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: 1): I mean, what else did you expect? They’ve won 10 straight to make it 20 victories in their last 22 games. It’s just an insane stretch, and they’ve managed to navigate some close calls and key losses (including Nathan MacKinnon). Over that 22-game run, Colorado has a .932 points percentage and ranks first with an average of 4.3 goals per game. Here’s an interesting note: During their first 21 games of the season, the Avalanche had the league’s second-worst team save percentage (.886). Over the next 22 games, they’ve had the league’s fifth-best save percentage (.921). The main takeaway: If Colorado gets good goaltending, it’s a wrap.
2. Florida Panthers (LW: 2): They continue to rack up wins at an impressive rate (especially at home). After a bump in the road a few weeks ago, Florida went three-for-three last week and scored a total of 14 goals in those wins, so the offense is humming again.
3. Carolina Hurricanes (LW: 3): The bad news? The offense hasn’t looked super great lately. Carolina has scored just 11 goals over its last four contests. The good news? The ‘Canes still managed to win all four games by a one-goal margin. Wins are wins, even if they’re not emphatic.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: 4): Listen, I know the top four teams all remaining static is pretty boring, but what do you want me to do? The Lightning haven’t been perfect but have won seven of their last 10, so I haven’t been convinced to slide them backward yet. However, there are certainly some impressive challengers in their rearview mirror.
5. Minnesota Wild (LW: 10): They sneaked into the top 10 last week, and they make a big jump this week. How come? Well, they have wins in eight of their last nine games (including five straight) and haven’t been beaten in regulation since the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day. Also, Kirill Kaprizov has 34 points in his last 20 games. Pretty good!
6. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 7): Michael Bunting seems to be making the most of his time alongside Auston Matthews. His hat trick last Saturday helped him set a new career high with 12 goals, and Kyle Dubas has to be feeling pretty good about the bargain-bin returns he’s getting there.
7. St. Louis Blues (LW: 5): Ville Husso finally looked a bit mortal in Saturday’s defeat against Winnipeg, but it was his first shaky start (and loss) since early December. So the overall body of work this season is still very strong.
8. New York Rangers (LW: 8): The Henrik Lundqvist jersey retirement night was pretty special, even if it was spoiled a bit by the last-second goaltender interference call that erased a potential Rangers game-tying goal. I had a bunch of furious Rangers fans in my Twitter mentions after that game, but just because it killed your buzz doesn’t mean it was the wrong call. (Hopefully, most realized it was absolutely goaltender interference when they sobered up.)
9. Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: 6): Their hot stretch may officially be over. They lost three straight last week, including games against the Kraken and Red Wings. That’s no good. But the bright side is they got a couple of loser points in the process.
10. Nashville Predators (LW: Not ranked): The Bruins and Predators have spent the last few weeks scrapping for position in the top 10. This week, the edge goes to Nashville, mostly because the Press have won three of their last four while the Bruins have lost three of their last four, including a blowout to the Stars on Sunday.
DROPPED OUT: Boston Bruins (Last week: 9).
32. Montreal Canadiens (Last week: 32): It remains truly stunning that the Coyotes consciously made an attempt to put together one of the worst NHL teams ever iced and somehow the Canadiens accidentally put together a team that’s arguably worse …
31. Arizona Coyotes (LW: 31): … but don’t get me wrong, Arizona is still VERY bad.
30. Philadelphia Flyers (LW: 30): They finally got in the win column! A big overtime win over the Kings snapped a 13-game losing streak. Hooray! Unfortunately for Philly, that’s not really enough to convince me to move them up — especially considering the Flyers haven’t won a game in regulation since December 14.
29. Seattle Kraken (LW: 29): Nothing all that new or exciting to report here.
28. New Jersey Devils (LW: Not ranked): They enter the bottom feeders club for the first time this season, and it sure has been rough lately. New Jersey has lost seven of its last eight but, beyond that, the Devils have just six wins in their last 24 games dating back to November 30.
No Man’s Land
Dallas Stars (Last week: Not ranked): It’s really hard to figure out what the heck this team is capable of, even as we approach February. The Stars are one of the streakiest and most inconsistent teams in the league, but things have looked pretty good lately. They bounced back from a blowout loss to the Capitals by blowing out Boston, giving them Ws in five of their last six. However, the other four wins came against the Devils, Flyers, Red Wings and Sabres so … yeah, not overly impressive. That being said, they’re still in playoff contention, and the next few weeks could make or break their trade-deadline approach.
Buffalo Sabres (Last week: No. 28 ): “No Man’s Land” may as well be the literal definition of the Sabres crease right now because, between injuries and COVID-19, they’re having an insanely tough time finding (and keeping) players between the pipes.