One of the easiest explanations for why teams have either improved or struggled this season is in the number of goals they're scoring.
Just look at the Bruins or Red Wings: A year ago, Boston and Detroit had the top two offences in the NHL, leading the league with 3.52 and 3.29 goals per game. Less than a year later, they're both down nearly a goal a game, and it's showing in the standings. The Red Wings could miss the postseason for the first time in 20 years and the Bruins are clinging to a low playoff seed. Other clubs like Colorado, Los Angeles and Nashville are way up in the goal-scoring department and have been three of the surprise teams. All three were basically bottom feeders in goal production last season.
What follows is a comparison of team's goal-scoring rates from the end of last season and this one at the Olympic break, sorted by how they've improved (or not):
The Caps have taken the biggest leap, which is incredible given they were the league's third-highest scoring team last season, and are now one of the higher scoring teams we've seen in relation to the rest of the league.
There are a couple of interesting things here, including the fact the Coyotes really haven't improved and yet are doing so well in the standings. They're one of the teams where goals against (and goaltending) have played a big factor in their rise, something I'll look at later this week.
Goal scoring, meanwhile, is an area where four of the Canadian teams have really struggled. Toronto and Edmonton are headed for the lottery draft in part due to their drop off in production, while Montreal and Calgary went from fairly high-scoring teams to ones that haven't been able to muster much offence all year.