*This is not Stanley cup predictions or favorites*. This is solely based on performances up to this point of the season.
Performance, Wins/Losses, schedule, number of games, and other statistics all are taken into consideration.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning
Just one regulation loss on the season, the Bolts are picking up right where they left off. Despite not having Kucherov for the season, Tampa has regained a healthy Captain Steven Stamkos who paces the team with 10 points in 8 games. Of course, with the bolts boasting some of the best forward depth in the NHL they are getting meaningful contributions from guys like Cirelli, Gourde, Coleman, etc. Tampa has won 5 of their 6 games this year by 2 or more goals. Their still at the top of their game which is why they get the number one spot.
2. Montreal Canadiens
Yes, the recent loss to Ottawa was bad. Yes, its Ottawa. But they need to win some games too. It was only a matter of time before Montreal had an off game and Ottawa finally found win number 2. It just so happens those two things aligned on Thursday. You have to look past last night and see what Montreal has done so far this season. No one expected them to be competing for the first spot in the North, nor did anyone expect Marc Bergevin to be an early Jim Gregory candidate for GM of the year. The Habs for many have been the most surprising team of the year; yet all of their wins are seemingly very convincing. A guy like Josh Anderson makes them much harder to play against, while a more rested Carey Price continues to find his old form. Much like Tampa, most of Montreal’s wins have come at 2 or more goal margins. Not to mention, the Habs are second in the league in goals for and 2nd in the North Division for goals against.
3. Carolina Hurricanes
What was a five-game win streak until the recent loss to Chicago, the Canes have been arguably the best team in the last two weeks. Not only did they shutout the defending Stanley Cup champions, but they also managed to sweep the runner-up Dallas Stars; who were coming off a four-game win streak of their own. Perhaps, what is more exciting for Canes fans is the fact that it is officially Andrei Svechnikov’s breakout season. The 2nd overall pick leads the team in goals and points with 6 and 9, respectively. Carolina should continue to push Tampa for the first spot in the Central.
Svech decided to send us home 💪 pic.twitter.com/MN4OU0yZAB
— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) February 3, 2021
4. Vegas Golden Knights
Despite a pause due to NHL COVID protocol, the Golden Knights are only 4 points out of first with four games in hand. Like Tampa, Vegas only has one regulation loss. With one of the best goaltending tandems, a strong D-core, and great depth at the forward position, Vegas are a cup favorite and are showing it early. The Knights looked like one of the best teams prior to their mandatory pause. They will finally get back on the ice against the Kings at home.
5. Boston Bruins
Despite missing David Pastrnak for a large portion of games so far this season, the Bruins already find themselves atop the gauntlet that is the East division. Regardless of some good wins this season, the most impressive performances have come in their last 2 games against division strongholds in the Flyers and Capitals. What was so impressive in these two performances was the resiliency of the B’s coming from behind in both games. In what was a slow start to the season, the Bruins have seemingly found their game while Pastrnak’s Rocket Richard campaign has just begun.
6. Colorado Avalanche
Another team currently on a COVID delay, the Avalanche reside at the top of the West division. They hold the best goal differential in their division and currently have the best PK in the league. While the Avs continue to prove they are a top cup contender they may have to do so without Nathan MacKinnon who is week-to-week with a lower body injury. Playing in a top heavy West division, I don’t think the Avs have truly been tested yet.
7. Washington Capitals
In what was a complete shock to the hockey world, the Caps got bigger and showed they are still in “win-now” mode by bringing in Zdeno Chara. The team is still extremely difficult to play against and boast one of the best powerplays in the NHL. The Caps were also able to sweep the Islanders while taking 1 of 2 from the Sabres without 5 key members of their team.
ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED??? pic.twitter.com/LJrwGxcTw8
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 29, 2021
8. St. Louis Blues
St. Louis still has another gear to find. Hoffman, Krug, and O’Reilly are all off to slow starts. For Hoffman and Krug it could still be an adjustment factor, although the two led the charge in what was almost a successful comeback for the Blues against the Coyotes. The Blues lead the West division in goals for and have wins against both Colorado and Vegas. They are still part of a very top heavy division and should continue to stack wins.
9. Toronto Maple Leafs
A lot of teams competing for this spot, but the North division leaders are deserving of it. While its difficult to make comparisons when teams have such a wide margin in games played, Toronto currently leads the league in points at 17. Marner is having a great start to his year while Matthews is scoring just shy of a goal-per-game pace. They are also tied for the best PP percentage in the league. It’s not the best division, but Toronto has quality wins this year and has yet to be shutout.
10. Philadelphia Flyers
If you’ve seen the Flyers play this season it’s clear they are still yet to find their game. Early injuries to Couturier and Philippe Myers have hurt them defensively. Most importantly though, the Flyers have found ways to win games despite blowing two goal leads on multiple occasions. The fact they are winning now is a good sign and Couturier’s return is nearing, which will drastically improve their defensive struggles.
Honorable Mentions: Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, Winnipeg Jets
Dallas came out of the gates absolutely flying. But there just hasn’t been a large enough sample size for the Stars to replace any teams on the list. Their powerplay has been marvelous to begin the season and Pavelski is having a career start to his year. The Stars should work their way into the top 10 if they continue to dominate.
Florida is the only team left to remain undefeated in regulation, however, they are also tied with Vegas in least amount of games played. The jury is not yet out on whether the Panthers are actually for real this season.