Wed. Dec 7th, 2022
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Top-Shelf Takes: 6 NHL teams in playoff trouble now that Thanksgiving is officially here

Welcome to Top-Shelf Takes, a weekly series from staff writer Mary Clarke all about the NHL. Lace up your skates as we dive deep into the epic highs and lows of this little sport called hockey.

American Thanksgiving is one of the most important dates in the NHL. Yes, really! The day that most of the country spends eating good food and watching bad football is one of great significance to the hockey world.

You see, dating back to the 2005-06 season, 76.3 percent of NHL teams in playoff spots on Thanksgiving make it to the postseason come spring. Of course, that statistic doesn’t count the COVID-shortened seasons and the lockout years, but for these 14 seasons, Thanksgiving has been a huge milestone in the NHL calendar.

We’ve seen a lot of surprises so far in the 2022-23 NHL season. The New Jersey Devils are one of hockey’s best teams. The Seattle Kraken are finally looking like a competent team and are in line for a playoff spot. But what about the teams we thought would have successful seasons yet have instead faltered out of the gate?

Here are six NHL teams that are out of a playoff spot on Thanksgiving and are in danger of missing the postseason unless things turn around.

Florida Panthers (One point out of a playoff spot)

Sure, the Panthers may have won the Matthew Tkachuk trade in our early returns, but it won’t mean much if the team can’t get back to the playoffs after being the NHL’s best offense last season. Florida’s been unable to get into a rhythm at all this season with a 10-8-2 record, winning two straight games just twice this season. An inconsistent start to the year may very well doom their chances at a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference given the tough competition ahead of them in the standings.

Buffalo Sabres (Five points out of a playoff spot)

For the first few weeks of the season, the Sabres were one of the NHL’s best teams. Buffalo started the year 7-3-0, with people throwing out the red carpet for Tage Thompson and Rasmus Dahlin just 10 games into the season. Then, the Sabres went on an eight-game losing streak, one that may have foiled their playoff chances when all is said and done. Sure, the Sabres probably weren’t good enough to win 70 percent of their games the rest of the way, but failing to make the playoffs will feel like a bit of a let down after their hot start.

Washington Capitals (Four points out of a playoff spot)

If the Capitals miss the playoffs this season for the first time since 2013-14, blame it on their 3-6-3 record since October 31. After starting the season at a respectable 5-4-0, Washington petered out hard at the end of October and haven’t recovered since. The Capitals biggest problems are goaltending, which allowed 43 goals against during this span, alongside an anemic, aging defense. You know things are bad in Washington when even Alex Ovechkin is slumping hard.

Pittsburgh Penguins (One point out of a playoff spot)

Yes, the Penguins enter Thanksgiving on a four-game win streak, but there’s still some concern here. The Penguins also had a disastrous late October and early November with a winless streak of seven games and overall have been quite the Jekyll and Hyde team so far this season. You can never count out Sidney Crosby and crew, not when they’re continuing to pile on the goals as they have recently, but the cracks have certainly started to show in this Penguins team.

Edmonton Oilers (One point out of a playoff spot)

November has not been kind to the Oilers. First, they lose Evander Kane for at least three months after a terrifying skate cut injury. Then, the team goes 4-7-0 in November ahead of Thanksgiving, putting them outside the playoffs as a true .500 squad. Stuart Skinner should be the team’s full time goaltender from here on out, as the Jack Campbell experiment isn’t working either. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have their work cut out for them if the Oilers want to make it back to the playoffs.

Minnesota Wild (One point out of a playoff spot)

Turns out, Kirill Kaprizov can’t carry a hockey team no matter how good of a player he is. Right now, the Wild are desperate for goals and are the NHL’s fifth-worst team in terms of scoring with an average 2.67 goals per game. Even worse, Kaprizov is the team’s only double digit goal scorer! A toothless Wild offense will need to find another gear the rest of the way if they want to make it to the playoffs once more.

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