Alexander Radulov

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The Buzzer: Ups and downs for Islanders

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Players of the Night:

Do you go with the guy who collected a hat trick with the overtime game-winner, or the rookie who generated five assists for yet another five-point night?

Nelson’s the fellow who generated the hat trick, and he’s been hot lately. Maybe 24 points on the season is a little disappointing for Nelson, but he’s really heating up, collecting four goals and three assists for seven points during a four-game run. Impressive.

Mathew Barzal collected five assists, giving him 58 points in 56 games in 2017-18. It’s already his third five-point night of his rookie campaign.

He probably gets the nod if you can only choose one player of the night, as he’s achieved something that hasn’t been reached in 100 years:

  • Three helpers: Jamie Benn and Derek Forbort aren’t players you’d picture in the same breath, yet here they were, generating three assists tonight. Remarkably, it’s Forbort that is the player who was a first-rounder (15th overall in 2010), while Benn went 129th(!) in 2007.

Highlights

Curtis Lazar‘s struggled to score at the NHL level more than the hype suggested, but at least this was a cool one:

Wait, there’s a turbo button in this game? Apparently Carl Hagelin can still fly.

Alexander Radulov + Tyler Seguin + Jamie Benn = glorious.

Factoids

C’mon, it has to be Islanders related, right?

The not-so-good side of the Isles:

Leon Draisaitl is quietly heating up:

Scores

Islanders 7, Red Wings 6 (OT)
Rangers 4, Flames 3
Capitals 4, Blue Jackets 2
Kings 3, Panthers 1
Hurricanes 4, Canucks 1
Blues 5, Jets 2
Stars 4, Penguins 3 (SO)
Ducks 3, Oilers 2

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Possible trade destinations for Rick Nash

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Not long ago, PHT passed along word that the New York Rangers have reportedly asked Rick Nash to hand over his no-trade lists.

Basically, it breaks down as: 18 teams he wouldn’t accept a trade to and 12 teams he’d accept a trade to.

As TSN’s Bob McKenzie notes in that post, it’s possible that Nash could try to short-circuit a potential move by listing 12 teams that wouldn’t be likely to have interest. It’s also worth noting that we don’t know how either of Nash’s lists shake out.

While much is up in the air, there are some objective facts worth keeping in mind: Nash is 33, so it’s that much more likely that he’d be seen as a pure rental. As a pending UFA, he could easily return to the Rangers during the summer, if there’s mutual interest.

Nash also carries a colossal $7.8 million cap hit this season. On the bright side, Cap Friendly estimates his remaining cap hit as $2.6M as of today; either way, a team might prefer that the Rangers retain at least part of his salary, or eat a funky contract in return.

One other note: back in June 2016, the New York Post’s Larry Brooks reported that Nash would not accept a trade to a Canadian team on a previous no-trade list. It’s unclear if that stance has changed, as he might be more amenable to such an idea in a contract year.

Anyway, it could be a fun exercise to ponder 12 potential destinations for Nash. Keep in mind that this isn’t necessarily a list of the 12 most likely destinations. In a lot of cases, it came down to entertainment value, so your mileage may vary.

Now, in no particular order while assuming that the Rangers wouldn’t send Nash to the Islanders:

Columbus Blue Jackets

How fun would a reunion be?

Back in 2002, Nash became the Blue Jackets’ first-ever No. 1 overall pick after they selected fourth overall in 2000 and eighth in 2001. In nine seasons with Columbus, Nash was often the only bright side on shaky roster, scoring almost 300 goals. The nostalgia factor would be extremely cool here.

But it’s not just about that.

Nash has experience with John Tortorella, something that should never be underestimated. This Blue Jackets team seems like it should be taking the next step forward; maybe an old hero could give them that extra shove?

(It helps that Columbus has relatively solid salary cap flexibility, too.)

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Rangers might not want to enhance their division rival’s chances of winning three in a row, but what if Pittsburgh makes them a great offer?

Pittsburgh would probably need to package a contract or two to make this work (Ian Cole, maybe a Carl Hagelin reunion?), yet that thought might sweeten the pot for the Blueshirts.

Injuries have really been an issue for the Penguins, so Nash would be a nice fit, especially since he’d likely do well in their aggressive offense. Who knows how many shots this core has left, so why not take a big swing with Nash?

Washington Capitals

Bonus points in this case for uniting kindred spirits.

The Capitals put up big numbers in the regular season, only to suffer heartbreak in the playoffs, though the attacks on their character often feel like a bit much.

Rick Nash puts up big numbers in the reg–you know what, you probably get where that is going.

It would be poetic if the Capitals and Nash finally broke through together, much like that time A-Rod actually tore up the MLB playoffs.

St. Louis Blues

Injuries and regression took the bloom off the rose a bit for the Blues – remember when they were one of the hottest teams in the league? – but Nash could really tie the room together, especially if they insist on loading up with that top line of Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, and Vladimir Tarasenko.

Nash – Paul StastnyAlexander Steen could be an extremely expensive and potentially dangerous second line, with plenty of motivation considering that Stastny, like Nash, is in a contract year.

You could probably assign some of that Capitals logic to Nash with St. Louis, too, as they’ve been snakebitten around spring time far too often.

San Jose Sharks

Let’s end this trilogy of torment with the Sharks (granted, San Jose shook off at least some of its baggage in making the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.)

This Sharks team is getting old enough that Nash won’t stick out like a sore thumb, so that’s nice.

Speaking of soreness, the Sharks’ trade decisions may hinge on Joe Thornton‘s knee, and adding Nash would make a lot of sense with a reasonably healthy Jumbo Joe. The two enjoyed some great scoring times together in Switzerland during one of the NHL’s lockouts, so maybe they’d rekindle that magic again? Thornton’s one of the rare expiring contract guys who’s actually making slightly more than Nash at $8M.

Dallas Stars

Consider how imbalanced the Stars’ scoring has been this season, and then imagine what would happen to this team if one or more of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov, and John Klingberg got hurt?

Nash could add some punch to a team that’s making strides under Ken Hitchcock. You might not think that Dallas is a team that needs to worry about its window closing, but consider this: Tyler Seguin’s $5.75M cap hit expires after 2018-19. If they lock him up after that (psst. they should), then they might not have the cash for future rentals.

Why not stream a blockbuster while you still can?

Boston Bruins

Most of these teams would need the Rangers to take on a shaky contract, retain some salary, or both. The B’s rank as one of the tougher nuts to crack in that regard, and I’d wager that they’d probably be a better destination for fellow Rangers trade piece Michael Grabner with all of that in mind.

That said, it would be an interesting fit. During a playoff series, someone might miraculously slow down the locomotive that is the Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronDavid Pastrnak line. If so, a supplemental scorer such as Nash could make a sneaky-impressive Bruins team that much more formidable.

Winnipeg Jets

So, we’re going to name a Canadian team here or there, just in case. As Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos said on Saturday:

“Maybe, just maybe, a guy like Rick Nash would be of interest,” Kypreos said. “I don’t know whether or not that would fit in with where he is in his list of teams that he’d want to go to. But that’s the type of guy I think that Winnipeg would be looking at.”

Beyond the Jets’ legitimate potential for a deep run (or at least a first ever playoff win), imagine how much offense Nash could generate if he landed on a line with Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele? Hey, if Nash waited until closer to the trade deadline, he’d bypass a good chunk of the brutal Winnipeg winter as well.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Winnipeg seems more realistic than Toronto if Nash resists the fishbowl atmosphere of Canadian media coverage. That said, maybe playing for Mike Babcock would make a difference?

Babs loves his veteran forwards, and his heart likely warms for Canadian Olympians, so that’s two boxes Nash checks off.

Again, this one might be far-fetched, yet Nash in a Maple Leafs jersey sounds pretty fun.

Anaheim Ducks

Ignore the Ducks’ youthful, impressive defensemen for a moment and consider their aging veteran forwards. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are both 32, while Ryan Kesler is 33. Much like Nash, these guys have a lot of mileage on them as longtime go-to players.

It’s been an odd duck season for Anaheim, but if they can get it together (and lock up a playoff spot), few teams would be all that eager to face this team in the playoffs. Nash could be that boost they need.

Los Angeles Kings

At least when it comes to forwards, the California teams sure feel a little creaky these days, don’t they?

Much like with the Sharks and Joe Thornton, a flawed Kings team could be a dangerous dark horse candidate if a) they land Nash and b) their injured center – in this case, Jeff Carter – can come back and be at least mostly himself.

Then again, the old guard in L.A. loved going for power forwards in Jarome Iginla and Milan Lucic, and those short-term moves left quite a bit to be desired, so maybe this wouldn’t appeal enough to the Kings.

Philadelphia Flyers

You could put a number of teams in this 12th spot. Maybe the Devils and Rangers would make nice long enough to find a deal? Perhaps the Hurricanes would be proactive and try to fight their way out of purgatory?

Philly might be a little harsh for a streaky scorer like Nash, but look at that current lineup, and imagine it with that little extra “oomph.” Nash could allow the Flyers to move Jakub Voracek back with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. He could fit into that deadly top power play or maybe echo Phil Kessel in Pittsburgh by giving this team a more varied attack.

Despite a frustrating four-game losing streak, the Flyers are still in wild card position as of this writing. GM Ron Hextall has done a masterful job breaking the organization’s old, reckless habits of going after headline-stealing trades and signings. Still, every now and then it actually pays to be bold. They merely need to consult the other team in their state for prime examples.

***

To reiterate, this is not a list of the 12 teams Nash would accept trades to. He still might refuse a trip to the Great White North. He may only want to stay as close to NYC as possible.

That said, it can often be as fun to picture different trade scenarios as it is to watch real ones play out.

What are some other teams that would make sense? And would you even want Nash on your team? Do tell.

NHL.com’s Dan Rosen reasonably throws the Nashville Predators in the mix, too:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

PHT Midseason Report Card: Central Division

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Now that the All-Star break has arrived it’s time to look back at the first half of the 2017-18 NHL season. Our team-by-team report cards will look at the biggest surprises and disappointments for all 31 clubs and what their outlook is for the second half, including whether they should be a trade deadline buyer or seller.

  • Chicago Blackhawks

Season Review: They’ve dealt with Corey Crawford being injured twice and Jeff Glass has been one of the heartwarming stories this season. But sitting last in a notoriously tough Central Division is unfamiliar territory for the Blackhawks. They’ve simply underperformed given the talent they possess. Grade: D-

Biggest Surprise: Alex DeBrincat. The second-round pick in 2016 has been sensational in his rookie season with 17 goals and 32 points in 49 games played. His 17.2 percent shooting percentage is stellar, and he’s defying the (perceived) odds at 5-foot-7, 165 pounds.

Biggest Disappointment: Brent Seabrook has been a healthy scratch and Jonathan Toews is well off point-per-game production and Duncan Keith hasn’t scored a goal since last March. But Chicago’s biggest disappointment is a team effort. They’re simply too inconsistent. Scoring droughts have plagued this team this season and their power play is fourth-worst in the league.

Trade Deadline Strategy: The Blackhawks won’t have to worry about a disappointing first-round exit this year as they’re unlikely to get into the playoffs as it stands. It might be time to give that roster a small detonation. Stan Bowman has worked his genius to keep his team’s competitive in the past. Now he may have to work that genius to get his team back to that.

Second half outlook: The Blackhawks have all the talent to work their way out of the basement in the Central. They’re only four points adrift of a playoff spot, but that can seem like 10 in a division that is as stacked as it is. That success hinges on the health of Corey Crawford, who is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury. Until he’s able to return, things don’t look great.

  • Colorado Avalanche

Season Review: Early on, the Avs season seemed to go as expected. They hit the lowest of lows last season, so some improvement was expected, but to be in a playoff spot at the All-Star break was something anyone would have thought. Of course, 10-game winning streaks are helpful, as is the ridiculous play of Nathan MacKinnon. Grade: B

Biggest Surprise: Mikko Rantanen is a point-per-game player. Nathan MacKinnon is having that breakout season many had been waiting for (and should be up for the Hart Trophy). Alex Kerfoot has had a great rookie campaign. Sam Girard is turning bona fide NHL defenseman. But Jonathan Bernier has been integral to the team’s recent success, highlighted during their 10-game winning streak where Bernier collected nine straight wins. He’s sitting with a .919 save percentage and is looking like the Bernier that played for the 2013-14 Toronto Maple Leafs.

Biggest Disappointment: Matt Duchene is gone, and thus, so is the easy pick here. Some might point to Tyson Jost, but he’s been injured and thus is a little behind where some might have pegged him at the mid-way point. Nail Yakupov’s name could work here, but his career has been a disappointment.

Trade Deadline Strategy: Colorado is a young team that’s still rebuilding. They got a king’s ransom for Matt Duchene. If the Avs keep climbing up in the Division, it’s conceivable that Joe Sakic looks for some depth, but staying the course with a team that’s showing some positive signs should be the focus. The Avs aren’t winning the Cup this year.

Second Half Outlook: This team has found some much-needed chemistry and is gelling as a young squad. That bodes well for a good second half of the season if they can continue. But young teams can have young-team problems. Consistency down the stretch could be an issue and the Avs are by no means a lock for a playoff spot. A 10-game winning streak only got them to the second wildcard spot. The tough part now will be keeping it.

  • Dallas Stars

Season Review: The Stars have been a great home team this season, but have only begun to get things in order on the road, where they stumbled during the first two months of the season. Still, the Stars have worked their way into the first wildcard spot in the Western Conference thanks to improvements in team defense and goaltending.  Grade: C+

Biggest Surprise: John Klingberg is a good defenseman. We knew this coming into the season. But to be in the running for the Norris might have been a stretch back in September. But that’s where Klingberg is at the moment, leading NHL defenseman in points (and sitting second on the Stars, behind Alexander Radulov and ahead of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin).

Biggest Disappointment: This one is easy: Jason Spezza. Spezza is forging a path to a career-worst year in terms of production. Early this month, he was made a healthy scratch, a coach’s decision by Ken Hitchcock stemming then from a five-game spell with no points and low ice time. Factor in that he’s counting $7.5 million toward the cap and the picture becomes even more clear.

Trade Deadline Strategy: Buy if it makes sense, but don’t sell assets. The Stars have a goalie in Ben Bishop and other talents they can build around going forward.

Second half outlook: The Stars play 11 games (including a six-game road trip) away from American Airlines arena in March and April. Given their position at the moment and coupled with their away record, it would appear that will be their biggest test in the second half if they can maintain where they are at the moment.

  • Minnesota Wild

Season Review: Spinning the tires. The Wild could be given a pass after some of the injuries they’ve dealt with – Devan Dubnyk and Zach Parise come to mind. It is a team that finished second in the division with, largely, the same roster, so the talent is there. Grade: D

Biggest surprise: Matt Dumba makes some bone-headed plays. And then he makes some plays that leave you scratching your head, in a good way. He sits only behind Ryan Suter in terms of points and he’s averaging nearly 23 minutes per night. If he keeps it up, he’ll record a career-year in goals and assists.

Biggest disappointment: Marcus Foligno. He’s played better as of late, but that doesn’t excuse a rocky first half that saw him in the press box in December. The 26-year-old was supposed to bring depth to the lineup when the Wild acquired him in a four-player deal on the eve of free agency last year.

Trade Deadline Strategy: So many teams on the cusp of a playoff spot in this division that it’s hard to sort out which teams should buy and which should sell. The Wild have the talent to be much better than they are. We saw that last season. Perhaps a depth player or two on the cheap would help.

Second half outlook: Getting better away would certainly help. The Wild are one of four teams tied on 57 points and tied for the second wildcard spot, with Colorado holding the tiebreaker at the moment). The Wild have eight home games in February, which bodes well given their 17-4-4 record at Xcel Energy Center. But they have two big road games to start the month in Dallas and St. Louis and play Colorado twice in March. Those will be pivotal. The Wild are getting healthy and that could spell trouble for other teams around them on the bubble.

  • Nashville Predators

Season Review: The Stanley Cup finalists from last year have picked up where they left off, currently trailing the Winnipeg Jets by one point for tops in the division. They’re playing great at home (16-4-3) and have picked up points in 17 of 24 road games (13-7-4), a drastic change from this team a year ago. They have Pekka Rinne playing great along with the litany of talent in front of him, which is scoring at a better pace than last season. Grade: A-

Biggest Surprise: Kevin Fiala had 16 points in his rookie season last year. This year, he’s nearly doubled that in eight fewer games. The addition of Kyle Turris has certainly helped, making that line (with Craig Smith) a potent option that’s providing a secondary scoring threat. Fiala’s season including a nine-game point streak in December.

Biggest Disappointment: Perhaps the only disappointment on this Preds team is that Ryan Ellis has only been limited to nine games after offseason knee surgery. He returned earlier this month.

Trade Deadline Strategy: Bolster. The Preds Stanley Cup window is still wide open. Perhaps another player for bottom six depth. Not much needed on a team this good.

Second half outlook: More of the same. The Preds have been solid against their own division with a 10-3-2 record and just need to stay the course.

  • St. Louis Blues

Season Review: Man, did this team every navigate some tough injury problems to start the season, something that speaks to the depth in St. Louis.  Grade: B-.

Biggest Surprise: Brayden Schenn has been nothing short of spectacular since getting traded last year. Schenn, currently at the NHL All-Star Game, leads the Blues with 50 points and is tied for the team lead with 21 goals. Schenn hit 59 points in 80 games a couple years back. He looks set to smash that career-high.

Biggest Disappointment: The team waived Magnus Paajarvi this week, so scratch that idea. Jake Allen deserves a mention. Carter Hutton is sitting on a .943 save percentage this season while Allen is only sporting a .909. Hutton is the backup and producing numbers that Blues’ fans hoped Allen would. Also, where is Alexander Steen?

Trade Deadline Strategy: With all their injury problems, a couple of depth players wouldn’t hurt just in case.

Second half outlook: Jaden Schwartz’s return after missing two months is a huge boon for the Blues. Schwartz had 35 points in 30 games before busting his ankle. Now, with the line of Schenn, Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko back together, domination could ensue once again.

  • Winnipeg Jets

Season Review: The best team heading in the to All-Star break. Yes, the Winnipeg Jets. What’s got them there? Great goaltending, for starters. A season worthy of a Hart Trophy nod for Blake Wheeler as well. And they’re just finding ways to win games, especially ones that, in the past, they would find ways to lose. Grade: A

Biggest Surprise: Undoubtedly Connor Hellebuyck. The Jets went out and got what they thought would be their No. 1 netminder in Steve Mason during free agency. Yeah. Not in Hellebuyck’s house. The second-year starter is in the Vezina conversation and is at the NHL All-Star Game along with Pekka Rinne. Who in Winnipeg thought the former would be the same conversation as the latter at the end of last season?

Biggest Disappointment: Dustin Byfuglien. It took him nearly half the season to score his first goal and has just two at the All-Star break. Couple that with some interesting defensive decisions and you have the makings of one of his worst seasons of his career, statistically speaking and otherwise.

Trade Deadline Strategy: Buy. The Jets have a legitimate shot at making a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs. They seemingly have all the tools: a rededication to team defense, a high-scoring offense, great netminding and one of the best power plays in the league. They could probably use some depth on their fourth line and perhaps a seventh defenseman with playoff experience.

Second half outlook: Keep on keeping on. The Jets haven’t strung together a big losing streak this season, something that’s derailed them in the past. They basically play all of February at home at Bell MTS Place, which has become a fortress for them this season. The Jets just need to keep doing what got them to the summit of the division in the second half. Oh, and they’ll get Mark Scheifele back sometime next month. 

Previous: Atlantic Division / Metropolitan Division

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

NHL Power Rankings: Here come the Flames

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Expectations were high for the Calgary Flames entering this season.

They have a promising young core of talent centered around Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Dougie Hamilton, then spent a bunch of money to bring in Travis Hamonic and Mike Smith over the summer. Hamonic, along with Hamilton, Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie seemed to give them one of the better defensive units in the NHL (at least as far as the top-four is concerned) and Smith was expected to solidify a goaltending position that had been a pretty big sore spot the past couple of years.

When we last checked in with our power rankings two weeks ago the Flames were looking like one of the bigger disappointments in the league. They were on the outside of the playoff picture and looking like they were running out of time to make a big move in the standings.

But a six-game winning streak can change a lot.

Entering the week the Flames find themselves in the No. 2 spot in the Pacific Division and have built a four-point cushion over the first non-playoff teams in the West. One of those teams (San Jose) still has four games in hand on them, but the Flames are finally starting to resemble the team they were expected to be over the summer. They are 9-2-1 in their past 11 games.

Gaudreau is blossoming into a superstar while Smith has been on a roll in net over the past few weeks.

They made one of the biggest jumps in this week’s rankings.

Here is a look at where everyone else falls this week.

The Elites

1. Tampa Bay Lightning — Losing Victor Hedman for 3-6 weeks is going to hurt in the short-term, but the Lightning have their bye week for the first week of that timetable and have given themselves a huge cushion in the standings. They have the offense and goaltender to withstand that loss for a couple of weeks.

2. Vegas Golden Knights — Yes. Somehow Vegas gets included in the elites now, too. I only saw somehow because this story is still insane. An expansion team. A legitimate Stanley Cup contender more than halfway through the season. Madness. Entering Monday the Golden Knights are 14-1-2 in their previous 17 games, a stretch that includes games against Anaheim, Nashville (twice), Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Chicago, Los Angeles, Toronto, St. Louis and Washington. They are going to get a big test here with a four-game road trip including games against Nashville and Tampa Bay.

The Rest Of The Best

3. Washington Capitals — After losing a lot this offseason it was supposed to be a step back this season. That step back still has them on pace for 109 points and another Metropolitan Division title. As the NHL standings sit today, their reward for that would be a first-round matchup against … the Pittsburgh Penguins.

4. Boston Bruins — Given the offseason seasons for Mathew Barzal and Brock Boeser it is going to be tough for him to get a lot of attention in the Calder Trophy race, but Charlie McAvoy has been just as impactful as both. If not more impactful.

5. Nashville Predators — P.K. Subban should be one of the leaders in the clubhouse for the Norris Trophy at this point. His defensive play right now is laughably underrated.

6. Winnipeg Jets — It is really impressive how much offensive talent the Jets have, and how much of it is still young. Kyle Connor is scoring at a 30-goal pace over 82 games as a 20-year-old rookie and nobody even really mentions him much. If the goaltending can hold it together they will be a fascinating team to watch.

7. Los Angeles Kings — Jonathan Quick has at times been a little overrated in his career, but his performance this season has matched the reputation he has built. It’s almost as if he’s been a little underrated this year.

Just A Step Below

8. St. Louis Blues — The Blues need more from Jake Allen. A lot more. Carter Hutton has been really strong in a backup role this season and it’s probably time to give him a few more starts and ride the hot hand.

9. Calgary Flames — What a difference a couple of weeks can make in a team’s outlook for the season.

10. Columbus Blue Jackets — Jack Johnson wants a trade, but it is hard to see him bringing much of a return. Not only because every team knows he wants out, but because he is probably best suited as a third-pairing defenseman. There doesn’t seem to be a lot for Columbus to gain here and it’s hard to see Johnson getting more playing time on a team that will give him a better chance to win than Columbus will.

11. New Jersey Devils — They enter the week on a six-game losing streak. Time to panic, or just a small speed bump during  a long season full of peaks and valleys? They are still scoring goals so that is a good sign they can turn things around again.

12. Toronto Maple Leafs — They still have flaws, but it is amazing they are a top-five team in goals scored while getting only 14 goals from William Nylander and Mitch Marnrer and with Auston Matthews missing 10 games. Crazy depth up front.

13. Colorado Avalanche — One of the hottest teams in the NHL at the moment. Six game winning streak and 11-3-1 in their past 15 games. They are currently on the outside of the playoff picture, but they are only two points back and have two games in hand on the team they are chasing.

The Middle Ground

14. Pittsburgh Penguins — The Penguins are really on to something with this Sidney Crosby, Daniel Sprong, Dominik Simon line. It has also added a lot more balance to their forward lines. With Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel all rolling now the Penguins look like the Penguins again.

15. Dallas Stars — Alexander Radulov isn’t getting enough attention this season. He is on track for a career year offensively, is driving possession, and has generally been pretty outstanding for the Stars.

16. San Jose Sharks — Still having a hard time getting a feel for the Sharks. They are not bad, they are not really anything special, they are currently on the outside of the playoff picture … but they also have only played in 41 games and have multiple games in hand on everyone. They are not out of it by any stretch.

17. Minnesota Wild — Eric Staal‘s resurgence in Minnesota the past two years has been a pretty stunning development. He looked like he was done toward the end of his time in Carolina.

18. Philadelphia Flyers — Sean Couturier is on pace for 47 goals while playing dominant, shutdown defense. The goal scoring might end up being a bit of an outlier in his career (he is not a 19 percent shooter every year) but it is still a remarkable season for him.

19. New York Rangers — They have always been dependent on Henrik Lundqvist but right now they are taking that to an entirely new level. The defensive strategy just seems to be “pray that Lundqvist stops everything.”

20. Chicago Blackhawks — Like the trade for Anthony Duclair. Fresh start on a talented team might be good for him, and the Blackhawks could certainly use another young forward to fly around and create offense. But is the defense good enough to get them in the playoffs, especially with Corey Crawford‘s status still in question?

21. Anaheim Ducks — If they get healthy — and stay healthy — they could still be a team to watch out for in the second half. As of Monday they are two points back of a playoff spot. The challenge will be overcoming the five teams ahead of them at the moment.

22. Carolina Hurricanes — Just when it looked like they were ready to make a big move in the East they dropped six out of eight. Still a lot of intriguing talent and the new owner seems like he is fired up and can bring plenty of excitement. There is a core here you can win with.

23. New York Islanders — They might not make the playoffs, they still have to re-sign John Tavares and Josh Bailey, but Mathew Barzal looks dynamite. They fall so low because they are really cold right now and have lost a lot of ground in a short period of time. Still very much in the playoff race, but trending in the wrong direction.

Better Luck Next Season

24. Detroit Red Wings — They enter the week 5-2-0 over their past seven games, trying to show some signs of live. That is good news. The bad news: Even with that nice little run they are still probably out of the playoff race.

25. Florida Panthers — Aleksander Barkov got a much deserved spot on the Atlantic Division All-Star team. A true bright spot for the Panthers and a foundational player to build around for a long, long time.

26. Edmonton Oilers — They won two in a row heading into the bye week but the mountain standing in front of them for a playoff spot is still a massive one.

27. Montreal Canadiens — Don’t look now but Max Pacioretty is starting to turn it around. He has points in four consecutive games, including three straight with a goal.

28. Vancouver Canucks — It’s still the Brock Boeser show in Vancouver.

29. Ottawa Senators — After scoring at least 15 goals in each of the past four seasons Erik Karlsson has only three goals in 37 games this season. That is by far the worst goal-scoring pace of his NHL career. The only other time it was that low was his rookie season when he only played in 60 games as a 19-year-old.

30. Buffalo Sabres — The big thing worth watching now is where does Evander Kane end up before the trade deadline?

31. Arizona Coyotes — The Coyotes are on track to be one of the worst teams in recent memory. Only 27 points through 45 games and a minus-55 goal differential.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

The Buzzer: Bergeron’s big night, Sens win again, Avalanche in a playoff spot

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Players of the Night: 

Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins: Bergeron came into Saturday three points shy of 700 for his NHL career. He reached that mark in the first period, scoring twice and adding an assist as the Bruins put up five against the Carolina Hurricanes. He then put his stamp on the night, burying his hat trick goal in the second frame for good measure. Not bad, Patrice. Not bad.

Ryan Dzingel (and the rest of the Ottawa Senators, really): Dzingel had two goals in the game, giving him four over the past three games. Matt Duchene scored for the third time in two games and the Senators took down the best team in the NHL, a 6-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning after coming from behind for a 6-5 win on Friday night. Not too shabby on the back to back. The Sens blew a three-goal lead in this one as well.

Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov, Dallas Stars: The Dallas Duo each had three points as the Stars eased past the Edmonton Oilers 5-1.

Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers: Not only did he score a but goal, Giroux had three points to help the Flyers to a 6-3 defeat of the St. Louis Blues in Brayden Schenn‘s return to Philly.

Highlights of the Night:

It’s never too late to score a game-winner:

Two-on-one. Seguin and Radulov. Only one way this ends:

No video here, because this one doesn’t need any:

Factoids of the Night:

Henrik Lundqvist moved into eighth on the all-time win list with this save on a point-blank clapper in the shootout.

MISC:

Scores:

Flyers 6, Blues 3

Stars 5, Oilers 1

Bruins 7, Hurricanes 1

Maple Leafs 3, Canucks 2 (SO)

Senators 6, Lightning 3

Rangers 2, Coyotes 1

Avalanche 7, Wild 2

Flames 3, Ducks 2

Predators 4, Kings 3


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck