Because of the way COVID-19 has set every NHL team back a bit this season, it feels like we are getting the full picture of who these teams are a bit later. The saying usually goes, American Thanksgiving is when we usually know the playoff picture. That wasn’t true this season with COVID-19 restrictions and cases that postponed games.
According to DailyFaceoff.com, 60% of NHL rosters had COVID in a recent 35-day period. That gives those players 90 days in which they don’t have to get tested, and some consistency for teams to have the majority of their rosters.
It also might be why we’re getting a bit of a better picture now, nearly two months after Thanksgiving. Teams that were predicted to do well — Boston, Colorado and Vegas — are hitting their stride. And some teams, such as Nashville, have taken advantage of their opportunities.
With the All-Star break in a couple weeks, followed by a February in which we still don’t know the schedule, at least the puzzle is coming together.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning
They just don’t miss a beat. The epitome of consistency in a league that has been all over the place.
2. Florida Panthers
Seven Panthers players have double-digit goals. They still have a heck of an Atlantic Division to navigate, but boy, I would not want to play these guys.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins
Jake Guentzel and Evan Rodrigues breaking out has eased the pain of watching Jared McCann break out with the Kraken.
4. Nashville Predators
Out of nowhere, the Predators had the most points in the West entering Friday. No one is doing it like the Predators, raise a banner.
5. Carolina Hurricanes
They lost 6-0 to the Blue Jackets this week, but they’ve won seven of their past 10.
6. Boston Bruins
Tuukka Rask getting his first win in his first game back was cool, but the Bruins are on a roll regardless. They had hat tricks in back-to-back games.
7. Colorado Avalanche
All-Star snubs happen, especially when every team gets a representative. But it’s absurd that Nazem Kadri wasn’t named an All-Star.
8. Vegas Golden Knights
They had a weird week, but the Knights are one of West’s the best teams.
9. Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews is having potentially his best season.
10. Washington Capitals
Speaking of elite seasons, Alex Ovechkin was third in the NHL in points entering Friday night.
11. New York Rangers
I venture to say the Rangers would not be this good if Igor Shesterkin wasn’t having a Vezina type of season.
12. St. Louis Blues
If COVID doesn’t take some wins from the Blues, they seem to be as solid as anyone in the NHL.
13. Los Angeles Kings
Did the Kings being kind of good sneak up on anybody else? I checked the standings and was like wait, the Kings are a playoff team? Good for them.
14. San Jose Sharks
The Sharks still cannot stop anyone, but Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl are sneakily one of the league’s best forward duos.
15. Minnesota Wild
Kirill Kaprizov is eighth in the league in points. Not a fluke after his Rookie of the Year campaign.
16. Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks have fallen off, but they’re young and building the right way.
17. Dallas Stars
The Stars are one of the league’s most confusing teams. Jake Oettinger is pretty good. Their offense isn’t bad. But they can’t win on the road if their life depended on it.
18. New York Islanders
The Islanders are 6-2-2 in their past 10 and still 16 points out of a playoff spot.
19. Detroit Red Wings
Detroit is just seven points out of the final East playoff spot.
20. Calgary Flames
It turns out I was right when I didn’t buy in on the Flames earlier.
21. Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers fell only three points out of a playoff spot, but it feels so much worse there. Giving up 111 goals in 34 games won’t cut it.
22. Philadelphia Flyers
If Ryan Ellis had been healthy maybe they’re a little better.
23. Columbus Blue Jackets
It’s gonna get worse before it gets better. The full rebuild might come in the offseason.
24. New Jersey Devils
Jack Hughes is emerging as a young star, and that’s really fun.
25. Vancouver Canucks
They lost two in a row and might be coming back to Earth after the Bruce Boudreau bump, but their surge allowed them some wiggle room.
26. Winnipeg Jets
The West wild-card race is rather competitive, but the Jets can’t seem to gain any consistency.
27. Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks have plenty of wiggle room to not finish in one of the West’s bottom two spots, nine points ahead of the Kraken.
28. Ottawa Senators
With just 30 games played, the Senators need to win only a couple games to stay ahead of the Canadiens, Coyotes and Kraken for the league’s worst teams.
29. Buffalo Sabres
On a positive note: Tage Thompson appears to be a guy they can build around.
30. Seattle Kraken
There are a lot of stats to show what a rough time it has been, but the obvious one is the best one; they had not won in over a month entering Saturday’s game.
31. Arizona Coyotes
The one funny thing about the Coyotes being awful is Flyers castoff Shayne Gostisbehere has been good.
32. Montreal Canadiens
They’re last in points percentage, and the race for likely top 2022 draft pick Shane Wright is on.