The trade deadline is behind us, the playoffs loom ahead. This is the time of year where everything gets tighter and the games just seem to mean more. This season's division-only format makes that notion even more prevalent, as those 'four-point games' are practically every night. Some teams are surging under this pressure, while others are wilting. And the real intrigue lies in those teams that just aren't willing to give up their playoff drive just yet, throwing chaos into the equation. Let's take a look at how they all stack up.
1. Colorado Avalanche: With nine wins in the past 10 games, Colorado has become some sort of unstoppable force of nature. Like a mass of power, barrelling downhill, ready to sweep over anything in its path. I wish there was a better word for this…
2. Carolina Hurricanes: Balance has been a hallmark of the Carolina attack, which makes it a little less surprising that Vince Trocheck is the only Canes regular averaging more than a point per game. Having said that, it's great to see Trocheck back on top of his game.
3. Vegas Golden Knights: They may be a little overshadowed by the Avs, but the Golden Knights are just as hot right now, boasting a six-game win streak. And how about Chandler Stephenson? He's already broken career records for goals (10) and points (26) in just 39 games.
4. Washington Capitals: There are some existential threats to Washington's perch atop the East and an injury to Zdeno Chara doesn't help, but this is still a potent squad that can do damage. New recruit Anthony Mantha has fit in just fine with four goals and five points in four games.
5. Florida Panthers: As wild as it is that Carter Verhaeghe is a top-50 scorer costing the Cats just $1 million against the cap, let's remember that Aleksander Barkov, an elite two-way center, is making less than $6 million a season.
6. Boston Bruins: So it looks like the trade deadline worked out for the B's. Taylor Hall has three points in four games, Mike Reilly is playing nearly 23 minutes a night on the blueline and most importantly, Boston has won four in a row. Time to get scared, East Division?
7. Toronto Maple Leafs: Zach Hyman got hurt, Jack Campbell is no longer undefeated and the power play is in shambles. And yet, Toronto has points in eight of the past 10 games and Nick Foligno is nearing his debut. Basically the Leafs are whatever you want them to be.
8. Tampa Bay Lightning: "Struggling" for the Bolts means five wins in the past 10 games, which is not horrible, really. Steven Stamkos is hurt, but let's not forget that Tampa Bay probably gets a healthy, rested Nikita Kucherov back for the playoffs.
9. New York Islanders: Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac are still finding their footing on Long Island, though it's only been six games. The Isles could find themselves anywhere from first to fourth in the division, but would you want to play them in the first round, even with home ice?
10. Winnipeg Jets: Continuing to cruise along with very little controversy, the Jets have been consistently good in a chaos-filled division. Neal Pionk continues to grow as a top-pairing defenseman and Mark Scheifele is a top-10 NHL scorer.
11. Minnesota Wild: The Wild are third in their division, but it's only because it's an incredibly top-heavy crew. Minnesota is still one of the most interesting teams around this season and they're doing it with balance. Also, Cam Talbot has a .922 save percentage, which helps.
12. Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby is just doing it. He's racking up goals, getting apples for equipment managers - he's just doing Sid things all over the place. If Tristan Jarry can seize some late momentum in net, watch out.
13. Edmonton Oilers: Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have combined for 134 points through 43 games. That's just a dumb number of points. You could combine Detroit's top seven scorers and you still wouldn't get to that many points right now.
14. New York Rangers: Every year, when we put together our Playoff Preview issue, we must decide which bubble teams to cut before publishing. The Rangers are the type of team that gives us fits because they refuse to die. But I can't hate them; they have Fox, Lafreniere and K'Andre.
15. Dallas Stars: Don't look now, but the Stars are hot and flexing those games-in-hand for all they're worth. The kids have stepped up, with Jason Robertson and Roope Hintz leading the way - but no one on Dallas has produced more than wily veteran Joe Pavelski.
16. Nashville Predators: The Preds are still technically ahead of the Stars for that final Central playoff spot, but the heat is beginning to dissipate in Music City. Can goaltender Juuse Saros drag them across the finish line?
17. St. Louis Blues: It doesn't feel like the Blues are this bad, but here we are. St. Louis still has a very good chance of grabbing that fourth spot in the West, but the team will have to pull out of the tailspin that has seen them win just three of the past 10 games.
18. Chicago Blackhawks: Look, we didn't think the Hawks would be competitive this year and here they are playing meaningful games well into late April. Playoffs or not, that's great for the likes of Pius Suter, Adam Boqvist and Ian Mitchell.
19. Arizona Coyotes: The Coyotes need to fend off St. Louis if they want that final playoff spot in the West, thus earning a first-round date with, in all likelihood, Colorado. Doesn't sound like much of a prize, does it?
20. Montreal Canadiens: The Habs are the least-bad of the pretenders in the North, but they shouldn't get any credit for that. Giving their fans a sneak preview of Cole Caufield this year? I would give them lots of points for that.
21. Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers are the opposite of the Rangers in the Playoff Preview conundrum. With a 3-4-3 record and no games in hand on the teams above them, Philly has made our decision for us.
22. San Jose Sharks: Everything in San Jose is Patrick Marleau-based right now and frankly? It's a pretty good strategy. Marleau is an incredibly likable guy who looks like Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights and always shows up for work.
23. Calgary Flames: Maybe I'm a bit high on the Flames but I feel like they've got one more kick at the can here. They play the team they're trying to catch (Montreal) three times in a row starting Friday and end the season with four straight against Vancouver. A comeback is possible.
24. Los Angeles Kings: The wheels have kinda fallen off in Los Angeles, not that we had high expectations for the Kings in the first place. So now we wait for fun: Arthur Kaliyev and Rasmus Kupari have already played games, maybe Quinton Byfield is next?
25. Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks saw your talk of a moral victory against Toronto and said, "No. Regular victory!" Bo Horvat will never have to pay for dry ribs at White Spot again.
26. Anaheim Ducks: The best part about being out of the spotlight is when you go into a free-fall and most of the hockey world doesn't notice. Owen Power and Jamie Drysdale on the same pairing, anyone?
27. New Jersey Devils: It's getting rough in Newark with the Devils winning just one of their past 10 games. Signing Alex Holtz this week was a bright spot, but if you're a Devils fan, maybe stay away from any Rangers supporters online.
28. Ottawa Senators: Somehow the Senators freak teams out, even with a minus-42 goal differential. They are the Whammies from Press Your Luck, but in hockey form.
29. Buffalo Sabres: Casey Mittelstadt has four points in his past five games and his younger brother Luke recently won a Minnesota state high school championship with Eden Prairie. This is a huge time for Buffalo and Buffalo-adjacent news.
30. Columbus Blue Jackets: Zach Werenski is out for the season due to surgery, Max Domi is a healthy scratch and to make matters even worse, Ohio State just lost to Michigan in the men's and women's Big Ten pinball championships.
31. Detroit Red Wings: It would actually be kinda funny if the Red Wings passed Columbus in the standings and did not finish last in the Central. I don't know how you would explain that to people in 20 years.