NHL Top 10 Teams

by Glenn Kaplan
by Glenn Kaplan

The All-Star Break will begin next Thursday. Teams are looking to finish the first-half of the season strong. Who are the Top 10 teams in the NHL up to this point?

10. Pittsburgh Penguins: Even though the Penguins slipped to the second wild card spot in the east, they are still one of the more feared teams in the NHL. Pittsburgh will be looking to make another trade or two before the trade deadline. Derick Brassard will most likely be traded before the trade deadline. He has underachieved big time. The Pittsburgh Penguins are 1-2 on this road trip. They will face the Arizona Coyotes on Friday night and the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday night. Those will be the last two games before the All-Star Break for Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang will be heading to the All-Star Game. Justin Schultz could return from his injury immediately after the All-Star Break. Their record so far this season is 25-16-5 with 56 points.

9. Toronto Maple Leafs: Something doesn't feel right with this Maple Leafs team right now. They are just 5-5 in their last 10 games. Injuries to the goaltending position has been key to this team, but Frederik Andersen recently returned. The defense has not been very good lately. They need to make a trade for a defenseman. Toronto sits in second place in the Atlantic Division with a 28-15-2 record with 58 points. They have a big game on the road against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night.

8. Washington Capitals: The Capitals have lost three straight games and because of it, they slipped to second place in the Metropolitan Division with a 27-14-5 record with 59 points. Washington has lost focus lately. They will look to regain momentum when Barry Trotz returns to Washington as the head coach of the New York Islanders on Friday night. The Washington Capitals will have three more games after Friday night before the break.

7. Vegas Golden Knights: The Golden Knights have not looked good recently against playoff teams. They lost 4-1 on the road on Tuesday night against the Winnipeg Jets. Vegas doesn't have the talent on the roster like Winnipeg does. Marc-Andre Fleury was solid in that game with 23 games. He only gave up two goals and two of the other goals were empty netters. This team needs to acquire another goal scorer at the trade deadline. The Vegas Golden Knights sit in third place in the Pacific Division with a 28-17-4 record with 60 points.

6. Columbus Blue Jackets: Ever since the Sergei Bobrovsky one game suspension, the Blue Jackets have won four games in a row. Joonas Korpisalo has started three of those games in net and maybe the tide is starting to turn towards him as the starting goalie because of the possibility of letting Bobrovsky go at the trade deadline or at the end of the season. Korpisalo has stopped 93 shots on 98 attempts in his last three games played. Cam Atkinson, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and Artemi Panarin each scored a goal in a 4-1 win against the New Jersey Devils at home on Tuesday night. Columbus scored seven goals in a 7-5 win at home on Sunday evening against the New York Rangers. Atkinson, Dubois, and Panarin have been very solid this season for the Columbus Blue Jackets. They currently sit in first place in the Metropolitan Division with a 28-15-3 record with 59 points.

5. San Jose Sharks: Even though the Sharks lost on the road to the Arizona Coyotes 6-3 on Wednesday, San Jose has still been effective as of late. They have won eight games in their last 10. Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson continues to make an impact on the back end. The San Jose Sharks have solid depth and they have four lines that can score. Goaltending continues to be hit or miss. They could try and get a goalie at the deadline, but Martin Jones could still get hot and he is one of the better goalies in the league. San Jose sits in second place in the Pacific Division with a 28-14-7 record with 63 points. They have a goal differential of 26.

4. Nashville Predators: The Predators smoked the Washington Capitals at home on Tuesday night with a 7-2 win. Juuse Saros continues to be a reliable backup for Pekka Rinne. Saros made 23 saves in that game. His record so far this season is 11-5-1 with a .910 save percentage and a 2.58 GAA, along with two shutouts. Viktor Arvidsson also scored a hat trick in the game. In 24 games played this season, he has scored 17 goals and recorded seven assists. His plus/minus is 11. Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg make a big difference on this team offensively. Nashville sits in second place in the Central Division with a 28-16-4 record with 60 points. They have a goal differential of 28. The Nashville Predators play a huge game at home against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night. They are only two points back of them for first place in the division.

3. Winnipeg Jets: The Jets continue to make life difficult for opponents. They play at both ends of the ice at a high level. Winnipeg plays as a cohesive unit. The Winnipeg Jets will have a huge game on the road on Thursday night against the Nashville Predators. Winnipeg is in first place in the Central Division at the moment with a 30-14-2 record with 62 points. They have a goal differential of 31. Kyle Connor scored two goals and recorded an assist in a 4-1 win over the Vegas Golden Knights at home on Tuesday night. He has been one of Winnipeg Jets best role players. In 46 games so far this season, Connor has scored 18 goals and recorded 19 assists. His plus/minus is -2. Laurent Brossoit has been one of the better backups in the league this season. He had 43 saves in Tuesday's game. Brossoit has given Connor Hellebuyck the necessary rest and Laurent Brossoit's record is 10-1-1 with a .943 save percentage and a 2.01 GAA, along with one shutout.

2. Calgary Flames: The Flames have one of the best offenses in the NHL. Calgary has scored 176 goals so far this season. They have given up 137 goals. The Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers rivalry will be reunited on Saturday night in Edmonton. Calgary has the best record in the west so far this season at 30-13-5 with 65 points. Johnny Gaudreau is one of the favorites to walk away with the Hart Trophy right now. He has scored 28 goals and recorded 43 assists so far this season. His plus/minus is 20. Gaudreau could very well reach 130 points this season if he keeps it up. The depth, the blue line, and the goaltending have all stepped up for this team this season. Bill Peters has been a major influence for this team as head coach.

1. Tampa Bay Lightning: It isn't a surprise that the Lightning remain the best team in the NHL with a 36-9-2 record with 74 points. They have the best goal differential at 58. Tampa Bay has a huge game at home on Thursday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Andrei Vasilevskiy had a 35-save shutout against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night on the road in a 2-0 win. That is his third shutout of the season. His record is 19-5-2 with a .925 save percentage and a 2.46 GAA. Vasilevskiy is one of the favorites to win the Vezina Trophy again this season. He is one of the few goalies in the league that can take over a game with his athleticism. Their last game before the All-Star Break will be against the San Jose Sharks at home on Saturday night. Nikita Kucherov continues to dissect opponents. He has scored 22 goals and recorded 53 assists, in 47 games so far this season. Kucherov's plus/minus is 14. Jon Cooper might be the best coach in the league even though he probably won't win the Jack Adams Award. The Tampa Bay Lightning will probably not make any trades at the trade deadline.