Monday, December 1, 2014

Weekend wrap: Everyone is in first place

A look back at the biggest games and emerging story lines of the NHL weekend.

Theme of the Week: A Logjam at the Top

A look at the top of the overall league standings today reveals an odd quirk: a six-way tie for first place overall, with three of the four divisions featuring a pair of 34-point teams.

In the Atlantic, those two teams are the Canadiens and the Lightning, who’ve essentially owned the division since the season began. We’re all still waiting for the Bruins to eventually join the party, but for now it’s the Red Wings who’ve moved into the third spot, just a point behind.

In the Central, the Blues still can’t shake the surprising Predators, who’ve won four straight. Those two teams will face each other on Thursday, and each also gets a game with the surging Blackhawks this week. And then there’s the Metro, where the Islanders have caught up to the Penguins thanks to a league-leading 17 wins, which marks the best start in franchise history.

As for the Pacific, they just can’t keep up with the rest of the league. That division also features a tie for top spot, but the Ducks and Canucks are stalled at a measly 33 points. Slackers.

Add it all up and you’ve got nine teams — 30 percent of the league — within a point of first place overall. If you’re a fan of parity, you love the look of the standings right now. If you have to put together a top five out of this mess, not so much. Let’s head to the next section and try to sort it out.

Cup Watch: The League’s Five Best

The five teams that seem most likely to earn the league’s top prize: the Stanley Cup.

5. Nashville Predators (16-5-2, plus-18): I keep waiting for them to fade; they keep winning. Granted, this week’s narrow victories over the Oilers and Blue Jackets aren’t exactly anything to brag about, but wins are wins.

4. Tampa Bay Lightning (16-6-2, plus-21): They’ve won three in a row, Victor Hedman is back, and now the schedule serves up five teams with losing records over their next seven games.

3. Chicago Blackhawks (15-8-1, plus-26): Wait, how did a 31-point team sneak in here? The record still doesn’t look all that impressive, but a pair of weekend road wins over the Ducks and Kings sure did, so they’re in.

>> Read the full post on Grantland

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