by Max - 12/20/2005
The NHL season is now 2 ½ months old and the players and coaches are finally starting to adjust to the new rule changes. After a rapid scoring start to the season, we are now starting to see the goals per game go down, as the goalies have finally gotten used to the restrictions on their equipment and the ability to play the puck.
One of the surprise teams in the league this fall is the Nashville Predators. This team quietly had a good off-season signing winger Paul Kariya, thus bolstering the scoring ability. This team is unbeatable at home winning at an 83 percent clip. The Preds can do damage this season as long as G Thomas Vokoun can stay healthy.
Only a couple of teams are out of the playoff chase at this point in the season and thus a strong and exciting second half lies ahead. Here is how I see the top-ten teams according to strength at this point in the season.
1) Ottawa Senators- This team has a dynamic offense to compliment the best goaltender in the league. They have scored points in 25 of their 30 games played and should have home ice throughout once the playoffs start. The Sens have just completed a Western Conference road swing and faired well scoring points in all three games. This is a team that is never out of a game because of their ability to get the puck into the net.
2) Dallas Stars- Dallas has one of the best goaltenders in the league, as Marty Turco continues to shine between the pipes. He is coming off of an impressive shutout of the Senators. If this team can score goals, they will be a tough out once the playoffs start.
3) Detroit Redwings- The Wings have all of the components that make up a championship team expect for the net minder. This has plagued them all season long, as most of their wins come via high-scoring affairs. If the veterans can hold up, this is a team you do not want to face in the playoffs.
4) Calgary Flames- The Stanley Cup Finalist are off to another good start this season led by the best player in the league Jerome Iginla. This team also has a top-5 goaltender in Miikka Kiprusoff and this combination can get them back to the Stanley Cup Finals.
5) New York Rangers- Predicted to be the worst team in the league by some publications, this team has gelled during the early part of the season and the big name players are producing. Jaromir Jagr leads the league with 51 points and if their goaltending can hold up, this team has the ability to win a playoff series.
6) Buffalo Sabres- Buffalo is the hottest team in the NHL right now coming off of their seventh straight victory on Monday. Marty Biron is riding his own winning streak at 13 games. Scoring goals is the only hurdle this team will have to overcome.
7) Carolina Hurricanes- The Canes have a comfortable five-point lead over the Stanley Cup Champions in the Southeast Division. This is a tough team to beat in Raleigh, as they have won 75 percent of their games played. This is another team that wins games with a solid defense and has a pair of reliable goaltenders.
8) Vancouver Canucks- On paper, this team should be higher ranked but I feel the loss of goaltender Dan Cloutier for the season with a knee injury will start to catch up with them. I expect Calgary will overtake them by the end of the month. A bright spot for this team is the impressive play of Todd Bertuzzi, who has not missed a beat since coming off of his suspension. He gives star player Marcus Naslund a great outlet.
9) Tampa Bay Lighting- The Stanley Cup Champions have righted the ship after a surprising six-game losing streak to start November. This team still has many holdovers from that championship team led by Vaclav Prospal and his 37 points. That being said, the east is just too strong for a repeat champion despite playing in a weak division.
10) Nashville Predators- Along with the Rangers, this is certainly a surprise team in the NHL. The Preds got off to a fantastic start and have not looked back ever since. This is a under team for gamblers and this serves them well once the playoffs start and the scoring comes down.
Doc's is your place this season for the National Hockey League. We are off to a fantastic start to the season and our seasonal dime betters are up over $15,000. To view our selections, sign-up for one of the many NHL Hockey packages that we are currently offering.