Canadian NHL group grades: Oilers ignite, Maple Leafs fall off in March

Spring has actually lastly sprung and, as much of the northern hemisphere emerges from its months-long hibernation, playoff hockey is best around the corner.

Prior to we arrive, nevertheless, the majority of groups will be riding out the last half-dozen video games left on their docket in preparation for the playoffs or an early offseason, while others are still fighting for their postseason lives. Let’s have a look throughout the 7 Canadian markets and see how their months of March graded out and where Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto stand heading down the stretch.

1) Edmonton Oilers (A+)

It’s tough to make anything besides an A+ grade when you’ve simply finished the very best month in your franchise’s history. Edmonton ignited in March, going 12-2-1 and pacing the whole NHL in points portion. The group was dominant on the belongings front, managing 56% of the anticipated objectives, while Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl led the NHL with 29 and 28 points, respectively.

On top of the supremacy from their stars, the complementary pieces pulled their weight and then some. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had the month of his life, getting 24 points in 14 video games to rocket his season overall to a career-high 96 points.

The explosive Oilers are peaking at precisely the correct time. (Getty)

The explosive Oilers are peaking at precisely the correct time. (Getty)

Integrated with Mattias Ekholm and Evan Bouchard discovering immediate chemistry as a suffocating couple with offending presents, and Stuart Skinner making Rookie of the Month honours, it’s difficult to state anything failed for the Oilers, who are presently Canada’s finest group with the playoffs looming.

The autopsy report:

For as rocky a roadway as it’s been at times throughout the Connor McDavid age, this previous year might have been the best one yet thanks in big part to the supremacy of their captain.

The Oilers shot out of eviction with persistence, with Stuart Skinner rapidly developing himself as a bonafide NHL goaltender in the middle of Jack Campbell’s battles to adjust. That goaltending continued to be the story of the Oilers season throughout the early weeks till Connor McDavid solitarily took control of Edmonton’s project and declined to let go.

By December, McDavid was doing Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux things, as Edmonton’s explosive offense took centre phase and ended up being must-watch hockey. As the goaltending gradually reached league typical level, the Oilers soared up the standings, then enhanced their core with a smart due date to press them strongly into Stanley Cup competitor status.

2) Vancouver Canucks (A-)

In an amazing turn of occasions, the Vancouver Canucks are heading down the stretch as one of the very best groups north of the border, playing to a beautiful 120-point rate with a 10-3-2 record in March.

It’s quite tough to think provided the state of the group under Bruce Boudreau, as they constantly discovered themselves on the incorrect end of uneven rating sheets with an inefficient front workplace and a cast of dissatisfied stars.

With brand-new coach Rick Tocchet starting to settle in, nevertheless, the Canucks looked as excellent as they have all season, even completing with an above-water anticipated objectives for portion (50.4%) for the very first time in 2022-23.

The only factor Vancouver does not make themselves a straight-A grade is that their wonder month has strongly raised them from the NHL’s basement. By making points in 8 of their last 10 video games, visions of Connor Bedard lacing up his skates with a whale throughout his chest have all however disappeared as their chances to choose the home town hero are now strongly in the one percent variety. Oops.

The autopsy report:

Where to start? Even prior to the season got rolling, the Canucks were drowning in chaos, with off-ice scenarios clouding over a group with plenty of on-ice concern marks. Things began improperly on the Pacific coast and just worsened, as jersey tosses relied on losing streaks which became a months-long will-they-won’t-they with their head coach.

The Canucks’ current stretch obfuscates among the most aggravating seasons in current memory for Vancouver. Coming off a 92-point project in 2021-22, expectations lay someplace in between playoff bubble and Pacific Division danger, especially provided how wide-open things recalled in October.

As the early season losses accumulated, nevertheless, ultimately paving the way to Bruce Boudreau’s shooting and the circus that surrounded it, it ended up being apparent that this group simply didn’t have the legs. Worsened by a revolving door in web due to injuries and efficiency, this year’s Canucks were simply not suggested to be, late-season rise be damned.

3) Calgary Flames (B-)

Like the Undertaker in his most popular gif, reports of the Calgary Flames’ death– in spite of what was stated last month– have actually been significantly overemphasized. A critical 8-5-2 month, stressed on Friday night with an enormous come-from-behind win over the Vancouver Canucks, kept Calgary in the hunt, simply 2 points back of Winnipeg with 6 video games staying.

The Flames are still behind the 8 ball, however the semi-reemergence of Jacob Markstrom, who hunted together a pedestrian.898 sv% almost forty points greater than his February mark, enabled them to spend time simply enough time to accompany other groups slipping down the stretch.

The chances stay wish for Calgary regardless of their current winning methods, evidenced by their slim 31.5% chance at making the playoffs, per Moneypuck, however it’s an action in the ideal instructions for a group that was barreling into the void simply a couple of brief weeks earlier.

The autopsy report:

It seems like permanently back, however the Calgary Flames came out of eviction as Presidents Trophy competitors and did not dissatisfy. Their 5-2-0 record made them early season appreciation, however things turned sour quickly afterwards.

Jonathan Huberdeau’s extremely prepared for arrival stopped working to satisfy expectations for the majority of the season, getting simply 12 points through his very first 2 months in Cowtown. Integrated with the group breaking down in November on the goaltending front, the diagnosis rapidly ended up being alarming for Darryl Sutter’s club.

Regularly outshooting their challengers however stopping working to discover a prompt objective or conserve, Calgary sank in the standings into the mushy middle, accumulating one-goal losses along the method.

Even if the last month of their season does unbelievely conclude with them dealing with the Western Conference’s number-one seed, the Flames fell far except their lofty preseason expectations, making it tough to examine their project as anything except a failure. That is, naturally, pending some playoff awe.

4) Winnipeg Jets (C)

Winnipeg might have assembled a. 500 record in March, however based upon the stories surrounding the group and their plunge from Central leader to wild-card enthusiastic, it definitely does not feel that method.

The Jets have actually been underwhelming of late– their 7-7-1 record in March just even more highlighting the state of affairs in Manitoba’s capital. As is typically the case, goaltending has actually been a huge perpetrator for the downslide, as Connor Hellebuyck’s.899 save portion last month was his least expensive given that February 2022.

Others, such as Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler, have actually likewise had a hard time, notching simply 9 and 8 points respectively over the Jets’ 15-game stretch. Wheeler, especially, has actually been having a hard time strongly as he finishes up his age-36 season, scoring simply one objective in March.

The autopsy report:

The Winnipeg Jets were lots of things this previous season, however something they definitely were not corresponded. Month to month, it’s difficult to argue that any other Canadian group had the swings the Jets had.

From the highs of their dominant November run led by a Josh Morrissey breakout to an injury-plagued December that saw the club deliver the department to Dallas, to an extraordinary January that assisted them regain their early-season magic, monthly has actually been a brand-new difficulty for the Jets.

It’s that precise disparity that makes the Jets season to this point so tough to effectively examine. Whether this group is the well-oiled early-season maker or the discombobulated March variation is difficult to inform, and will certainly be the million-dollar concern come playoffs. That is, obviously, if they can right the ship in time and prevent leaving of the photo totally in favour of a rising Flames side.

5) Toronto Maple Leafs (D+)

As it ends up, it’s difficult to change on the fly when trading away substantial swaths of your core and presenting nearly half a lots brand-new faces. The Maple Leafs had their weakest month given that their abysmal start to the season, going 7-5-2 while getting bad losses on numerous events.

Even worse yet, the group does not seem gelling whatsoever, with their 48.6% anticipated objectives share marking the very first circumstances the club has actually dipped listed below the 50% mark over a complete month this season.

That isn’t to state there have not been positives. Auston Matthews seems very back, however the supporting cast that was expected to support the group and turn them into a playoff-style juggernaut has actually done the specific reverse, permeating the club of its protective structure, leading to a barrage of high-danger possibilities versus.

It’s a worrying pattern with the playoffs simple weeks away and will need a repair on a tight turn-around offered the club’s approaching date with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The autopsy report:

The Maple Leafs season has actually included primarily impressive play, sandwiched in between 2 dreadful months in October and March. Opening the year cold, the Maple Leafs looked downright dreadful relative to their expectations in October, with the stars stopping working to transform and the group losing to far inferior challengers.

That turned on its head in November, nevertheless, as the group assembled an 11-1-2 run for the very best single month in their franchise history, regardless of a shopping list of injuries on the back end.

As the strong play continued through December and into the brand-new year, indications of a club with the legs to make a run appeared, cueing a mid-February trade flurry in hopes of reinforcing the club’s protective acumen.

Toronto has actually had a hard time to gel with considerable brand-new pieces in the fold because their hectic stretch ahead of the due date, however with their playoff match secured, the only genuine concern is whether their relocations suffice to get them past the preliminary for the very first time considering that 2004.

6) Montreal Canadiens (D-)

The tank lives and well in Montreal, so there’s little to be amazed about the Canadiens ending up with an awful 4-9-2 record in March while getting mauled at the same time.

There are no 2 methods about it, the Montreal Canadiens, with a shopping list of injuries and minimal skill on the ice, have one task: lose video games for more lotto balls. By getting simply a 3rd of their possible points last month, great for 28th in the league in points portion, they’ve mainly optimized their chances at protecting a top-end skill come June’s entry draft.

The only genuine issue worth thinking about is the culture that all this losing might cultivate, however offered the abovementioned attrition dealt with by the Habs this season, not to point out the higher great that bringing a leading possibility would provide for this company, it’s a little rate to pay in the grand plan of things.

The autopsy report:

It’s tough to keep in mind, however the Canadiens came out of evictions fairly hot, going a 11-10-1 through completion of November.

That exterior of a skilled hockey group faded extremely rapidly in December, nevertheless, after the defence and goaltending collapsed, with Montreal giving up the most objectives in the whole league to conclude 2022. Offending slides from Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield likewise showed to be a precursor of bad things to come, as half of the vibrant duo would see their season end too soon a month later on. Together with first-overall choice Juraj Slafkovsky’s underwhelming freshman project ending with a comparable thud, the tank sped up rapidly for the Canadiens.

In spite of all the losses, some intense areas have actually offered the Canadiens hope that will bring into next season. Sam Montembeault has actually become a genuine number-one alternative in internet, while others like Mike Matheson and Kirby Dach– well, prior to Dach likewise struck the rack– have actually had fantastic bounce-back seasons, and appear like part of the option moving forward.

7) Ottawa Senators (F)

Well Ottawa, it was enjoyable while it lasted. From approximately mid-January to the end of February, the Ottawa Senators looked unstoppable, assembling among the greatest records in the league over that timeframe. Pierre Dorion took a huge swing for Jakob Chychrun on the very first day of March and … all of it went sideways.

The Senators stunk up the joint in March, going.500 and slipping strongly out of the playoff race by the month’s conclusion. Even even worse, Chychrun’s much-anticipated arrival, for all its wholesome minutes, has actually been a loser in its early phases, with Chychrun getting hurt in late March after a primarily underwhelming impression in the country’s capital.

On the intense side, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Senators fans. Tim Stutzle’s 21 points in 15 video games last month strengthens his location as an emerging super star in the NHL, while the group’s carousel of goaltenders has actually supplied among the league’s finest stories this year with Dylan Ferguson’s very first profession start.

The autopsy report:

The Senators season can securely be divided into 2 parts. There are the pre-New Year Senators, and the post-New Year Senators.

The pre-New Year Senators were, in a word, underwhelming. The youth had actually shown up in Ottawa and had actually right away discovered success with the similarity Shane Pinto and Jake Sanderson revealing glances of the pledge they ‘d show through the remainder of the Sens project.

On the other hand, as a group anticipated to take an action, Ottawa had actually extremely refrained from doing so, toiling near the bottom of the Atlantic Division standings for the much better part of 2 months, just quickly raising themselves out of the basement when the Canadiens fell apart at the joints.

Post-New Year, nevertheless, was an entirely various story. A roaring hot January and February paved the way to an aggressive due date and restored optimism at a wild-card berth, specifically offered the battles of groups like the Florida Panthers and even the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Ottawa eventually wasn’t able to take advantage of that chance, discovering themselves sinking into the mushy middle after an average March, however do not let that fool you. The Ottawa Senators have actually discovered a winning formula and might be a genuine playoff danger in another year’s time.

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