Around the NHL: And down the stretch they come…..


We have reached crunch time on the 2014-15 NHL regular season. Most teams have about 10 or 11 games left on their schedules. For some the season has long been "over" for others these final games are crucial for their potential playoff lives. 

It's not only the teams fighting to get in that have some jostling to do as there is a three way tie for the President's Trophy, two teams just two points back and possibly three division titles up for grabs. The final weeks of the regular season should make for some excellent, playoff atmosphere type hockey.

The Teams at the Top

The New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and Anaheim Ducks are all tied with 99 points. The Rangers seem to have the edge on winning the President's Trophy as they have two games in hand on Montreal and three on the Ducks.

The late season surge by New York has been a bit of a surprise as they have done it without number one goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Cam Talbot has been nothing short of spectacular in his extended role between the pipes.

For Montreal, as Carey Price goes so do the Canadiens. The Montreal goalie is almost a lock for the Vezina and possibly the Hart Trophy. The Canadiens are a fast, uptempo team that can put the puck in the net but they are also a streaky team in that very same regard. They will go as far as Price takes them.

Out West, the Ducks have been a model of consistency all season. Anaheim has been at the top or near the top of the NHL standings all season. They have opened up an 11 point lead on second place Vancouver in the Pacific Division. 

The Ducks have firepower up and down the lineup and they will need it. It has been a revolving door of sorts for them in net. Frederik Andersen has been very good but has had some injuries as has John Gibson. Andersen is their number one going forward and will need to stay healthy for Anaheim to have a chance.

St. Louis and Tampa Bay sit two points back in the race for the President's Trophy. The Blues have been on a torrid pace of late and have not only caught but passed both Chicago and Nashville in the Central. Their combination of skill, size, defense and goaltending maybe unmatched throughout the entire league. 

Tampa is another of the teams that has been at or near the top all year. They finally have a legitimate number one goalie in Ben Bishop, Steven Stamkos continues to light the lamp with regularity and their young defenseman have played very well. The Bolts may be the dark horse in the race to be the top dog. 

Fighting for their Lives

If there is one team that is hotter than the New York Rangers it is the Ottawa Senators. They have closed a 10 point plus gap on Boston and sit just one point out of the final spot in the east. The Senators are a remarkable 9-1-0 in their last ten games.

Rookie goalie Andrew Hammond has been outstanding since being called up. He is 13-0-1 in his first 14 starts with a 1.65 goals against and a .947 save percentage. The "Hamburgler", as he has come to be known, will need to continue to play at a high level for Ottawa to make it.

The Los Angeles Kings and Calgary Flames are separated by just two points for the last automatic bid in the Pacific Division. The defending champs have one game in hand are doing everything they can to try and make it. The upstart Flames have showed a lot of grit and determination all season. 

Minnesota and Winnipeg are currently five and four points respectively ahead of Los Angeles for the wild card spots. The Wild have stormed back from a slow start while the Jets have been near or in the playoff picture most of the season.

Regardless of the final outcome, it should be an exciting three weeks to close out the season. After that the fun really begins. 

League Leaders through 3/22/2015

Goals – Ovechkin (47)

Assists – Backstrom (54)

Points – Crosby (74)

Wins – Price (40)

Shutouts – Price, Fleury (9)

Bill Minchin is a contributing writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow Bill on Twitter @wtfd103074