caps as he is their clear number-one defenseman.
CAPS TODAY: Over their last three games, the Capitals have converted on five of 11 power-play opportunities (45.5 percent) and have killed off all six opposing power plays (100.0 percent). More info at https://t.co/HecIC0ECg1 pic.twitter.com/wnexztVOPN— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) March 20, 2023
The Washington Capitals have just six wins in their last 19 games, and their playoff hopes have all been but extinguished. However, getting Carlson back will go far in raising the spirits of the team but will also be the first time that they have had Alexander Ovechkin, Tom Wilson, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, and John Carlson in the lineup at the same time. The Caps believe they are still competitive for the next few years but have not had an honest evaluation all year due to injuries.
7. Philadelphia Flyers: 64 Points (26-32-12) 70 GP
Every week, head coach John Tortorella makes news, and this time he made news for commenting that the roster needs some “subtractions.” The head coach says that he believes that there have been rookies and veterans that have failed to grow and the only way to add to the roster has to be done after subtraction. He continues to trumpet the needs and long-term strategy of the team over the GM and this would signal the full sell-off that ownership shied away from saying this time last week.
The Flyers have also already used two of their four, post-deadline recalls over the last weeks. They recalled defenseman Egor Zamula and forward Tyson Foerster. Foerster scored his first NHL goal on Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes. Both are on short call ups and they expect to be sent down by the end of the week, however, it’s an important evaluation period for both young players.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets: 51 Points (22-41-7) 70 GP
The Columbus Blue Jackets are the first team from the Metropolitan Division to be officially eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Blue Jackets ended a crucial West Coast road trip with a 1-3-0 record with their lone win coming in overtime against the San Jose Sharks, only losing a point to them in the tank race. The Jackets also had a crucial 7-4 loss to the Anaheim Ducks who have been in the league’s basement all season. Now according to The Athletic, they have the best odds to get Conner Bedard at 21%
slow motion for me pic.twitter.com/kQ5rJshEb2— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) March 22, 2023
In the Blue Jackets' 7-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, long-time winger, Patrik Laine played center. He centered the top line with Johnny Gaudreau and Karil Marchenko. In that game, he played 17:32 and registered two assists. He had expressed interest in trying the position and was able to make an immediate impact. For a season that has gone as bad as it could have for Columbus, an experiment like this only has upside.