1. Boston Bruins (34-8-5, 73 points)
Having a couple of wins this week, the Bruins remain atop the NHL standings, though still two games ahead of the Sharks. Nonetheless, the Bears are still the best team in this league. Playing tough hockey every night, they go into every game with a great chance to win. This team does not have off nights.
2. San Jose Sharks (34-6-5, 73 points)
The Sharks are still a bit inconsistent, relative to how consistent they should be with their dominant team. But they are one of the, if not the best team in the league this season. Arguably, they are the best in the west.
3. Detroit Red Wings (31-9-6, 68 points)
The Red Wings had a bad week leading into the All Star break, especially now that Pavel Datsyuk dropped out of the game with an injury concern. The Wings will take this much needed break as a sign that it is time to make another fast run to the playoffs. They cannot sink in the last month like they did last season.
4. Calgary Flames (28-14-4, 60 points)
Western Canada is pumped up with the fact that their team could finally be the one to bring the Stanley Cup back to Canada this year. Of course, they have a tough road ahead of them, with both Detroit and San Jose ahead in the standings. They are looking like the favorite to win the always tough Northwest, but after the season, it’s anybody’s game.
5. Washington Capitals (30-15-3, 63 points)
America’s capital is jacked up after the most historic inauguration in history. The team has responded, playing very good hockey. Can anyone say inspiration?
6. New Jersey Devils (29-15-3, 61 points)
The Devils have shocked the hockey world as to how they are playing so well without hall of fame goaltender Marty Brodeur. However, they are indeed playing phenomenally, and their record shows it. First in the Atlantic ain’t bad.
7. Montreal Canadiens (27-13-6, 60 points)
Les Canadiens are ready for the All Star break! Look for the festivities to pump the team up and ready them for an explosive second half of the season.
8. Philadelphia Flyers (25-12-9, 59 points)
The Flyers are just as inconsistent as ever, but are still playing like one of the top teams in the East. When they play to their potential. Most teams can’t beat them. But it does not happen often.
9. Chicago Blackhawks (25-12-8, 58 points)
After a tough loss in the Winter Classic, the Hawks have found their way. Although 5-4-1 in their last ten is a bit dismal, they are still playing well, and look to challenge the Wings for the Central Division lead come half number two.
10. New York Rangers (28-16-4, 60 points)
Rangers are playing pretty well still. Although a bit inconsistent, when you are playing in the Atlantic Division, it is a valid excuse. However, they are still one of the elite teams in the league.
11. Buffalo Sabres (24-18-5, 53 points)
Buffalo is hot as of recent, going 7-3 in their last ten games. They are looking to rise up the standings, and challenge the Canadiens, only seven points ahead.
12. Phoenix Coyotes (24-19-5, 53 points)
Gretzky and the Cats (another good band name...are Coyotes felines? Eh well, this is a hockey site, not National Geographic) are playing extremely well. The youngest team in the NHL are coming up big, and are being inspired by the Great One.
13. Columbus Blue Jackets (22-20-5, 49 points)
Hitchcock’s young and talented team is faltering as of recent, but they are holding on to a record above .500.
14. Edmonton Oilers (24-19-3, 51 points)
Edmonton should be playing better than they are. They are still in a playoff spot, but they could have a bunch more wins. Coaching, anyone?
15. Carolina Hurricanes (23-20-5, 51 points)
Paul Maurice has grabbed this team and propelled them into a playoff spot. The only questions, though, is if they can hold onto it for another few months.
16. Minnesota Wild (23-20-3, 49 points)
Just outside the playoff race (two points), Minnesota has their work cut out for them. They are a capable team, but their defense needs to come up big for them.
17. Vancouver Canucks (22-19-7, 51 points)
Vancouver is currently in the playoffs, but are not playing so well. 2-4-4 in their last ten will not get them a spot in the postseason. They need some goals, and fast.
18. Anaheim Ducks (23-21-5, 51 points)
Barely in the playoff race, the Ducks’ defense is not coming up as big as it has the past few seasons. The departure of Brian Burke seems to have left a big hole in the organization, one that needs to be fixed quickly.
19. Florida Panthers (21-17-8, 50 points)
Just one point and two games behind eighth place Carolina, the Panthers are one of the big surprises of the season. Perhaps they will not need to trade Bouwmeester this year…
20. Pittsburgh Penguins (23-21-4, 50 points)
Pittsburgh is still doing extremely poorly as of recent. 4-6 in their last ten is not what the team wants. A team with Crosby, Malkin, Fleury, Whitney, and more should not be sitting in tenth place looking into the playoff race.
21. Dallas Stars (20-18-7, 47 points)
Dallas is slowly moving up the standings after being in last place early on in the year. They are 5-3-2 in their last ten games, and playing much better than they were. They need to improve their play on the road, though.
22. Los Angeles Kings (19-20-7, 45 points)
Although they are in thirteenth place in the West, the Kings have been playing fairly well as of recent. Their young defensive corps is coming up big when needed. They still have tons of work to do, including assimilating goaltending prospect Jonathan Bernier into the NHL.
23. Colorado Avalanche (23-23-1, 47 points)
Colorado is not playing well. Four wins in their last ten games, a losing record on the road, and only 47 points, the loss of captain Joe Sakic has not helped their cause. They need a miracle.
24. Nashville Predators (20-23-3, 43 points)
With so many distractions, including the money scandal with “Boots”, the charade with Jim Balsillie, and the fact that their team still stinks, the Preds are sitting second to last in the West, and not looking good.
25. Toronto Maple Leafs (17-22-8, 42 points)
Oy gevalt. Oh wait, this is Brian Burke. Mother f&*@er!
26. Tampa Bay Lightning (16-21-10, 42 points)
Seen Stamkos? No really, have you seen him? He is horrible.
27. St. Louis Blues (19-23-4, 42 points)
Last place in the West, but still better than five Eastern Conference teams, it shows how tough the Western Conference is, and how close it really is. They are only nine points out of a playoff spot.
28. Ottawa Senators (16-21-7, 39 points)
Crrrraaaassssshhhhh. Just like that plane in the Hudson.
29. Atlanta Thrashers (17-26-5, 39 points)
Koval-who? I hope he improves, I bet on the fact that he would score 70 goals. God, I’m dumber than Rick Tocchet.
30. New York Islanders (13-29-5, 31 points)
Once again, the debate begins...Tavares or Hedman?
Alan Bass is a Senior Writer for Bleacher Report and the Community Leader for the NHL and Philadelphia Flyers’ section; a writer for Prohockeynews.com and Insidehockey.com, he is also the co-host of NHL 2Day, a weekly radio show on Youcastr.com. You can contact him at ALN424@aol.com.