Believe it or not, we are halfway through the 2013 NHL regular season. With this condensed schedule has come shockingly hot starts and devastatingly cold beginnings.
The question is, where are the league's preseason favorites now?
Some teams were favored to win their divisional crown. Others were believed to be threats for the Stanley Cup.
Regardless of whether they're succeeding, the NHL's playoff structure is taking shape—some favorites are being left behind.
30. Florida Panthers (7-12-5, 19 points)
The Florida Panthers have posted NHL-worsts of 19 points and seven victories. They've gone 2-5-1 during their past eight games and have been outscored by a margin of 2.6 goals during their past 12 losses.
For the season, the Panthers have an average goal differential of negative-1.1—that comes as a result of their NHL-worst 3.6 goals allowed per game.
Most recently, the Panthers lost 7-1 against the Washington Capitals. This is yet another disappointing result in an underwhelming season from last year's Southeast Division champions.
29. Edmonton Oilers (8-10-5, 21 points)
The Edmonton Oilers were once 4-2-0. They're now 8-10-5, which equates to a record of 4-8-5 during their past 17 games.
More specifically, the Oilers have lost four in a row. They're showing no signs of improvement, as they've allowed four goals in three of those games.
The other loss was a 3-0 defeat at the Detroit Red Wings. Rough times in Edmonton.
28. Colorado Avalanche (8-10-4, 20 points)
During their past seven games, the Colorado Avalanche are 1-3-3. Each of their past five losses have come by just one goal.
They're close to victory, but Colorado just can't get it done—not a good sign with a road game against the Chicago Blackhawks on the horizon.
Colorado has struggled in every phase of the game during the 2013 season. They're 24th in goals scored, 19th in goals against, 29th in power-play percentage and 25th in penalty-kill percentage.
It's difficult to win when you're not doing anything well.
27. Tampa Bay Lightning (10-13-1, 21 points)
No one saw this coming.
Led by MVP candidate Steven Stamkos, the Tampa Bay Lightning were a trendy pick to make noise come the 2013 postseason. Unfortunately, the Lightning's goaltending hasn't been on par with the offense.
For the season, Tampa Bay ranks first in goals scored per game and 26th in goals allowed. This should put an end to the debate about whether defense wins championships.
The Lightning have now lost seven of their past nine games.
26. Buffalo Sabres (9-13-3, 21 points)
What happened to the Buffalo Sabres team that everyone expected to make the playoffs? A little word called inconsistency.
Buffalo was looking good towards the end of February, as they reeled off three consecutive wins to snap a four-game losing streak. Since then, the Sabres have lost three straight and are back at the bottom of the totem pole.
With players such as goaltender Ryan Miller on the roster, there is no reason for Buffalo to perform this poorly. Unfortunately, they are.
25. Columbus Blue Jackets (8-12-4, 20 points)
Roughly a week ago, the Columbus Blue Jackets would be last on this list. Fortunately, Columbus has won three consecutive games and is on the upswing.
Despite their horrific start, they're only five points back of the Phoenix Coyotes for eighth in the Western Conference. A sad truth about the current NHL season.
Columbus has turned it around with both Sergei Bobrovsky and Steve Mason putting up gems in the net. Whether they'll sustain this success is another topic of conversation.
24. Nashville Predators (9-9-5, 23 points)
From Jan. 31 to Feb. 14, the Nashville Predators won seven out of nine games. Since Feb. 14, the Predators have lost seven out of nine games.
That's what you call streaky.
Pekka Rinne is having an excellent season in the net and continues to keep Nashville alive in the postseason hunt. Unfortunately, the offense isn't producing and the defense has failed to manage the penalty-kill situations.
Until that changes, Nashville will continue to drop down the power rankings.
23. New York Islanders (10-11-3, 23 points)
The New York Islanders have had quite a rough season. Not only are they 10-11-3, but they're without the star they traded for.
Even if it was a financially driven trade, the acquisition of goaltender Tim Thomas has resulted in his not playing this season. A disappointing turn of events, to say the least.
As for the players that are in New York, they probably wish Thomas was in net. The Islanders are 29th in goals allowed per game.
22. Philadelphia Flyers (11-13-1, 23 points)
Led by rising star Claude Giroux, the Philadelphia Flyers were a team that many expected to have significant postseason success in 2013. To start the season, however, Philly lost six of their first eight games.
Between injuries and underwhelming goaltending, the Flyers failed to make the most of the talent on their roster. Fortunately, they've gone 9-7-1 in the 17 games since.
Losing two in a row is a nice way to break that momentum.
21. Calgary Flames (9-8-4, 22 points)
Jarome Iginla is up to his usual tricks, leading the Calgary Flames to a high-powered offensive attack. They rank ninth in goals per game and ninth in power-play percentage.
Unfortunately, the Flames are 27th in goals against per game and 21st in penalty-kill percentage. This has led the Calgary franchise to earning the label of average at 9-8-4.
Fortunately, Miikka Kiprusoff has returned to save the Flames' goaltending woes—in his first game back, Calgary won 4-1 over the San Jose Sharks.
20. Phoenix Coyotes (11-10-3, 25 points)
The Phoenix Coyotes have lost five of their past eight games. Two of their wins came during shootouts against the Anaheim Ducks.
This has been the story of the season for Phoenix, as their highs are exceptional and lows devastating. Until that changes, they'll be on the outside looking in come the playoffs.
The same can be said about their standing within the power rankings.
19. Winnipeg Jets (11-11-1, 23 points)
In terms of the major statistics, the Winnipeg Jets are having an atrocious season. They're 19th in goals scored, 25th in goals against, 25th in power-play percentage and 30th in penalty-kill percentage.
Even still, they're an even .500 as they sit at 23 points—just three behind the eighth-place New York Rangers.
Led by Andrew Ladd and Tobias Enstrom, the Jets could potentially turn their season around. If that were to be the case, they'd be in perfect position to catch the teams ahead of them.
18. Minnesota Wild (11-9-2, 24 points)
Entering the season, the Minnesota Wild were one of the most intriguing teams in the league. With Zach Parise and Ryan Suter signing on in free agency, the Wild appeared primed and ready for a postseason run.
At home, Minnesota has lived up to this billing with a record of 8-2-1. On the road, Minnesota has looked like a team that will be on the outside looking come the playoffs with a record of 3-7-1.
They've won five of eight, but Minnesota has serious issues with winning on the road.
17. Washington Capitals (10-11-1, 21 points)
When you're led by a superstar of Alexander Ovechkin's stature, you're expected to compete for a title. When it comes to the Washington Capitals, however, they're just hoping to find out which way is up.
The Capitals are 10-11-1 on the season, thus registering 21 points. Fortunately for Washington, they've turned it around since starting 2-8-1.
The Capitals have now won eight of their past 11 games, and are currently on a three-game winning streak. That includes a win over the Boston Bruins.
16. New Jersey Devils (11-8-5, 27 points)
The New Jersey Devils may be in the playoff picture, but they're doing everything they can to fall out of it. The absence of Martin Brodeur is a major reason why.
Since Brodeur went down with a back injury, the Devils are 1-5-1. They've allowed at least four goals in five of their six losses.
For perspective, New Jersey is 8-2-3 when Brodeur starts. They need their 40-year-old goaltender back as soon as possible.
15. Ottawa Senators (12-8-4, 28 points)
The Ottawa Senators are an elite defensive team that hasn't found their offensive rhythm just yet. Fortunately, Craig Anderson is playing the best hockey of any goaltender in the NHL.
Anderson leads the league in goals against average and save percentage. Ottawa, meanwhile, is third in penalty kill percentage.
Oddly, they have an average goal differential of positive-0.2. The fact that their leading scorer has six goals is a major reason why.
The defense is in place for a postseason push—the offense is not. They've now lost four in a row.
14. Vancouver Canucks (11-6-6, 28 points)
The Vancouver Canucks have redefined the term "streaky" with their level of play in 2013. For evidence, simply check the numbers.
Vancouver began at 8-2-2. Since then, they're 3-4-4 and struggling to prevent the opposition from finding the back of the net.
The Canucks are currently on a three-game losing streak and have lost five of their past six.
13. San Jose Sharks (11-7-4, 26 points)
The San Jose Sharks continue to be one of the most inconsistent teams in the NHL. With that being said, they're so good when on their game that it's impossible to write them off.
Joe Thornton continues to be a point machine, but the true strength of the Sharks comes on defense. They're third in goals against and fourth in penalty-kill percentage.
You can chalk that up to Antti Niemi, who is 10-4-4 with a goals-allowed average of 1.83 per game. Consistency in the net has been met by inconsistency with the puck, though, which is why San Jose is down on the power rankings.
12. St. Louis Blues (12-9-2, 26 points)
Entering the 2013 NHL season, the St. Louis Blues had become a popular choice for the label of "dark-horse contender." Having lost five of their past eight games, however, it appears as if the Blues are on the downswing.
Or are they?
David Perron led the Blues in their most recent game, registering a career-high four assists in a 6-3 win over Phoenix. This helped push St. Louis to 26 points and establish their status as a team back on the rise.
It'll take a few more of those wins to move further up this list.
11. Dallas Stars (12-9-2, 26 points)
The Dallas Stars have won four of their past six games. Their past two wins have come against title favorites, as they took down the St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings.
The latter victory came by a score of 5-2 while on the road. This is the type of signature victory that could propel the stars to bigger and brighter things.
Kari Lehtonen's recent play at goalie suggests they can reach a higher plateau.
10. New York Rangers (12-8-2, 26 points)
It hasn't been easy, but the New York Rangers have clawed their way to 12-8-2. They've done so by splitting the first 18 games at 8-8-2 and reeling off a four-game winning streak to follow.
The Rangers are now in eighth place due to their recent string of success. To reach that plateau, New York has taken down Tampa Bay, Buffalo, Philadelphia and their rival Islanders.
With Rick Nash recording at least one point in seven consecutive games, the Rangers are as dangerous as ever.
9. Carolina Hurricanes (13-9-1, 27 points)
The Carolina Hurricanes are currently first in the Southeast Division. They're also winners of four of their past five games.
After hitting a bit of a dry spell in the middle of February, the Hurricanes have finally found their groove. They've won five of seven and continue to light up the scoreboard behind Alexander Semin and Eric Staal.
The question is, how will Carolina overcome goaltender Cam Ward missing 6-to-8 weeks with a sprained MCL? The pressure is on Dan Ellis.
8. Detroit Red Wings (12-8-4, 28 points)
The Detroit Red Wings have been dominant at home and disappointing on the road. For evidence, check their 9-4-2 home record and 3-4-2 road record.
A major reason for Detroit's woes has been their inefficient play both on and defending against power plays. They're 23rd in power-play percentage and 24th in penalty-kill percentage.
Furthermore, Detroit is 12th in goals against and 18th in goals scored. Even as they've won five of seven, they've scored two goals or less in four of those games.
With Jimmy Howard stepping up in the net, however, the Red Wings appear to be on the upswing.
7. Toronto Maple Leafs (15-10-0, 30 points)
After three years of limited playing time, 22-year-old Nazem Kadri has finally found his niche with the Toronto Maple Leafs. With 11 goals and 14 assists through 25 games, Kadri has been the catalyst for the NHL's seventh-leading scoring offense.
Paired with 23-year-old wing James van Riemsdyk and 24-year-old center James Reimer, it appears as if Toronto has found their stars of tomorrow.
They've been working exceptionally well as of late, as the Maple Leafs have won three of their past four games. They also own three shutouts and have managed to go 9-5 on the road.
They have some work to do, but Toronto is prepping for a quality seed come the postseason.
6. Los Angeles Kings (12-8-2, 26 points)
The defending champion Los Angeles Kings started slow, but they've been one of the hottest teams in the league as of late. They've won seven of their past eight games and nine of their past 12, all of which finished in regulation.
In that time, their average margin of victory has been 2.3 goals per game.
Their defense and goaltending has been solid for the majority of the season, but the Kings' offense had been putrid. During their first 10 games, the Kings were averaging 2.1 goals per game.
They're now averaging 3.5 goals per contest over their past 11—like night and day.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins (16-8-0, 32 points)
Since beginning the season at 3-3-0, the Pittsburgh Penguins have won 13 of their past 18 games. That includes their current three-game winning streak in which they've taken down the Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Outside of Crosby, Chris Kunitz has been marvelous with 14 goals and 17 assists. James Neal has added 15 goals of his own while goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has gone 11-5-0 in the net.
Perhaps most impressive of all, Pittsburgh is 10-4-0 on the road—the second-best number in the NHL behind the Chicago Blackhawks.
4. Boston Bruins (15-3-3, 33 points)
The Boston Bruins have been one of the most consistent teams in the NHL this season. At 15-3-3, their record speaks volumes to such proficiency.
That's why they're one point behind the Montreal Canadiens despite playing three fewer games than the Eastern Conference leaders. Unfortunately, Boston also lost to the Canadiens.
That's a good way to drop down the power rankings when you truly don't deserve to.
Tuukka Rask has been superb and Patrice Bergeron has emerged as one of the better goal scorers in the East. Together, they've led the Bruins to an excellent season.
Boston remains a power, even without Tim Thomas.
3. Montreal Canadiens (15-5-4, 34 points)
With a March 3 victory over the Boston Bruins, the Montreal Canadiens moved into first place in the Eastern Conference. One night later, they lost 6-3 against the 10-11-3 New York Islanders.
Fortunately, they followed that loss up with a 4-2 win over the 13-9-1 Carolina Hurricanes. Confused yet?
Montreal fought their way into the Top 10 and higher with their recent string of success. They're 9-1-3 since Feb. 9 and own quality wins over the Bruins, Hurricanes, Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers.
Avoiding 6-3 losses would be nice, but the Canadiens have done enough to survive that type of hit.
2. Anaheim Ducks (16-3-3, 35 points)
The Anaheim Ducks may not be as hot as the Chicago Blackhawks, but they're playing as well as any other team in the NHL. In fact, they're playing better than any other team in the NHL at 16-3-3 with 35 points.
As for how hot they've been, Anaheim is 13-2-2 since the beginning of February. Most recently, they lost two shootouts against Phoenix but achieved revenge with a 2-0 win—that's at least one point in every game.
The Ducks' 30-year-old rookie goaltender, Viktor Fasth, has been a revelation, going 9-1-1 with a GAA of 2.08 and a save percentage of 92.2. That's just scratching the surface of how dominant Anaheim has been.
And to think, Jonas Hiller hasn't hit his stride yet.
1. Chicago Blackhawks (21-0-3, 45 points)
Is there any rational argument against the Chicago Blackhawks being ranked No. 1? At 21-0-3, I've yet to find one.
Not only are the Blackhawks winning games, but they're playing at an elite level in every phase of the game. For instance, they're fourth in the NHL goals scored per game at 3.1 and first in goals against at 1.8.
Furthermore, the Blackhawks are second in penalty-kill percentage at 89.0 percent. Nine players have at least 10 points through 24 games, and both Corey Crawford and Ray Emery have a goals-against average of 2.02 or better.
Crawford is 11-0-3 with a GAA of 1.53 and save percentage of 94.0. Emery rests at 10-0-0 with a GAA of 2.02 and a save percentage of 92.5.
Right now, Chicago is the best team in the NHL—there's no logical way to dispute that.
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