Jussi Jokinen with another three points for the Penguins in their recent win over the Boston Bruins. That’s eight in six games for the erstwhile Hurricane and his second three point night for Pittsburgh. I will continue to laugh at the fact the rest of the NHL could have had this player for nothing and that Carolina basically paid Pittsburgh to take him off their hands.
As I type this, the Leafs are ahead of the Senators 2-1 despite being outshot 34-14 through two periods. This has become something of a habit for Randy Carlyle’s team this year – in their last five games (excluding the current one), the Leafs have been outshot 174-132 (-42), or an average of 8.4 shots per game. That’s really ugly.
The Leafs have the worst overall shot differential of any team currently in playoff position currently (-5.3/game). To put that in perspective, the playoff club with worst shot differential last year was the Nashville Predators (-3.2/game) and Toronto’s own SD in 2011-12 was a much healthier -2.5/game. Which is to say, the Maple Leafs success this season is almost certainly a mirage. Getting widely outshot is a bad strategy long-term and teams who rely on high-end goaltending or high shooting percentages to win don’t usually manage to keep that going indefinitely.
Toronto will certainly make the post-season due to the shortened season, but it’s unlikely they will make much noise there. Unless they can stop spending so much time in their own end, that is.
On the other end of the spectrum is the New Jersey Devils, a team with one of the best shot differentials (+5.2/game) in the league but are nevertheless going to miss the dance. The Devils (finally) managed to score some goals and defeat the Panthers 5-2 on Saturday, but it’s too little too late for a club that is fundamentally stronger than their record indicates. Like the Kings last season who struggled to score for more than three quarters of the year, the Devils probably woud have been able to turn things around in the long-term if they had an 82 game runway. Alas, the lock-out means they’re going to run out of time.
Steve Mason is in the middle of his third straight start for the Philadelphia at the time of publishing tonight. In his previous two starts, he stopped 95%+ of the shots he faced, so it’s hard to question the decision. It will be interesting to see how things play out in the Flyers crease for the rest of the year and if Philly decides to buy-out the huge Ilya Bryzgalov contract.
The New York Islanders Cinderella story is a bit more legitimate than the Leafs. After beating the Winnipeg 5-4 in OT on Satruday, they are now 6th in the East with 53 points, four up on the ninth placed Jets. Despite having a bit of a “Island of misfit toys” feel, New York actually has a number of high quality player at various areas on the roster. Top of the pyramid is, of course, John Tavares who has 26 goals and 45 points in 45 games this year.
Add in capable two-way center Frans Nielsen, supporting sniper Matt Moulson (who very quietly has 42 points this year) as well as Lubomir Visnovsky, Mark Streit, Kyle Okposo and the Islanders could be a handful for whoever they face in the first round.
Like the Devils, the Detroit Red Wings are a good team that has gone cold at the wrong time. The 3-2 loss to the Flames on Wednesday night was especially ironic (for both clubs): on the heels of Jimmy Howards six year, $30M+ extension, Calgary won on a pair of, uh…dubious strikes by Steve Begin of all people. As a result, the Flames got a much un-needed win while the loss pushed Detroit from the playoff picture.
And that’s where they remain afte