1. Chicago Blackhawks (31-11-4)
It’s hard to argue why the Blackhawks shouldn’t be considered the NHL’s top team with the way they’ve been playing this whole year. Many say they could be the future of the NHL. Looks like the future is now.
2. Washington Capitals (28-12-6)
The Capitals are the best team in the Eastern Conference, but by a close margin. Ovechkin & Co. have done a great job of staying consistent this year. It would really stink to be any goaltender who plays against the Caps at this point.
3. San Jose Sharks (30-10-7)
Being good in the regular season is one thing, but being good once you get into the playoffs is another. I’m going to consider the Sharks as a top-five team for now, but once playoff time rolls around, I might get a little nervous about this team.
4. New Jersey Devils (32-11-1)
The only real obstacle standing in the Devils' way of getting the top seed in the conference for the playoffs is the Capitals. Martin Brodeur is one of the top favorites for another Vezina Trophy for obvious reasons. If the Devils keep it up, they will be a nightmare for their opponents come playoff time, even if the teams do play the Devils at home. NJ is 16-4-1 on the road this year.
5. Vancouver Canucks (27-18-2)
Even though their record might not indicate they are a top-five team, they have played very well and are looking mighty strong every week. Roberto Luongo is still playing well and the Canucks offense is doing a great job at putting the pucks in the net.
6. Buffalo Sabres (28-11-5)
Buffalo could be a scary team to watch out for down the stretch, especially if they have home-ice. This team is 16-5-5 at home, the best home record among teams in the Eastern Conference. Oh, and Ryan Miller is the man !
7. Pittsburgh Penguins (29-18-1)
Despite only winning three of their past seven game, they still continue to prove they can put pucks in the net. They have already scored 152 goals this season (second-best in the NHL.)
8. Calgary Flames (26-15-6)
Still my dark-horse favorites to win the Western Conference. They’ve done a great job defensively this whole year. If you have guys like Jay Bouwmeester and Dion Phaneuf on defense and Miikka Kiprusoff as your goaltender, the goals-against number is most likely going to be a low one.
9. Philadelphia Flyers (23-19-3)
I still think the Flyers are going to make the playoffs despite their roller-coaster season. They are certainly the hottest team in the Eastern Conference right now, that’s for sure.
10. Phoenix Coyotes (26-16-5)
How about that Ilya Bryzgalov huh? He’s pretty much the reason why the Coyotes already have 57 points and have given up only 115 goals to this point.
11. Boston Bruins (22-16-7)
The Bruins are still contending for a playoff spot, but if they don’t start scoring more, they could miss the playoffs a year after being considered a true Stanley Cup contender.
12. Los Angeles Kings (25-18-3)
This Drew Doughty kid is really starting to impress me. Already 34 points through the team’s first 46 games. Job well done!
13. Nashville Predators (28-16-3)
Shea Weber is starting to throw his name into the “Elite defensemen” group.
14. Colorado Avalanche (26-15-6)
Colorado continues to be one of my surprising teams of the year. They are still rather young but have had a little more success than many expected. Especially on the road. They own an NHL second-best 15-9-4 record.
15. Detroit Red Wings (23-16-6)
I know this team has been injured since the start of the year, but still, it really has to pick up its offense if it wants to start contending for a higher playoff spot. The Wings' have only scored 115 goals. Only the Hurricanes have fewer…that’s pretty sad…
16. New York Rangers (22-17-7)
Now, if Marian Gaborik actually had a team to help him, the Rangers might be considered contenders. But for now, this team might not get far over the next couple of months.
17. Montreal Canadiens (22-21-4)
The Habs are really going to have to step it up a notch if they want to be true contenders in the playoffs. Starting with team leaders like Tomas Plekanec, Mike Cammalleri, and Scott Gomez. Yes, they’re getting the job done, but they really need to string up a few more extra wins of they want to see themselves in the playoffs.
18. Atlanta Thrashers (20-19-6)
Now, if they had some goaltending, they might be a little higher in my rankings. They certainly have the offense down. They’ve scored an impressive 149 goals this year (fifth-most in the NHL).
19. Minnesota Wild (24-20-3)
Despite their inconsistent season so far, they have done a great job over the past two weeks. If they keep it going, they could have a decent shot at Northwest Division crown. They just have to start blocking shots and getting guys on the net. Guys like Marek Zidlicky, Nick Shultz, and Kim Johnsson really have to start giving Niklas Backstrom some help.
20. St. Louis Blues (19-19-7)
If you want to be considered a half-way decent team, you got to get the job done at home…something the Blues have not done. St. Louis owns a league-worst 7-14-3 home record.
21. Anaheim Ducks (21-19-7)
Not really the most exciting team in the world, but they’ve pretty interesting to watch over their past five games. Now let’s see how they do with Teemu Selanne out for a month or two.
22. Florida Panthers (18-20-8)
Like the Blues, the Panthers are not getting the job done at home. They own an Eastern Conference-worst 7-8-6 record at home.
23. Dallas Stars (19-16-11)
I live in Dallas and this is my team, but I gotta say it: This is the most inconsistent team I’ve seen in a while. The Stars are going to have to start relying on Marty Turco and get the job done on the road, starting on Thursday against the Canadiens.
24. Tampa Bay Lightning (18-17-10)
Tampa has picked it up recently, but it is not a very exciting team (shocker !) They’ve only scored 118 goals this year and are showing little signs of playoff contention.
25. Ottawa Senators (22-21-4)
The Sens own a very unimpressive 6-13-1 record on the road (second-worst in the NHL).
26. New York Islanders (20-19-8)
Who would’ve thought the Islanders would have 20 wins in Mid-January? Big ups to the Islanders for proving me wrong. They could have a bright future.
27. Edmonton Oilers (16-24-5)
Somebody’s going to get fired soon. I can smell it! Pat Quinn is a genius and all, but the Oilers are just beating themselves, getting outsmarted, and just not getting the job done.
28. Columbus Blue Jackets (18-21-9)
I wonder how Steve Mason feels right about now? I actually had high hopes for the guy this season. My, how the mighty have fallen.
29. Toronto Maple Leafs (15-23-9)
They’ve played 47 games and have already given up 164 goals. Can you say “disaster”?
30. Carolina Hurricanes (14-24-7)
So the Hurricanes know how to start a winning streak. I know, I’m shocked too.
Carter’s Trophy Races:
Hart Memorial Trophy:
1. Henrik Sedin (VAN)
2. Joe Thornton (SJ)
3. Sidney Crosby (PIT)
4. Alexander Ovechkin (WSH)
5. Marian Gaborik (NYR)
James Norris Trophy:
1. Mike Green (WSH)
2. Duncan Keith (CHI)
3. Tomas Kaberle (TOR)
4. Dan Boyle (SJ)
5. Tobias Enstrom (ATL)
Calder Memorial Trophy:
1. John Tavares (NYI)
2. Matt Duchene (COL)
3. Niclas Bergfors (NJ)
4. James van Riemsdyk (PHI)
5. Tyler Myers (BUF)
1. Ryan Miller (BUF)
2. Martin Brodeur (NJ)
3. Miikka Kiprusoff (CGY)
4. Evgeni Nabokov (SJ)
5. Ilya Bryzgalov (PHX)
Jack Adams Award:
1. Todd McLellan (SJ)
2. Joel Quenneville (CHI)
3. Jacques Lemaire (NJ)
4. Bruce Boudreau (WSH)
5. Lindy Ruff (BUF)
1. Chicago Blackhawks (31-11-4)