As the trade deadline nears, some teams are catching fire. Here are the rankings . . .
#31 Edmonton Oilers (24-29-5, -32, LW: 26)
#30 Ottawa Senators (22-32-5, -33, LW: 28)
#29 Los Angeles Kings (23-30-6, -39, LW: 22)
#28 Anaheim Ducks (23-27-9, -54, LW: 31)
#27 Detroit Red Wings (23-29-8, -31, LW: 27)
#26 Vancouver Canucks (26-27-7, -18, LW: 23)
#25 New Jersey Devils (23-28-8, -31, LW: 29)
#24 Minnesota Wild (27-26-6, -12, LW: 20)
#23 Colorado Avalanche (24-24-11, -3, LW: 30)
#22 Arizona Coyotes (26-28-5, -18, LW: 21)
The Coyotes need a lot to go their way if they want to snap a six year playoff drought. Giving up four or more goals in five of nine since the break is not a good thing, especially when the team ranks 28th in goals. There is never a good time of the season to have your defense fail you, but it’s a lot worse when your offense is that poor.
#21 New York Rangers (25-25-8, -24, LW: 25)
#20 Buffalo Sabres (28-23-7, -13, LW: 18)
#19 Florida Panthers (25-24-8, -20, LW: 24)
#18 Chicago Blackhawks (25-26-9, -23, LW: 19)
#17 Vegas Golden Knights (32-25-4, +8, LW: 17)
#16 Montreal Canadiens (31-21-7, +2, LW: 10)
#15 Dallas Stars (29-24-5, -4, LW: 13)
#14 Philadelphia Flyers (28-24-7, -20, LW: 15)
Amazing what happens when you have answers between the pipes. Since making his debut on December 18, 20-year old Carter Hart has posted a .924 save percentage and a 2.53 GAA as the Flyers have picked up 27 points in his 20 games. They still have a high hill to climb because of a rough couple of early months, but they won’t go quietly.
#13 Nashville Predators (34-22-5, +26, LW: 12)
#12 Pittsburgh Penguins (31-21-7, +22, LW: 16)
#11 Columbus Blue Jackets (33-22-3, +9, LW: 6)
#10 Washington Capitals (33-20-7, +11, LW: 14)
#9 Carolina Hurricanes (31-22-6, +8, LW: 11)
#8 Winnipeg Jets (36-19-4, +31, LW: 5)
#7 Calgary Flames (36-16-7, +41, LW: 9)
After losing four of five out of the break the Flames are in danger of being caught by the red hot Sharks, which is the difference between playing a wild card or the Golden Knights (more on this in a second). The Pacific is set with its three teams, but what order will be intriguing down the stretch.
#6 San Jose Sharks (35-17-8, +29, LW: 2)
#5 Toronto Maple Leafs (36-19-3, +42, LW: 3)
#4 New York Islanders (35-17-6, +31, LW: 8)
#3 St. Louis Blues (31-22-5, +12, LW: 7)
#2 Boston Bruins (35-17-8, +26, LW: 4)
The Bruins are second in the league in save percentage, yet only 19th in total saves (stats thru 2/15). In other words, teams don’t get a lot of shots off against the Bruins. This has a lot to do with the fact that the B’s are one of two teams to get points in every game since the All-Star break.
#1 Tampa Bay Lightning (45-11-4, +77, LW: 1)
As I said, the Pacific teams in the top three are set; Vegas has a nine point lead on Vancouver for third place. The division winner would play an up and down team struggling just to get in while the second place team gets last year’s conference champion in round one. In the East Boston and Toronto are battling for home ice and a chance to figure out how to possibly beat Tampa Bay.
The Islanders continue to play well in the Metro, but Washington, Columbus, and/or Pittsburgh will have a lot to say about how those two rounds go. Meanwhile, the Central has gotten interesting as the Blues have forgotten how to lose, tying a franchise record with 10 straight wins and are 16-4-1 since the calendar turned to 2019. If you’re Nashville or Winnipeg you sure don’t want to run into the Blues right now.
Overall this has been one of the most entertaining seasons that I can remember. Where it’s usually a done deal because of three point games, teams have come out of the All-Star break smoking hot and as a result squads usually out of it are now well into it. Enjoy the ride, folks!