#1 Boston Bruins
When your in the top three in nearly every single category, you absolutely dominate other teams such as the 8-1 win against Montreal. When you add in that you have the best record in the NHL, you are going to get the top spot hands down. The real issue other teams have with Boston is that the Bruins don’t really have a weakness. Enough said, well done.
Things really couldn’t be any closer in these rankings than the Capitals, Islanders and Blues are. It all came down to one simple fact. The Capitals have beaten both those teams. As always Washington has a potent attack and their defense, including special teams, is doing its part too. To stay within reach of the top spot in the NHL Washington has to stay consistent, therefore there is little room for mistakes.
The Eastern Conference is certainly dominating this year, at least at the top. Even so, the Blues are able to sneak into the number three spot here. So why is St. Louis above New York? Two big reasons come into play here. First off, the Blues have something New York doesn’t, a good forward group. The offense for the Blues is significantly better than that of the Islanders so there is a major advantage there. Second, the Blues special teams is doing very well and although the Islanders penalty kill has been good, both the power play and penalty kill of the Blues has been better than NY. Remember what I said about the possibility of a Stanley Cup rematch? It’s looking more and more possible with every passing day.
It has been straight up domination on special teams for the Oilers. The back end has been in the top ten statistically too, so that’s a benefit to the team. A well earned top five spot for the Oilers. With that being said you will never believe what the weak point of Edmonton is right now. The offense. How can this be you ask? McDavid and Leon both hit 50 points recently. Well yes that is true. If you go look at the points leaders in the NHL right now McDavid and Leon are the top two. However, it is not until the 91st player that you see another Oiler on that list. Not until 91!! This is the problem with only having star power, there is no depth scoring. You will need more than two players to single-handedly win you a playoff series. Do not be surprised to see the Oilers drop out early if they don’t fix this problem.
We all know the old saying “defense wins championships” and that is exactly what the Islanders are going for. Defense has been the name of the game for NY and with the success they have had, a deep run in the playoffs is well within their grasp. In addition to the outstanding D-core Thomas Greiss has been the immovable object in net that the Islanders were hoping for. With an absurd .931 save percentage and a goals against average of 2.10 it’s no wonder teams have a hard time scoring on this team.
The Eastern Conference trend continues here as 4 of the top 6 teams are in the east. As for the Hurricanes themselves, it’s the same thing as I said last week, the Canes are solid in every category making them one of the more complete teams in the NHL. They aren’t really doing fantastically in any area but they are playing good hockey all across the board. Reinforcing this idea the Canes are 7-3-0 in their last ten games, not absolutely amazing, however still very good. That is the story of Carolina.
The Avs are still riddled with injuries. Despite this fact they are third in the tight Central Division. The team is currently tied with Boston as the best offense in the league. How can this be so with on and off injuries to the best players? Cale Makar and several others have helped lighten the blow of the major injuries. With the way he is playing he could easily win rookie of the season. For Colorado it’s looking good so far, nonetheless they need to get healthy.
I would like to see more production on special teams from Winnipeg. Besides that their offense is needing a boost of its own. Those thoughts behind us, the Jets are a good team fighting for playoff positioning in the Central. It is hard to say precisely where they will end up. Be that as it may, the Jets will more than likely get a shot at redemption after last year’s first round exit.
Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry haven’t really lived up to the hype they were given when the Sharks acquired them. With that in mind the Stars have basically reverted back to the same team they were last year. This means they will be a good team but probably not good enough for a cup run.
The key to the Coyotes success has been in Darcy Kuemper and the defense. With year upon year of not making the playoffs and being the basement of the NHL it looks like that is all finally coming to an end. I would like to see more production from the forwards even so, the Coyotes are doing what works for them and that may be all they need to have playoff success.
It has been up and down for Vegas. They have been slightly more consistent winning 4 games straight and going 6-3-1 in their last ten. A lot is still to be determined about the Knights.
All I can say is you have the penalty kill of a well-oiled machine. It is unbelievable how efficient it is. This is reflected in it’s 91% success right. The rest of the areas of the team leave much to be desired. You can’t ignore the Sharks coming back from an awful start and being 8-2 in their last ten games. That is why they are where they are on this list.
The Penguins lost their best player. So what do they do? Nothing different really, in the sense of winning and losing anyway. They would be better with him for sure, nevertheless they have made a good showing without him. It will be a bumpy ride to the finish for Pittsburgh considering how hard the division is. Let’s not forget about the Rangers either who are only 3 points behind the Pens in the playoff race. One thing is for certain, the Penguins must maintain a decent record until Crosby comes back or there will be no coming back because they will get buried in their division.
Not much has changed since the last time I talked about Vancouver. Over the past week the back-end has been better than prior weeks so the Canucks are improving. The power play is excellent and in regular play they seem to be doing well. The penalty kill could be better, although that’s a want not a need so I really have no significant complaints.
Everybody loves getting a power play, it is a better chance to score on the other team. When other teams get power plays on the Flyers it doesn’t really seem to matter to them. What makes me say that? Their penalty kill is at a ridiculous level of play. They are successful in killing off 85.7% of opposing power plays, frustrating their competition. Their defense has also been on par giving Philly a chance for a playoff spot. The question remains, is this sustainable? Only time will tell.
This just goes to show you how top heavy the Atlantic is and how pathetic the rest of the division is. The Panthers with only a measly 13 wins are second place in the Atlantic. It has been an interesting mix of narratives for Florida this year. Expectations were high coming into the season after the Panthers acquired some good pieces, the prize of which was Sergei Bobrovsky. They dumped a huge some of money on him with a high cap hit thinking he would be the answer to their goaltending woes. Well he hasn’t performed as advertised. It fact, wether because of him, his defense or both, he has done terribly. With a goals against average of 3.48 and a save percentage of .884 it is easy to see that the Florida netminder has had a difficult season between the pipes. You had better be thankful you have a spectacular offense because if it wasn’t for that you would be in the basement of the NHL. One last thing to be happy with is your squads special teams. They have been stellar to this point.