- Barry Trotz is working his magic with the Islanders to launch them to the top of the Metro Division. How far can he take them?
So, the Islanders? Yeah, no one saw that coming. And doing it with defense? Man, Barry Trotz is a magician.
But here's the deal: The Metropolitan Division is relatively weak. Which raises the very real question: Where will the Isles play their playoff games? Regardless, it's been great to see a team that's been a sieve on defense for years finally figuring it out.
31. Los Angeles Kings | Record: 19–26–4 | Previous Ranking: 29
Jonathan Quick has had some moments, but it's been Jack Campbell who's been the more consistent choice in net.
30. Chicago Blackhawks | Record: 17–24–9 | Previous Ranking: 25
There needs to be a long-term goaltending solution for Chicago—it's not working thus far. The Blackhawks got a big win over the Capitals on Sunday to snap a five-game losing streak, but it was only their second win of the month.
29. Florida Panthers | Record: 19–20–8 | Previous Ranking: 22
It's been a bad start to the New Year in Floriday. The wins against Nashville and Toronto stops the bleeding—getting Vincent Trocheck back was huge.
28. Ottawa Senators | Record: 19–25–5 | Previous Ranking: 31
We'll see what happens with Matt Duchene et al. There is the beginning of a young core, here. But only the beginnings.
27. Philadelphia Flyers | Record: 19–23–6 | Previous Ranking: 30
Carter Hart has been pretty good to spark some life into the Flyers. Full-time starter next year?
26. Detroit Red Wings | Record: 18–25–7 | Previous Ranking: 27
Dylan Larkin is less than 15 seconds of average ice time—less than a shift—away from leading the Wings. Says a lot about Larkin—and a lot about the Wings' defense.
25. New Jersey Devils | Record: 18–23–7 | Previous Ranking: 26
Will Butcher was a revelation as a rookie last year. This season? Not so much—and that's with increased ice time. The Devils enter the All-Star break with three straight losses.
24. New York Rangers | Record: 21–20–7 | Previous Ranking: 24
A nice bounce-back win over Carolina after an angry press conference from David Quinn, followed by a solid road victory over Boston.
23. Arizona Coyotes | Record: 22–22–4 | Previous Ranking: 23
Don't look now—the bruised and battered Coyotes are actually in playoff contention. The West is a wild, wild place.
22. Anaheim Ducks | Record: 21–20–9 | Previous Ranking: 19
The Ducks say they aren't considering firing Randy Carlyle. That may change in a few weeks.
21. Vancouver Canucks | Record: 23–21–6 | Previous Ranking: 20
Not that there's a better option, but not sure that Jacob Markstrom is the best long-term choice in net.
20. St. Louis Blues | Record: 21–21–5 | Previous Ranking: 28
The Blues have had a great turnaround, and somehow, in contention for a playoff spot. Sign up Craig Berube now.
19. Edmonton Oilers | Record: 23–23–3 | Previous Ranking: 21
Rumors of a big splash are abuzz. The more depth scoring, the better for the Oilers.
18. Colorado Avalanche | Record: 22–18–8 | Previous Ranking: 15
Philipp Grubauer said the Avs remind him of the Caps a few years before they won the Cup. Not sure that's the case.
17. Carolina Hurricanes | Record: 23–20–5 | Previous Ranking: 16
Nino Niederreiter has a ton of talent, and is a multiple-time 20-goal scorer. This may be a trade that rejuvenates him and the Canes.
16. Minnesota Wild | Record: 24–21–3 | Previous Ranking: 18
Victor Rask probably doesn't move the needle for the Wild, but Pontus Aberg might.
15. Dallas Stars | Record: 24–21–4 | Previous Ranking: 17
The Stars might need more than a singular trade. In danger, as always it seems, of falling off the edge.
14. Buffalo Sabres | Record: 24–18–6 | Previous Ranking: 12
This is a bad time for a West Coast swing, but it is nice to see the Sabres bounce back with a win in Calgary after a drubbing by Edmonton.
13. Pittsburgh Penguins | Record: 26–16–6 | Previous Ranking: 9
If the rumors are to be believed, this is a team ripe for a shakeup. Is there enough time, though, to turn it around?
12. Montreal Canadiens | Record: 27–18–5 | Previous Ranking: 14
At this point, the Habs are still the best surprise of the season. And they got a nice win in Columbus.
11. Boston Bruins | Record: 27–17–5 | Previous Ranking: 8
What to do with David Backes? Hard to see a trading partner; the Bruins’ best hope is that he can fit in a fourth-line, penalty-killing role.
10. Washington Capitals | Record: 27–16–5 | Previous Ranking: 6
Is this just a slide? Or is it the beginning of something more serious? The Capitals find themselves in the midst of a five-game losing streak, and back-to-back games against the Sharks and Maple Leafs heading into the break aren’t going to be easy.
9. Toronto Maple Leafs | Record: 29–17–2 | Previous Ranking: 7
Getting Frederik Andersen back is helpful, given the up-and-down play in net of late without him.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets | Record: 28–17–3 | Previous Ranking: 11
Second-best team in the East? Maybe. But it sure does help to have Artemi Panarin playing so well.
7. Nashville Predators | Record: 28–18–4 | Previous Ranking: 10
Is a 7–2 win over Washington the start of a rebound? Maybe not. Looked pedestrian in losses against Winnipeg and Florida.
6. New York Islanders | Record: 29–15–4 | Previous Ranking: 13
Robin Lehner, Vezina-candidate? He just might be. He's the leader in goals-against average (2.02), and second in save percentage (.930).
5. Vegas Golden Knights | Record: 29–17–4 | Previous Ranking: 3
What's slightly concerning: The last two elite teams the Golden Knights played, the Sharks and Jets, were losses. They've been rolling over lesser competition.
4. Winnipeg Jets | Record: 31–15–2 | Previous Ranking: 5
Laurent Brossoit is a fine backup goalie, and he stopped 26 shots in the second period against Vegas. It’s good for a contending team to have a good second option.
3. San Jose Sharks | Record: 28–15–7 | Previous Ranking: 4
This team is becoming the offensive juggernaut we all expected at the beginning of the season. Both Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson are averaging just shy of 25 minutes a game. Think that'll be 30 in the playoffs?
2. Calgary Flames | Record: 32–13–5 | Previous Ranking: 2
It helps to play with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, but Elias Lindholm has been a revelation for the Flames. He's also averaging the most time on ice for a forward.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning | Record: 37–10–2 | Previous Ranking: 1
It’s business as usual, save for a blowout loss against the Islanders. The Lightning just keep plugging along.