Analyzing three surprise playoff teams and how sustainable they are

Check out how the Canadian teams in the NHL are doing on American Thanksgiving Day, including the struggling Oilers, the hopeful Flames, and the surprising Canucks.

Traditionally, American Thanksgiving has served as an important benchmark in the NHL. Over eight full seasons since 2013-14, 98 of 128 teams (76.6 per cent) that held playoff spots on that day ultimately qualified for the postseason.

On Thursday, four teams that did not make it last season were in position to do so this season. One was the Vancouver Canucks, who lead the league in scoring. Here is a look at the other three:

WASHINGTON CAPITALS

The Capitals looked dead in the water a month ago, having lost four of their first five games by a combined score of 19-6. Since then, however, Washington has won nine of 11 (9-1-1) despite going 2-for-29 on the power play over that span. Alex Ovechkin has had little to do with the turnaround; his five goals are tied for the fewest through 16 games of a season in his career.

Look no further than the Capitals’ goaltending, which has saved a league-best 11.3 extra goals since Oct. 25, when the team’s hot streak started. Career backup Charlie Lindgren is playing the best hockey of his career, saving 8.25 goals above expected over his past four starts.

The Capitals’ overall offence has been below average over the past month, ranking 17th in actual goals per game (3.18) and 21st in expected goals per game (3.09). If and when the Capitals’ goaltending starts to falter, they could quickly lose their spot.

DETROIT RED WINGS

The Red Wings, who have missed the playoffs in each of the past seven years, have not been considered an offensive powerhouse for some time. So far this season, though, they lead the league with 47 goals at 5-on-5.

Some luck is involved; Detroit has scored 9.73 goals above expected at 5-on-5, second most in the league behind the Ottawa Senators (11.1). The Red Wings have also scored a league-high 13 goals from outside the slot. Eventually, those lower-percentage shots will stop going in as frequently. Detroit must do a better job of generating offence from more dangerous areas of the ice. 

ST. LOUIS BLUES

On the surface, the Blues do not do anything particularly well. They do not score much, ranking 28th in total goals (52) and 31st on the power play (7.3 per cent). Their defence has been OK, sitting 17th in expected goals against per game (3.17). Jordan Binnington and Joel Hofer have saved a combined 5.79 goals above expected, which is good but not great.

Frankly, the Blues do not appear to be much of a threat. They lost 5-1 to the San Jose Sharks recently, which pretty much says it all.

All stats via Sportlogiq

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