What we learned this week in the NHL covers a little bit of this and a little of that. The Stadium Series continued this weekend with a pair of outdoor games, while there has been dramatic changes in the divisional standings. Allow us to take an in-depth look at all of the teams around the league from top to bottom. This week, the Anaheim Ducks are No. 1 as they are one win away from becoming this year’s first to 40 wins.
1. Anaheim Ducks 39-10-5 (1st in Pacific)
There is no tandem better in the NHL than Ryan Getzlaff and Corey Perry. These two guys always know where to find each other and hence, they are third and fifth in the NHL scoring race. And thanks to the Ducks, KISS was the only entertaining part of the evening for the Los Angeles fans Saturday night at Dodger Stadium.
2. St. Louis Blues 35-11-5 (2nd in Central)
Remember that guy Alex Steen who was on his way to a 50-goal season before missing a month with a concussion? Well, he’s back. This is arguably the most well-rounded team in the league and my favorite to represent the West in the Stanley Cup Finals.
3. San Jose Sharks 34-12-6 (2nd in Pacific)
It must be tough to play this well and not be a division leader. The streak is alive and well at six games. With their next three games coming against the Kings, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, they could be pushing a 10-spot.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins 36-14-2 (1st in Metropolitan)
Despite suffering their ugliest loss of the season Saturday to the Dallas Stars, they still own the best record in the Eastern Conference by far. And they are No. 1 in the NHL on both the powerplay and penalty killing. Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz are the bread and butter of the top line combining for 125 points between the two of them. That is disgusting.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning 31-16-5 (Tied-1st in Atlantic)
Steven Stamkos is nearing a return and the Lightning will definitely be a team to watch come April. Not only do they have above average scoring, but thanks to Ben Bishop they now have solid goaltending. Bishop is my pick for the Vezina Trophy this season with his 26-6-4 record, third best GAA in the NHL (1.96) and league leading .934 save percentage. He should have gotten a call from Dan Bylsma to play for Team USA next month, but at the same time he can use that extra rest to make a long playoff push.
6. Boston Bruins (Tied-1st in Atlantic)
What can you say, Boston? It was only a matter of time before Tampa Bay caught up to you. Even though Brad Marchant is having a great month, Tuukka Rask has to be your best player. He has not been that as of late going 3-4-1 in his last eight starts and fatigue may be a factor here. Check back next week and we shall see who is on top in the Atlantic.
7. Chicago Blackhawks 32-10-12 (1st in Central)
Well, they will not be in first for long if they do not get back on a winning track. This month has not been kind to them as they have lost three straight. Sure they are the top scoring team in the league, but they now rank 18th in the league in goals against. Even the Buffalo Sabres are better defensively.
8. Colorado Avalanche 32-14-5 (3rd in Central)
Patrick Roy’s team is hanging on to their playoff spot right now. They had a rough week but they have a pair of divisional games this week that are pretty big.
9. Columbus Blue Jackets 26-21-4 (3rd in Metropolitan)
They now find themselves in a playoff spot and rank third thanks to a nifty record of 9-2-0 in the month of January. The return of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is just what the doctor ordered in Columbus. With Marian Gaborik eyeing a return, that should give them a boost offensively. It sure will be interesting to see what this team will do at the trade deadline.
10. Minnesota Wild 28-20-6 (4th in Central)
This club needs to start scoring goals on a regular basis or they will never make it past the first round in the playoffs… that is assuming they get there. Just 11 goals in their last six games while being shut out twice. Zach Parise is back from his broken foot so they have no excuse.
11. Los Angeles Kings 29-18-6 (3rd in Pacific)
Los Angeles had a dismal week as their losing streak reached five games dropping their record to 4-6-2 this month. Sadly enough, things will not get any easier for them this week as they close out their month against the San Jose, Phoenix and Pittsburgh.
12. New York Rangers 28-23-3 (2nd in Metropolitan)
The New York Rangers have been on quite the run themselves winning seven of their last ten including a 7-3 shellacking of the New Jersey Devils Sunday at Yankee Stadium. The Stadium Series game featured cold weather, snow flurries and a happy home crowd.
13. Vancouver Canucks 27-17-9 (4th in Pacific)
I know I am late on this one, but what was John Tortorella thinking? He had every right to match Bob Hartley‘s lineup of goons to start the game that resulted in the opening faceoff brawl, but he crossed the line when trying to enter the Flames’ locker room in between periods.
14. Toronto Maple Leafs 27-21-6 (3rd in Atlantic)
Well, they have not been slumping nearly as bad at the Montreal Canadiens or the Capitals. Still, the big story in that division is the Lightning creeping their way to the top.
15. Phoenix Coytoes 24-18-10 (4th in Pacific)
Ah, my favorite underdog team in the league… no pun intended. The Coyotes better hope Mike Smith does not get a whole lot of playing time in the Olympics because he could use that time. It looks like he needs it, too.
16. Montreal Canadiens 27-20-5 (4th in Atlantic)
Once upon a time, this team was at the top of the Atlantic and giving Boston a run for their money. The losing streak is at four games and unlike Smith, Carey Price is probably going to be worked a lot in Sochi which could spell for disaster for this team. They could find themselves selling come March 5.
17. Dallas Stars 24-20-8 (5th in Central)
Three straight wins including an impressive 3-0 shutout over the Penguins this weekend. Kari Lehtonen is looking good, but they have more hill to climb.
18. Philadelphia Flyers 25-22-6 (4th in Metropolitan)
Why ride the seesaw when you could just watch the Flyers? That sums up their season. Claude Giroux was not looking like a leader, then he started scoring goals two months into the season. Next, the team started winning games and making a run at the Penguins, then the calender year turned and they forgot how to play hockey. Make up your mind, Philly.
19. Detroit Red Wings 23-18-11 (5th in Atlantic)
Every time I look at the NHL standings, I ask myself- “Could this be the year we have a Stanley Cup Playoff without the Red Wings?” Mike Babcock may be preoccupied right now getting ready for next month and it could cost his team a postseason.
20. Carolina Hurricanes 23-19-9 (5th in Metropolitan)
It is so hard to look at the roster of this team and find out they are not in a playoff spot at the moment. They are indeed playing better now but what in the world happened to Cam Ward? With a number of teams looking for a goaltender this season, could he be shopped in early March?
21. Ottawa Senators 22-20-10 (6th in Atlantic)
This team would be ranked lower, but their upcoming schedule is so brutal that they deserve some dignity before they drop. Columbus, Tampa Bay, Toronto and Pittsburgh coming up. Ouch.
22. Winnipeg Jets 25-24-5 (6th in Central)
Read below under Nashville.
23. Nashville Predators 23-23-8 (7th in Central)
On paper, these two teams look like a couple of bad clubs swapping back and forth between last place. But on the brighter side, if they played in the Eastern Conference they would only be a couple points out of a playoff spot.
24. New Jersey Devils 22-20-11 (6th in Metropolitan)
Ilya Kovalchuk where art thou? Oh yea, he went back to Russia because he smelled a rebuild in Jersey. That plus it was not his favorite style of hockey.
25. Florida Panthers 21-24-7 (7th in Atlantic)
The rebuilding continues in Florida.
26. New York Islanders 21-25-8 (8th in Metropolitan)
These guys continue to pay rent in the basement of the division. Ironically enough, Jack Capuano has this team playing at a high level for the first time this season. Thomas Vanek, John Tavares and Kyle Okposo have suddenly become one of the best lines in the NHL. Their only issue down the stretch will be their goaltending.
27. Washington Capitals 23-21-8 (7th in Metropolitan)
Alex Ovechkin’s league leading 36 goals is no where near good enough from preventing his team from declining in the Metropolitan Division. Look for the hot Islanders to climb out of the cellar and give up the throne to the Capitals.
28. Calgary Flames 18-27-7 (6th in Pacific)
Not sure what to say, Calgary. Keep collecting those high draft picks.
29. Edmonton Oilers 16-32-6 (7th in Pacific)
It is still a mystery how this team has so much offensive fire power and so much talent but nothing to show for it. These guys and Calgary could not have found themselves in a worse division to be in while trying to rebuild.
30. Buffalo Sabres 14-29-7 (8th in Atlantic)
What would this record look like without Ryan Miller? Rest assured he will be Bylsma’s No. 1 goaltender for Team USA despite playing on the worst team in the NHL.