1.) Philadelphia Flyers
This team right now is absolutely smoking hot (okay, losing yesterday to Florida 5-0 is kind of not very good, but still…). Not having Chris Pronger hurts, but watching this team is a thing of beauty; just ask the Pens, who couldn’t close the door in a 3-2 loss last week.
2.) Pittsburgh Penguins
We truly are watching a magical season from Sidney Crosby. With 61 points at this point in the season, and a 24-game point streak still intact, I believe it is safe to assume that the kid has reached new heights (should I say newer heights since it seems he’s done so much already?). As a team, the Pens have been on a tear, winning 17 of their last 20 games. I don’t see them slowing down any time soon…
3.) Vancouver Canucks
For a team that started 3-3-2 and had people wondering if they were going to revert back to last year’s form, I would say they have responded rather well. At 21-8-5, this team is sitting in the #2 spot in the Western Conference, thanks mostly to the play of the Sedin twins (big surprise, right?). With a point in every December game but one so far, Vancouver looks to be in prime position to stay right in the thick of things for the #1 spot in the conference.
4.) Detroit Red Wings
I would have had them at the highest spot for a Western Conference team, but losing a game-changer like Pavel Datsyuk really struck a big blow to the team. It will be interesting to see how they adjust having a guy who has 39 points so far in the season out for upwards of a month. Perhaps we will see just how good this team really is when they travel to Dallas to play the Stars tomorrow night.
5.) Tampa Bay Lightning
Just how good are Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis? Stamkos has 50 points, followed closely by St. Louis, who has 47. The next closest? Try Ryan Malone, with 28 points. There is obviously a bit of a discrepancy there, wouldn’t you say? I suppose it doesn’t matter how you win as long as you win. And the Bolts have been doing precisely that, winning 7 of their last 10 games.
6.) Dallas Stars
Dallas is sitting atop the Pacific Division (46 points), but they have both the L.A. Kings (45 points, 7-2-1 in last 10 games) and San Jose Sharks (43 points, 6-3-1 in last 10 games) breathing down their necks. They’re going to have to do a much better job of playing good hockey than they have been lately as well to stay there. 5-3-2 in your last 10 certainly isn’t going to get it done if you want to be the best, something the Stars have been striving for all season.
7.) Washington Capitals
It seems like a lifetime ago that the Caps had lost 8 games in a row, hasn’t it? Well, maybe not a lifetime ago, but still, this team seems to be playing much better hockey, winning 3 of their last 4 games (with the only loss being the shootout against Pittsburgh) and making Bruce Boudreau breath a little bit easier. And would you look at that? Alex Ovechkin finally decided to end his 8-game scoring drought, sending one home against Carolina Sunday night. Once they get him going again (which, as we all know, is just a mere inevitability), this team should be rolling like they were at the beginning of the season.
8.) Chicago Blackhawks
Having Marian Hossa back after missing significant time on I.R. is going to do wonders for this already stacked team. With Hossa out, the Blackhawks had been rolling of late, winning 3 in a row, after losing 3 consecutive. That quickly escalated to 4 wins in a row in his first game back on Sunday (he chipped in with 2 assists). It’ll be interesting to see just how much better they get with him back on the ice because without him, they were already a top-4 team in the West.
9.) Los Angeles Kings
I really like the makeup of this team because they have so many young weapons…oh, and they’ve been winning hockey games (7-2-1 in their past 10). Jonathan Quick has been brilliant of late, and for most of the season, notching his 18th win yesterday against San Jose (a 4-0 shutout in S.J.). With 3 teams in the Pacific Division all jockeying for the top spot, it will be interesting to see how a youthful team like the Kings respond under pressure.
10.) New York Rangers
After posting a 7-4 record (so far) in the month of December, it’s probably safe to call this a successful month for N.Y. Coming off a 7-2 pummeling of the Isles, the Rangers turn around and play the Devils tomorrow night in New Jersey. The defensive tenacity from this team is amazing, as this seems to be a hard-working, blue-collar type bunch that John Tortorella has under him. I like that; and with the way they’ve been playing of late, I would hope Rangers fans would like it, too.