goal

The “goal” of reaching the NHL playoffs

There are some teams who need a lot of different pieces to become a good team and there are a few who already have what it takes to make the playoffs, but one thing every NHL team needs is another “pure” goal-scorer.

Deformation of the 50-goal mark

Through the All-Star break, there are only 28 players who have reached 20 goals for the season and only one, Alexander Ovechkin, who has surpassed 30. Only seven players have scored 50 or more in the last 10 years (Ovechkin having done it six times) and he only has done it in the last five years (be it three times). On top of that just three players have topped 100 points in the last five seasons (McDavid, Kane and Crosby).

These stats are a tribute to Wayne “the Great One” Gretzky for accomplishing 50 goals in 39 games, a record in which most likely no one will ever break, let alone come close to. That being said, Ovechkin “the Great Eight” has proven to be just that over the course of his regular season career. His scoring has carried the Washington Capitals into the playoffs nine out of the last ten years.

The 63-point club

In the 2017-2018 season there are seven teams who have placed themselves atop the league with 63 or more points through the All-Star break. The St. Louis Blues have played 51 games and only have 63 points so they will be excluded from the Power 6: three from the Eastern Conference and three from the Western Conference. NHL Standings

Team Games Points 20+ Goal-Scorers 10+ Goal-Scorers
Tampa Bay Lightning 49 71 2 6
Vegas Golden Knights 48 68 2 6
Boston Bruins 47 66 3 5
Winnipeg Jets 50 66 1 7
Nashville Predators 47 65 0 6
Washington Capitals* 49 63 1 7
* Ovechkin leads the league with 30 goals

These six teams were the best through the All-Star break because they have what every team needs, goal scorers. Having a guy, or better yet two or three guys who you can rely on to put the puck in the net is a crucial factor in making the playoffs. The league’s best are where they are because of the sustained scoring of one or two players.

Except Nashville…

 

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(Photo from Mark Humphrey / AP)

The Nashville Predators are back to the “good ol’ days” with the absence of Filip Forsberg. A strong defense has carried the “Preds” into the playoffs three years straight. The defense solidified and highlighted by the talented All-Star goalie Pekka Rinne. The Preds commonly rely on the backend of their team to do the heavy lifting.

However with the development of Filip Forsberg, the Preds now have a sure-fire goal scorer to rely on. Nashville does not currently have a 20+ goal-scorer because Forsberg has been out of the lineup since late December with an upper-body injury.

Forsberg still leads the team in goals with 15 tied with Viktor Arvidsson and Craig Smith. Once Forsberg returns, don’t be surprised if Kyle Turris and Ryan Johansen begin to score more. Thus this Nashville team could easily prowl their way back into the Stanley Cup Finals.

Score your way into the playoffs

The Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils currently hold playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, but neither team currently has a 20+ goal-scorer. Both teams started off the season well, but injuries and lack of scoring have caused both teams to slip.

The Jackets will continue to look for even better play from Panarin. Nevertheless the Blue Jackets must get some production from Alexander Wennberg and Cam Atkinson. These two have shown the potential to become the leaders of this offense. They will need to bring all they have in order to stay afloat in this playoff race.

As Columbus waits for the flair of Sonny Milano, the Devils now face another concussion protocol for Marcus Johansson. Getting Kyle Palmieri back into the line-up should boost the Devils scoring some, but all Devils fans know that Taylor Hall is the man people pay to watch. With his hand injury occurring close to the break, the Devils are hopeful for his return soon. Hall will have to start providing more goals off his own stick for this team to sneak into the playoffs.

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Decision Time

Decision Time

Other than the Jackets and Devils, the Los Angeles Kings and Carolina Hurricanes are the only legitimate teams who have a shot at the playoffs without a 20+ goal-scorer. The Kings are missing Jeff Carter and hoping that Marion Gaborik can up his level of play down the stretch. Anze Kopitar is the backbone of this offense and continues to impress.

The Hurricanes on the other hand are stuck in usual territory as the trade deadline comes along. Will they push for the playoffs or rid themselves of their veterans? The Canes lack a scoring threat, a first line center and a true starting goaltender. Cam Ward has stepped in to the role for now. However the Canes need a lot more production upfront to secure a long-awaited spot in the playoffs.

Calling all contenders… let the goals run wild

As for all other contenders, they must continue to rely on their own “pure” scoring forwards to make the playoffs. The NHL has become a league where goals are prized; therefore each team must allow their star goal-scorers to do just that, score goals. Making the playoffs without such a guy is a difficult thing to do.

Featured Image from NHL.com

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