Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks came into this year injury-riddled, and with little playoff hopes if they did not have their top guys back sooner than later. Guys continued to go down and the Ducks sat outside a playoff spot for several months. Well, fast forward to a healthy Ducks line up, an extremely deep forward core and defense, well look what we have here. The third-place Pacific team and now a legitimate playoff threat. the Ducks often are solid playoff contenders but always are either one and done or lose in the second round. For some reason, if their first-round matchup is won, I see a deep a playoff run from these guys.
Arizona Coyotes: Next year. The bright spot was Clayton Keller at the beginning of the year, as he has slowed down and Matt Barzal/Brock Boeser have taken all the rookie spotlight, Keller has fallen off some radars. Other than that they traded Duclair early on, Domi has been useless and they have lacked on both sides of the puck as well as a healthy Antti Raanta. The Coyotes despite their mere 20-win season, have been playing better lately. The future is surely bright, and another top-five draft pick is in store at least!
Boston Bruins: By god, what has this team caught this year? It seems like they always find a way to win no matter what, they have 42 wins, 92 points and still have 16 games to play this season, Easily tallying the 100-point mark and honestly I would not be surprised if this team was in the Conference finals they way it is looking right now they will have Toronto first round. Either way, the Bruins have seen some unbelievable production from Marchand, Krejci(when healthy), Bergeron, Pasternak, and their accompanying rookies. Plus a defense that has no weak points at all, and in general a roster that has no weak points. Bruins to the Conference finals, calling it now.
Buffalo Sabres: Maybe the Sabres should play like the season means nothing at the start of the year. Look at these guys now, they are actually winning games ever since they said, ok well, our season is over and we have zero shot here, why don’t we just play hockey, have some fun, no pressure. It has seemed to be working for the Sabres to this point, as of late they have won, 5 of their last ten games, and have won 8 games during February to now and four of those wins coming vs Boston(2), Toronto and Tampa Bay, some of the best in the league. Well, Sabres fans sorry but just get ready for another solid draft pick at least and Casey Mittlestadt coming up soon!
Calgary Flames: The story was Mike Smith, we all thought wow, maybe a number goaltender was the Flames answer. They have seen unreal production form Jersey Boy Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monohan while seeing very little other scoring depth besides Matthew Tkachuk(who seems to be the new Brad Marchand). They are also known as the Jagr killers. But anyways after losing Smith for 12 games, they have plummeted out of a playoff spot and are now 2 points out. I don’t think we’ll see the Flames in the postseason, and we may see more of head coach Glen Gulutzan freak outs!
Carolina Hurricanes: Man, I had so much faith in these guys, a young roster, hopeful d-core, and Scott Darling they had all the signs of a postseason. They were at one point in a playoff spot and bouncing back and forth in one, but the Hurricanes have a slim chance of making a run this year. After some inconsistent production from Darling and their offensive core, they will have to yet again regroup and get after it again next year. Also by the way, if you are interested in being the Canes General Manager, apply on Twitter!
Chicago Blackhawks: Holy hell the Blackhawks have been a dumpster fire this year(new Webster dictionary word), but seriously the Hawks have been TERRIBLE. That Brandon Saad trade looks terrible, Patrick Sharp pack your shit buddy, you look awful and the Blackhawks have 0 defensive depth. They don’t add depth in the offseason, you’ll see a similar Blackhawks team. Also, Corey Crawford did get hurt but still they were going nowhere, probably the first time in nearly 10 years the Blackhawks have not made the playoffs.
Colorado Avalanche: Up and down team, they went on a streak they single handily forged their playoff berth but at times they lose some though games and play mediocre hockey. They have a bunch of top nine guys plus two to three solid players and an MVP candidate on their roster that has surged this team. On top of Jonathan Bernier playing outstanding when Varlamov was out, the Avalanche are inches in a playoff spot, and I would not be surprised to see them make it. If they do though, easy first round exit, love Natty Mac but the Av’s don’t have enough pieces to be a solid playoff team.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Who knows the Blue Jackets have been so streaky this year and I’m very surprised while they did deal with some injuries to their top forwards and defenseman, they still should not barely be in a playoff spot. Artem Panarin has played in 69 games totaling 60 points. I’m surprised we have not heard much about the Panarin-Saad deal but right now it seems the Blue Jackets won that. Anyways, they are two points ahead of Flordia for a playoff spot and Flordia has three games in hand. The Blue Jackets better keep winning, Devils losing or they will be OUT in no time. I see the Blue Jackets making it and Devils missing it. Watch.
Dallas Stars: Ok, so I shot real high on Dallas coming into the year but they are playing a lot better and they are three points in a playoff spot. But Dallas does play a bit inconsistent here and there and they could be a much better team if Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Alexander Radulov didn’t score all there goals and points. Without these three guys, this team would be screwed. Luckily they are on Dallas and they are unreal plus Ben Bishop’s emergence has been massive. Easily a playoff team and a playoff team we see battling all post season.
Detroit Red Wings: They have a ton of talent, I’ll tell you right now that the Red Wings will be a solid team in three or so years. Once this team gets a legitimate solid number goaltender and a number defenseman that isn’t 33-years-old and older, they will be good. Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha, Dylan Larkin, Martin Erk, Luke Glendening, Tyler Bertuzzi already playing so well. Detroit may be out of it right but give this team some time. Plus they received four draft picks fourth round or lower for Mrazek and Tatar.
Edmonton Oilers: Well, what a terrible run for these guys this year. Is there anyone on this team besides Connor McDavid, Milan Lucic terrible this year, Ryan Strome as streaky as a fourth-grade girl, Puljujarvi needs to pack his shit asap, after McDavid and Drastali the next leading point scorer is Nugent Hopkins(who has been hurt for quite some time) with 35 points. The Oilers Darnell Nurse and Klefbom have been absolute busts this year and Cam Talbot started out in hot water, since then they have not picked things up and are they back to the old Oilers?
Florida Panthers: HOT. This is team is red hot right now, Barkov is a scoring machine Trocheck is a beauty, Bjustad has finally chipped in and their defense has been playing better as a whole. Plus getting back Roberto Luongo has been a major plus. They struggled early on, but they have had the best record in the NHL since the All-Star break and now sit two points out of a playoff spot with three games in hand. We will see this team in a playoff spot. Watch.
Los Angeles Kings: STREAKY. Wow if this team continues to be streaky and playing mediocre hockey they will find themselves looking out come April. The Kings were looking hot at the beginning of the season, slowed down, came back down to the earth and are now playing like the Kings we all knew. Thye made some major trade deadline transactions, Jonathan Quick has been their backbone and Anze Kopitar has certainly resurged his terrible run from last season. On top, if Dustin Brown being a 20-goal scorer has helped this Kings team a ton. I don’t know about the Kings, they should be in the playoffs and I could see them make it over the Avalanche(the last wild card spot is their only chance), but I would not be surprised to see L.A. miss it. Stay tuned, I assume.
Minnesota Wild: The Wild started out the season on a rough patch, although they were not terrible, they were not the team people saw them as. Luckily with the emergence of 35-goal scorer Eric Staal and his two accompanying linemates, the Wild have propelled into a top three Central spot with sights on again a playoff run. The Wild in years past are known to be a one and down team or a competitive playoff team, never making it too far though. This year if this match-up turns out to be Winnipeg and Minnesota, it may be yet another first round exit Minnesota history.
Montreal Canadiens: What a terrible run for the Canadiens this season. Carey Price dealt with fatigue-related issues at the beginning of this season, Shea Weber has been out for god knows how long now and Max Pacioretty is out plus Price as well. The Canadiens depth scoring has been nonexistent, their defensive depth has been. Honestly overall, the Canadiens have been an absolute disaster. At times they show some bright spots here and there but they need to do a lot in the offseason, find some scoring, defense and readdress maybe some general manager concerns. Canadiens don’t have much going for them now or next season.
Nashville Predators: This team has been on fire, they recently snapped their 10-game win streak with an overtime loss but the story has been the work of their general manager. To acquire, Kyle Turris, Nick Bonino and getting Mike Fisher back has been huge. The Predators have so much depth on the front end, with the play of Craig Smith, Kevin Fiala they have really balanced out the Preds lineup. With PK Subban’s Norris like year as well plus Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis to accompany that, the Preds have it all. Oh, did I mention that Pekka Rinne is also a Vezina Trophy candidate as well with 37 wins, .928 save percentage and 2.28 goals against. The Preds have been clicking on all facets and they will be deep in the playoff run this time around again. I’m going to reach here, but these guys are my cup favorites.
New Jersey Devils: The Devils are in a tough spot right now, they have five very tough road games coming up and the Panthers are three points out behind them with three games in hand. But the bright spot is that this team has been a story all year, with the play of Taylor Hall and his recent point streak has been the Devils season savior. Without Taylor Hall, this Devils would probably be a borderline playoff team, or maybe a basement team. But Corey Schneider was out for quite some time and Keith Kinkaid, did not play terrible but again Taylor Hall has single handily carried this team. They are slotted to play Pittsburgh first round and if that happens they will be a one and done team. Good signs though, things going in the right direction for this team.
New York Islanders: Team really shots themselves in the foot, they knew coming into the year defense was going to be a problem. Did nothing to fix it. Strike one. They dealt with goaltender issues, VERY early on, did nothing to fix it. Strike two. They went out and got a borderline 7th defenseman and 9th forward, at the trade deadline strike three. They showed signs of making a playoff run and were thought to be a playoff team after how bad the Rangers played and some inconsistent play of other conference teams. The positive side though Matt Barzal looks to be an absolute stud, the kid can do it all and has surged this Islanders offense a ton this season. Negative though Tavares came out and said he is not having fun, towards the end of the year and his contract expiring, bad news, he may leave. Good news the Islanders are leaving the Barclays Center eventually. A lot of ups and downs for this team.
New York Rangers: The Rangers always come into the season with playoff hopes but thing happen and with this team, things happened very quickly. Right around the trade deadline, all the wheels fell off the wagon and the team went into full tank mode quickly. They traded four roster players, turned them into picks and two solid young players. Things look bad right now for the Rangers right now but with the number of picks they have and two to three prospects on the rise, next year may be another mediocre year, but a new Rangers look is here and this team has certainly bought into the rebuilding phase.
Ottawa Senators: CRAP. This team is lost, they have a ton of contracts to settle, a goaltender to find and Erik Karlsson to deal with. The Senators go from being almost a Stanley Cup team to being the laughing stock of the NHL. Things won’t be better for them next year either. They came out around that time they went to Sweden and after that played terribly and since then it has been a roller coaster for them. Duchene started off slow, has picked it up certainly but the defensive depth and scoring depth has not been there this year for Ottawa, back to the drawing board.
Philadelphia Flyers: Wow, a 10-game losing streak to being one of the top teams in the league. The play of Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny, and Jakub Voracek the Flyers have seriously played exceptional as of late. They have come down to earth a little bit but a top three spot in one of the tougher division the Flyers seasons is a success. And right now they have Washington in the first round, a series they could easily win. The story though Giroux for MVP? Ghost for Norris(long shot), Voracek is an assist wizard and Konecny has been a great fit for this team. The Flyers did the right things this season and I would not be surprised like I said before if they won their first-round matchup. Well, wait and see I suppose…
Pittsburgh Penguins: I thought the Penguins were legitimately going to be outside the playoff picture at the beginning of the year and towards the All-Star break they looked to be an iffy playoff team. But as we all know the Penguins have certainly picked up their play and they are now points within in first place. The play of Phill Kessel, Malkin’s Rocket trophy run, Crosby well being Crosby. Even with Matt Murray being out and when he is playing poorly the Penguins have found a way to win like they always do. They’ll possibly have New Jersey first and their road to the Cup looks to be almost clear again, just have to worry about Boston or Tampa Bay honestly. Still, the Penguins continue to be a juggernaut in this league and they will not be falling off anytime soon either.
San Jose Sharks: Really the story with this team is that they are a good hockey team, nothing more nothing less. They have three to four solid forwards, Brent Burns plus great depth players and Martin Jones who is a very reliable goaltender. The addition of Evander Kane will certainly help but with anyone in that West it will be hard to win in the first round. I believe they have Anaheim first round right now and if that is the case it will not easy for them to move on.
St. Louis Blues: What the hell happened to this team. I knew right away when they traded Paul Stastny they were going to shit the bed. And look what happened, you never trade a veteran forward like that for nothing and expect to still be competitive. The Blues moments away from missing the playoffs and it comes from inconsistent play one, lack of depth scoring two, and very inconsistent goaltending from Jake Allen. They have dealt with some serious injuries but the Blues have really been their own problem. they will be the same team next year but do have a lot of forwarding prospects to look forward too. Hopefully, the prospects bring some depth scoring.
Tampa Bay Lightning: The President trophy favorites right now and hands down the best team in the league. They have been the number one team in the NHL for quite some time now and they will be deep in the playoffs for sure. The play of Kucherov and his Rocket trophy run, MVP run, and top scorer has been the story of Tampa. Plus Stamkos coming back from a career-threatening injury and tallying a point per game has been huge for Tampa, their leader for sure and their backbone in important situations. Throw in now Ryan McDonagh, Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman on the back end, four guys tallying 20 plus goals and Andrei Vasailevskiy’s Vezina run has made the Lightning a serious threat for Pittsburgh now.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Right now the Leafs have Boston in the first round and that probably won’t change. I don’t see this team beating Boston in the playoffs, which means they will be unfortunately again first round exits. The Leafs have a ton of positives to look towards but also a lot of contract decisions. We will see this team make a run at a top defenseman as well as John Tavares. Once they land a number one defenseman this team will be a threat for sure.
Vancouver Canucks: Another bad season for Vancouver they did, in fact, show some signs of great play early one but slowly and surely fell off the horse and now have found themselves again in the basement. Positive though they have Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson who will be absolutely crushing it in the near future. Plus another top pick, not much to say here, I just hope the Canucks can find a solid number goaltender and also another defenseman. Really all they need.
Vegas Golden Knights: HOLY HELL was wrong about this team. I’ll admit I said they were going to be in the bottom half of the league and they were not going to be a playoff team. Well, now we are 68 games into the season they are well within a playoff spot and have certainly shocked the whole league. Whether Vegas makes a run or not this season will be remembered forever in NHL history, highly doubt any inaugural team does what this team did. They are slotted to play Dallas first round right now and I can’t wait to watch that, guaranteed 7-game series.
Washington Capitals: They were in first place for quite some time but Pittsburgh has granted major traction on this them and they are probably going to finish within the top three for sure and if they face Philly first round, I would not be surprised to see this team be knocked out. Positive sign though Ovechkin has picked up his play and shut some doubters up for sure, late in his thirties slotting 40 plus goals is not an easy feat. Ovechkin has been the story this year along with John Carlson stepping into a major role and producing Norris like numbers right now. I would not be surprised if Washington in facts wins that first round and actually gets past the second round, they have less pressure on them this year and a lot of people looking them off already.
Winnipeg Jets: Let’s see this team in the Cup, please. I personally would not care if either Winnipeg or Nashville represent the West, it will definitely be one of them. Anyways the play of Blake Wheeler all season and Patrick Laine Rocket run lately has surged this Winnipeg offense. Plus Connor Hellebyuck finally solidifying that number one really helped this Winnipeg gain some confidence as a whole and run with that momentum all season. Winnipeg is slotted to play Minnesota first round, not an easy matchup but a six-game series for sure and if Winnipeg wins that, watch out West.