Every week, we’ll discuss and rank the “good” teams (the ones making some legitimate noise) as well as the “bad” teams (the ones that are so bad they’re actually worth talking about) and a few teams stuck in the middle. You know, the teams that aren’t quite good enough to be relevant but aren’t bad enough to be irrelevant either? The dreaded No Man’s Land.
1. Colorado Avalanche (Last week: 2): For the first time this year, the Avalanche have secured the top overall spot. After a pretty mediocre start to the season, Colorado has been absolutely dominant the past few months, going 16-1-1 over its last 18 games including wins in its last six. Since December, the Avs are first in the league in points earned (36) and points percentage (.857), and they are tied for the best goal differential (plus-28). I know this label can often be seen as a kiss of death, but these guys are looking more and more like a complete powerhouse.
2. Florida Panthers (LW: 1): Unfortunately for the Panthers, they lost a couple of games last week, including one to the Kraken (yikes). That’s not exactly reason to go into panic mode, but it is enough to cost them the top ranking, especially with how well Colorado is playing.
3. Carolina Hurricanes (LW: 3): The start to Jack LaFontaine’s NHL career has certainly been … interesting. After suddenly leaving college in midseason to sign with the Canes, he gave up two goals on three shots in his debut, then gave up seven (!) goals in his first start over the weekend. That .780 save percentage can only go up from here! (Let’s hope.)
4. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: 5): With the Buccaneers out of the NFL playoff picture, the Lightning are now Tampa’s only hope to hold on to the “Titletown” belt. The good news? The back-to-back champs are still trending in the right direction. They’ve won five of their last six, including two of three on their California roadie.
5. St. Louis Blues (LW: 6): Last week, I mentioned keeping an eye on Ville Husso to see what he might be for this team after a couple of excellent starts in net. A week later and Husso is still on fire. He has given up one goal or fewer in four of his last five starts (all wins) while operating with a .963 save percentage. Fortunately for Jordan Binnington, the Blues must know that you can’t rely on an emerging young-ish goaltender and ride him down the stretch to find success.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: 7): I waited a long time to give Pittsburgh its due because I wasn’t exactly a believer in its roster coming into the season, but it’s becoming harder and harder to ignore what the Penguins have done over the past few months. After starting the season 5-6-4, the Pens have managed to jell and find sustained success as a group, going 21-4-1 since. A big reason? Tristan Jarry has been awesome. Now excuse me while I go delete a bunch of tweets about him during last year’s playoffs.
7. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 4): I promise I’m not going to make the easy joke, but it is legitimately concerning how frequently the Leafs allow multi-goal leads to slip out of their grasp. They have to figure that out over the season’s second half because I promise I’m not going to be passing up the easy jokes come playoff time.
8. New York Rangers (LW: 8): It’s pretty absurd what Chris Kreider is up to these days. He has eight goals in his last five games and is now up to 29 on the season. That’s a new career high for him, and it’s been just 42 games. What the heck?
9. Boston Bruins (LW: 9): Outside of the one big hiccup against the Hurricanes last week, Boston has had relatively smooth sailing since the turn of the calendar year. The Bruins, 10-2-0 in 2022, are making their footsteps heard in the Atlantic.
10. Minnesota Wild (LW: NR): It was essentially a tossup between Minnesota and Nashville for this final slot, but I’m leaning Wild this week since they have the edge in points percentage and goal differential. Plus, I think sustainability leans more in favor of Minny.
DROPPED OUT: Nashville Predators (Last week: 10).
32. Montreal Canadiens (Last week: No. 32): It hit me this week that there’s a pretty decent chance the Habs go from Stanley Cup finalists to winning the Shane Wright lottery in just over a year’s time. What a wild turn of events.
31. Arizona Coyotes (LW: 31): I’m still not sure if I would be itching to deal Jakob Chychrun if I were the Coyotes. But the trade rumors are heating up and I’m certainly not upset about it either. I’m not one to turn down the possibility of a midseason blockbuster featuring a fun, young player.
30. Philadelphia Flyers (LW: Not ranked): It’s truly incredible that the Flyers have managed to have two separate losing streaks of 10 or more games through the first 40 games. And don’t you dare give me the “It’s a winless streak, not technically a losing streak” argument. There are two possible outcomes of a game in the NHL — you win or you lose. If you didn’t win, you lost. Enough of this nonsense.
29. Seattle Kraken (LW: 30): The Kraken adopted a team puppy and have suddenly won three of four. Coincidence? Yeah, right. Puppies fix everything. It’s science.
28. Buffalo Sabres (LW: 29): Last week, I said, “At least Buffalo still has the Bills.” Sorry about that.
MOVING UP: Ottawa Senators (LW: 28).
No Man’s Land
Vegas Golden Knights (Last week: Not ranked): A few times this season, the Golden Knights were getting ready to turn a corner and reclaim their status as one of the league’s elite teams, but inconsistency has continued to plague this group. They haven’t quite found a stable 200-foot game yet, and they’ve been giving up far too much in their own end. But, all things considered, there’s reason to be optimistic. Vegas still holds the top spot in a bad Pacific Division despite being the league’s most injured team this season, and it’s going to get back some big pieces soon, including Jack Eichel. So there’s a good chance VGK will hit its stride at the right time.