With the All-Star break just a few weeks away, teams are beginning to experience the grit and grind required to sustain success at this point in the season.
Teams like Philadelphia and Boston both followed up red-hot starts with a long slump, while the Blue Jackets have used their depth and good health to propel them to 17 wins in their last 19 games. There is still a lot of hockey left in the season, but teams are beginning to establish their identities and use that to gain ground in the standings.
It will be interesting to see how both Pittsburgh and San Jose hold up throughout the rest of the regular season. The two teams met in the Stanley Cup final last season and both have squashed any thoughts of a hangover by leading their divisions up to this point.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby leads the league in goals, while Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton continue to be one of the top trios in the NHL for the Sharks.
- Pittsburgh Penguins (26-8-5): The defending Stanley Cup champions have been firing on all cylinders and lead the league with 3.51 goals per game. Sidney Crosby continues to have a career year with a league-leading 26 goals, including 9 on the power play.
- Columbus Blue Jackets (28-7-4): Columbus lost two straight after their incredible 16-game winning streak, but they bounced back on Sunday with an overtime victory over Philadelphia. The Blue Jackets power play continues to be unstoppable as they have converted on 26.7 percent of their power plays.
- Montreal Canadiens (25-10-6): Montreal has been the model of consistency over the past few seasons and holds a comfortable 9-point advantage in the Atlantic Division. The Canadiens had a disastrous second-half last season, and they will need to stay healthy to avoid a similar collapse this time around.
- Washington Capitals (26-9-5): The Capitals are currently making their case to become the most dominant wild card team of all time. Columbus, Pittsburgh and New York all sit above Washington in the Metropolitan Division; however, the Capitals’ 57 points is sixth best in the entire NHL. This team can easily win the Presidents’ Trophy for best record as their offense continues to buzz and goaltender Braden Holtby has been spectacular.
- Minnesota Wild (25-9-5): Minnesota has gone 2-0-1 to start 2017 and remain right behind the Blackhawks for the best record in the Western Conference. Goalie Devan Dubnyk currently leads the league with a .939 save percentage and should be getting serious consideration for the Vein Trophy.
- New York Rangers (28-13-1): Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has been average this season with a .912 save percentage; however, New York’s second-best scoring offense has propelled them to an astounding 57 points on the season. If Lundqvist can turn his game around, this team has a chance to make a deep postseason run.
- San Jose Sharks (24-14-2): San Jose currently sits atop the Pacific Division; however, the Ducks and Oilers are nipping at their heels. With losses in three of their last four games and a big showdown with Edmonton on the horizon, San Jose might not be at the top for much longer.
- Chicago Blackhawks (26-12-5): Chicago has reeled off three wins in a row after their loss to St. Louis in the Winter Classic. The Blackhawks are currently 28th in penalty-killing which could be a huge problem when the playoffs roll around.
- Edmonton Oilers (21-14-7): Edmonton has cooled off after their torrid start to the season; however, they are still right in the thick of the crowded Pacific Division. Connor McDavid continues to make his case for the Hart Trophy as he leads the entire NHL with 48 points in 42 games.
- Anaheim Ducks (21-13-8): Anaheim snapped a three-game winning streak with a loss to Minnesota on Sunday; however, they remain only two points back of the Sharks in the Pacific and remain likely to make the postseason. Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf have a -6 and -8 plus/minus rating, respectively, and must start to produce if the Ducks want to make a deep playoff run this season.
- St. Louis Blues (21-14-5): Vladimir Tarasenko has been must-watch TV throughout his career and this season has been no different as he has 43 points in only 40 games. Jake Allen must be better in his first season as the full-time starter as he has a measly .904 save percentage so far this season.
- Toronto Maple Leafs (18-13-8): Mike Babcock continues to push all the right buttons for the Maple Leafs as Toronto has won six of their last eight games and currently trail Boston by only three points, with four games in hand, for the second spot in the Atlantic division.
- Los Angeles Kings (20-17-4): This feels like one of those seasons where the Kings do just enough to sneak into the playoffs and get hot at the right time. Peter Budaj has done an admirable job filling in for goaltender Jonathan Quick, and if this team can hang around for a while longer, no one will want to play them when they are fully healthy.
- Calgary Flames (22-19-2): Few players in the NHL have been as important to their team as goaltender Chad Johnson has been for the Flames. His 14-8-1 record may not be eye-popping, but he helped keep the Flames afloat as starting goalie Brian Elliott faltered. He has continued to give them solid production with a .922 save percentage on the season.
- Boston Bruins (21-17-5): Boston currently sits at second place in the Atlantic Division with 46 points; however, that is a bit deceiving as they have played four more games than the teams chasing them and are within three points of both. Claude Julien is on the hot seat and the more Boston slips, the warmer his seat will get.
- Philadelphia Flyers (21-15-6): Philadelphia’s 10-game win streak seems like a thing of the past as they have currently lost eight of their last 10 games and need to find their rhythm quickly to remain in playoff position.
- Vancouver Canucks (20-19-3): Vancouver has jumped all around the Pacific division this season, but have been mired in a good stretch of hockey lately. Bo Horvat has really blossomed into a nice player in this league and currently leads the Canucks with 29 points.
- Ottawa Senators (21-14-4): Ottawa finally snapped a four-game skid on Sunday against the Oilers; however, they were outshot 38-18 in that game and continue to play on their heels. They still have the upper hand on Boston as they are only a point back with four games in hand and have set themselves up nicely for a postseason berth barring a collapse later in the season.
- Nashville Predators (17-16-7): Nashville’s front office must be kicking themselves for the blockbuster trade they made this offseason to acquire P.K. Subban. Subban has battled injuries all season and only produced 17 points in the 29 games he has played. Meanwhile, Shea Weber has put up 26 points and a +16 rating for the first place Canadiens.
- Florida Panthers (18-16-8): Just as they did for the Islanders, who eliminated Florida in the playoffs, all signs pointed to this being a breakout year for Florida. Instead, the Panthers have failed time and time again to impress and are currently six points out of playoff positions. This team is far from doomed, but with head coach Gerrard Gallant already getting there could be bigger changes ahead if Florida cannot get it together.
- Tampa Bay Lightning (19-19-4): It is tough to keep a team like Tampa Bay down so low in these rankings; however, injuries and bad play have decimated this team over the last few weeks. The performances of Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman have kept this team watchable as the tandem currently sit at eighth and 16th in points, respectively.
- Dallas Stars (17-16-8): Dallas is in an interesting spot at this point of the season. They would like to ride their current momentum and make a move in the Western Conference; however, Monday’s win over the Kings was their first of nine games in 15 days, which will undoubtedly test this team’s resilience.
- Winnipeg Jets (20-20-3): Winnipeg has had an up and down season for the most part; however, things took a turn for the worst in a loss to Buffalo on Saturday. Sensational rookie Patrick Laine took a devastating blow from Jake McCabe and will be out indefinitely with a concussion. Laine has been a human highlight reel and one can only hope that he gets healthy sooner rather than later.
- Carolina Hurricanes (18-15-7): Carolina has been a pleasant surprise this season as they find themselves within shouting distance of the playoffs. The Hurricanes currently sit five points out of the final wild-card spot, but they have two games in hand on Philadelphia. One thing to keep an eye on will be the stamina of goaltender Cam Ward. At 32 years old, he has made an incredible 16 consecutive starts and may need more rest as the season wears on.
- New York Islanders (15-15-8): New York’s struggles continue to be a head scratcher as they seemed to have all of the pieces in place to make a Stanley Cup run following their playoff success a year ago. Islanders captain John Tavares needs to do more if he wants his team to succeed, as he is on pace for 70 points, which would be his lowest 82 game-total since his rookie season.
- Buffalo Sabres (15-15-9): Buffalo is another team who has struggled to generate any sort of offense this season; however, they have scored 11 goals in their first three games of 2017 on their way to a 2-0-1 record. The return of all-star Ryan O’Reilly should help spark the Sabres as they look to continue their hot start to 2017.
- New Jersey Devils (16-18-8): The Devils are another team that seems to ride or die by their goaltenders and Cory Schneider helped pick them up this week as he allowed only 7 goals over 4[[four]] games on his way to a 2-1-1 record. Schneider will need to continue to play this way for New Jersey to have any chance as they currently sit at 27th in the NHL in goals per game.
- Arizona Coyotes (12-22-6): Arizona looked to be a middle-of-the-pack team for much of the season; however, a recent skid has them falling quickly with no end in sight. Mike Smith has been abysmal over his last eight starts, posting a save percentage of .885 and going 0-7-1.
- Detroit Red Wings (17-18-5): The Red Wings historic run of 25 straight seasons, making the playoffs continues to look more likely to end as the season drags on. Detroit has lost three of their last four games and allowed eight goals on their west coast road trip.
- Colorado Avalanche (13-25-1): Nothing has gone right for the Avalanche this season as their core of young talent has seemingly vanished into thin air. To put Colorado’s struggles into perspective, Samuel Henley is the only Avalanche player to have a positive plus-minus rating and he has only played in one game all season.