We’re officially at the quarter mark of the NHL season.
By now, you should have a good guess at how each team is trending and where they should inevitably end up. Some teams should prepare for a long playoff run in the summer, while others are spending the next few months seeing how they can bolster their future. While these rankings are a good indication of how teams are playing, it’s important to know that it won’t necessarily reflect how the rest of the season goes.
Some teams have managed to pull off surprises over the first month and change of the season, but the general optimism of the first week has given way to realistic expectations. Not every team that’s made the playoffs are Stanley Cup material, while some teams will be left deserving a better fate than a chance in the draft lottery. Regardless, we now have good ideas about how everyone is doing at this stage.
Who’s shown signs of being a contender at this point, and how have they differed from last week? Let’s find out.
Disclaimer: These rankings are reflective of games played and statistics recorded on or prior to February 14.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning (Even): No such thing as a Stanley Cup hangover here. The scary part is the Lightning are dominating right now and Nikita Kucherov could be back in time for the playoffs.
2. Boston Bruins (Even): An impressive beginning to the season, despite playing all but four games on the road and being without David Pastrnak to start the year. They’re beginning to pull away from the rest of the East Division.
3. Vegas Golden Knights (Even): A rejuvenated Marc-Andre Fleury could receive some Vezina love if he continues his hot streak and fights off Robin Lehner when the latter returns from injury. Just don’t bring the chrome helmets with you to Tahoe, ok?
4. Toronto Maple Leafs (Even): They had a nine-game point streak snapped by Montreal on Saturday, but they seem to finally be playing up to their potential. It begs the question, though: if they still can’t win a playoff series, is it time to ponder a blow-up?
5. Montreal Canadiens (Even): The young Canadiens have grown inconsistent after flying up these rankings to start the year, but that was to be expected. Tyler Toffoli and Josh Anderson have a combined 19 goals between them, and both could be pivotal if the Habs want to make a deep playoff run.
6. Colorado Avalanche (+1): All those injuries and COVID-related quarantines, and they still managed to nearly get the best of Vegas in their first game back? A goaltender battle between Fleury and Philipp Grubauer in Tahoe will be an old-school hockey fan’s dream come true.
7. Carolina Hurricanes (+2): An 8-2 record in their last 10 games indicate that the best is yet to come for the Hurricanes. Getting Petr Mrazek back, as well as receiving better production from Teuvo Teravainen and their defensemen not named Dougie Hamilton or Brett Pesce, will be a big help.
8. St. Louis Blues (+2): It must be tiring seeing the same team so many times, but the Blues are almost done with their seven-game series against the Coyotes. After that is a few weeks of going against the rebuilding California teams, which could propel the Blues closer to the top of the list.
9. Florida Panthers (+5): It took a year later than expected, but the Panthers finally seem to be living up to the hype in the Joel Quenneville era. If Sergei Bobrovsky can’t have his stats (.884 save percentage, 3.33 GAA) match his record (5-1-1), there could be a problem down the road.
10. Philadelphia Flyers (+2): It’s been a week since we’ve seen the Flyers, but they’ve managed to look good in their last appearances. Here’s hoping that the rest provides a mental reset for Carter Hart, who’s struggled to start the year (.897 save percentage, 3.49 GAA).
11. Washington Capitals (-5): What’s going on with the Capitals right now? After dropping four games in a row and letting go of at least three goals in their last six, they are in the unfamiliar territory of fighting for a playoff spot.
12. Winnipeg Jets (-4): An inconsistent week knocks the Jets out of the top 10, but it should be good news that Connor Hellebuyck seems to be playing back at his usual level. Meanwhile, fans are probably beginning to get a little impatient with Pierre-Luc Dubois.
13. Columbus Blue Jackets (Even): Snatching Jack Roslovic in the Laine-Dubois trade might just be the best move Columbus has done this season. Scoring nine points in as many games since his arrival in Columbus, Roslovic has ascended to the top center spot once occupied by the man he was traded for.
14. New York Islanders (+6): Mathew Barzal has been a big part in the Islanders shaking off a tough losing streak. With an eight-game point streak currently, his continued uptick in production will be crucial for the Islanders to be taken seriously this season and potentially beyond.
15. Dallas Stars (-4): The Stars have cooled off considerably since starting the season off hot. After a four-game win streak to start the year, the Stars have managed to find the winner’s column once since then.
16. Pittsburgh Penguins (Even): The Penguins are still treading water, and I expect them to be the heaviest buyer of all in April’s trade deadline. A return to Pittsburgh for Marc-Andre Fleury is a pipedream, but expect the Penguins to be in the market for any goaltender that hits the trade block.
17. Edmonton Oilers (+1): The Oilers have won six of their last seven, including a strong shutout against Montreal on Thursday. That 3.25 goals against per game mark is going to have to change, however, so expect Edmonton to be in the market for a defenseman throughout the season.
18. Minnesota Wild (-3): Not much to add to the Wild, who haven’t seen the ice since their COVID quarantine. With a few teams in their division starting to find their stride, the Wild could be back to their usual spot as a fringe playoff team.
19. Calgary Flames (-2): The consistency hasn’t been there, which will make reaching the playoffs even more difficult of a task to accomplish. Johnny Gaudreau and Jacob Markstrom have been strong so far, but the time has come for them to show up when it really matters most.
20. Arizona Coyotes (-1): Conor Garland and Jakob Chychrun have been enjoying breakout seasons so far, which could make the Coyotes dangerous. Make no mistake, however; this team still goes as far as Darcy Kuemper is able to get them.
21. Chicago Blackhawks (+3): The low ranking is more for cautionary purposes, but the Blackhawks could shoot up this list if they keep up their strong stretch of play. The story hasn’t been the continued excellence of Patrick Kane or Alex DeBrincat, but the emergence of Kevin Lankinen and Pius Suter as key pieces to a rebuilding team.
22. New Jersey Devils (Even): Tomorrow’s game against the Rangers will be the Devils’ first game in February. How will the long layoff affect a young team like the one New Jersey has right now?
23. Nashville Predators (-2): The wheels have fallen off on the Predators by losing four of their last five, including a rough loss to Detroit on Saturday. It may be time for the Predators to consider a blow-up, including seeing just how many sweeteners they’ll have to give Seattle to take Ryan Johansen off their hands.
24. New York Rangers (-1): The Rangers might be regretting not letting Alexis LaFreniere shake off the rust at the World Juniors. The number one overall pick has struggled mightily this season, scoring only a single goal in thirteen games.
25. Buffalo Sabres (+3): Similar to the Devils, the Sabres haven’t played a single game this month. Their rise should be more indicative of how much the teams behind them have struggled instead of how much trust I place on this team turning things around.
26. Los Angeles Kings (-1): A 6-2 victory against in-state rival San Jose would be held in higher regard if it wasn’t breaking a five-game losing streak. Jonathan Quick (.867 save percentage, 4.05 GAA) is looking like the next former franchise goaltender to be bought out.
27. Anaheim Ducks (+2): John Gibson has been great, but the offense has still struggled to gain any sort of traction. With top prospect Trevor Zegras lighting up the AHL so far, how long can the Ducks conceivably wait before turning him loose?
28. Vancouver Canucks (-2): New acquisitions like Nate Schmidt, Travis Hamonic, and Braden Holtby have provided mediocre-at-best returns for a Canucks defense that has been exposed repeatedly. If things don’t change soon, coach Travis Green and GM Jim Benning could be at risk of an in-season firing.
29. San Jose Sharks (-2): Despite playing on their home ice for the first time this season, the Sharks managed to get punched in the nose by their arch-rival Vegas. Using Devan Dubnyk’s injury to see what Alexei Melnichuk can do at the NHL level might be a smart idea for a team that doesn’t have any better ones in net.
30. Detroit Red Wings (Even): Danny DeKeyser’s waiving makes him the latest victim of Steve Yzerman’s purging of the old guard. Expect a few trades to knock even more pieces off the board as the Wings continue their rebuild.
31. Ottawa Senators (Even): Matt Murray hasn’t been the answer in net, and they are the only team to date allowing four goals per game. Good thing this draft is heavy on top-flight defensive prospects.