The NHL is set to resume on Thursday night after they were off for a few days because of the holiday break. Thirteen games will be played on Thursday night. Who are the Top 10 teams after the break?
10. Colorado Avalanche: The Avalanche hit a mini wall before the break. They have lost two straight games. The lack of depth is starting to show a little bit and they might have to make a move at the trade deadline. Colorado is still a dangerous hockey team because of how good the Gabriel Landeskog-Nathan MacKinnon-Mikko Ratanen line is. MacKinnon will be the captain for the Central Division in the All-Star Game in San Jose. He has scored 22 goals and recorded 34 assists so far this season. His plus/minus is 15. Philipp Grubauer and Semyon Varlamov is a solid goaltending duo. The Colorado Avalanche currently sit in third place in the Central Division with a 19-12-6 record with 44 points.
9. Nashville Predators: The Predators have lost six straight games and they some how sit in second place in the Central Division with a 22-13-6 record with 46 points. Nashville has given up 95 goals this season, but they have only scored 111. They are going to need to some scoring help at some point. Filip Forsberg still leads the team in goals with 14 and he has been on injured reserve for a few weeks. Forsberg will provide a much needed boost for this team when he comes back.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins have been playing much better and they won three straight games before the break. Matt Murray has looked sharp ever since his return to the lineup. He had a 39-save shutout in a 3-0 win on the road last Saturday night against the Carolina Hurricanes. Casey DeSmith is also playing well. Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby also have good chemistry on the first line right now. Guentzel has scored 15 goals and recorded 18 assists so far this season and his plus/minus is 8. He was rewarded with a five-year contract extension with $30 million. Pittsburgh currently sits in third place in the Metropolitan Division with a 18-12-6 record with 42 points.
7. Calgary Flames: The Flames will have a big game on the road against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night. It could potentially be a Western Conference Finals preview. It is rare that I say that about two Canadian teams. Calgary has one of the best goal differentials in the league at 24. They have been getting production from their top two lines, but can the Calgary Flames role players rise to the occasion? Will the blue line continue to play physical and fast and has David Rittich officially taken the starting goaltending job from Mike Smith. They currently sit in first place in the Pacific Division with a 22-12-3 record with 47 points.
6. Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets were playing their best hockey of the season before the break. They have won four in a row. The offense, defense, and goaltending look all in sync. Columbus sits in second place in the Metropolitan Division with a 21-12-3 record with 45 points so far. Artemi Panarin has scored 11 goals and recorded 28 assists so far this season. His plus/minus is 5. Cam Atkinson has scored 23 goals and recorded 15 assists so far this season. His plus/minus is 8. Pierre-Luc Dubois has scored 13 goals and recorded 18 assists so far this season. His plus/minus is 8. The Columbus Blue Jackets will be on the road against the New York Rangers on Thursday night and then they have a big game on Friday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs at home.
5. Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres have been one of the surprises in the NHL so far this season. Buffalo's record is 21-11-5 with 47 points. They currently sit in third place in the Atlantic Division. The Buffalo Sabres need to stay focused because they are a very young team. Phil Housley has to be one of the favorites for coach of the year right now. Jack Eichel leads the team with 48 points (14 goals and 34 assists). His plus/minus is 11. Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark is a solid goaltending duo for them.
4. Washington Capitals: The Capitals will be gearing up for another Stanley Cup run. Washington currently sits in first place in the Metropolitan Division with a 22-10-3 record with 47 points. The Washington Capitals have one of the best goal differentials in the NHL at 26. They have scored 129 goals and given up 103 goals so far this season. Alex Ovechkin will be the captain for the Metropolitan Division in the All-Star Game in San Jose. He has scored 29 goals and recorded 15 assists so far this season. His plus/minus is 14. I would expect defenseman John Carlson and goaltender Braden Holtby to join him as well. Carlson has only scored five goals so far this season, but he has recorded 30 assists. His plus/minus is 22. Holtby's record is 14-8-2 with a .914 save percentage and a 2.79 GAA, along with two shutouts.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews missed around a month of the season with a shoulder injury and it didn't affect his All-Star status at all. Matthews will be the captain for the Atlantic Division in the All-Star Game in San Jose. He has scored 19 goals and recorded 15 assists, in 23 games so far this season. His plus/minus is 11. Mitchell Marner and Morgan Reilly will most likely join him as well. Marner has scored 12 goals and recorded 38 assists so far this season. His plus/minus is 15. Reilly has scored 13 goals and recorded 31 assists so far this season. His plus/minus is 26. The Maple Leafs have the second best goal differential in the NHL at 37. Toronto has scored 140 goals and they have given up 103 goals so far this season. This team is a threat to score at any moment. The Toronto Maple Leafs sit in second place in the Atlantic Division with a 25-10-2 record with 52 points. Toronto will be on the road against the Columbus Blue Jackets on the road on Friday night and they will be home against the New York Islanders on Saturday night.
2. Winnipeg Jets: Stability and leadership has propelled this team to success so far this season. The Jets record is 24-20-2 with 50 points. Winnipeg sits in first place in the west. They will be facing the Calgary Flames on Thursday night at home. This could be a possible Western Conference Finals preview. Patrik Laine has scored 23 goals so far this season. Mark Scheifele has scored 22 goals and recorded 27 assists so far this season. His plus/minus is 19. Blake Wheeler has scored only five goals, but he has recorded 43 assists so far this season. His plus/minus is 10. The Winnipeg Jets have a really good goal differential at 27. Winnipeg has scored 128 goals and given up 101 goals.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning have **been the best NHL team up to this point. They are causing fits for opponents. Tampa Bay has the best goal differential at 48. They have scored 154 goals and they have given up 106 goals so far this season. The Tampa Bay Lightning are 28-7-2 with 58 points. As of right now, I don't think any team could beat them four times in a playoff series. They have too much firepower and Andrei Vasilevskiy will be there to bail them out. His record so far this season 12-3-2 with a .928 save percentage and a 2.39 GAA, along with one shutout. Tampa Bay could role out four lines and they are a threat to score at any moment. Nikita Kucherov has scored 16 goals and recorded 41 assists so far this season. His plus/minus 10. Brayden Point has had a breakout season for the Lightning. He has scored 21 goals and recorded 26 assists. His plus/minus is 13. Steven Stamkos has scored 20 goals and recorded 19 assists so far this season. His plus/minus is -3.