The NHL All-Star break is upon us and only eight of the 31 teams appear to be out of the playoff chase.
The postseason races are especially intense in the Metropolitan and Central divisions, where all seven teams remain in the chase.
“Every team in our division is capable of making a push,” Philadelphia Flyers winger Travis Konecny said. “It’s just going to come down to whatever team sticks with it, whatever team stays positive, grinds the longest, just battles it out.”
Not much separates teams in the middle of the league’s pack this season: 14 squads sit between 52 and 59 points at the break.
Below are Contest General’s newest NHL Power Rankings.
Nashville Predators (7-1-2 in L/10)
They went into the break by collecting points in eight consecutive games, going 6-0-2. They won four one-goal contests during that stretch and also earned an overtime victory.
“We’ve been able to pull these games off, and that’s a great sign,” goaltender Pekka Rinne told the Tennessean. “Earlier on in the season, I felt a lot of these games went to (overtime) or shootout, and we ended up giving away the leads at the end of the games, so (this is) the right direction.”
Philadelphia Flyers (8-2-0 in L/10)
They won eight of nine games before going into the break with an ugly 5-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. When they resume play next week, they will have 33 games in the final 67 days of the season.
“We’re in the fight and it’s going to be a dogfight now coming back as soon as we come back off the break,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol told reporters after the Lightning loss. “The schedule doesn’t lighten, but it doesn’t really lighten up for anybody. We got to keep finding ways to get points and keep finding ways to get a little bit better.”
Taking A Spill
New Jersey Devils (2-7-1 in L/10)
During the final game before the break, the Devils were missing forwards Taylor Hall, Marcus Johansson and Brian Gibbons along with goaltenders Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid. Not surprisingly, they absorbed a 3-0 loss to the torrid Predators for their fourth consecutive regulation defeat.
“That’s the nature of this league. Guys getting opportunities to step up and I don’t think you can use that as an excuse,” Devils defenseman John Moore told Advance Media. “Every team goes through it. Having said that, there were stretches where we got to our game and in instances like this, where you’re short guys, guys are in, guys are out, our system, our foundation and our commitment to detail has to be our blueprint for everything.”
That’s brave talk, but any team missing multiple key players will have trouble keeping up in the tight playoff chase.
New York Rangers (4-6-0 in L/10)
They lost their first three games on a Western Conference road swing before squeezing out a 6-5 victory at San Jose. The Rangers have been spinning their wheels for weeks, going 6-8-2 during their last 16 games.
That extended downturn prompted New York Post columnist Larry Brooks to suggest the Rangers could make several bail-out trades before the deadline to expedite a much-needed retooling.
NHL Power Rankings (Updated 1/28)
1: Tampa Bay Lightning (34-12-3) (LW: 1)
2: Vegas Golden Knights (32-14-4) (LW: 2)
3: Boston Bruins (29-10-8) (LW: 5)
4: Nashville Predators (29-11-7) (LW: 4)
5: Winnipeg Jets (29-13-8) (LW: 6)
6: Washington Capitals (29-15-5) (LW: 3)
7: St. Louis Blues (30-18-3) (LW: 8)
8: Colorado Avalanche (27-18-3) (LW: 9)
9: Dallas Stars (28-18-4) (LW: 11)
10: Los Angeles Kings (26-18-5) (LW: 10)
11: San Jose Sharks (26-15-7) (LW: 12)
12: Toronto Maple Leafs (28-18-5) (LW: 13)
13: New Jersey Devils (24-16-8) (LW: 7)
14: Columbus Blue Jackets (27-19-3) (LW: 14)
15: Minnesota Wild (26-18-5) (LW: 17)
16: Calgary Flames (25-16-8) (LW: 16)
17: Anaheim Ducks (24-17-9) (LW: 18)
18: Philadelphia Flyers (24-17-8) (LW: 21)
19: Pittsburgh Penguins (27-21-3) (LW: 19)
20: New York Rangers (25-20-5) (LW: 15)
21: New York Islanders (25-20-5) (LW: 23)
22: Chicago Blackhawks (23-19-4) (LW: 20)
23: Carolina Hurricanes (22-19-8) (LW: 22)
24: Edmonton Oilers (22-24-3) (LW: 27)
25: Detroit Red Wings (19-21-8) (LW: 24)
26: Florida Panthers (19-22-6) (LW: 25)
27: Montreal Canadiens (20-23-6) (LW: 26)
28: Vancouver Canucks (19-24-6) (LW: 28)
29: Ottawa Senators (15-23-9) (LW: 29)
30: Buffalo Sabres (14-26-9) (LW: 30)
31: Arizona Coyotes (12-29-9) (LW: 31)