Mike Green

Mrazek, Mantha help Red Wings down Blackhawks

2 Comments

You kind of get the feeling that teams heading onto their mandatory week off would like to start forgoing that last game before the break.

The Winnipeg Jets lost 4-1 in the game they failed to show up to on Saturday. On Friday, the Columbus Blue Jackets got trounced 5-2 in the game before they got a break.

And on Sunday, the Chicago Blackhawks seemed checked out in a 4-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings, a team who played 24 hours earlier and lost handily 4-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Hell, even Jeff Glass couldn’t save the Blackhawks, who got outworked from what seemed like the opening puck drop.

Dylan Larkin gave the Red Wings a 1-0 lead just over four minutes into the first period.

Andreas Athanasiou showed his speed as he worked past Blackhawks’ defenders down low, before sliding a pass out to Larkin, who was perched in the slot.

Larkin made no mistake, given the opportunity, as he notched his seventh of the season.

Mike Green showed why he was named an NHL all-star this past week for the Red Wings second goal, which doubled their advantage just over two minutes later.

Gustav Nyquist gained the Blackhawks’ zone and dropped a pass to Anthony Mantha, who took one look to Green and fed him a cross-ice pass that Green one-timed past and outstretched Glass.

It was Green’s 25th point of the season, and couple with his all-star nod, Green, who is set to become a free agent in the offseason, keeps building a case for himself to be traded to a contender when the deadline comes around.

Mantha grabbed his second point of the game in the third period as he joined the rush off the bench.

Mantha let Henrik Zetterberg know he was flying into the zone starting from the time he jumped onto the ice, and Zetterberg dropped the puck to Mantha, allowing for a nice wrist shot that beat Glass high for a 3-0 lead.

Tyler Bertuzzi, the nephew of Todd who came into the game without his first-career NHL goal, checked that item off his to-do list later in the period.

Bertuzzi parked himself in front of Glass’s doorstep and whacked home a rebound after Nick Jensen‘s shot from the slot was saved.

Meanwhile, Petr Mrazek kept things tidy in the crease for the Red Wings, stopping all 27 shots he faced.

The Blackhawks didn’t test him all that much, but Mrazek, who has struggled this season, turned aside 12 third-period shots en route to the win.


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

Report: Blue Jackets’ Jack Johnson requests trade

Getty Images
13 Comments

Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson has requested a trade, according to Aaron Portzline of The Athletic.

The 31-year-old Johnson, who was traded from the Los Angeles Kings to Columbus six years ago next month, had been one of the team’s more relied-upon defenders, but this year things changed. He was leap-frogged on the depth chart and saw his minutes drop from the nearly 25 per night to 19:25. During Thursday’s loss to the Buffalo Sabres, he played just 13:43, his lowest of the the 2017-18 NHL season.

All parties involved — Johnson, his agent, Pat Brisson, and Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen — declined comment.

So why now? Johnson, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, isn’t unhappy, per Portzline, and would not have asked out if he was signed beyond this season.

From The Athletic:

But Johnson, who turns 31 on Saturday, is feeling enormous pressure to sign a multiyear contract when he hits unrestricted free agency July 1.

His well-publicized bankruptcy four years ago has cut sharply into his life savings, such that Johnson will need his next contract — and perhaps another one after that — to set up him and his family for the years after his career.

“He doesn’t have the nest egg that most 12-year NHL veterans would have, obviously,” the source said.

Per the bankruptcy settler, Johnson was granted $246,000 for “living expenses” this season and last. Over the next three years, he’ll keep $277,050.50 until the creditors are satisfied. But here’s where his next contract comes into play. Four of his creditors will take 10 percent of his future earnings if the next contract he signs is more than $4.5 million over a three-year span, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

A better situation coupled with better play would help Johnson build that “nest egg” through free agency this summer.

Who could Johnson help? Well, some team looking to help their depth might be interested, and while the blue liners is famous for his poor career possession stats, he can chip in offensively. In 45 games this season, he has two goals and seven points. He scored 11 goals over the last two seasons.

There are a number of other defenseman out there who could better serve teams this season as rentals — Mike Green, Cody Franson, to name two — but considering Johnson’s situation and play, he might be able to be had on the cheap.

UPDATE: Here’s what Kekalainen had to say about the report, via the Columbus Dispatch:

“It’s the same with him as anyone else on our team: We’ll make a trade if and when we have something that makes sense for the Blue Jackets.”

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

NHL reveals 2018 All-Star Game rosters; who missed out?

66 Comments

The NHL revealed on Wednesday the full rosters for the 2018 NHL All-Star Game, which will take place Jan. 27-28 at Amalie Arena in Tampa.

It will be the second time the city has hosted the event and first time under the 3-on-3 tournament format. Last week, the league announced the four division captains who will represent the Atlantic, Metropolitan, Central and Pacific Divisions and be in charge of filling out the participants in the Skills Competition.

[Pass or Fail: 2018 NHL All-Star Game jerseys]

Here’s who will will be joining Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin, P.K. Subban and Connor McDavid in sunny Tampa, Florida. Keep in mind that you can be sure there will be some injury replacements between now and All-Star Weekend.

ATLANTIC DIVISION
Head coach: Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning (C)
F Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
F Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
F Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
F Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
D Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
D Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
D Mike Green, Detroit Red Wings
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
G Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

• You knew this team was going to be stacked with some host city boys, and four Lightning players plus the head coach will dominate the love of the Amalie Arena crowd. There’s also a 100 percent chance that Stamkos, Kucherov, Hedman and Vasilevskiy will start the first semifinal.

Potential injury replacements: Patrice Bergeron, Mark Stone, Morgan Rielly, Mikhail Sergachev, Charlie McAvoy, Frederik Andersen, Tuukka Rask

METROPOLITAN DIVISION
Head coach: Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals
F Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals (C)
F Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils
F Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
F Josh Bailey, New York Islanders
F John Tavares, New York Islanders
F Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
D Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets
D Noah Hanifin, Carolina Hurricanes
D Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
G Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
G Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

• So much for Crosby saying he’s not having an All-Star season. Should he end up going, it will be only the Penguins captain’s third appearance in the event. Good to see the Islanders finally having someone for Tavares to tag along with during All-Star Weekend.

Potential injury replacements: Anders Lee, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Phil Kessel, John Carlson, Shayne Gostisbehere, Sergei Bobrovsky, Cory Schneider

Getty Images

CENTRAL DIVISION
Head coach: Peter Laviolette, Nashville Predators
F Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
F Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
F Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
F Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues
F Eric Staal, Minnesota Wild
F Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
D P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators (C)
D Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
D John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
G Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
G Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets

• Great to see Schenn rep the Blues with the season he’s having. Also great to see Staal in an All-Star Game for the first time since 2011 when he captained Team Staal in Carolina.

Potential injury replacements: Vladimir Tarasenko,  Jamie Benn, Patrik Laine, Ryan Suter, Roman Josi, Ben Bishop, Corey Crawford (if healthy by then)

PACIFC DIVISION
Head coach: Gerard Gallant, Vegas Golden Knights
F Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers (C)
F Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
F Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
F James Neal, Vegas Golden Knights
F Rickard Rakell, Anaheim Ducks
F Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
D Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
D Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
G Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
G Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights

• Really surprised by the two Vegas picks. Only Boeser has has many goals among Pacific Division players as William Karlsson (22). Then you have Jonathan Marchessault, who’s tied for fourth-best in the division with Boeser in points (40).

Potential injury replacements: Marchessault, Karlsson, Sean Monahan, Mark Giordano, Jake MuzzinMike Smith, John Gibson

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy

NHL All-Star Game: PHT picks the rosters

NHL
11 Comments

The 2018 NHL All-Star rosters will be revealed on Wednesday. Last week, the league announced that Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin, P.K. Subban and Connor McDavid will captain their respective divisions during the 3-on-3 tournament later this month at Amalie Arena in Tampa.

While we wait and see who will be enjoying a sunny, warm weekend in late January, we here at PHT have picked our own All-Star rosters. Keep in mind, of course, that the NHL likes to have every team represented, so there are going to be some pretty decent snubs on these rosters while picking six forwards, three defensemen and two goalie for every division.

SEAN LEAHY

ATLANTIC
F Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
F Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
F Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
F Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
D Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
D Mike Green, Detroit Red Wings
D Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
G Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

Toughest snubs: David Pastrnak, Frederik Andersen

METROPOLITAN
F Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
F Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
F Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins
F John Tavares, New York Islanders
F Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils
F Anders Lee, New York Islanders
D Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers
D Noah Hanifin, Carolina Hurricanes
D John Carlson, Washington Capitals
G Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
G Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

Toughest snubs: Josh Bailey, Sean Couturier

CENTRAL
F Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
F Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues
F Eric Staal, Minnesota Wild
F Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
F Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
F Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
D P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators
D John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
D Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
G Connor Hellebuyuck, Winnipeg Jets
G Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

Toughest snubs: Jamie Benn, Roman Josi

PACIFIC
F Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
F Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
F Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
F Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
F Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights
F William Karlsson, Vegas Golden Knights
D Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
D Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
G Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
G John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks

Toughest snubs: Dustin Brown, Clayton Keller

Getty Images

JAMES O’BRIEN

ATLANTIC
F Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
F Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
F Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers
F Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
D Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
D Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
D Mike Green, Detroit Red Wings
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
G Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

Toughest snubs: Patrice Bergeron, Mark Stone, Charlie McAvoy, Morgan Rielly, Tuukka Rask, Frederik Andersen

METROPOLITAN
F Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
F Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
F Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils
F John Tavares, New York Islanders
F Josh Bailey, New York Islanders
F Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins
D John Carlson, Washington Capitals
D Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets
D Noah Hanifin, Carolina Hurricanes
G Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
G Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

Toughest snubs: Sidney Crosby, Jakub Voracek, Jaccob Slavin, Zach Werenski, Braden Holtby, Cory Schneider

CENTRAL
F Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
F Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
F Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
F Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues
F Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
F Eric Staal, Minnesota Wild
D P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators
D John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
D Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
G Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
G Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks

Toughest snubs: Patrick Kane, Jamie Benn, Tyson Barrie, Ryan Suter, Pekka Rinne

PACIFIC
F Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
F Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
F Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
F Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
F Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes
F Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights
D Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
D Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
D Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames
G Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
G John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks

Toughest snubs: William Karlsson, Sean Monahan, Jake Muzzin, Mike Smith

Getty Images

SCOTT BILLECK

ATLANTIC
F Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
F Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
F Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
F Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings
D Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens
D Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
D Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
G Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

Toughest snubs: Brad Marchand, Mark Stone, Charlie McAvoy, Morgan Rielly

METROPOLITAN
F Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
F Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
F Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
F Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils
F John Tavares, New York Islanders
F Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes
D John Carlson, Washington Capitals
D Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets
D Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers
G Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
G Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

Toughest snubs: Phil Kessel, Josh Bailey, Jaccob Slavin, Zach Werenski, Braden Holtby, Cory Schneider

CENTRAL
F Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
F Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
F Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets
F Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues
F Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
F Eric Staal, Minnesota Wild
D P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators
D John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
D Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
G Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
G Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks

Toughest snubs: Patrick Kane, Vladimir Tarasenko, Patrik Laine, Ryan Suter, Pekka Rinne

PACIFIC
F Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
F Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
F Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
F Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
F Rickard Rakell, Anaheim Ducks
F Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights
D Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
D Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
G Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
G Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights

Toughest snubs: Clayton Keller, William Karlsson, Josh Manson, Mike Smith, John Gibson

Getty Images

JOEY ALFIERI

ATLANTIC
F Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
F Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
F Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
F Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
D Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
D Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens
D Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
G Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

Toughest snubs: Mark Stone, Evander Kane, Jonathan Huberdeau, David Pastrnak, Morgan Rielly

METROPOLITAN
F Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
F Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
F John Tavares, New York Islanders
F Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils
F Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
F Josh Bailey, New York Islanders
D John Carlson, Washington Capitals
D Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets
D Noah Hanifin, Carolina Hurricanes
G Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
G Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

Toughest snubs: Jakub Voracek, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin, Braden Holtby

CENTRAL
F Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
F Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues
F Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
F Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
F Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
F Eric Staal, Minnesota Wild
D P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators
D John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
D Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
G Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks
G Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets

Toughest snubs: Vladimir Tarasenko, Mikko Rantanen, Jamie Benn, Pekka Rinne

PACIFIC
F Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
F Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
F Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
F Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
F Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights
F Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
D Drew Droughty, Los Angeles Kings
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
D Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
G Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
G Mike Smith, Calgary Flames

Toughest snubs: Sean Monahan, William Karlsson, Jake Muzzin

Getty Images

ADAM GRETZ

ATLANTIC
F Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
F Mark Stone, Ottawa Senators
F Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
F Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers
D Mike Green, Detroit Red Wings
D Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
D Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lighting
G Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

Toughest snubs: Patrice Bergeron, Jack Eichel

METROPOLITAN
F Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
F John Tavares, New York Islanders
F Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
F Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins
F Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils
F Josh Bailey, New York Islanders
D John Carlson, Washington Capitals
D Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets
D Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers
G Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
G Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

Toughest snubs: Jakub Voracek, Sidney Crosby

CENTRAL
F Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
F Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
F Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
F Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
F Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
F Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues
D P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators
D John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
D Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild
G Connor Hellebucyk, Winnipeg Jets
G Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

Toughest snubs: Jamie Benn, Patrik Laine

PACIFIC
F Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
F Johnny Gaudreau, Clgary Flames
F Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
F Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
F Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights
F Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes
D Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
D Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
D Josh Manson, Anaheim Ducks
G Jonathan Quick, Los Angles Kings
G John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks

Toughest snubs: William Karlsson, Logan Couture

NHL Power Rankings: Bruins contenders again

Getty
6 Comments

If you were starting to get worried that sports fans in Boston didn’t have enough good things to be happy about lately I am here to bring you some good news: Their hockey team is looking like a legitimate contender again. Especially now that they are healthy.

The Bruins enter play on Tuesday on a 15-3-2 run over their past 20 games, are one of the best possession teams in hockey, and have three of the best forwards in the league (Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak) at the top of their lineup to drive the offense.

One of biggest developments though are the fact they have rebuilt their defense over the past couple of years with an infusion of young talent, including one of the league’s top rookies in Charlie McAvoy. He is not only playing more than 23 minutes per game, but is also playing them at an extremely high level. Once the strength of their roster, the Bruins defense took a significant hit in recent years due to age, the salary cap, and some trades that depleted their depth. With Torey Krug taking a big step forward and the development of McAvoy and Brandon Carlo that unit is once again a formidable one for a contender.

Then there is the resurgence of starting goaltender Tuukka Rask.

It’s not that Rask was necessarily bad the past two seasons, but he wasn’t really the same player we saw when he was helping lead the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Final in 2013 and was one of the top goalies in the league. After posting some league average numbers the past two seasons Rask is back to performing like one of the top goalies in the league and has been nearly unbeatable during the Bruins’ recent hot streak.

Entering play on Tuesday he is 10-0-1 in his past 11 decisions, a stretch where he has allowed just 15 goals. He has allowed more than two goals just once during that stretch and more than one goal just four times.

The Bruins crack the top-five in our power rankings this week.

Let us check in and see where everyone else fits in.

The Best Of The Best

1. Tampa Bay Lightning — The Lightning are running away with the top spot in the Eastern Conference. They enter Tuesday with a seven-point lead over the Capitals and have still played two fewer games. What is not to love about this team right now? They deserve their own category at the moment.

The Elites

2. Vegas Golden Knights — At this point they are not just the best expansion team in NHL history, they are on their way to becoming the best expansion team in any of the four major sports. Another long winning streak, 9-0-1 in their past 10 games. Simply the best NHL story in decades.

3. Washington Capitals — Here come the Capitals. After winning just 10 of their first 20 games they have stormed back over the next 20 by going 14-4-2. They enter Tuesday a point ahead of the Devils in the top spot in the Metropolitan Division.

4. New Jersey Devils — If it wasn’t for what Vegas is doing these guys would probably be the biggest surprise in the league this season. The biggest individual player surprise? Brian Gibbons is tied for the team lead in goals at the moment.

5. Boston Bruins — Starting to look like a contender for all of the reasons mentioned above.

6. Los Angeles Kings — Still having a great season but have cooled off a bit since we last checked in on the power rankings. The top of the roster is great, but still some questions about the bottom half.

The Strong Contenders

7. Nashville Predators — Their depth is going to be tested for a bit here without Filip Forsberg. He was on pace for another 30-goal season before he landed on injured reserve.

8. Winnipeg Jets — I feel like Patrik Laine isn’t getting enough attention this season. He is on pace for 37 goals and if he gets there would have two 35-goal seasons before his age 20 season in the NHL. That has only been done by four players in NHL history: Brian Bellows, Jimmy Carson, Sidney Crosby and Dale Hawerchuk.

9. St. Louis Blues — They have hit their first slump of the season, winning just three of their past 10 games.  Not time to panic yet. It happens over the course of an 82-game season.

The Rest Of The Best

10. New York Rangers — They don’t always look great, but they keep stacking up points. Their upcoming schedule though is absolutely brutal and is going to be a huge test.

11. Toronto Maple Leafs — We’re back the wild, high-scoring games that have to be driving Mike Babcock crazy. Their recent road trip was not particularly kind to them, but they get a lot of home cooking over the next few weeks.

12. Columbus Blue Jackets — They have given up at least four goals in six of their past 10 games, including five games where they have surrendered at least five. Not what we are used to seeing from this team the past couple of seasons.

The Middle Ground

13. San Jose Sharks — Joe Pavelski is on pace for what would be (on a per-game basis) the worst goal-scoring season of his career. Shot volume has taken a bit of a dip, but not as big as the drop in shooting percentage. Little bit of bad luck at play? If that corrects itself could be a huge development or the Sharks in the second half.

14. Carolina Hurricanes — They are right on the playoff bubble with what is, once again, one of the worst team save percentages in the NHL. How does this keep happening every single season no matter who the goalie is? They are so, so, so close. It is almost painful how close they are.

15. New York Islanders — Josh Bailey is on pace for more than 100 points. This probably is not getting the attention it deserves.

16. Dallas Stars — Very hot and cold team. Still should probably expect more given what the top of their roster looks like and how many big moves they make every summer.

17. Minnesota Wild — They are finally getting Zach Parise back. Getting him back healthy, as well as Nino Neiderreiter, could make this a interesting team. They have hung around despite those two major injuries.

18. Chicago Blackhawks — Corey Crawford‘s injury problems are starting to become a concern, especially as the team has only won two games this season with him out of the lineup.

19. Philadelphia Flyers — Very quietly Claude Giroux is on pace for what would be a career high in points. His career high was 93 points (in 77 games) in 2011-12. He is currently on track for 99 if he is able to play in all 82 games this season (and maintain this same pace).

Running Out Of Time To Make A Move

20. Florida Panthers — The Panthers have won five in a row and are trying to make a little bit of a move in the Eastern Conference. But is that winning streak a case of too little, too late? Even with it they are still five points out of a playoff spot with four teams ahead of them.

21. Anaheim Ducks — Getting their centers back healthy might make a pretty big difference. They have won four out of five and are, as of Tuesday, back into a playoff position.

22. Calgary Flames — Johnny Gaudreau is amazing but this really is not the way the Flames envisioned this season going, especially after their big offseason moves.

23. Colorado Avalanche — Exciting offense plus bad defense and goaltending can at least make for some fun hockey. If you’re going to miss the playoffs again you should at least be entertaining. Nathan MacKinnon alone has been worth the price of admission this season.

24. Pittsburgh Penguins — The “played a lot of hockey the past two years” excuse is starting to get old. It is simply a flawed team that has too many empty roster spots (like, for example, the entire fourth line and a big part of the third line) at the moment. Out of their 13 games in December they only won two of them in regulation.

25. Edmonton Oilers — They showed some signs of life with a four-game winning streak in mid-December but then followed it up with a three-game losing streak. That gap between them and a playoff spot really is not getting any smaller.

Not Too Early To Start Looking To Next Season

26. Detroit Red Wings — At this point it’s just a matter of watching to see when — or if — they start making trades. Mike Green would probably be an attractive player. Could they find a taker for Jimmy Howard?

27. Montreal Canadiens — Don’t trade Max Pacioretty at his lowest value. Don’t trade Max Pacioretty at his lowest value. Don’t trade Max Pacioretty at his lowest value. Don’t trade Max Pacioretty at his lowest value. Don’t trade Max Pacioretty at his lowest value. Don’t trade Max Pacioretty at his lowest value. Don’t trade Max Pacioretty at his lowest value. Don’t trade Max Pacioretty at his lowest value.

28. Vancouver Canucks — It was fun for a little bit in Vancouver this season, but it is just not their time yet.

29. Buffalo Sabres — Hey, at least the Bills are going to the playoffs!

30. Ottawa Senators —  Since starting the season 8-3-5 the Senators have gone 4-14-3 and completely fallen apart. Things are looking grim.

31. Arizona Coyotes — Tough situation. Extremely young team that has some talent that you should be excited about but is just overmatched on most nights.

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.