Normally, I like to start these articles off with a small recap or a “last week in hockey” type of paragraph. Today, however, I wanted to bring attention to something the NHL hasn’t seen in a very long time: no break for the Winter Olympics.

It’s been covered and talked about with depth already. But for those who don’t know: the NHL did not take the 17-day break for the Winter Olympics like they have for every Winter Olympics since 1998.

When I first heard about this, I was a little frustrated because I didn’t have all the facts. The first time I sat down and watched a hockey game was T.J. Oshie’s clutch shootout against Russia in the 2014 Winter Olympics. It was a fond memory, and I was confused as to why the NHL would want to keep more from happening to other new hockey fans.

However, I was, statistically speaking, one of the few new fans who started watching NHL hockey because of their stars’ appearances in the Winter Olympics. The truth is, not many people become interested in the NHL after the Olympics, and those who do usually stop watching weeks after the games.

A 17-day break in the NHL season would mean that the regular season needs to be compressed, and there would be more games over fewer weeks. That would have much more wear-and-tear on the players over the course of the season, especially on those who compete during the break.

February is also a key time in viewership for the NHL. The NFL season comes to a close and the MLB season has yet to start. Therefore, the NHL has much less competition than in, say, October.

Now, without further ado, onto this week’s rankings!

P.S., this week is the last week until the trade deadline (Monday, Feb. 26) so keep an eye out for faces in new places!

Here are some matchups to watch in the next week, based on my Top-12 rankings:

  • Tuesday, February 20
    • Tampa Bay Lightning @ Washington Capitals – 7:00 PM ET
    • San Jose Sharks @ St. Louis Blues – 8:00 PM ET
  • Thursday, February 22
    • San Jose Sharks @ Nashville Predators – 8:00 PM ET
  • Friday, February 23
    • Winnipeg Jets @ St. Louis Blues – 8:00 PM ET
  • Saturday, February 24
    • Winnipeg Jets @ Dallas Stars – 7:00 PM ET
    • Boston Bruins @ Maple Leafs – 7:00 PM ET
  • Sunday, February 25
    • St. Louis Blues @ Nashville Predators – Noon ET
  • Monday, February 26
    • Toronto Maple Leafs @ Tampa Bay Lightning – 7:30 PM ET

1. Las Vegas Golden Knights (39-15-4, 82 pts) (Last Rank: 2)

Last Week: 3-0

Next Games: vs Flames, vs Canucks, @ Kings

The Golden Knights had a field day last week and now have the most points in the NHL. The Knights tied the record for most home wins by a team in their inagural season, set by the Hartford Whalers, at 22 wins. They’ll have two opportunities to set a new record this week.

 

2. Tampa Bay Lightning (39-17-3, 81 pts) (1)

Last Week: 1-2

Next Games: @ Capitals, @ Senators, @ Canadiens, vs Maple Leafs

One could argue that the Lightning peaked earlier this season (I might). The Lightning haven’t found much consistency as of late, but there’s still plenty of hockey left to play and the Lightning still sit at the top of the Atlantic.

 

3. Winnipeg Jets (35-15-9, 79 pts) (6)

Last Week: 3-0

Next Games: vs Kings, @ Blues, @ Stars

The Jets reclaim their No. 3 spot from two weeks ago after going 3-0 last week, including a thrilling 3-4 overtime win against the Capitals in which the Jets trailed 3-1 with seven minutes left in the last period.

 

4. Toronto Maple Leafs (36-20-5, 77 pts) (5)

Last Week: 2-1

Next Games: vs Panthers, vs Islanders, vs Bruins, @ Lightning

The Maple Leafs have found consistency as they battle the four-point deficit to Tampa Bay in the Atlantic division. Toronto had impressive wins against Columbus and Detroit last week, but fell at home to the Penguins, 3-5.

 

5. Boston Bruins (36-13-8, 80 pts) (3)

Last Week: 2-1

Next Games: @ Oilers, @ Maple Leafs, @ Sabres

Joining Toronto in the Atlantic division race are the Boston Bruins, who are trying to keep their momentum going. They’ll end their five-game road trip with a matchup in Buffalo this week.

 

6. Nashville Predators (35-14-9, 79 pts) (4)

Last Week: 2-2

Next Games: @ Red Wings, vs Sharks, vs Blues

The Predators also had a thrilling third period comeback last week against the Blues. Down 3-0 with 10 minutes left in the third, the Predators tied the game and forced overtime, where they would win on a penalty shot to steal the Central division points. They temporarily take the first seed in the Central division with their win over the Senators Monday night.

 

7. Pittsburgh Penguins (35-22-4, 74 pts) (11)

Last Week: 4-0

Next Victims: @ Hurricanes, @ Panthers

The Penguins are heating up, riding a five-game win streak and with only two games to play this week. Pittsburgh will need the points with the top-three in the Metropolitan within five points of each other.

 

8. San Jose Sharks (32-19-8, 72 pts) (9)

Last Week: 2-1

Next Games: @ Blues, @ Predators, @ Blackhawks @ Wild

The Sharks continue to get points and stay in the second seed in the Pacific, but injuries are mounting. The Sharks placed forwards Joel Ward and Tomas Hertl on IR while recalling defenseman Paul martin and forward Rudolfs Balcers from the San Jose Barracuda.

 

9. Dallas Stars (34-21-4, 72 pts) (8)

Last Week: 1-1

Next Games: @ Ducks, @ Kings, vs Jets

Dallas is trying to stay afloat in the Central division. They hold the third seed, but the Stars are tied with the Blues and only one point ahead of the Wild.

 

10. Washington Capitals (34-18-4, 75 pts) (10)

Last Week: 2-2

Next Games: vs Lightning, @ Panthers, vs Sabres, vs Blue Jackets

After getting embarrased by the Blackhawks in a 1-7 loss, the Capitals bounce back with a win in Buffalo to reclaim the top seed in the Metropolitan.

 

11. St. Louis Blues (34-22-4, 72 pts) (7)

Last Week: 0-2

Next Games: vs Sharks, vs Jets, @ Predators

As mentioned before, the Blues blew a 3-0 lead during the last 10 minutes of their matchup in Nashville. They finished the week by giving up Central division points to Dallas. The Blues have two Central division matchups this week against the Jets and Predators and have a chance to rebound after falling from the third seed to the first Western wild card.

 

12. Philadelphia Flyers (30-19-10, 70 pts) (13)

Last Week: 2-1

Next Games: vs Canadiens, vs Blue Jackets, @ Senators, @ Canadiens

The Flyers kept the ball rolling after their flawless 4-0 week by going 2-1 this week, including a 7-4 win against the Rangers. The Flyers have now won six of their last seven, and have a long week this time around.

 

13. New Jersey Devils (31-20-8, 70 pts) (18)

Last Week: 4-0

Next Games: vs Blue Jackets, vs Wild, vs Islanders

Speaking of 4-0 weeks, the Devils recovered from their 0-4 week last week in tremendous fashion. For that, they make the biggest leap in my rankings.

 

14. Minnesota Wild (32-20-7, 71 pts) (12)

Last Week: 2-2

Next Games: @ Devils, @ Rangers, vs Sharks

The Wild lead the league in third period goals with 75, which helped them win big against the Islanders on Monday. They stay close in the Central division race, but need more with matchups against the Sharks and red-hot Devils this week.

 

15. Anaheim Ducks (29-20-11, 69 pts) (17)

Last Week: 2-1

Next Games: vs Stars, @ Coyotes, @ Oilers

The Ducks have a great opportunity to make some headway in the Pacific division race. Their win against the Golden Knights Monday night gives them the third seed in the Pacific and puts them only one point behind San Jose.

 

16. Calgary Flames (30-21-9, 69 pts) (14)

Last Week: 1-3

Next Games: @ Golden Knights, @ Coyotes, vs Avalanche

The Flames may have lost three of their four games, but the overtime loss to the Bruins on Monday puts them closer to the third seed in the Pacific.

 

17. Los Angeles Kings (31-22-5, 67 pts) (16)

Last Week: 1-2

Next Games: @ Jets, vs Stars, vs Oilers, vs Golden Knights

The Kings snapped a three-game skid with a win in Buffalo, but still sit two points out of the playoffs.

 

18. Colorado Avalanche (31-23-4, 66 pts) (15)

Last Week: 1-2

Next Games: @ Canucks, @ Oilers, @ Flames, vs Canucks

Colorado still hasn’t quite found any real consistency since going on their big winning streak. They suffered bad losses last week, including a 1-6 loss to Winnipeg and a 4-2 loss to the Oilers.

 

19. New York Islanders (29-26-6, 64 pts) (22)

Last Week: 2-2

Next Games: @ Maple Leafs, @ Devils

Both of the Islanders’ wins last week came in the form of 3-0 shutouts against the Rangers and Hurricanes. They played a great game against the Wild Monday afternoon but fell short in a 5-3 loss.

 

20. Carolina Hurricanes (27-23-10, 64 pts) (19)

Last Week: 1-3

Next Games: vs Penguins, @ Red Wings

The only bright spot for the Hurricanes last week came in a 3-7 victory over the Kings. The Hurricanes have a bit of a break, as they don’t play until Friday against Pittsburgh.

 

21. Columbus Blue Jackets (29-25-5, 63 pts) (20)

Last Week: 1-3

Next Games: @ Devils, @ Flyers, vs Blackhawks, vs Capitals

The Blue Jackets ended the week on a three-game losing streak. This week will be rough, too, as they have three matchups against teams in my top 13.

 

22. Florida Panthers (26-24-6, 58 pts) (25)

Last Week: 2-1

Next Games: @ Maple Leafs, vs Capitals, vs Penguins

The Panthers had impressive wins against Vancouver and Calgary, but kept the average by suffering a 2-7 loss to the Jets.

 

23. New York Rangers (27-28-5, 59 pts) (21)

Last Week: 0-4

Next Games: @ Canadiens, vs Wild, vs Red Wings

The Rangers currently ride a four-game losing streak. That makes them 2-8-0 in the month of February. The Rangers only sit five points out of the Eastern wild card, and need to stop the bleeding and start winning games to stay in it.

 

24. Chicago Blackhawks (25-26-8, 58 pts) (23)

Last Week: 1-2

Next Games: vs Senators, vs Sharks, @ Blue Jackets

It would appear that the sun is setting on the Blackhawks dynasty. They will likely miss the playoffs for the first time in, like, forever, and their massive contractual obligations will make rebuilding difficult. However, Chicago has remained active in trading before the deadline.

 

25. Detroit Red Wings (24-25-9, 57 pts) (24)

Last Week: 2-2

Next Games: vs Predators, vs Sabres, vs Hurricanes, @ Rangers

Like the Rangers, the Red Wings still have a small shot at making the playoffs. They sit just seven points out of the Eastern wild card, and looked good in a 1-4 win against Tampa Bay last week.

 

26. Edmonton Oilers (24-30-4, 52 pts) (27)

Last Week: 1-2

Next Games: vs Bruins, vs Avalanche, @ Kings, @ Ducks

The Oilers snapped a six-game losing streak with their win in Colorado. The Oilers are 2-6-1 in February, and don’t have much to look forward to this week.

 

27. Vancouver Canucks (23-30-6, 52 pts) (28)

Last Week: 1-2

Next Games: vs Avalanche, @ Golden Knights, @ Coyotes, @ Avalanche

The Canucks had a big 1-6 win against the Bruins, but didn’t do anything else in the win column. They also signed general manager Jim Benning to an extension.

 

28. Ottawa Senators (21-27-9, 51 pts) (29)

Last Week: 2-2

Next Games: @ Blackhawks, vs Lightning, vs Flyers

The Senators had a decent week, taking losses from the Penguins and Predators, but getting wins against the Sabres in overtime and the Rangers.

 

29. Montréal Canadiens (22-29-7, 51 pts) (26)

Last Week: 0-3

Next Games: @ Flyers, vs Rangers, vs Lightning, vs Flyers

The Canadiens have lost their last five games. They could have a tough time turning it around this week, with three top-12 matchups on the docket.

 

30. Arizona Coyotes (17-32-10, 44 pts) (31)

Last Week: 3-0

Next Games: vs Flames, vs Ducks, vs Canucks

Congrats, Coyotes, you made it! In all seriousness, though, the Coyotes don’t look awful and might have a bright future ahead of them.

 

31. Buffalo Sabres (17-32-11, 45 pts) (30)

Last Week: 1-3

Next Games: @ Red Wings, @ Capitals, vs Bruins

Nothing personal Buffalo, but a three-game losing streak isn’t going to cut it when the Coyotes go on a four-game winning streak. Sure you beat the Lightning, but it’s just business.

 

 

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