The month of February is winding down and the NHL standings are starting to take shape. Which teams are for real? Which teams are pretenders? And who will take a big step forward before the end of the season? I’ll break it all down in this week’s edition of the NBC Sports EDGE rankings.
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1 – Toronto Maple Leafs – 14-3-2:
The Leafs have always been able to find the back of the net, but the defensive side of their game was a struggle. This season, the offense has kept rolling and they’ve been a lot better without the puck. The duo of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner has combined to score 59 points and the team hasn’t even hit the 20-game mark yet.
2 – Carolina Hurricanes – 12-3-1:
The Hurricanes have won five of their last six games and their only defeat during that stretch came against the red-hot Florida Panthers in overtime. Their plus-19 goal-differential is second in the league, behind the Leafs, and their 62 goals scored puts them 10 back of Toronto and Edmonton (both those teams have played more games than Carolina).
3 -Colorado Avalanche – 9-4-1:
After a relatively underwhelming start to the year (by their standards), the Avs seem to be hitting their stride. They’ve won back-to-back 3-2 games over the Vegas Golden Knights, including one in Lake Tahoe that had a nasty “sun” delay. Colorado has picked up seven wins in their last 10 outings.
4 –Boston Bruins – 11-3-2:
Heading into Sunday’s outdoor game against Philadelphia, the Bruins had dropped back-to-back games to the Islanders and Devils. They made a statement in Lake Tahoe though, as they beat the Flyers, 7-3. Boston is 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and they have a plus-15 goal-differential, which is tied for fourth in the NHL.
5 -Florida Panthers – 11-3-2:
The Panthers are coming off a 2-1 loss to Detroit on Saturday, but they managed to beat the Red Wings two other times over the last couple of weeks. Florida has been a pleasant surprise this year and it’ll be interesting to see whether or not they can keep this going. Only Toronto (.789) and Carolina (.781) have a higher points percentage than the Panthers (.750) so far this season.
6 -Edmonton Oilers – 12-8-0:
The Oilers are one of the few teams in the league that have hit the 20-game mark already. They got off to a sluggish start, but since losing 6-4 to Calgary on Feb. 6, they’ve rattled off six victories in seven outings. Edmonton is still giving up quite a few goals, but they’re tied for the NHL lead in goals scored, with 72. They don’t have much quality depth behind Conor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but those two are carrying them for now. The Oilers are second in regulation wins, with 11.
7 – Tampa Bay Lightning – 10-4-1:
The Bolts have dropped back-to-back games, but that’s nothing for them to be concerned about. The defending Stanley Cup Champions had a game cancelled against the Stars last week and they followed that up by being shut out by Carolina. They’re still one of just five teams to have at least nine regulation victories in 2021.
8 -Vegas Golden Knights – 10-4-1:
The Golden Knights are coming off back-to-back one-goal losses to Colorado, but they were pretty hot before that point. They had won four of their previous five games and they still have just four regulation losses in 15 outings in 2021. Vegas will get a chance to avenge their losses to Colorado in Denver tonight.
9 -Chicago Blackhawks – 9-6-4:
Only six teams have picked up more points than the Blackhawks this season, but they’re the only team in the top 11 in that category that also has a negative goal-differential (minus-1). Chicago has picked up at least one point in the standings in eight of their last 10 games. I keep talking about goaltender Kevin Lankinen and how good he’s been and I’m going to continue to do so. He’s been been a revelation this season.
10 –Washington Capitals – 9-5-3:
The Capitals had a game against Philadelphia postponed on Feb. 9, which allowed them to have a week between games (Sunday to Sunday). But things ramped up for them last week. They dropped their first game back to Pittsburgh, but followed that up by beating the Penguins. They have three wins in their last four games. They’re still three points behind Boston for the East Division lead (the Bruins have a game in hand).
11 -Pittsburgh Penguins – 9-6-1:
The Pens have been wildly inconsistent in 2021, but they still have a respectable record through 16 games. Pittsburgh has won four of their last five games (all against the Islanders or Capitals) and they’re two points behind the Caps for second in the East Division. They’ve benefited from the shootout this year, as they’re 3-0 in that facet of the game. We’ll see if the Pens can keep the ball rolling this week.
12 -Winnipeg Jets – 11-6-1:
Winnipeg came back to beat the Canucks on Sunday night, which means they’ve won back-to-back games and three of their last four since their last-second loss to Ottawa on home ice on Feb. 13. Major in-season acquisition Pierre-Luc Dubois scored two goals on Sunday, including the OT winner against the Canucks. If he starts rolling, the Jets will be even more difficult to stop.
13 -St. Louis Blues – 10-6-2:
It’s tough to get a good gauge on St. Louis because they haven’t played a game since last Saturday. Games against San Jose and Anaheim were postponed over the weekend and they’re expected to play the Kings tonight and Wednesday. Despite dropping two of their last three outings, the Blues are still sitting at the top of the West Division. They’re 6-2-0 on the road, but just 4-4-2 at home.
14 -Los Angeles Kings – 7-6-3:
The Kings dropped five games in a row between Feb. 2 – 9, but they’ve responded by winning each of their last four decisions. This is probably just a blip on the radar for this rebuilding franchise, but it’s still impressive to see them string some victories together while having a game postponed too. Believe it or not, if the season ended today, Los Angeles would make the playoffs.
15 -New York Islanders – 8-6-3:
The Isles are coming off back-to-back losses to the Penguins on Thursday and Saturday, but they had won three games in a row before that point and they had collected points in eight consecutive games. They’ll host the Sabres, Bruins and Penguins (twice) over the next week. The Isles currently rank eighth in goals against, but they can be even stingier in that department. That’s the key to their success.
16 -Philadelphia Flyers – 8-4-3:
The Flyers won a big game against the Capitals on NBC on Feb. 7, but they were forced to go on pause 10 days after that victory. Since returning to the ice, they’ve dropped games to the Rangers (in a shootout) and to the Bruins in Lake Tahoe. They’ve also dropped four of their last five games. This team has the talent to be better.
17 -Montreal Canadiens –9-5-3:
Things have fallen apart in a hurry for the Canadiens. Montreal opened the season with an 8-2-2 record, but they’ve suffered four defeats in their last five games and five in their last seven. After having a week between outings last week, they came back and lost back-to-back decisions to Toronto and Ottawa over the weekend. If the Habs don’t turn things around quickly, head coach Claude Julien could be out of a job.
18 -Minnesota Wild – 8-6-0:
The Wild didn’t play a single game between Feb. 3-15 because of Covid-19. They dropped their first game back to the Los Angeles Kings by a score of 4-0, but they managed to beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-1 and 5-1 on Thursday and Saturday. The Wild have played fewer games than most teams, but they’re sixth in the NHL in goals against.
19 -New York Rangers – 6-7-3:
Back-to-back wins over the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals will get you bumped up this list, but things aren’t going overly well in New York for the most part. They were riding a four-game losing skid before those two recent wins and they’re still under .500. It looks like the rebuild will take a little more time. Things will get even more difficult now that Artemi Panarin is taking a leave of absence.
20 -Arizona Coyotes – 7-7-3:
The Coyotes played the St. Louis Blues seven times in a row over the last couple of weeks. Overall, they did pretty well, as they came away with four victories during that stretch, but they’ve dropped four of their last five outings to the Blues and Los Angeles Kings. The good news for this team is that they’ll play six of their next seven games at home.
21-San Jose Sharks – 7-7-2:
The Sharks have found a way to stay around the .500 mark, but they haven’t been above that line since the second game of the year. San Jose doesn’t really stand out much from the lower part of the middle-of-the-pack. One of their big issues, is that they concede a lot of goals. As of right now, only six teams have given up more goals than them.
22-Columbus Blue Jackets – 8-7-4:
The Jackets have gone through quite a bit of public drama in 2021, but head coach John Tortorella is getting as much as he can out of his group. Columbus is in a bit of a funk, as they’ve dropped three of their last four games. Their minus-9 goal-differential is above only Nashville and Detroit in the Central Division.
23-New Jersey Devils – 6-5-2:
The Devils had Covid-19 go right through their locker room earlier this month and their players and staff were forced to quarantine for nearly two weeks. They won their first two games back over the Rangers and Bruins, but they’ve dropped back-to-back one-goal decisions to Buffalo and Washington.
24-Calgary Flames – 8-9-1:
I expected the Flames to finish in a playoff spot this year, but they’ve been wildly inconsistent and their season has been a bit of a rollercoaster. They’ve dropped three games in a row to Vancouver and Edmonton (twice), including Saturday’s 7-1 drubbing at the hands of their provincial rivals. They’re not out of it yet, but they need things to turn around in a hurry.
25 – Ottawa Senators – 5-14-1
Look, the Sens have just five wins on the season, but after a terrible start they’ve found a way to compete in most of their games. They have three victories in their last five and they even managed to overcome a 5-1 deficit to beat the team at the top of this list. Ottawa is young and they have some skill. They just need more talent and time.
26 -Buffalo Sabres – 5-7-2:
The Sabres were 4-4-2 when they ran into some Covid-19 trouble. They were forced to sit for six games and they returned to work on Feb. 15. They dropped three straight games to the Islanders (twice) and the Capitals before beating the Devils on Saturday. It looks like the Sabres are going to miss the playoffs again. They’re currently last in the East Division.
27-Anaheim Ducks – 6-9-3:
The Ducks had a huge competitive window that has firmly been shut. They won’t be trading Ryan Getzlaf away, but this is a team that needs to continue to play their young players and that’s what they’ll do. Anaheim has dropped three in a row and four of their last five. They’ll be near the bottom of these rankings all season.
28-Nashville Predators – 7-10-0:
According to various reports, it sounds like the Preds’ sluggish start has made several key veteran players available for trade. Whether GM David Poile pulls the trigger on a big move or not remains to be seen, but this squad just isn’t good enough right now. They’re coming off a win over Columbus, but they’ve picked up two points in just two of their last seven outings. It’s not good enough.
29-Dallas Stars – 5-3-4:
Evaluating the Stars is a little problematic. The start of their season was delayed because Covid-19 destroyed their roster, but they came out and won their first four games. So, what’s happened since then? Well, they’ve gone on to lose seven of their last eight games and freezing temperatures in Texas forced the postponement of four more games. You have to feel for this team right now.
30 – Vancouver Canucks – 8-12-2:
The Canucks have found a way to win eight games, but they’ve also played 22 times which is tops in the NHL. They had a lead in last night’s game against Winnipeg, but they let it slip away and eventually lost in OT. Vancouver has dropped three of their last four games and they have just two victories in their last 11 outings.
31-Detroit Red Wings – 5-12-3:
The Wings came up with a surprise win over the red-hot Panters on Saturday, but they’ve been victorious in three of their last 16 outings. Only Ottawa (.275) has a lower points percentage than Detroit (.325), but the Sens have been better as of late.
Source: Yahoo Sports