1. San Jose Sharks
5-4-1 in the past ten match-ups, the Sharks boast the second-ranked power play, the sixth-ranked penalty kill, the third-most wins, and the fewest amount of losses. Any questions?
Clearly, despite a tough stretch, the Sharks are still the team to beat in the West.
2. Detroit Red Wings
Detroit has gone 7-3-0 in the past ten, even with spotty goaltending. The Wings are ranked in the bottom ten in the League with 119 goals against, which is not terrible, but is an eyesore amongst an otherwise dominant team.
The Wings will be tested against the surging Calgary Flames on Thursday—should be a beauty of a game!
3. New Jersey Devils
Martin Brodeur is heating up. He has carried the Devils since his return and is poised to take over as the all-time winning goaltender. He’s just two wins away from Patrick Roy’s 551.
The Devils are 7-3-0 in their past ten and I believe they will be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference the rest of the way. Momentum is a huge factor heading into the playoffs, and the Devils are ridding high.
4. Boston Bruins
How the hell did I rank the Devils ahead of the Bruins when Boston is aix points ahead of them? Well, for starters, the Bruins are 3-6-1 in their past ten match-ups. They have looked very average and seem to have lost their motivation to an extent. The Bruins need to get that “loving feeling” back—and fast.
5. Calgary Flames
6-4-0 in the past ten—not bad considering many of the upper-tier teams are struggling these days. Calgary needs to be better on the power play, where they are ranked 16th overall, come playoff time that will haunt them unless they get it going.
Olli Jokinen has fit in nicely with three goals in four games since his arrival, but I had a good laugh when I saw nhl.com had a survey circulating asking fans if they felt the line of Jarome Iginla, Mike Cammalleri, Olli Jokinen was the best in hockey—not a chance!
6. Washington Capitals
The Caps are a paltry 4-5-1 in their past ten. They too need to get it together before it’s too late. Seeding will be plenty important come playoff time, and the Caps will benefit huge if they can capture home ice.
I couldn’t believe my eyes the other day when I looked on the Caps' webpage and discovered that Alexander Semin led the team in plus-minus with a plus-29 ranking! Maybe he can talk sh*t to Sidney Crosby?
For the record, Crosby has a rating of plus-six, with 20 more points than Semin.
7. Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers are 6-3-1 in their past ten and goaltender Marty Biron is finally back in form. NOBODY wants to play this team come playoff time, if the playoffs started today the Flyers would take on the Montreal Canadiens, that should scare the bejesus out of Habs fans!
8. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pens are back! And I couldn’t be happier! Say what you will about coaching changes, bringing in Dan Bylsma seems to be paying off.
The Penguins are 9-1-0 in the past ten and have knocked off seven straight opponents. The players have been “different” since the coaching change. The biggest difference? They seem to be smiling and enjoying hockey again. Funny how winning does that to a team, huh?
We can only hope the season ends just how it is laid out today, if the playoffs started today the Penguins would face the Washington Capitals in the first round—and if you can’t get up for those games you just don’t like hockey!
9. Chicago Blackhawks
5-4-1 in the past ten. They have an important game against the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday night. They need to send a message.
It will be interesting to see how newly-acquired Samuel Pahlsson fits into the Hawks' plans. Can he find his game in time to be a difference maker in the playoffs? Pahlsson is a minus-16, and quite simply, he needs to be better.
10. Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks have been on fire since the return of goaltender Roberto Luongo. They are 8-2-0 in the past ten match-ups.
Make no mistake about it, the Canucks are a better team than their rather average 76 points would indicate. If the playoffs started today the Canucks would face the Blackhawks, and that would be a tough assignment for a young Chicago squad.
11. Montreal Canadiens
Despite all the bad media, change, player scandals, and horrific goaltending from Carey Price, the Habs can take solace in the fact that they still have a playoff spot and are 6-3-1 in the past ten.
The Habs are ranked ninth-overall with 79 points. The 16th spot is occupied by the Buffalo Sabres with 73 points, what does it all mean? It means if Les Canadiens have aspirations of keeping that playoff spot they best pick up the pace.
There are plenty of hungry teams sniffing at the Habs' butts—and I think it’s safe to say the smell emanating from the Habs has been pretty bad of late!
12. Carolina Hurricanes
Remember all the bad press the Hurricanes got when they hired former Leafs coach Paul Maurice? Well, as it turns out Maurice is doing one hell of a job in Carolina. He has the team at 8-2-0 in the past ten match-ups, and in a playoff spot (12th overall)—not bad for a guy who many suspected would be a horrible fit in Carolina.
For the record, I thought he’d be a good fit—you can look it up!
13. Florida Panthers
Two weeks ago the Panthers were playing great hockey—but that was two weeks ago.
Okay, so it’s not a complete debacle or anything, but the Panthers need to keep up the pace. They are a paltry 5-4-1 in the past ten—good, but not good enough down the stretch.
14. Columbus Blue Jackets
Looking for a reason why the Jackets are where they are? Look no further than rookie sensation goaltender Steve Mason. Mason has been lights out for months, making the rookie of the year award all but decided.
Want another reason? Maybe it was getting rid of Mathieu Schneider.
The next three games against Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Chicago will go a long way in determining just how “Real” this team is, there are six teams within six points of the BJs. If they falter they could be on the outside looking six in when the playoffs roll around.
15. New York Rangers
4-4-2 in the past ten—not exactly awe-inspiring, is it? Sean Avery is back, John Tortorella is now behind the bench, yet somehow the mediocrity continues.
Torts doesn’t have a ton of time to turn this ship around. The Rangers, while talented, will be life and death to make the playoffs. The Rangers have the second-best penalty kill in the NHL and the sixth-overall goals against. Not bad≤ right? Yeah, ummm...they also have the 27th-ranked power play and are ranked last in the League in goals scored.
The Rangers’ offense has been AWOL all season long. It’s Tort’s job to get them going and fast!
16. Nashville Predators
Here is one of those up and coming teams I have been alluding to. The Preds are 6-2-2 in the past ten.
They are surging (yeah, I know, they have lost two in a row) at the right time. If they can continue to play hard, they just might squeak into the playoffs.
17. Buffalo Sabres
4-5-1 in the past ten, but does anyone really care? I don’t, let’s move on to the next team.
By the way, nice airport—I was there last week, people were lined up OUTSIDE in a snowstorm waiting to get processed. What a joke, just like everything else in Buffalo! Buffalo makes me wanna puke.
18. St. Louis Blues
It’s a little unrealistic to suggest that the Blues could find their way to the playoffs, but the fact is they are just five points behind the 16th-place Barffalo Sabres, with a game in hand, so it’s do-able.
The Blues are 6-3-1 in the past ten. Rather see any team in the playoffs besides Barfallo, so “Go Blues Go”!!!
19. Minnesota Wild
4-4-2 in the past ten, praying that Marian Gaborik can somehow pull a rabbit out of a hat and get them to the playoffs. My bet? No way, ain’t gonna happen.
The Wild needs to get off their kiesters and buy themselves a legitimate scoring threat. Re-signing Nik Backstrom is nice, but last time I checked he had zero goals.
20. Los Angeles Kings
I have said it before, this team is going to be dangerous. Maybe as soon as next season. The Kings have won three in a row and are 4-6-0 in the past ten—not great. On the bright side, the Kings have the tenth-best Power Play, are 15th overall in goals against and the penalty kill is ranked 11th overall.
On the surface the Kings look very average, but with the addition of a goal scorer and a few of the future stars maturing, the Kings will be a playoff team. Hell, it’s more than Leaf fans can say!
21. Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers have made a name for themselves squeaking into the playoffs and often putting the number-one seed through hell, but it's not looking like that will be the case in 2009. The Oilers are 3-6-1 in the past 10 games.
Sure, they are only two points behind the Sabres for the 16th and final playoff spot, but their play has been horrific—so bad that they don’t deserve to be in the position that they are.
22. Toronto Maple Leafs
Say what you will about the whipping boys of the Toronto media, but the Leafs have been very competitive lately. The Leafs have gone 6-2-2 in the past ten games and they have earned every single point.
The Leafs have shown moments of poise, gritm and effort, that’s more than we saw in the entire decade of the 80s! Leave it to the Leafs to screw up a sure-fire top five draft pick. Ahh well, the misery continues! Anyone got any bullets? My gun is out.
23. Dallas Stars
Have been anything but “Stars” lately. Dall-ASS is an embarrassing 2-7-1 in the past ten games. Just when you thought they were rolling they completely fell apart.
Big changes are coming in the summer, starting with a new coach—book it!
24. Anaheim Ducks
3-6-1 in the past ten match-ups. They seem to be confused as to what they are, is this team rebuilding or going for it? Their recent play suggests the Ducks are gearing up for golf season. The Ducks, suck!
25. Ottawa Senators
4-4-2 in the past ten. Would love to have Pascal LeClaire in the nets, but sadly it’s not possible. Stick a fork in them, the Sens are done for the season!
26. Phoenix Coyotes
Holding on for dear life to the fifth and final lottery pick. I’ll say it again, is it time to replace Wayne Gretzky behind the bench? He has done sweet F-All to develop that team.
27. Atlanta Thrashers
Wow! 6-3-1 in the past ten, wayyyy too little too late!
28. Colorado Avalanche
Andrew Raycroft? On a losing team? Get out of town! The Avs are 12-21-1 on the road; they should “feel shame.”
29. Tampa Bay Lightning
It’s coming down to the wire, can the Lightning out-do the New York Islanders for the honor of the distinction as the NHL’s worst team? Stay tuned, it’s gonna be one hell of a race.
30. New York Islanders
I think if your team sucks for more than a decade, you should be forced to give back a Stanley Cup title. If this was the case, the Islanders would be down two banners.
God help us all, watching the Islanders play is like watching Oprah at a Buffet—it’s horrifying, chills me to the bone!