Photo courtesy of Karl B DeBlaker | Associated Press
The 2022-23 NHL season has been one of the most surprising seasons that hockey fans have seen in years, with some teams trying to give it one last go at a Stanley Cup, and young teams finally breaking out after years of rebuilding. The Boston Bruins have had a historic season, while teams like the St. Louis Blues and Florida Panthers have fallen off. This season has seen the New Jersey Devils of all teams go on a 13-game winning streak, and the Philidelphia Flyers have a 10-game losing streak. So, as the All-Star Break approaches, here are the top 10 best teams in the NHL heading into it.
10. Los Angeles Kings (28-18-6)
The Kings have been one of the best teams in the Pacific Division this season and they are certainly one of the strangest teams in the entire league. They are the only team in the top 19 in the standings with a negative goal differential, and just over a month ago they sent goalie Cal Petersen to the AHL due to his poor play. However, with the emergence of Pheonix Copley, and Kevin Fiala not missing a beat, the Kings have cemented themselves as playoff contenders. But, over the last few weeks, they haven’t had too much success against teams outside of the bottom of the league.
9. New York Rangers (27-14-8)
Even though they have not lived up to the Presidents’ Trophy contender that many thought they would be at the beginning of the year, and as of now Igor Shesterkin doesn’t look like he will repeat his Vezina campaign from last season, the Rangers have quietly put together a solid year. Currently sitting at third in the Metro, they have struggled to string wins together as of late. Though with Adam Fox in Norris contention, if Shesterkin is able to rekindle some of his magic from last season, the top three in the Metro could end up all being cup contenders.
8. Colorado Avalanche (27-18-3)
This may be the most controversial ranking on this list. The defending Stanley Cup champions have had an underwhelming regular season mostly due to major injuries to Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, but with MacKinnon’s recent return, the Avalanche have started to rebound going 6-1 in their last seven games. They still do have questions at goaltender as neither Alexandar Georgiev or Pavel Francouz have been able to make up for the loss of Darcy Kuemper. But, if the Avs’ can continue this upswing they could be battling for a top spot in the Central Division by the end of the season.
7. Toronto Maple Leafs (31-12-8)
For the second season in a row, the Maple Leafs have rebounded after a slow start to the season. After losing Jack Campbell in free agency, the Leafs were forced to take a risk on Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov. While Murray did miss a significant portion of the season to injury, he seems to be in better form than he was over his last few seasons with the Senators, Samsonov has come out as the starter with a 17-5-2 record and a .917 save percentage. The Leafs haven’t been great their last 10 games, losing to teams like Ottawa and Montreal, but with how strong they have been throughout the season they couldn’t have been placed any lower. Their biggest question over the next three weeks though is how well are they going to perform without the reigning Hart winner Auston Matthews.
6. Edmonton Oilers (28-18-4)
Another team that has seemingly had a lackluster regular season up to this point, the Connor McDavid-led Oilers are apparently getting back into shape. With the major free agent signing of Jack Campbell not working out to this point of the season, and the scary wrist injury to Evander Kane, the Oilers have been out of a playoff spot for major portions of this season. But, with Kane’s return and Stuart Skinner having his coming out party in net, the Oilers have been one of the hottest teams in the league as of late with a record of 7-0-1 in their last eight games. This stretch has also included big divisional wins against all three Pacific teams ahead of them in the standings.
5. Seattle Kraken (29-15-5)
The Kraken have been maybe the biggest surprise of this season after being pretty irrelevant during their inaugural season. The Kraken have come out as one of the best defensive teams in the league as well as one of the deepest. Any blue line that is able to give Martin Jones a winning record as well as back-to-back shutouts against Montreal and Boston deserves serious respect. They have just taken over the top spot in the Pacific Division after going 4-1 in their last 5 as they head into the All-Star Break. The emergence of possible Calder winner Matty Berniers has also helped the depth of this team and if they can get Shane Wright to break out as well, this could be an intimidating team come playoff time.
4. Carolina Hurricanes (32-9-8)
Maybe the quietest second-place team ever seen, the Hurricanes have been battling with the Devils for the top spot in the Metro all season long. They have been incredibly consistent, and with convincing wins over the Bruins and Capitals going on a six-game win streak, the Hurricanes may be ready to start pulling ahead and cementing their claim to the top of the Metropolitan Division, but they are going to need to keep up with the red-hot Devils to stay ahead in the race for the division.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning (32-15-1)
Trying to become an official dynasty, the Lightning are well on their way to contending for a third Cup in four seasons. They are one of the most complete teams in the NHL even with Vasilevski having a bit of a down year in net. They still have one of the most electric offenses in the league, and with Mikhail Sergachev taking over for the loss of Ryan McDonagh, their defense is as solid as ever. The Lightning have won three in a row going into the break against very good competition in the Wild, Bruins and Kings.
2. New Jersey Devils (32-13-4)
The Devils have finally emerged this season after a half-decade-long rebuild. Jack Hughes has broken out as one of the premier centers in the league as well as finally getting good goaltending after stealing Vitek Vanecek from the Washington Capitals. Dougie Hamilton has had a bounce-back season after having only 30 points last season, he has 46 in 49 games this year, including 13 goals. With Hishier and Bratt also being point-per-game players, it is no wonder why the Devils are one of the hottest teams in the league going 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. With wins against Dallas, Vegas, LA, and Carolina in that stretch, the Devils are only four points back of the Hurricanes going into the break.
1. Boston Bruins (38-7-5)
Could it have been anyone else? The Boston Bruins are not just having the best season in the NHL right now, they are having one of the best seasons of all time, recently breaking the record for the fastest team to 80 points that was held by the 1943-44 Montreal Canadians. The Bruins have lost three in a row for the first time this season going into the break, but with how unstoppable they have been up to this point, it is hard to see that lasting. Before losing their last three, the B’s had won their last six.
David Pasternak has been on another planet this season, looking to have a career year and being on pace for around 110 points. Linus Ullmark has been one of if not the best goaltenders in the league so far, and David Krejci’s return to the NHL has been nothing other than miraculous for how well he has performed. When you also have a roster that includes Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, Hampus Lindholm and Taylor Hall, this is a special team that the Bruins have this season and they are definitely hoping that they can complete what looks to be their “last dance” with a Stanley Cup.