The usual theory is whatever NHL teams are in the playoffs by Thanksgiving have a near universal advantage of making the playoffs. Don’t be below the line at the end of November.
It feels like that’s a bit different this year. COVID-19, injuries across the league and dramatic arena-opening road trips all factor in. There might be more leeway.
That said, if the season ended today your playoff teams would include Columbus and Anaheim while Boston and Dallas and the Islanders would be out. Who knows. Maybe a Columbus-Anaheim Cup is inevitable.
1. Florida Panthers
The Panthers haven’t lost after trailing after one period all season. Don’t give them a lead, ever.
2. Edmonton Oilers
It’s 20 games into the season, and the Oilers power play is still hovering around 40%.
3. Carolina Hurricanes
They have allowed only 12 goals at home all season. That’s as many as the Islanders, who have had only three games at their new arena.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell has been maybe the best goalie in the league. Feels like the offense not doing that much will come back to bite them.
5. Calgary Flames
Fine, let’s buy in on this team for a few minutes. Dan Vladar and Co. have shut out teams seven times this season and allow less than two goals a game. I don’t know if that’s sustainable, but it’s impressive.
6. Washington Capitals
The loss to Seattle was on a back-to-back after Ilya Samsonov had back-to-back shutouts. They’re fine.
7. Colorado Avalanche
Well, we finally found out who was holding down the Avalanche scoring: That’s right, Nathan MacKinnon. Jokes aside, pretty wild they’re averaging four goals a game without him.
8. Tampa Bay Lightning
Sure, no Nikita Kucherov. SURE, no Brayden Point. I am generally unconcerned about the Lightning.
9. Minnesota Wild
Wherever they’re ranked this week had to be better than sitting in a tunnel and being late to get to Newark.
10. Boston Bruins
It must be tough to evaluate what they have when they only play once every three weeks.
11. New York Rangers
The 11th spot in these rankings always feels like a place to put teams you don’t know what to make of. I don’t know what to make of the Rangers other than if they didn’t have Igor Shesterkin they’d be bad.
12. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pens entered Friday with just four goals from defensemen all season, which feels real off-brand for them.
13. Vegas Golden Knights
Jonathan Marchessault is about to be back, and the Knights are sneaking back up.
14. New Jersey Devils
Happy for all the Nathan Bastian content creators out there.
15. Columbus Blue Jackets
Feels inevitable that the Jackets will find their way back into the 20s of the rankings soon.
16. St. Louis Blues
The Blues won five in a row to start the season. I got an email complaint after like week two that I was disrespecting the Blues. I’d point to the 5-7-2 record since that win streak.
17. Winnipeg Jets
The Jets entered Friday with 243 missed nets, the second-most in the league. They shoot a lot, but some of them have to hit.
18. Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks probably flew too close to the sun, and it’s downhill from here. But they got a fun little Mason McTavish tease, at least.
19. San Jose Sharks
Erik Karlsson looks like pre-Sharks Erik Karlsson, and yet the Sharks still feel kind of frozen in place. But at least it’s not the putrid season that was expected.
20. Philadelphia Flyers
Talk about a brutal schedule. The Flyers have had to deal with just about every good team in the league in this recent stretch.
21. Nashville Predators
They entered Friday 6-3-0 when being outshot. That’s weird, but the Predators are still a little relevant.
22. Dallas Stars
Roope Hintz has arrived to maybe save the Stars’ season.
23. Los Angeles Kings
And thus the annual Kings slide out of relevancy has begun.
24. Seattle Kraken
They beat two of the best teams in the league, and the real Philipp Grubauer finally stood up.
25. New York Islanders
Rough time for the Islanders of late. They finally have home games and then get a COVID outbreak. At least Ilya Sorokin has stolen some games.
26. Chicago Blackhawks
It’s been 18 games and no goals for Jonathan Toews.
27. Detroit Red Wings
They have some emerging stars in Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond. That’s good! Hopefully they don’t get lost in that abyss.
28. Buffalo Sabres
They just feel so far off still.
29. Montreal Canadiens
It feels like it’s gonna get a lot worse before it gets better there. What a nightmarish season.
30. Vancouver Canucks
There was a tweet the other day about J.T. Miller yelling “we don’t know what we’re doing” at practice and that feels like a solid metaphor.
31. Ottawa Senators
They allow the second-most shots against per game, which isn’t a great way to protect whatever goalie system they have going on there.
32. Arizona Coyotes
Well, Shayne Gostisbehere has been impressive, at least.