INSIDE THE METROPOLITAN DIVISION
1. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS, 70 POINTS
2. NEW YORK RANGERS, 57 POINTS
3. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS, 56 POINTS
4. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS, 54 POINTS
5. NEW JERSEY DEVILS, 53 POINTS
6. WASHINGTON CAPITALS, 52 POINTS
7. CAROLINA HURRICANES, 49 POINTS
8. NEW YORK ISLANDERS, 49 POINTS
BLUE JACKETS SURGING
The Columbus Blue Jackets have won a club record seven straight games and are 11-3 in their last 14 games. Things are starting to click for the Blue Jackets as their top players are healthy and rounding into form. The Blue Jackets have moved into the No. 2 wildcard spot and started peaking last year in between games 34-48, going 11-3 in their final 14 games and if the regular season had been 52 games instead of 48 games, they probably get in as they were playing some excellent hockey down the stretch.
The key for them has been their big guns.
Sergei Bobrovsky has found his game, going 6-0 with a 1.95 GAA and .938 save percentage in the month of January. The Blue Jackets are 8-1 with Nathan Horton in the lineup this season, while Jack Johnson appears out of his funk with 7 points in his last five games and playing a much stronger game in his own end.
The Blue Jackets have just 13 games left before the March 5th deadline and a lot of eyes will be on what they decide to do with Marian Gaborik who is expected to return after the Olympic break. The sense around the league is the Blue Jackets don’t plan to resign Gaborik and will strongly listen on him as getting his money off the books just for the final six weeks of the season would be beneficial. The buzz in league circles right now is the Montreal Canadiens are likely to be a strong suitor for Gaborik but keeping Gaborik for a playoff push could be the Blue Jackets best move.
HERE COMES THE ISLES
The New York Islanders are 12-4 in their last 16 games and right back in the thick of the playoff race with 49 points in 52 games. They trail Columbus by five points for the final wildcard spot.
The Islanders have 12 games remaining before the trade deadline and a lot of GM’s are in wait and see mode regarding coveted targets in Tomas Vanek and defenseman Andrew MacDonald. The chatter right now is that if the Islanders remain in striking distance coming out of the Olympic break, many see Garth Snow holding onto both guys.
Vanek is a near lock to test the open market.
STOCK UP: NEW YORK RANGERS
The Rangers suffered a 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders tonight but there’s plenty reasons of optimism for the Rangers as things are starting to come together for the team under new head coach Alain Vigneault. The Rangers are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and 11-5 in their last 16 games.
Rick Nash suddenly looks like the player he use to be in Columbus with 10 goals in his last nine games and Henrik Lundqvist is starting to play like the Henrik Lundqvist we’re use to seeing. After posting a 3.08 GAA and .888 save percentage in the month of December, Lundqvist is 5-2-1 with a 1.98 GAA and .938 save percentage in January.
STOCK DOWN: WASHINGTON CAPITALS
The Capitals are floundering, losers of six straight and 2-10 in their last 12 games. This is a Washington team that has just 9 regulation wins in their last 40 games.
A team that is built for its offense, the Capitals are 21st in the NHL in even strength goals and we all know about the goaltending and defensive issues. Plenty of time for a turnaround but this team needs a shakeup and you could start just about anywhere.