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Top 10 teams in the NHL so far this year.



So just a little while ago I saw a link to NHL.com 's facebook page, where you can vote on who you think the 5 hottest teams in the NHL are right now. I had a hard time picking just five teams, so I figured I would post who I feel are the 10 best teams in the league so far this year:

Just in case you don't make it all the way to the bottom, leave a comment and let me know what you're thinking! Who do you think is worthy of the #1 spot? Where do you think the Canucks should rank?

If you like what you see, subscribe to my feed - I will try to write at least one new entry a week :)

1. Boston Bruins (7-3-0, 14 points):

The Bruins may have lost to Washington tonight, but that was their FIRST ROAD LOSS OF THE SEASON (5-1-0). Plus, they have the likes of Tim Thomas, who after today's loss still has a save percentage of .967 and a GAA of 1.05. Also, Boston has the 2nd fewest goals allowed (18) and the highest goal differential (+14) in the league. Boston also sports the top PK in the league (92.1%), while maintaining a reasonable PP (23.1%). If defense really does win championships, Bruins fans can start to think about planning the parade.

Just a little sidenote, after Thomas was burned for 3 of the 5 Washington goals, Cory Schneider now leads the league in save percentage (.969).

2. Los Angeles Kings (9-3-0, 18 points):

A group of young confident players who will now be bolstered even further by the return of Drew Doughty. Along with their offensive talent, the Kings are solid on the back end as well...they shut out Tampa Bay last night, which is impressive against a team that had been averaging 3.3 goals a game prior to that loss. Jonathan Quick is developing into one of the premiere goalies in the league. If Quick has the stamina to start 70+ games this year (which he likely will), then LA is definitely a force to be reckoned with in the West.

3. Detroit Red Wings (7-2-1, 15 points):

Although they are tied for third place in the Central Division, Detroit has plenty of games in hand on Chicago and Columbus, and only trail St. Louis by a single point. Detroit has an interesting team setup - they have a core of savvy veterans, but are led by a young and inexperienced goalie in Jimmy Howard. They also have a couple journeyman AHL players coming along very nicely (see Justin Abdelkader). Pavel Datsyuk will win the Selke again this year (sorry, Kes), and unless all hell breaks loose, Detroit will make it to at least the 2nd round of the playoffs.

4. St. Louis Blues (7-1-2, 16 points):

This record is good for tops in the Central Division and 2nd in the Western Conference, 2 points behind LA with 2 games in hand. St. Louis has been one of the surprise teams this year - they have won all of their games at home this year (6-0-0), however they are 1-1-2 on the road. The Blues made a HUGE pickup by signing Jaroslav Halak - it has played a huge part in the Blues having the fewest goals allowed in the league (17). Also important is the fact that St. Louis only allows 25.7 shots per game (fewest in the NHL), and are 2nd in shots for with an average of 34.0 per game. If the Blues keep this up on the road they will be a scary, scary team (when is the last time we could say that?).

5. Philadelphia Flyers (8-4-1, 17 points):

Philadelphia is my pick to make out of the East this year. Not only are they big and skilled, but the Flyers dearly want to avenge their loss in the Stanley Cup last year. Although they had a 4 game skid earlier in the season, they have righted the ship winning 5 straight, outscoring their opponents 22-9 in that span (not to mention without Danny Briere, who got suspended 3 games for his idiotic stickwork to the face of Frans Nielsen -- see the video HERE).

6. Washington Capitals (9-4-0, 18 points):

Washington is playing just as you'd expect, leading the league in goals with 44. Alex Ovechkin is getting into a groove, and the play of goalie Michal Neuvirth has been steady. However, I don't expect Washington to get past the 2nd round this year. Similar to last year, the Capitals just can't play with a lead. They blew a 3-0 lead against Boston before coming back to win 5-3. Their forwards don't know how to play defense, leading to several odd man rush opportunities. After being embarrassed in last year's postseason, I would have thought that Bruce Boudreau would have proposed a more defensively responsible scheme for his team. Either that didn't happen, or the players aren't buying into it. At the end of the day, Washington is obviously offensively talented; but if they run into another hot goalie (I think they are still having nightmares about Halak), they will again be disappointed by an early exit from the playoffs.

7. Vancouver Canucks (7-3-2, 16 points):

What can I say that you already don't know? Roberto Luongo has getting into a rhythm lately, picking up a shutout against New Jersey and keeping is composure in a 4-3 road win against the Oilers. Henrik and Daniel Sedin have been magic as always, and breakout performances by Ryan Kesler and Raffi Torres means the Canucks have the secondary scoring they so desperately need to succeed. Cory Schneider has been rock solid so far, winning all 3 of his starts and among the league leaders in both goals against average and save percentage. Oh yeah, just in case you didnt know the Canucks also sport the top power play in the NHL, clicking at 28.3%. They also have a reasonable penalty kill, which is 8th in the league (86.4%). They are 2nd in team faceoff percentage (55.5%), trailing only the San Jose Sharks (57.3%) - Manny Malhotra is also 2nd in individual faceoff percentage (64.5%). If the Canucks can avoid the injury bug, while developing some more team chemistry with their newer players, they will be among the elite teams in the league.

8. Tampa Bay Lightning (7-3-2, 16 points):

Steven Stamkos was the #1 star in the NHL for October. Couple that with the skills of Marty St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier, and you have the ability to almost score at will. Tampa has a killer PP, and has also benefited from good secondary scoring - 14 different players have registered goals so far this year. Dominic Moore has been a nice surprise, scoring 4 goals in only 8 games played. However, the situation in net is questionable. For the time being they are working a two goalie system, with Dan Ellis and Mike Smith having started 6 games each. Neither of the two have been lighting it up on the stats sheet - Ellis has been okay with a 2.45 GAA with .911 SV%, whereas Smith has an ugly 3.17 GAA and 883 SV%.

9. Montreal Canadiens (8-4-1, 17 points):

After the whole Carey Price / Jaro Halak fiasco, who would have thought the Habs would be leading the Northeast Division? Not me, that's for sure. One thing their record doesn't tell is that they have a goal differential of only +2 (32 goals for, 30 against). Montreal is 5-1-1 in one goal games so far this season, a testament to Price, who was voted as the teams MVP for October by the same fans who booed him off the ice in the preseason. If the players (and just as importantly, the fans) keep their faith in Price, the Canadiens might just win the division this year... the only team that will really challenge them for this title is the Bruins. Montreal's PP has been lathargic at best, 2nd worst in the league at 6.7%, but thankfully they have the 6th best PK in the league at 88.5%. Montreal has some underrated players on their team, and if they can start clicking the Habs will make some noise in the playoffs.

10. A three way tie, between the Dallas Stars (8-4-0, 16 points), Columbus Blue Jackets (8-4-0, 16 points) and New York Rangers (7-5-1, 15 points)

No matter how hard I tried, I could not choose just one of these three teams to be my #10 pick. Allow me to point out some of the similarities that makes each of these teams worthy of the #10 spot:

- Crazy good road records: Dallas is 3-1-0, Columbus is 4-1-0 and New York is 5-2-0

- Solid goaltending: Kari Lehtonen, Mathieu Garon and Henrik Lundquist have been shouldering the workloads for their respective teams so far. Garon is literally carrying the Jackets on his back with a 0.89 GAA so far this year.

- Secondary scoring: Dallas has 18 goals scored by forwards NOT on their top line ... Columbus has 14 and New York has 15.

Well that's about it for now... it's early on in the season, so by no means are these rankings set in stone. I would have loved to rank Vancouver higher, but I just couldn't justify it based on some of their earlier performances. Of course, if the Canucks keep up their recent play they will move up into at least the top 5.

Thanks again for reading, feel free to leave a comment!

- Matt

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WTF, why are the Canucks not #1

In all seriousness, I agree with you. But the key words are so far. This list will change.

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