After 20 games: The Atlantic Division

This article can be found published on Chicks Who Give a Puck.

We have reached the quarter mark of the 2010-2011 season and, as it stands, three of the five Altantic teams are in playoff contention.

The New Jersey Devils

Age and injuries may be finally catching up to Martin Brodeur as he is currently out with a bruised elbow. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Age and injuries may be finally catching up to Martin Brodeur as he is currently out with a bruised elbow. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

With the talents of Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, and Martin Brodeur as goaltender, most would think the Devils would be a shoo-in for the playoffs. But they have done nothing but disappoint thus far. Kovalchuk has been anything but the goal scorer that he once was. He has only four goals and six assists, and with a 15-year deal worth $100 million, that’s not enough. Due to injuries to Brodeur, Parise, Anton Volchenkov, Jamie Langenbrunner, Brian Rolston, Bryce Salvador and Jacob Josefson, the team has utilized 12 rookies this season. The Devils are last in the league in goals per game (1.80) and goals scored (36), though their goaltending tandem of Brodeur and Johan Hedberg have kept them in the middle of the pack in terms of GAA. Their power play is running at a horrendous 10.2-percent, converting six times on 59 chances. Through 20 games, the Devils stand with a 5-13-2 record. Injuries are hurting the team, but players like Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac need to step up or head coach John MacLean may not make it through his first season. The Devils are well on their way to missing the playoffs for only the second time in 20 years.

The New York Islanders
No one expected the Islanders to get off to a blazing 4-1-2 start to the season, but then it seemed as if reality set in and, in the following 10 games, they went 0-9-1, leading to the dismissal of head coach Scott Gordon, with Jack Capuano brought in as his replacement. In three games immediately following, the Islanders fared no better with a 0-2-1 record. The top five players in points on the team (James Wisniewski, Matt Moulson, Frans Nielsen, John Tavares, PA Parenteau) have only scored 24 totals goals and are a combined minus-47. The Islanders are near the bottom of the league in goals allowed (3.40) and goals scored (41). Dwayne Roloson and Rick DiPietro have split the workload, but both goaltenders have only two wins. With a 4-12-4 record, they sit last in the Atlantic Division with little hope of finding a way out of the bottom and will more than likely miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season.

The New York Rangers

Brandon Dubinsky has become a pleasant surprise for a Rangers team dealing with injuries. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

Brandon Dubinsky has become a pleasant surprise for a Rangers team dealing with injuries. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

The Rangers have been a consistently mediocre team. Their record stands at 10-9-1 – a .500 record. Their longest winning streak is three games – as is their longest losing streak. The team has scored 58 goals and allowed 57. The only real difference is their better record away from the Garden with a .667 winning percentage (6-3-0) compared to a .364 (4-6-1) at home.  The Rangers are suffering from the injury bug, as Captain Chris Drury and alternate Vinny Prospal are both out on long-term injured reserve; Ryan Callahan and Artem Anisimov are stepping, having contributed 19 and 15 points, respectively. The biggest surprise has come from the play of Brandon Dubinsky, who with 11 goals and 7 assists is well on his way to smashing his career high in goals and points. The Rangers can ease some of the workload off of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist now that they have a capable and reliable backup in Martin Biron, who has won two of the three games he’s appeared in. Lundqvist, on the other hand, has had an okay 7-7-1 record with two shutouts. At the rate the Rangers are going, they will be one of the handful of teams battling it out in the last week of the seasons for the final few spots in the playoffs.

The Philadelphia Flyers
Twenty games into the season and the Flyers are riding high with a 12-6-2 record, good for first in the Atlantic. The team has become a scoring machine, with eight players in double-digits for points. Claude Giroux is having a breakout season with 10 goals and 11 assists. The high-scoring offense has scored 70 goals, second only to Washington, and are tops for goals per game (3.50) and goals against per game (2.45).The team is helping their goaltenders, blocking 333 shots, best for second in the league. The biggest surprise of all has been rookie net-minder Sergei Bobrovsky. He has taken to the NHL in fine fashion, posting some of the best numbers in the league. He holds a 11-3-1 record with a 2.29 goals-against average and .925 save-percentage. The way Flyers are playing, it will be a good fight for tops in the Atlantic with Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins gave a scare to the city early on in the season with their 1-3-1 record, but have rebounded slightly to 10-8-2. They have been near the top of the league in penalty kill, clicking along at 88.2-percent, but heir power play has been milling along at only 12.8-percent. Sidney Crosby did not score his first goal until four games into the season, but after 20 games, he stands with 13 goals and 16 assists for 29 points to lead the team in all three categories. Evgeni Malkin has started slowed and remained that way. In his first 19 games, he had only 7 goals and 10 assists. As it stands right now, Malkin is on pace for the worst numbers in his career.  Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury had a rough start to his season, recording only one win in his first eight games played, with a 3.53 goals-against average and .853 save-percentage. He has since regained his old form and went 3-0-1 in the next four games he played. While Fleury struggled, backup Brent Johnson took the reins, playing nine games with a 6-2-1 record, including a shutout against Carolina. After their slow start, the Penguins are back on track to challenge the Flyers for the top spot in the Atlantic Division and should make the playoffs for the fifth straight year.

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Categories: Ice Hockey, NHL, Sports

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