Only a couple of weeks from the trade deadline and some teams are already posturing. The races are as tight as they could be even with some teams decidedly out of the race, but the top of the rankings remains the most intriguing.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning: They’ve made a big push and are in striking distance of the Bruins in the Atlantic even though Boston has played well out of the break.
2. Boston Bruins: Imagine if they could just beat the Red Wings.
3. Washington Capitals: Alex Ovechkin is nearing 700 goals and all, that but two really bad losses in the division have raised a lot of questions about their back end going forward.
4. St. Louis Blues: The defending champs are probably fine but have to respond to one of their first mini-slumps since early in the season.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins: The addition of Jason Zucker is a big one and the league should be worried about the Pens again.
6. New York Islanders: Huge win over the Caps and they even held onto the third-period lead on Monday.
7. Colorado Avalanche: Just three points back of the Blues and playing really well, the Avs still could be one of the elite teams of the West.
8. Vancouver Canucks: Leading the Pacific for now. They’re young and inexperienced, and it’s felt like they’re a year away, but who’s to say their time is not now?
9. Columbus Blue Jackets: Elvis Merzlikins is in the building and he’s turned the Blue Jackets’ season around.
10. Carolina Hurricanes: They have the fifth-best goal differential in the league entering Tuesday night, so at some point that karma has to even out.
11. Toronto Maple Leafs: Well, now they have a backup goalie so that should cure all their woes, right?
12. Philadelphia Flyers: They’ve been on a tear but the question of whether they can be consistent and win on the road still haunts them.
13. Dallas Stars: Four points into a playoff position entering Tuesday night and they haven’t lit the world on fire in their last 10 games but they’re back to being a solid team.
14. Florida Panthers: A bit of a mini-slump but they’re still right in the thick of things and have the potential to make a move in the playoff race.
15. Vegas Golden Knights: It feels like we’ve waited all year for them to emerge as one of the scariest teams in the league and they’re still hovering around the middle of the league.
16. Arizona Coyotes: Goaltending injuries have put a damper on a team on which the scoring has also started to go dark.
17. Nashville Predators: They’ve made a solid run in general to be in the thick of things, but two losses in a row doesn’t help.
18. Edmonton Oilers: Connor McDavid being out for any period of time in a really tight West race is awful news for an Oilers team that’s just a point into the playoffs entering Tuesday night.
19. Winnipeg Jets: They havent come out of the break the way they’d hoped, but they’re still hanging onto a playoff spot, and that’s all anyone could ask for.
20. Calgary Flames: Inconsistency still plagues them but hey, they have as good a shot as anyone else in the West.
21. Chicago Blackhawks: Somehow the Blackhawks are still in the race for a team we all assumed really wouldn’t matter in February.
22. Montreal Canadiens: A losing record in Montreal is symbolic of what a dud this season has been all-around.
23. New York Rangers: Even if they still play at the decent pace they’ve been on it’s likely too little, too late at this point.
24. San Jose Sharks: We’ll see if they try to get anything for their veterans at the deadline in what’s turned out to be a lost season.
25. Minnesota Wild: More moves could be coming after they shipped Zucker out.
26. Anaheim Ducks: They’ve won six of their past 10 entering Tuesday, but there shouldn’t be any false hope in Southern California.
27. New Jersey Devils: The nightmare will be over soon.
28. Buffalo Sabres: A disaster.
29. Detroit Red Wings: Imagine if they just played the Bruins every game.
30. Los Angeles Kings: Somehow have become even more pathetic than the Red Wings with eight losses in their past 10.
31. Ottawa Senators: Might be even more of a mess off the ice than on.