When we talk about the top Stanley Cup contenders in the Western Conference the first team that comes to mind would have to be the Nashville Predators. They were in the Stanley Cup Final a year ago, made significant additions to the roster, and are still in a position to make at least one more this week before the NHL trade deadline.
The expansion Vegas Golden Knights, currently the top team in the West, also have to be in that conversation as well. They have a great offense, strong goaltending, and seem to have that intangible chip on the shoulder with something to prove.
But after that who do we have next?
Well, it might just have to be the Winnipeg Jets thanks in large part to an offense that has become ridiculously good in a short period of time. After finishing sixth in the league in goals a season ago, the Jets have come back this season and entering play on Monday are third in the league in goals per game.
Now that Mark Scheifele is back in the lineup that are clicking on all cylinders.
Entering the week they have the top spot in the Central Division (though Nashville is only two points back with two games still in hand) and are just two points back of Vegas for the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference.
This is an organization that is still searching for its first ever postseason victory, and how well Connor Hellebuyck holds up in net will determine how many wins they will be able to get in the playoffs once they get there, but this offense is going to give them a chance against anybody.
They reach the No. 3 spot in this week’s power rankings.
Let us take a look at where everyone else sits this week.
1. Boston Bruins — They were blown out by Vancouver recently but that is just a small blip on the radar. They are still 20-3-3 in their past 26 games.
2. Vegas Golden Knights — Entering play on Monday the Vegas Golden Knights have the best points percentage in the NHL. That means they are on track to win the Presidents’ Trophy. In their first season.
3. Winnipeg Jets — They are a fun team to watch. The rebuild has been slow, but it is finally paying off.
4. Nashville Predators — They have to be considered one of the top favorites in the NHL at this point and you have to assume they are going to make a big addition before the trade deadline. Rick Nash seems perfect.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning — With four losses in their past seven games that qualifies as a little bit of a slump. Still not much to worry about big picture. This team is legit. Slumps like this happen over 82 games.
The Rest Of The Contenders
7. Toronto Maple Leafs — They lost four games in a row in mid-January. Since then they are 11-4-0 and scoring a ton of goals. They are never boring.
8. Dallas Stars — Remember just a couple of years ago how their games were just defense optional goal scoring surges? The Stars are fifth in the NHL in goals against this season. The Ken Hitchcock effect.
10. Washington Capitals — The results are there, but the more I watch them the more doubts I have about them. Still very good. Still a dangerous team. Just not sure about them.
All Of These Teams Seem The Same
11. San Jose Sharks — Have to give the Sharks a lot of credit for getting through some pretty significant injuries and still finding ways to score goals and win. Not easy to be without a player like Joe Thornton.
12. New Jersey Devils — Just when it looked like they were in danger of really falling out of the playoff race they go on a four-game winning streak. Taylor Hall is making a strong MVP argument for himself.
13. St. Louis Blues — A three-game losing streak, as well as a surging Dallas team, has pushed the Blues back into a Wild Card spot and a little closer to the playoff bubble. They are still in pretty good shape so concern shouldn’t be too high. Yet.
14. Minnesota Wild — Eric Staal is quietly having a better season this year than he did last year. His performance last year was completely unexpected, too. If they make the playoffs he will be a big reason why.
15. Calgary Flames — Along with the Kings and Ducks, the two teams that follow them in this week’s rankings, they could either finish in the top-three of the Pacific Division or just as easily miss the playoffs. They have only won five of their past 14 games.
16. Los Angeles Kings — They don’t have a ton of talent and could probably use a bit of a reset in terms of how they build their team. They could make the playoffs, but even if they do, do they seem like a threat to go far?
17. Anaheim Ducks — Right in the thick of that jumbled Western Conference playoff race, but everyone they are competing with has games in hand on them, giving them a slightly steeper mountain to climb with less margin for error than some of the other teams they are competing with.
18. New York Islanders — They already have seven players with at least 14 goals this season. Imagine them with a halfway decent defense and goaltending situation.
19. Carolina Hurricanes — Let’s take a look at how things have gone for the Hurricanes over the past month. Lost two. Won three. Lost three. Won three. Lost three. Consistently inconsistent.
20. Florida Panthers — They have won a lot recently, they still have a ton of games in hand on everybody, but it still seems like that gap is still too much to make up. But we will give them credit for the way they have played recently and bump them up a few spots.
21. Colorado Avalanche — Nathan MacKinnon returned, and that is good. Then they lost to Edmonton at home. That is … not good.
22. Columbus Blue Jackets — They are trending in the wrong direction at the wrong time. They should be better than this. They might be better than this. They need to start getting some results though.
Buy A Lottery Ticket
23. New York Rangers — Henrik Lundqvist looks completely exhausted and totally worn out. The team in front of him is lousy defensively and is probably only going to get worse over the next week when players get traded.
24. Detroit Red Wings — Bad time for Mike Green to be injured. Unless they are just keeping him out of the lineup to preserve him for a trade?
25. Chicago Blackhawks — The eight-game losing streak got a lot of attention but it is actually much worse than that. They have won just five of their past 17 games entering play on Monday.
27. Vancouver Canucks — When you are rebuilding and out of the playoff race you just have to re-sign Eric Gudbranson. Well, no, no you don’t, but the Canucks seem determined to make that happen anyway.
28. Arizona Coyotes — They still have the worst record in the league but give them a lot of credit for playing the way they have recently and stringing some wins together.
A Level Of Their Own At The Bottom
29. Edmonton Oilers — Updating a stat from a week ago. Since Feb. 1, a stretch of nine games, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have combined to score 16 goals. The Edmonton Oilers have won two of those games. Keep boosting those draft lottery odds.
3o. Buffalo Sabres — They were lousy with Jack Eichel. They are even lousier without him. Perhaps the low point of the season came over the weekend against the Los Angeles Kings when they gave up three goals on three consecutive shots.
31. Montreal Canadiens — Only 4-11-1 in their past 16 and one of the worst records in the NHL overall.