In such a short season, every game counts. Every team in this league understands how important each goal, assist, and save happen to be. This breakdown is my view of who the hottest teams in the NHL are right now. It’s heavily based on stats, but there is a certain amount of my own personal intuition (gut feeling) involved here as well.
Let me know in the comments if you agree or disagree with any of my placements.
[This was written before the games were played March 1, 2021]
10. Carolina Hurricanes (7th Place)
With a record of 6-3-1 in their last 10 games, Carolina is a team to be reckoned with. The 3 losses they carry in that time came at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who (spoiler alert) will show up much later in this list.
The Canes also hold a respectable +13 goal differential.
9. Philadelphia Flyers (12th Place)
Honestly, it’s unfortunate that the Flyers have had 4 games postponed, so they only have 18 games played at the time of this article. This makes that “12th Place” stat a little misleading. If you look at the league via the lens of “Points Percentage” instead of “Total Points” then Philly sits 6th with .694 to sit just above the Boston Bruins.
While they struggle with a very narrow goal differential of just +7, the lowest in the entire top 10 compiled here, they are sporting a 6-2-2 record in their last 10 matchups. They are also currently pulling a 3-game winning streak. They aren’t to be taken lightly.
8. Edmonton Oilers (5th Place)
On the surface, Edmonton’s 8-2-0 record in their last 10 games shouldn’t knock them from 4th all the way to 8th, but as I mentioned with Philly, their official standing is a little bit misleading. Tied for 2nd-most games played in the NHL with 23, the Oilers have only managed a points percentage of .609 making them 13th in the league if you take “games in hand” into consideration. If they continue playing as they have of late, their ranking will likely improve the next time we break it down.
Edmonton is 5th overall, and yet I think they are somehow still underrated. Don’t sleep on the Oilers.
7. Minnesota Wild (13th Place)
Probably the hottest team in the league right now, riding high on a 6-game winning streak, the Wild are looking like a team possessed. 7-3-0 in their last 10 games, Minnesota holds a .667 points percentage. There isn’t a team in the league that should want to play against them in their current form.
6. Boston Bruins (8th Place)
For the better part of February, Boston was 1st in the East Division standings. If their defensive core can get healthy again, I think we will see them continue to be a threat. If they can shake the 2 most recent losses to the New Yorkers (7-2 to the Islanders and 6-2 to the Rangers), then I think they will be just fine.
5. Winnipeg Jets (6th Place)
I have no doubt that no matter who reads this, they may not agree with me here. Currently in 6th place, officially, the Jets are a very hot team right now. On a 4-game winning streak and managing a 7-3-0 record in their last 10, the Jets are absolutely flying.
With arguably the best goaltending duo in the league, it doesn’t seem to matter that they get outshot almost every single time they take the ice, they still manage to win. Hellebuyck has a save percentage of .918 and Brossoit is an impressive .935, and they have faced a combined 639 shots. The jets allow 31.95 shots per game on average. This stat needs to get better if the Jets want to move higher up this list rather than falling off of it.
March will be a tough test for the Jets, playing the Leafs, Canucks, and Habs 4 times each, the Flames three times, and the Oilers twice. They won’t see the Senators even once, and given that Ottawa gives away points like candy these days (no offence to Sens fans), that means that there will be no easy games this month for Winnipeg.
4. Florida Panthers (3rd Place)
I’m going to be honest here; if you had told me, even a year ago, that the Florida freakin’ Panthers would be a Top 5 team in the NHL, I’d have called you crazy. But they do lead the league in Shots Per Game, averaging 34, which speaks to their persistence. They also have a solid 6-3-1 record in their last 10 games.
The Florida Panthers are legit. So, if you’re over 30 years old, I’ll answer your question; “Yes, this is weird for me, too.”
3. Vegas Golden Knights (11th Place)
These guys… oh, man. The Golden Knights showed up and were literally cup-contenders from day one. In the short time since, they have continued to be a threat, this year being no different. Technically they’re 11th overall, but as I keep mentioning (due to the shortened season, postponed games, etc), I prefer to look at the standings using Points Percentage, which actually makes Vegas 3rd in my books (.735). Coincidentally they are 3rd on this list. Well, it’s not really a coincidence, is it?
7-3-0 in their last 10 games, Vegas sits in 1st place in the West Division. They have a home record of 8-2-1 this year, which makes it easy to see how they could make the Top 3 for this month’s Power Rankings.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning (2nd Place)
Tampa Bay has historically been a scary team to play against. They are a high-speed, high-scoring squad that likes to get an early lead and keep piling on. They score an average of 3.63 goals per game and only give up 2.05 per game this season, both of which are good enough for 1st place in the league in each category, which translates to their league-leading +30 goal differential.
On top of that, they have the 8th best Power Play, and the 2nd best Penalty Kill in the NHL.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are the real deal, and they don’t show signs of slowing down.
1. Toronto Maple Leafs (1st Place)
This is Toronto’s year if ever they have had one. The scariest thing about the Leafs right now is, whether you use my favourite “Points Percentage” method, or the standard “Total Points” approach the NHL currently prefers, they are absolutely, and unequivocally the best team in the entire league. They’ve played 22 games and they’ve won16 of those, 14 of which were in regulation.
It doesn’t seem to matter where they play, either. At home they’re 9-3-1, and on the road they are 7-1-1. Road trips do not phase these guys.
Going 7-2-1 in their last 10 games, only the Oilers have a better record over that time.
It has to be said that the best shot at the cup in this asterisk of a season belongs to the Maple Leafs.