Bubble Watch 2014: Which NHL Teams Will Make The Postseason?
Bubble Watch 2014
The NHL trade deadline has passed and certain teams have improved their clubs to give themselves a better shot at making the postseason. There is a lot of competition for only a few playoff spots and every game from here on out will be played at a much higher intensity. Overtime games can be killers for those teams trying to catch up, while the teams ahead are guaranteed at least a point to distance themselves from rivals below.
Some teams on this list are going to surprise you. Perennial playoff favorites aren't going to make it, while teams awaiting that chance at postseason glory are finally going to get it. Though nobody can be sure how playoff rentals and acquisitions will play until there have been several games under their belts, it is obvious which teams have improved while the others stood pat with the rosters they were happy with. Improving the overall depth of a club impacts chemistry less, while adding a superstar can can pay off huge dividends or smolder out. It's an inexact science, but a lot of moves made this year are going to have huge benefits leading up to the end of the year.
There is a month and a half left in the 2013-14 regular season and a lot can happen. While the teams at the bottom of the conferences and the teams at the top are going to stay where they are, can a team thought to be out of the race come back? Can your team not just make it through but thrive at this crucial point in the year to make the postseason? Read on to find out.
11. Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators are one of the more curious teams in the league. They have a good mixture of veterans and young players that gives the team an interesting dynamic. Veterans such as Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek have underwhelmed, while youngsters Kyle Turris and Mika Zibanejad have been pleasant surprises. Bobby Ryan and Erik Karlsson have been the featured go to offensive weapons for the team. However, goaltending has been mediocre. The tandem of Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner have not played well enough to boost the Senators up in the standings and they will not make the playoffs.
10. Vancouver Canucks
John Tortorella really made this team out of whack. The Vancouver Canucks have been known to dominate the regular season before utterly failing in the playoffs, but they won't even get that chance this year. The team is not producing well offensively, as Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin find it difficult to adjust to the system while the Canucks also traded starting goaltender Roberto Luongo. They made smart moves in keeping both Ryan Kesler and Alex Edler, but this team is in too much disarray to make the playoffs.
9. New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils weren't expecting Ilya Kovalchuk to retire, but when he did the entire design of the team changed. To replace Kovalchuk, veterans such as Michael Ryder and Ryane Clowe were brought in while Tuomo Ruutu was acquired at the trade deadline. Cory Schneider was acquired at the entry draft to supplant Martin Brodeur in net while the team's defense remains one of the more underrated groups in the league. Unfortunately, that is not enough to replace the loss of an elite goal scorer or jump them into a playoff position.
8. Washington Capitals
Will Alexander Ovechkin ever win that elusive Stanley Cup? Not this year. The Washington Capitals have yet another new goalie, as they acquired Jaroslav Halak at the trade deadline, but goaltending has never been the true problem. The defensive depth of the team trails off after the top three players and simply can't be relied on in the important minutes. Ovechkin has been an offensive dynamo this season and the team has been getting good support from their depth players, but defense gets you to the playoffs and they don't have a good enough group to survive.
7. Phoenix Coyotes
The Phoenix Coyotes continue to improve in the desert and have been a surprising team this year. They have a very balanced team, but lack true top end talent at forward that would allow them to compete with the bigger clubs. They have a lot of depth, and forwards such as Martin Hanzal and Mikkel Boedker have finally shown their true offensive ability, but it has not been enough to carry the team. Their goaltending has been very good all season, but unless some elite skill is brought in, the Coyotes won't make an impact in the postseason for a long time. That includes this year, where they will fall short of the playoffs.
6. Dallas Stars
Kari Lehtonen has stabilized the Dallas Stars' goaltending ever since Marty Turco retired, but the rest of the team has been a revolving door. Though they have made upgrades to their overall depth with the additions of players like Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley, along with several young players like the talented Valeri Nichuskin and Alex Chiasson, this team has a lot to learn and a lot of development to do. They won't make the playoffs this year, but could have a major impact next season if they make more good additions.
5. Columbus Blue Jackets
Say it ain't so, Columbus Blue Jackets fans. The team doesn't have what it takes to hold off the clubs right on its tail and will ultimately fall short of the postseason yet again. Columbus traded away their biggest talent, Marian Gaborik, to the Los Angeles Kings for a mediocre return and only acquired defenseman Nick Schultz. This all the while teams around them improved vastly. It will be a tight race, but the Blue Jackets are going to miss out by one or two points.
4. Winnipeg Jets
Down and out around a month and a half ago, the Winnipeg Jets fired their coach and brought in Paul Maurice. In the history of the Jets/Atlanta Thrashers, they have made the playoffs once and got swept by the New York Rangers. This team is on fire under Maurice, and their top end talent featuring Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler and Evander Kane rivals any fighting for that last playoff spot. The only thing holding them back has been the play of goalie Ondrej Pavelec. If he can put it together down the stretch, there will finally be playoff hockey in Winnipeg again.
3. Detroit Red Wings
No, this isn't only based on the fact of how good the Detroit Red Wings have been year in and year out. The team acquired David Legwand from the Nashville Predators to fortify their forwards and have played well below their potential all year. This is the time when the veteran leadership of the Red Wings shines through as Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen carry the team to the postseason yet again.
2. New York Rangers
The Rangers acquired the best overall player traded on deadline day, Martin St. Louis. The team is too good not to play well down the stretch and into the playoffs. Though they are 1-2-1 since the Olympic break, this team screams potential. Players like Rick Nash and Derek Stepan are going to have to contribute alongside the team's depth players if the Rangers want to have any impact on the postseason race, or they could find themselves falling down the standings very quickly.
1. Minnesota Wild
This is more of a given than a prediction. The Minnesota Wild have a huge gap over the last wildcard spot and with the reinforcements of Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick that they acquired at the deadline, this team is a lock for a playoff spot. Jason Pominville, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter will continue to lead the team, while adding Ilya Bryzgalov in net gives the team extra insurance, as their two main goaltenders have been constantly injured. Though he has played well, starting Darcy Kuemper in the playoffs may not be the most ideal situation.
Vatanen and Lindholm Breath of Fresh Air For Ducks
Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm have been an enormous help to the Anaheim Ducks this season. Read More