No April fools here; we’re back to giving the east coast some love in this Weekly Lost & Found edition. We’ve hit the point in the season where teams are starting to become mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. This week, we’ll be looking at a Metropolitan Division team and an Atlantic Division team.
The Eastern Conference playoff picture looks all but figured out. One team we’ll look at needs to drastically improve their play and go on a run if they want a shot, but a lot more would have to go in their favor than is likely to happen. The other team is already in a wild card spot and looking to push into their division’s top three. Let’s find out who these teams are.
Lost: Columbus Blue Jackets Winless Streak Further Buries Team
The Columbus Blue Jackets have seen a dismal stretch of play hurt any chance they have at a wild card spot. They’ve won just three of their past 10 games, and have been winless in six. They allowed 42 goals while scoring just 30 over that span, and lost all three games this past week.
Their goaltending has struggled but is being left out to dry as well. While they’ve both tallied and allowed 33.4 shots on goal, and their power play is scoring at just over 20 percent over those 10 games, their penalty kill is destroying them. They’ve killed just 64.3 percent of penalties in this last stretch, which is well below their 77.2 percent season average. Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo haven’t played very well, but have also been hung out to dry by the team in front of them.
Merzlikins posted a record of 2-3-2 and played in nine games where he allowed 28 goals and posted a .899 save percentage (SV%). In three games, Korpisalo allowed 10 goals with a .811 SV% and won just one of those games. The team’s stars have contributed offensively, but it just hasn’t been enough.
Patrik Laine has scored three goals and nine points in his past 10, while Oliver Bjorkstrand has matched his nine points, but scored four goals. It’s good for the Blue Jackets to see their young, strong offensive players still producing, but they aren’t getting the goaltending to support the minimal amount of goals. The team averages 3.74 goals-against per game, while just 3.17 goals-for per game.
The Blue Jackets need a lot to go right to see the playoffs, and that includes another Metropolitan Division team to have a massive collapse, but that kind of severe dropoff is highly unlikely.
It probably won’t happen this week, but it’s coming soon. The Blue Jackets will be mathematically eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs with at least a couple of weeks remaining in the 2021-22 season. This is not a surprise.From “Blue Jackets Sunday Gathering: A checklist to end the regular season and bleeding goals at record pace” by Aaron Portzline, The Athletic, 4/3/22.
However, they do see bright spots when they look to the future. They have 2021 fifth-overall pick Kent Johnson in the NCAA’s Frozen Four, and two first-round draft picks, one conditional, in the upcoming 2022 NHL Entry Draft. Cole Sillinger, the 12th-overall selection in the 2021 Draft has contributed 11 goals and 22 points in 66 games so far in his rookie year.
They’ll play four games this week, alternating between road and home, against three teams. A rematch against the Boston Bruins who beat them 5-2 on April 2, and a home-and-home against a Philadelphia Flyers team that’s making every team fight to win, despite their own exclusion from the playoff picture. They’ll wrap it up against the Detroit Red Wings on April 9. There are some winnable games here, they’ll want to capitalize on them to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
Found: Boston Bruins Roll Forward Towards Playoffs
Speaking of the Bruins, they’ve been firing on all cylinders lately. They’ve won eight of their past 10 games and went 2-1 this past week. Their offense has been leading the charge, and they’ve been strong defensively and in net. They scored 40 goals, eight coming in a win against the New Jersey Devils, and allowed just 25 in those 10 games.
Charlie McAvoy has been scoring at a great pace since the turn of the new year and is really solidifying his name as one of the best defensemen in the NHL. He’s scored a goal and 11 points in his past 10 games and tallied two assists in three of his last four. In those 10 games, he averaged 23:58 time on ice per game.
The power play has hit at 20 percent, which is a bit below their season average but is still solid. Despite being split up, the members of the “Perfection Line” are still helping to lead the charge. Patrice Bergeron has eight points in six games over that span and has won at least 55.6 percent of his faceoffs in each game. The team had a 55.7 faceoff win percentage (FO%) and a 54.6 offensive zone start percentage (oZS%) over that stretch.
Brad Marchand put up eight goals and 14 points, while David Pastrnak scored five goals and 11 points. Erik Haula has seemingly rejuvenated his career and is solidifying himself as a second-line center as well. He’s scored four goals and 10 points in his past six games and has been a key part of making the Bruins’ top six one of the best in the NHL.
The goaltending hasn’t seen too much rubber recently. The team has allowed just over 27 shots per game. With that, the duo of Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark has just about split the action in goal. Swayman won four-of-six games and allowed 17 goals. His .896 SV% is something he’ll want to improve on, but the team has generally played well enough to help him out. Ullmark has won four games while playing in five and allowed just seven goals with a .936 SV%.
The Bruins will look to get out of the wild card and into the Atlantic Division’s top three this week. They’ll play the Blue Jackets, Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals all on the road. They’re relatively safe in the playoff picture, but these will be important games nonetheless.
Blue Jackets fans will still have things to be excited about in the season’s closing weeks, while the Bruins should look to stay the course and keep scoring goals while vying for a favorable seeding. For coverage on those teams, the rapidly approaching NHL Entry Draft and more, stick with The Hockey Writers.
Sean Raggio lives for hockey. He will be covering the Seattle Kraken, and is a co-host of “What’s Kraken” for THW. Sean gained experience in writing for television, print and radio while studying journalism at Quinnipiac University and being an active member in the student media organizations there. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out on Twitter! A link can be found at the bottom of his articles, such as this one.