1 – Boston Bruins
The Bruins simply continue to roll. The team recently grabbed their 40th win of the season in just 53 games and holds a ridiculous goal differential of +81. Their offence has been terrific, but their defence has been even better. On the year, the Bruins have let in 25 less goals than the second-best team in the goals against category. Their starting goaltender, Linus Ullmark, leads the league in wins, GAA and SVP. With all those statistics combined on one team, it’s no wonder Boston is seriously looking like one of the best teams we’ve seen in a while in the NHL.
2 – Carolina Hurricanes
With all the attention going to the Bruins, it’s easy to overlook how good Carolina has been. Their current record of 35-10-8 has them sitting in first place in their division and second overall in the league. The Canes may not have anyone putting up crazy numbers, but they win games as a team with one of the deepest rosters in the NHL. Newcomer Brent Burns has been an awesome addition for Carolina and leads the team in assists as well as ice time.
3 – New Jersey Devils
New Jersey is for real. Even without their scoring leader Jack Hughes in the lineup, the Devils have continued to find ways to win hockey games. The team is now 7-1-2 in their last ten games and holds a historically good record on the road. If the Devils can continue to succeed away from home ice, they will be a very tough team to beat in the playoffs, where home ice advantage usually means so much.
4 – Tampa Bay Lightning
Are the Lightning coming for the Stanley Cup once again? Absolutely. Besides Boston, there’s probably no team you’d like to see less in the playoffs than Tampa Bay. They’ve got depth, goaltending and big game experience like no other team in the conference. Currently, they’re battling with the Toronto Maple Leafs once again for second place in the Atlantic division. The teams will almost certainly see each other in the first round, but that home ice advantage may be the difference in the series.
5 – New York Rangers
With the addition of Vladimir Tarasenko, the Rangers are one of the most dangerous teams in the NHL. The team is currently on a six-game win streak and has scored 18 goals in the three games since Tarasenko was traded. They also improved defensively in the trade, picking up Finnish defenceman Niko Mikkola. With Igor Shesterkin in net playing in front of a roster this good, the Rangers will be looking to AT LEAST get back to the Eastern Conference Finals once the playoffs get underway.
6 – Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs have once again been one of the league’s best regular season teams. Unfortunately, the success of this year in Toronto will be based almost solely on the postseason. Ilya Samsonov and Matt Murray have proven to be a capable pair in the crease and William Nylander is having a terrific season for the Leafs, but none of that will matter without playoff success. Thankfully, they ARE an exceptionally good team.
7 – Dallas Stars
Although they’ve stumbled a little lately, Dallas is still on top in the West. With Jake Oettinger continuing his stellar play in net and a talented defensive team that has allowed the fourth-fewest goals in the NHL, the Stars play the right way. Their biggest challenge will be getting through the juggernaut that is the defending champion Avalanche, but if they keep holding onto the top spot in the division, it’s nice to know that the series will go through Dallas.
8 – Winnipeg Jets
Sitting just two points behind Dallas in the Central Division are the surprising Winnipeg Jets. The team has enjoyed a great bounce back season from goaltender Connor Hellebuyck while also having both Josh Morrissey and Pierre-Luc Dubois blossom statistically. Morrissey has already smashed his personal high for points in a season while Dubois just set a new career high in goals with 28. After a tough campaign last season, the Jets are looking hungry and rejuvenated.
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