1. Boston Bruins (4-0-1, 9 pts)
The most complete team in the Eastern Conference and with Nathan Horton healthy, this group doesn’t have anyone out of place (in wrong spots) in the lineup. Rookie Dougie Hamilton is a rising star and already an impact defenseman.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning (4-1-0, 8 pts)
The big guns Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis are playing at a high level with 10 and 11 points respectively, and Vinny Lecavalier is playing well to open the year. Rookie Cory Conacher has been as good as advertised giving the Lightning two dominant top lines. Tampa is averaging a league high 4.80 goals per game and giving up just 2.60 goals per game as they are improved on the blueline and in goal. The Lightning are a conference best +11 goal differential. Free agent signee Sami Salo is a +9.
3. New Jersey Devils (3-0-1, 7 pts)
This is an organization that really does live by the “standard is the standard”. They always find ways to replace their top talent and we’re seeing it so far this season. The Devils have points in all four games…… Ilya Kovalchuk has come back from the KHL with good habits and is making a priority on playing his own end well. David Clarkson remains on track to cash in this summer in free agency. Moving forward questions remain whether Marty Brodeur can sustain his play at age 40.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (3-2-0, 6 pts)
The Penguins have two impressive wins on the year in Philadelphia and New York but the concerns surrounding the team from last year are still there. Defenseman Paul Martin has been rock solid to open the year and Brooks Orpik looks healthy and on top of his game.
5. Ottawa Senators (3-1-1, 7 pts)
The Senators have points in four of five games and a depleted blueline going into the season has been a strength to open the year. Ottawa plays a well rounded game and are giving up just 2 goals per game.
6. New York Rangers (2-3-0, 4 pts)
The Rangers haven’t open the year with a lot of drive, which is uncharacteristic for a John Tortorella coached team but they will find their way. The top line of Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Rick Nash could evolve into the best line in hockey and Nash looks rejuvenated in New York. With Chris Kreider’s rocky start to the season, there is a need to bolster the depth on the third line and this is a thinner forward group after the big guns than it appeared on paper.
7. Winnipeg Jets (3-1-1, 7 pts)
The Jets have some good talent in key areas and they come at you hard. Evander Kane is a budding superstar.
8. Montreal Canadiens (3-1-0, 6 pts)
Michel Therrien getting the most of this group should not be a surprise. Andrei Markov is healthy and having a big impact under Therrien. The team now gets PK Subban back who has ended his holdout.
9. Carolina Hurricanes (2-3-0, 4 pts)
After a slow start, the Hurricanes are slowly improving over their last three games with new pieces in place and several young guys in key spots. This team is flawed in some areas and if Cam Ward doesn’t find his game, the Hurricanes will be on the outside looking in for the playoffs. The biggest bright spot for the Hurricanes is Eric Staal looks back.
10. Buffalo Sabres (2-3-0, 4 pts)
Thomas Vanek looks like the Thomas Vanek of old with 9 points in four games and Jason Pominville is off to a hot start but the secondary scoring hasn’t been there in the last four games.
11. Philadelphia Flyers (2-4-0, 4 pts)
The top young talent on this team seem to be going through some growing pains as the Flyers are dealing with that and some key injuries. A bright spot, though, has been Ilya Bryzgalov who has posted a 2.21 GAA and .923 save percentage.
12. New York Islanders (2-2-1, 5 pts)
Been competitive in nearly every game but are giving up too many goals if they want to stay in the playoff mix as the season progresses.
13. Toronto Maple Leafs (2-3-0, 4 pts)
Looked like a playoff contender against the Penguins Wednesday night but haven’t any other nights.
14. Washington Capitals (1-3-1, 3 pts)
The Adams Oates era is off to a slow start and Alexander Ovechkin is showing no signs of returning as one of the games best players.
15. Florida Panthers (1-4-0, 2 pts)
Have scored just 8 goals in five games and goal scoring was a major concern going into the season.
1. San Jose Sharks (5-0-0, 10 pts)
A team many including myself overlooked, but the Sharks are as talented as any group in the league. A league best +15 goal differential and Patrick Marleau is off to a sensational start.
2. Chicago Blackhawks (6-0-0, 12 pts)
When the top-end talent is clicking like they are, the Hawks are the most dynamic and possibly toughest team to beat in the NHL. Under the radar defenseman Johnny Oduya is a +8 on the season.
3. St. Louis Blues (5-1-0, 10 pts)
Top to bottom the most complete team in the NHL. Vladimir Tarasenko is a rookie sensation and Chris Stewart looks like the player from his Avalanche days.
4. Boston Bruins (4-0-1, 8 pts)
Built for the playoffs and there should be no concerns in goal with Tuukka Rask as the No. 1.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning (4-1-0, 8 pts)
A breakout team in the East who can score at will and are much improved in goal and on the backend.
6. New Jersey Devils (3-0-1, 7 pts)
With the structure they play, life after Zach Parise has been just fine.
7. Pittsburgh Penguins (3-2-0, 6 pts)
The secondary scoring after the big guns is an area to keep an eye on
8. Ottawa Senators (3-1-1, 7 pts)
Last year doesn’t look like a fluke.
9. New York Rangers (2-3-0, 4 pts)
A good bet to find their way and re-emerge as a top cup contender but this team might not be as deep as it appeared on paper.
10. Anaheim Ducks (3-1-0, 6 pts)
This has been a good hockey club since Bruce Boudreau took over last year.