As we enter the second half of the NHL season, my favorites to make it to the Stanley Cup Final are the Bruins and the Red Wings. Boston has arguably the best offensive team and not one but two elite goaltenders on their roster. The Bruins continue to put wins together consistently and have a league-leading +68 total goal differential. The Red Wings are my favorite in the Western Conference, mainly because they are another great offensive hockey team, averaging 3.27 goals per game. Jimmy Howard has played well and they have only three losses at home. Here’s how I see the NHL’s 30 teams, from best to worst. Feel free to leave comments and opinions.
1. Boston Bruins (26-11-1)
The Bruins fell short of defeating the same team they beat in the Stanley Cup Final last season. Despite this, they lead the NHL in goals scored and fewest goals against. There’s still no reason to remove them from the top spot. A +68 total goal differential is 29 goals better than the second-leading team in the same category (Red Wings at +39). In my opinion, Tuukka Rask is the leader for the Vezina Trophy. He has a league-leading 1.49 GAA.
2. Detroit Red Wings (25-14-1)
The Red Wings are the only team in the Western Conference to be in the top six in “goals for” and “goals against” categories.
3. Vancouver Canucks (26-13-3)
The Canucks are the best offensive hockey team in the Western Conference. They are averaging a very solid 3.28 goals per game. Daniel and Henrik Sedin have combined for 96 points.
4. New York Rangers (26-9-4)
Since losing their first three games of the season back in October, the Rangers haven’t lost three games in a row since then. Henrik Lundqvist continues to have an impressive season—his 1.89 GAA is currently third among all goaltenders.
5. San Jose Sharks (23-11-4)
The Sharks have played very well recently, winning eight of their last 10 games. They are getting ready for a four-game road trip that ends with a big Western Conference battle against the Blackhawks on January 15th.
6. St. Louis Blues (24-12-5)
I wonder what the Blues record would be if Ken Hitchcock had never been hired as the coach. The Blues answered their recent three-game losing streak with a three-game winning streak. After this Tuesday’s game against the Canadiens, the Blues get to stay home for the next five games. In my opinion, Brian Elliott has emerged as the Western Conference’s best goaltender and should be the starter for the All-Star game. He has a 1.62 GAA, which leads all Western Conference goalies.
7. Philadelphia Flyers (24-11-4)
Since their seven-game winning streak in early December, the Flyers have lost five out of their last nine games, including twice to the Rangers—one of which was at the Winter Classic)—and once to the Bruins.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins (21-15-4)
The struggling Penguins followed up their four-game winning streak the week of Christmas with a four-game losing streak. After their game against the Senators on Tuesday, the Pens’ next four games are against Southeast Division teams.
9. Chicago Blackhawks (24-13-4)
The Blackhawks have won only three of their last eight games since winning five games in a row in the middle of December. The Blackhawks are the only team to have at least four players—Hossa, Toews, Sharp, and Kane—with 37 points each. In fact, no other team has three players with that many points.
10. Toronto Maple Leafs (21-15-5)
The Leafs have answered their recent three-game losing streak with a three-game winning streak. Jonas Gustavsson has been the starting goaltender in all three wins. Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul have a combined 95 points already.
11. Washington Capitals (21-16-2)
Since Dale Hunter became head coach, the Capitals have been rising slowly in the standings and are getting better offensively. Before their loss to the Sharks on Saturday, they had won their last four games.
12. Phoenix Coyotes (20-17-5)
The struggling Coyotes have only won two of their last eight games.
13. Dallas Stars (23-16-1)
Offensively, the Stars have played very well over the past four games, having scored four goals in each. Loui Eriksson and Jamie Been have a combined 79 points this season.
14. New Jersey Devils (23-16-2)
Since getting crushed by the Bruins, the Devils have answered with back-to-back wins.
15. Nashville Predators (22-15-4)
The Predators continue to play well consistently. They have won four of their last five games.
16. Minnesota Wild (21-15-6)
Talk about an absolute collapse! Since winning 17 times in a 21-game span, the Wild have only one victory in their last 12 games.
17. Los Angeles Kings (20-15-7)
Since losing five games in a row in early December, the Kings have yet to lose back-to-back games.
18. Montreal Canadiens (16-18-7)
Since losing seven of their last eight games, the Habs have put together a small hint of a winning streak.
19. Colorado Avalanche (23-19-1)
One of the hotter teams in the NHL. Since losing three in a row from December 6th through 9th, the Avalanche have won 10 of their last 13 games.
20. Florida Panthers (20-13-8)
Unlike the Avalanche, the Panthers are struggling to string together some wins. They have only four wins in their last 13 games.
21. Edmonton Oilers (16-22-3)
Since their six-game winning streak in late October, the Oilers have only eight victories in their last 29 games.
22. Ottawa Senators (21-15-6)
Despite my ranking them in the 20s, the Sens are one of the hotter teams in the NHL, having won seven of their last 10 games.
23. Winnipeg Jets (20-16-5)
Like the Senators, the Jets are another team ranked in the bottom 10 who have also played well recently. Winnipeg has won six of their last 10 games.
24. Buffalo Sabres (18-18-5)
Since their four-game winning streak from November 4th through 11th, the Sabres have yet to win two games in a row.
25. Calgary Flames (19-19-5)
Since their recent four-game winning streak, the Flames have lost five of their last six games.
26. Tampa Bay Lightning (17-20-3)
The Lightning followed their recent three-game winning streak with a three-game losing streak.
27. Carolina Hurricanes (14-22-7)
Since winning three in a row from October 12 through October 18, the Hurricanes have yet to have a three-game winning streak.
28. New York Islanders (14-19-6)
The Islanders are the worst offensive team in the Eastern Conference, averaging only 2.33 goals per game.
29. Columbus Blue Jackets (11-24-5)
The Jackets have won at least two games in a row only one time this season.
30. Anaheim Ducks (11-22-6)
If you take away the Ducks’ 4-1 start, they have a terrible 7-20-6 record.