With about a quarter of the season in the books, the NHL playoff picture is starting to take its form.
Old adage — mainly credited to Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland — says that by the American Thanksgiving weekend playoff teams have pretty much secured their place in the postseason.
In fact, since conference realignment in 2013, only 10 teams have fallen out of the playoff race after holding a spot in the top eight at Thanksgiving.
Last season, Montreal, Boston, Ottawa and Arizona were the only teams to lose their place in the postseason after the holiday.
Keeping those numbers — and turkey — in mind, here are four teams currently holding a playoff spot that could find themselves golfing come April.
Dallas Stars (8-8-5, T-8th in the West)
Despite some firepower up front and Patrick Eaves on pace for an unexpected career year, defensive deficiencies are likely to hamper the Stars going forward. Although they are in the top half of the league in goals scored (55), they have surrendered more goals (71) than anyone this season.
Not only that, but the Stars are being consistently outshot by opponents, sport the sixth-worst 5-on-5 Corsi percentage in the league, and don’t have the goaltending to consistently overcome that amount of offensive pressure.
With Nashville starting to hit their stride in the stacked Central division, the Stars will struggle to hold onto their playoff spot unless their defense improves.
Ottawa Senators (12-7-1, 6th in the East)
Like Dallas, Ottawa also currently holds a playoff spot despite a negative goal differential. They also lie just ahead of Dallas in 5on-5 Corsi percentage.
Team that with the second-worst power play in the league and Ottawa is primed to regress as the season wears on. In fact, our own Dom Luszczyszyn’s latest point projections give Ottawa only a 19 percent chance of qualifying for the postseason.
Columbus Blue Jackets (10-5-3, T-7th in the East)
Matt Larkin already pointed out some reasons why the Blue Jackets could regress as the season continues. Chief among those reasons was their high shooting percentages teamed with poor possession numbers. Their 10-0 thrashing of Montreal has also inflated some of their scoring stats.
Alarmingly, Sergei Bobrovsky has faced the third-most high-danger shots against this season, per Corsica, but has fared well so far with a .860 save percentage on those high-danger shots. However, considering last year’s .816 average save percentage on those same type of shots from goalies with more than 1,200 minutes of ice time, and his personal mark of .794 last season, it’s hard to imagine Bobrovsky sustaining those numbers this year.
Anaheim Ducks (9-7-4, T-6th in the West)
I was deciding between Minnesota and Anaheim for this final spot, and as a result this is more of an argument for the Wild than it is against the Ducks. While the Wild are just barely hanging on to a playoff spot despite Devan Dubnyk’s outstanding play, that has been the case ever since they acquired him in 2014-15.
The Wild have one of the league’s highest PDOs this season, but they’ve been able to sustain high PDOs in seasons past with Dubnyk in net. Despite not having a top-level scoring threat, the Wild have a slew of second-line caliber scorers who have kept them in the middle of the pack in scoring for the past two seasons.
Both teams have bad possession stats this season, which is more unusual for Anaheim than it is for the Wild. Much like the Canadiens with Carey Price, Minnesota has been able to overcome poor advanced numbers over the past few years because of great goaltending. Anaheim, on the other hand, has had to increasingly rely on Jonathan Bernier this season due to John Gibson’s struggles out of the gate.