Â• Thanks in large part to Roberto Luongo, the Canucks have exceeded the pre-season expectations of many people. Still, I've got a hunch they could be first-round playoff fodder.
That's because their power play (ranked 20th in the league) continues to be anemic. Granted, they scored with the man advantage in overtime Thursday to beat St. Louis, but that was their first marker with the extra man in 20 attempts.
Nobody's penalty kill is better than Vancouver's, but an inability to score when the officials give you gifts in the post-season can be a huge drain on a team's confidence.
Â• The Stars aren't the cool pick to win the Stanley Cup this season Â– and after I got burnt last spring when they were my choice to win it all, I'm not making that same mistake two straight years Â– but few franchises are hotter at this point than Dallas, who have won four in a row, including Thursday's 4-2 victory over Calgary.
If defense wins playoff games, it appears even more likely the Stars will enjoy a long playoff run. Yes, they've got the fewest goals-for (187) of all confirmed and potential post-season contenders, but they've also allowed the fewest goals (168) of any NHL team, New Jersey (172) included. Dismiss them at your peril.
Neither team has guaranteed itself a playoff berth; however, as long as Rick DiPietro returns in short order, the Isles should be fine.
The Â‘Canes, on the other hand, are on the wrong end of many a bad break, which is usually a hallmark of a sinking ship. And they've got just 10 games left to turn things around. Doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in them, does it?