With just 15 games left to play in the 2018-19 regular season, a few teams have started to gain steam, while many have taken a major step backwards.
Below is a list of the top-10 team’s heading into the final month of the season.
1- Tampa Bay Lightning – The Bolts have all but locked up the President’s Trophy and sit atop of the Atlantic Division. They have the league’s top scorer in Nikita Kucherov and collectively they rank first in both power play and penalty kill percentage. They could be the deepest team top to bottom and they have a top five goaltender shutting the door in Andrei Vasilevskiy.
2- Boston Bruins – The B’s are the hottest team in the NHL right now and have recorded at least a point or more in their last 12 games. This team is getting it done with both Tuuka Rask and Jaroslav Halak in net, while their second best forward has been sidelined with an arm injury for the past three weeks. They are finding ways to win at the right time and are playing their best hockey entering the post season.
3- Washington Capitals – The defending champs are likely going to win the Metropolitan Division, but it has been the play of their captain that has put them back into contention in 2019. Alex Ovechkin is on pace to eclipse 50 goals for the first time in three years and has been getting it done on both the PP and even strength. Their mid-season slump looks to be behind the Caps for good and it would not be a surprise if they meet up with the Bolts for the second straight season in the conference finals.
4- Vegas Golden Knights – Although they currently sit in third in the Pacific Division, the Knights have won seven games in a row and have only gotten better since acquiring Mark Stone at the trade deadline. Marc-Andre Fleury leads the league in wins and has reached his 2018 form in between the pipes. Vegas are coming off an impressive 6-2 win in Vancouver and fast starts have been a key to their recent success. The road only gets tougher from here, but this team is poised for a return to the Finals in 2019.
5- Toronto Maple Leafs – Much like the Bruins, Toronto has been on fire in the last 10 games. Mike Babcock has gotten the most from his superstars and the addition of John Tavares could be just enough to make a run in the playoffs. Jake Muzzin has played well since coming over from LA, but it has been the play of Frederik Andersen that has this team right in the thick of things this March. It appears that the Bruins and Leafs will play yet again in the first round, which is a shame based on their recent successes.
6- Winnipeg Jets – The Jets got the biggest trade deadline piece in Kevin Hayes two weeks ago, and are the deepest team in the Central Division. With Patrik Laine having a down year, other players have stepped up and filled the scoring vacancy. Blake Wheeler sits inside the top-10 in points, while Mark Scheifele continues to dominate at both ends of the rink. With Dustin Byfuglien returning for the final stretch, Winnipeg will look to lock up the Central and look to reach the conference finals in consecutive seasons.
7- San Jose Sharks- The Shark Tank has been one of the hardest places to play for opposing teams and San Jose has taken over sole possession of first place in the Western Conference. The black and teal have the best home record in the West and locking up the top seed would almost solidify their chances of getting back to the Stanley Cup. The Sharks have been one of the league’s most balanced scoring teams, getting contributions from all over. Erik Karlsson remains sidelined with a groin injury, but will return for the final three weeks of the regular season. The only shaky position on this roster is in net, which is why this team will likely be watching the Cup Finals on their couch this summer.
8- Nashville Predators – The Preds have a talented enough roster to win it all, but consistency has hindered their chances of separating themselves in the Central. They are just 5-5-0 in their last 10 games, but have two huge wins against the Wild. Nashville has the best top four defensive pairings in the West and if healthy, can be a matchup nightmare in the playoffs. It all comes down to Pekka Rinne and whether or not he can step up like he did in 2017.
9- Calgary Flames – The Flames looked like the team to beat a month ago and were burning down arenas night in and night out. Now, Calgary has lost four in a row and has slipped into the second spot in the Pacific. They have one of the league’s top lines highlighted by Johnny Gaudreau, and have the likely Norris Trophy winner on defense in Mark Giordano. Mike Smith and David Rittich have split time in between the pipes, but not knowing who will take the reins in the playoffs might be the hardest decision this team will face. Whoever they start with, he better step up because it’s either the Sharks or Knights in the first round and they are only on the rise.
10- St. Louis Blues – The Notes have gone from dead last in the league to a playoff spot in the matter of two months. AHL call-up Jordan Binnington has this team back in the mix after many had written them off at Christmas. In 20 games Binnington has a 16-3-1 record and leads the league in save percentage. Vladimir Tarasenko has found his scoring touch while offseason addition Ryan O’Reilly leads the team in points with 66. The Blues play fast and physical which is a recipe for success in the postseason. Whether they win a round in 2019 or not, this team showed a ton of character and has positioned themselves nicely to make some noise in April.