With the NHL bye weeks in full swing, and the All-Star Break quickly approaching, the potential playoff races are starting to take shape. While teams get plenty of rest over the next few weeks, the points are becoming more and more important as the regular season is just about half over. With half of the regular season in the books, which team are among the best in the NHL?
Let’s look at this week’s top 10 teams:
1. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (1)
2. VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS (2)
3. WASHINGTON CAPITALS (5)
4. WINNIPEG JETS (3)
5. NASHVILLE PREDATORS (4)
6. BOSTON BRUINS (8)
7. ST. LOUIS BLUES (6)
8. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (NR)
9. CALGARY FLAMES (NR)
10. NEW JERSEY DEVILS (10)
Note: These rankings will change every week
*(#) indicates last week’s ranking
*”NR” indicates “Not Ranked”
THOUGHTS ON THIS WEEK’S TOP 10
-There is devastating news out of Tampa, as star defenseman Victor Hedman will be out of action the next 3-6 weeks. He was injured versus Calgary on January 11, in what appears to be a leg injury. Hedman was selected to go to the NHL All-Star weekend, but will not be able to go with his injury. Hedman, 27, has recorded 6 goals and 33 points in 44 games for the Lightning this year. While this hurts Tampa on the blueline, I think Tampa will remain at the top of the Eastern Conference for the remainder of the regular season. With Anton Stralman, Mikhail Sergachev, and Dan Girardi in the mix on the back end, the Lightning are still a very good team and deep at the blueline position.
-Boston has risen steadily in the power rankings. They are 7-0-3 in their last 10 games. Despite Tuukka Rask’s struggles in goal this year, he is putting a steady season together. The 30-year old Finn has recorded 15 wins, a 2.25 goals against average, and .919 save percentage. Besides Brad Marchand, the Bruins are getting scoring contributions from players like Danton Heinen and Jake DeBrusk. Both players have recorded 10 goals apiece.
-Toronto is back in the power rankings this week. As the NHL Trade Deadline gets closer, the Leafs are going to be a very interesting team to watch. The Leafs have 3 key pending unrestricted free agents – James van Riemsdyk, Leo Kamarov, and Tyler Bozak. All 3 of these players are key to the Leafs in their respective roles. James van Riemsdyk is probably the most notable of the 3, as he is a legitimate goal scoring threat. He has recorded 19 goals for the Leafs this season, and is a former 30-goal scorer. The Leafs need help on the blueline, and could possibly use one of these forwards as possible trade bait at the Trade Deadline.
-Remember when Calgary Flames Head Coach Glen Gulutzan threw a stick at Flames practice on January 5? Well, it looks like his temper tantrum paid off. The Flames are on a roll and have won 7 in a row. They have vaulted back into the 2nd spot in the Pacific Division. In a surprising twist, notable agitator Michael Ferland has recorded 19 goals in 44 games for the Flames. With the Pacific Division still very wide open, the Flames could be a surprise team to enter the playoff picture.
By: George Foussekis