1. Colorado Avalanche – Colorado has been firing on all cylinders this season and will be front runners to win the Stanley Cup heading into the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Averaging over 3.50 goals a game, Colorado’s offensive fire power has created significant issues for opponents over the course of the season.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning – The defending Stanley Cup Champs look like they are ready for a repeat despite not having their offensive weapon Nikita Kucherov and just recently having to put Steven Stamkos on long-term IR. Andrei Vasilevskiy has provided the Lightning with the insurance they need in goal this season with his .932 save percentage and 2 goals/game allowed. It seems that injuries could be the only thing that hinders this team in the playoffs.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs – Austin Matthews is the NHL league leader in goals so far this season with 32. It seems like he puts up at least a goal every night on the scoring sheet and he’s electric to watch. A big piece of the Maple Leafs success has been their goaltending. Jack Campbell has come in and won his first 11 starts in the NHL which will go in the record books. Toronto is definitely a team worth looking out for come the playoffs as they lead the North division currently with 60 points.
4. Vegas Golden Knights – Vegas has been quietly having a great regular season which has been partly covered up because of how good the Avalanche have been playing. Vegas is only 2 points behind Colorado and will play 2 more extremely important games against their division rivals in the upcoming weeks. Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury have created a desirable goaltending situation for the Knights as they each have a save percentage over .915.
5. Carolina Hurricanes – The Hurricanes are going on an important 6 game road trip where they will visit the Lightning, Panthers, and Stars. With all games being division play, these will be precious points up for grabs for the Hurricanes and will likely shape up who wins the Central division. Tampa Bay is tied with Carolina for the division lead, however Carolina has one game in hand. Goaltender Petr Mrazek has been stellar in his 8 starts with a .944 save percentage. Can Carolina finally break through?
6. Florida Panthers – The Panthers have lost 4 of 5 and are trending in the wrong direction if they want to win the Central division. 6 of their last 13 games will come against either the Lightning or Hurricanes, and these games will be important because these 3 teams all lie within 1 point of each other in the Central.
7. Washington Capitals – Anthony Mantha seems to be fitting in well since being acquired by the Caps. In his first showing with his new squad he had a goal and an assist against the rival Flyers. The Caps have 11 games remaining and it will be a tough stretch…all 11 games come against the Bruins, Islanders, Rangers, Penguins, and Flyers. The Caps will be tested in the East division as the Islanders and Penguins are clawing their way up.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins – The Penguins newly acquired Jeff Carter can be a a very valuable asset if he plays with the speed the Penguins are looking for. Though he hasn’t put up any points with the new team, he was very noticeable in his first game. The Penguins have 12 games remaining and will be looking to fight for the top spot in the competitive East division.
9. New York Islanders – The Islanders acquired Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac at the NHL trade deadline and these 2 could be just what the team needs to get over the hump. New York allows just 2.33 goals per game which is a combination of their great defense and 2 extremely good goal tenders in Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov. The Islanders will compete for a top spot in the East division along with Pittsburgh and Washington.
10. Winnipeg Jets – The Jets have been quietly having a steady 2021 season. 4 more games against Toronto will likely decide who gets the division title, although Edmonton has a slim shot. Winnipeg (57 points) is 3 points behind Toronto (60 points) and will look to jump in the standings in the last 4 weeks of the regular season.
11. Boston Bruins – Boston was the talk of the town during the NHL trade deadline as they picked up Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Anders Bjork. Buffalo retained 50% of Hall’s remaining salary. Hall is having an immediate impact in Boston as he has already put up 2 goals which is as many as he had in 37 games with Buffalo. Watch out for the Bruins coming down the stretch…their power play looks rejuvenated with Hall out there.
12. Minnesota Wild – The Wild have been doing all they can to compete in the West division, but they have two powerhouses in the Avalanche and Golden Knights that have made it tough to sneak in the top 2. Minnesota has been stellar at home in the regular season (17-4), but have struggled on the road (10-9-3). The Wild play the Blues 5 more times in the regular season and will look to pick up points on the teams ahead of them in the standings (Colorado, Vegas) by using their relatively week remaining schedule to their advantage.
13. Nashville Predators – The Predators are in a battle with the Blackhawks for the final spot in the Central division. Coming off of a 13-3 run has helped get the Predators get back in the mix leading into the crunch time of the regular season. The next 3 games (all against Chicago) will be important if Nashville wants to keep their 4th spot in the standings because the Blackhawks have a game in hand on the Predators.
14. New York Rangers – The Rangers have won 7 of their last 10 and are getting hot at the right time. NYR just beat the Devils 3 straight times, outscoring them 13-3. The remaining schedule is brutal for the Rangers and we will really get to see what kind of team they have in the last month of the season because they play Washington 3 times, Boston 2 times, and the Islanders 3 times in their last 12 games.
15. Edmonton Oilers – The Oilers are still a threat in the North division with a couple games in hand on Winnipeg and Toronto they can really make some moves down the stretch. Edmonton’s power play has been a big part of their success this year which is at an impressive 27% (3rd in NHL). If they can get solid goaltending in the final quarter of the season, the Oilers could be dangerous heading into the postseason.
16. Chicago Blackhawks – Chicago is right on the brink of a playoff spot (5th in central division) right behind Nashville. Chicago’s next 3 games are against Nashville which can basically be labeled as playoff games because whoever comes out with the better of the 3 game series will likely be the team who gets the 4th spot for the playoffs. The Blackhawks goaltending has been shaky allowing 3 goals per game on average (20th in NHL) and will need to step up if they want to be in the postseason.
17. Arizona Coyotes – The Yotes currently hold the 4th spot in the West division, but they have the Blues lurking right behind. Arizona is coming off a great comeback win against the Blues after losing 5 straight beforehand. If Arizona can find a way to get some more offensive production in the final quarter of the season, they can definitely compete for a Stanley Cup in the postseason.
18. Montreal Canadiens – Montreal is about to go on a 5 game road trip playing the Oilers 2 times and Calgary 3 times. Sitting in 4th with 47 points in the North division, it seems like Montreal pretty much has a playoff spot solidified since Calgary isn’t playing well enough to jump in the rankings. The Canadiens will still have to dig deep to finish the regular season strong heading into the postseason.
19. Dallas Stars
20. Philadelphia Flyers
21. St. Louis Blues
22. Calgary Flames
23. Vancouver Canucks
24. San Jose Sharks
25. Columbus Blue Jackets
26. New Jersey Devils
27. Los Angeles Kings
28. Detroit Red Wings
29. Ottawa Senators
30. Anaheim Ducks
31. Buffalo Sabres