It was one of the most entertaining deadline weeks in recent memory, and now it’s time for the final push to the NHL Playoffs. Here’s how the top 8 teams in the NHL stack up.
1 – Boston Bruins
The rich got richer in Boston over the deadline as the Bruins made moves for Dmitry Orlov, Garnet Hathaway and Tyler Bertuzzi. The team has seen historical success this season with an incredible depth of talent at every position and these moves only make them deeper. With Taylor Hall on injured reserve for now, Bertuzzi should be able to fill his role as a tough winger who can score goals and play up and down the lineup. Then there’s Dmitry Orlov, who has eight points in four games since joining the team. With the Bruins, there truly isn’t much of a weakness to exploit anywhere on the ice. Add to that the fantastic goaltending they’ve gotten all season and it’s easy to see why they’re the clear top dog in the NHL right now.
2 – Carolina Hurricanes
Besides grabbing defenceman Shayne Gostisbehere from Arizona, it was a quiet deadline week for the Hurricanes. Although you cannot argue with the success they’ve had so far this season, many were assuming that Carolina would add more pieces to gear up for a long playoff run. With basically every other contending team in the East getting better this week, it’ll be interesting to see how Carolina stacks up come playoff time. For now, however, they deserve respect for what they’ve done up to this point in the season and will remain 2nd in the Power Rankings.
3 – Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto came into the deadline week looking to toughen up for the playoffs and that’s exactly what they did. With the additions of guys like Ryan O’Reilly and Luke Schenn, the Maple Leafs will certainly be a little tougher to play against in the playoffs. With the teams in the East being so close, this toughness and grittiness could be the difference between going home in the first round again or finally breaking through to the second. They may still have some question marks in the lineup, but Toronto’s top end stars have the ability to win games regardless.
4 – New York Rangers
When it comes to the flashy moves of this year’s deadline, no one outdid the New York Rangers. First it was Vladimir Tarasenko. Then, as everyone expected, they acquired the best player available in three-time Stanley Cup Champion Patrick Kane. With an extremely deep group of forwards, a very capable defence led by Adam Fox, and game changer Igor Shesterkin in net, beating the Rangers will not be an easy task for any team in a seven-game series. It’s just a little too bad they play in the gauntlet that is the Eastern Conference.
5 – New Jersey Devils
The Devils also made a big and expected move at the deadline in their deal for Timo Meier. The former San Jose Shark will join an explosive group of young forwards who are currently leading New Jersey and putting the league on notice. He’s also a great addition for his physicality, something that not everyone in New Jersey has in their game. Although this team may not have the playoff experience that other squads do, being naïve to how difficult the NHL playoffs are isn’t always a bad thing. If Vitek Vanecek can continue to be solid in net for the Devils, this is another team that won’t go down without a good fight.
6 – Tampa Bay Lightning
Until they lose four games in the same playoff series, you can’t count the Tampa Bay Lightning out. They’ve been through adversity, and they know what it feels like to lose on the biggest stage, but also how it feels to win. Tampa did raise some eyebrows with their deal to acquire Tanner Jeannot from Nashville, but it proved that this organization is still in win-now mode. As long as the core of Stamkos, Kucherov, Point, Hedman and Vasilevskiy are around for the Lightning, they’ll always be a threat in the East.
7 – Vegas Golden Knights
Finally, a team in the West. With a record of 36-19-6, the Golden Knights have remained near or at the top of their conference basically all season. The team didn’t do a ton at the deadline but did end up with two-time Stanley Cup Champion Jonathan Quick. Although goaltending hasn’t really been an issue this season with Logan Thompson and Adin Hill, it’ll be interesting to see if the team looks to the veteran Quick in the playoffs if Thompson has a tough game or two. In front of the goalies, the team will need to continue to fill the void left by captain Mark Stone because even though they do lead the Pacific, they’re only four points away from falling to third place and losing home ice advantage in the playoffs.
8 – Dallas Stars
The Stars are still top dogs in the Central Division, but things haven’t been going terribly well in Dallas lately. With a record of 4-3-3 in their last ten, the team needs to look to the veterans in the room to get things back on track as the NHL playoffs loom closer and closer. Although he won’t have the same role as he did in Chicago, the addition of Max Domi should help the team in multiple ways. He’s a tough forward that can certainly produce at a decent clip if put in the right situations. When it comes to playoff time, if the Stars can get the same kind of performance from Jake Oettinger that they did last year, they’ll be a tough task for any team in the West and might be the favorite outside of the division rival Avalanche.
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