Who's hot, who's not in the Eastern Conference playoff race

A new team might be joining the playoff conversation with Columbus sliding in the standings

Derek Kramer
February 06, 2019 - 5:27 pm

Photo: Russell LaBounty - USA TODAY Sports

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With the Buffalo Sabres in the midst of a seven-game homestand, fans are doing plenty of scoreboard watching despite their slide out of a playoff spot. Buffalo is hoping to use the home ice advantage to string together a few wins to maintain their stance in the playoff race.

While the rest of the Eastern Conference remains tough, some teams have been hotter than others, and some teams have started to slide.

Here's how the rest of the conference is doing as the Sabres look to make a climb up the standings:


WHO'S HOT:

  • Philadelphia Flyers

Yep, a new team has enter the conversation, much to the chagrin of Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes fans. Philadelphia has been stricken by too many injuries and poor goaltending early on in the season, but an eight-game winning streak has the Flyers just four points south of Buffalo and Carolina. Rookie goalie Carter Hart has been a revelation in net, posting a 2.48 goals-against average, a .925 save percentage and a 10-5-1 record as a starter. That's allowed a talented, yet lost Flyers team to suddenly creep back into the picture. 
 

  • Montreal Canadiens

Montreal continues to hum along without a hitch, going 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. Montreal not only continues to hold serve in a playoff spot, but continues to keep some distance on Boston for third place in the Atlantic Division. The Canadiens are not stellar in any one aspect, from scoring to team defense to goaltending. However, they're solid in all aspects with a reliable coach in Claude Julien. Goaltender Carey Price has become more of his normal self lately, which also helps Montreal stay hot. 

 

WHO'S NOT HOT:

  • Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh is in another rut of 4-6 over their last 10 games, and now are dealing with another injury to goaltender Matt Murray, as well as an injury to Evgeni Malkin. Pittsburgh has been often plagued by goaltending this season, as one of the worst teams in goals-against amongst the current playoff teams. While the constant Cup contenders have been able to utilize top-end talent to keep themselves in a playoff spot, the team is far more inconsistent than in years past. Pittsburgh also made a move to try and bolster their scoring depth by acquiring Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann from the Florida Panthers, while shipping off the disappointing Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan. 
 

  • Columbus Blue Jackets

Well, it's happened. Columbus suffered a five-game losing streak to fall to the second wild card and put more questions into what the Blue Jackets should do at the trade deadline. Columbus is dealing with a pair of unrestricted free agents that are likely to leave in the offseason in winger Artemi Panarin and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. Panarin has already told the team that he will not re-sign in Columbus, which means the team runs the risk of losing him for nothing. Trade rumors have already floated around Bobrovsky, who has suffered a down season. 

Columbus also has been a far more shaky team than in years past, usually seen as a given for the postseason. With another major slide, Columbus may ship off their major assets in Panarin and Bobrovsky and look toward the long term basis of the organization. 

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