Usually I do two week segments on this bi-weekly post about the top five and bottom five teams in the NHL at the moment I write this but last week was Thanksgiving. I was in the middle of the woods in Central Pennsylvania for a few days with my growing family trying to survive the screaming and general wildness of the five toddlers and one newborn our family has expanded to within the last five years. Kids are great but they're mentally exhausting.
We're on to NHL season weeks 5-8
|Brent Burns has a lot to be thankful for as he got an eight year $64 million extension on Thanksgiving Day|
San Jose Sharks
The Sharks are playing really well recently going 5-2 in their last seven games. This includes a 4-1 rout of Pacific Division foe, the Los Angeles Kings (another currently hot NHL team) last night on national television. In this span they've also defeated a Pacific Division team that's chasing them, the Anaheim Ducks 3-2. The "Major Key" as the great philosopher DJ Khaled would say, is beating your division opponents.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings won five straight games before losing to the Sharks last night. Like San Jose, Los Angeles has recently defeated a division opponent they're chasing (the Ducks) by an identical 3-2 score. The best teams win a lot but in doing so they defeat their in-division rivals, especially when they're left chasing them in the standings (currently trailing by one point). In that five game winning streak they also defeated a struggling Edmonton Oilers team (#alldivisionwinsmatter)
The Preds have posted a 5-2 record in their last seven games and a 7-3 record in their last 10. However, they haven't played since November 29th and they won't play again until December 3rd. I'm as baffled as you are why teams have long stretches between games and then play a bunch of games in a few days span. The Preds point totals doesn't blow you away. But what you'll notice is how incredibly balanced a team they have. Their top point getting is Ryan Johansen with 16 and James Neal leads with 10 goals. The Preds have eight players that have recorded 13-16 points so far this season. This includes P.K. Subban who has five goals and 10 assists.
New York Rangers
The Rangers continue to lead the Metropolitan division as they have for the entire season so far. As has been said about the previous teams on this list they're beating their division opponents, thus, getting other teams off their back. Last week the Rangers defeated the Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers. Granted they played the Penguins in back-to-back games which included giving up five goals in the second period of the second game. The biggest surprise has been Michael Grabner's 12 goals. Not too shabby that you can add Rick Nash and Kevin Hayes into the double digit goal club with 10 a piece.
Columbus Blue Jackets
As much grief as John Tortorella takes, he has his guys rolling. They're the hottest team in the last 10 games posting a 6-2-2 record. This included a four game win streak in mid November. They've beaten the Washington Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning twice a piece and they also beat the New York Rangers.
Ice Ice Baby
The Stars have the worst goal differential in the NHL at -18. Unlike in Buffalo, this one falls on the goaltenders. Antti Niemi has a 3.05 GAA and a .906 save percentage. Kari Lehtonen hasn't fared any better posting a 3.28 GAA and a .885 save percentage. When you've got someone like Tyler Sequin leading the way with seven goals and 17 assists for 24 points, it doesn't matter how much you score because those goaltending numbers are embarrassing and it's going to lose you important hockey games.
The Avalanche are having a rough go of it recently. Their getting barely adequate goaltending while relying on Nathan MacKinnon to provide the offensive spark. Rene Bourque is leading Colorado in goals with eight tallies. If you have average goaltending (Semyon Varlamov) that's posting a .904 save percentage and a 3.08 GAA, you better have a nice offense to compensate for it. Colorado doesn't have that mix just yet.
The Oilers started out the year as one of the hottest teams with their young and flashy talent but that's starting to wear off. They're 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. Somehow they're still in third in the Pacific Division but the way things are going that won't last long as they're only one point ahead of the streaking Kings.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning are currently on the NHL's longest losing streak at three games. I know, not that terrible but they're a mediocre 5-5 in their last 10 games. The only recent success they've had is against the Philadelphia Flyers beating them twice in five days.
The Sabres currently have the worst goal differential in the Eastern Conference at -13. Their goaltending isn't something to pick on as the biggest contributor to their issues. What stands out in the lack of scoring. Just four players with more than 10 points. Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo are tied for the team lead in goals with just seven. Lack of scoring and a total lack of balanced scoring is what's going on in Buffalo.