As the majority of North America entered a deep freeze this week, there was some knock-on disruption to the NHL schedule on Friday night. The Lightning's trip to Buffalo and the Red Wings' visit to Ottawa were both cancelled, with the games rescheduled for dates later in the season. Elsewhere, it was business as usual in the final few days before the league entered a three-day holiday hiatus.
All eyes were once again on Alexander Ovechkin this week, as the Capitals' superstar winger moved past Gordie Howe into second position on the all-time goalscoring charts. Ovi scored his 21st and 22nd goals of the season, numbers 801 and 802 of an amazing career, in the 4-1 win over Winnipeg on Friday night. Those goals also made it nine in his last nine games. Some NHL betting sites are offering NHL prop bets on Ovechkin breaking Wayne Gretzky's record of 894 goals, and the odds are getting shorter each week.
As the NHL comes out of its holiday break, let us take stock of how each of the 32 contenders are performing at the present moment.
A 5-2 win over fellow strugglers Columbus wasn't quite enough to lift the Blackhawks off the bottom spot this week. It was only Chicago's second victory in their last 18 games (Columbus have five in that time). There continues to be trade talk around Seth Jones and Patrick Kane, and if either or both of those players were to leave, this team would suffer even more.
Six straight defeats for the Blue Jackets mean that their position near the bottom of these rankings is more and more solid each week. Columbus has allowed more 5-on-5 goals (95) than any other team in the NHL this season, and are second only to the Ducks in total goals allowed (134). Maybe next year.
After a promising end to last week, things might have been more optimistic for the Ducks. That proved to be a mirage, however, as there was a return to form this week. Consecutive 4-1 defeats against the Kings and Wild in a back-to-back were followed by a 3-2 overtime loss to Calgary. This team are getting outshot routinely, and heavily.
After their 14-game road trip ended in early December, the Coyotes had the prospect of home advantage for an extended period, for the first time this season. In the six home games that they have played in December, Arizona is 4-1-1. The return of Jakob Chychrun has certainly boosted the Yotes; he has 13 points in 16 games this season.
An injury to Carter Hart will do nothing to help the Flyers, if he does miss time. Backup goaltender Felix Sandstrom has also missed games lately, meaning that Samuel Ersson, a 2018 fifth-round draft, has been called up to see some time in the Flyers' net. Five of their last six defeats have been by a single goal.
Defense remains the problem for this Sharks team, as they continue to leak goals. With 35 games played, the Sharks have held their opponents to under two goals just four times. San Jose are 5-8-0 in games where they have held the lead after the first period, making them the only team in the league with a losing record in that scenario.
The Canadiens are three games into a seven-game road trip, punctuated by a four-day break over Christmas. The team have yet to win consecutive games this month, and with Tampa Bay, Florida, Washington and Nashville on the horizon, the chances of that particular run ending seem slim. Montreal are being outshot by an average of 34 shots to 25 lately.
The Blues managed to sandwich a four-game winning streak in the middle of four defeats, leaving themselves right back where they started. With Nashville breathing down their necks for fifth spot in the Central Division, the playoffs seem to be a tall order, even at this stage. Key forward Jordan Kyrou missed the last two games before the break with an upper body injury.
The Canucks' playoff chances with NHL betting apps remain somewhat alive, due to their remarkable performance against their divisional rivals. Despite being 15-15-3 overall, Vancouver is 9-2-0 in games against the Pacific Division in 2022-23. Back-to-back wins against the Kraken and Oilers this week continued that trend. Elias Pettersson erupted for seven points in those two games, including a five-point night against the Oilers.
Just one game for the Sabres this week, as their Friday night game against the Lightning was postponed. A fortuitous 3-2 home win against the Golden Knights sent the Sabres into their holiday break on a four-game winning streak, their best run of the season. Even at this relatively early stage of the season, Buffalo already has six different players with 10 or more goals.
Coming into the week on a four-game winning run, it was a return to old ways for the Sens this week, losing all three games. Heavy defeats on the road to Minnesota and Winnipeg were tough to stomach, given their dominance in those two games, outshooting their opponents by a combined 64 to 47. Next up is the Bruins at TD Garden.
The Predators are approaching the last chance saloon at increasing speed. There is little room for error in a competitive wild-card race in the Western Conference, and Nashville needs to start taking advantage of their games in hand pretty quickly. Five points from a possible six this week is a good start, but seven of their next nine games are on the road, so they could be tricky to back when making NHL picks.
The Red Wings showed this week that on any given night, any team in this league can defeat any other team. Having lost six in a row, and facing a team in Tampa Bay who are perennially at the top of the Stanley Cup odds, not many would have fancied the Red Wings to pull off a 7-4 victory. It was quite a way to end a losing streak.
The Oilers are 5-5-2 in December, which puts them fifth in the Pacific Division and outside the wild-card spots at Christmas. All three of the teams immediately behind the Oilers in that race have games in hand, adding to the peril that Connor McDavid and Co. could find themselves in if their form doesn't improve soon.
The Islanders have regressed in recent weeks, with eight defeats in their last dozen games. The underlying numbers are middle-of-the-road, with both Corsi and Fenwick coming in at below 50% in that time. There is certainly still a chance for this team to reverse their current form and make a playoff push in a tight and competitive Metropolitan Division.
A much better week for Calgary, albeit against some inferior opponents. The Flames inflicted a couple of heavy defeats upon the Sharks to start the week, before picking up an OT loss and an OT win in a back-to-back against the Kings and Ducks, respectively. The Flames are tied for the league lead in overtime losses, a record they won't want to maintain much longer.
It is quite possible that Alex Ovechkin's individual heroics and record-breaking feats have taken some of the attention away from what this team have been doing in recent weeks. With just one defeat in their last 10 games, the Capitals are one of the form teams in the NHL. One potential concern for the Caps is the indefinite loss of John Carlson.
It has been an impressive December for the Wild, who are second in wins only to the streaking Hurricanes, this month. Mats Zuccarello has 17 points in 12 games in December, putting him in elite company alongside McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ovechkin and Tage Thompson. The Norwegian winger is on course for career highs in goals and points, in his age-35 season.
There is almost certainly a case to be made, to say that Florida deserves to be even lower in this list by now. Chances are that they will be, quite soon. USA sports betting sites have the Panthers at their highest odds of the season, as the team struggles to string consecutive victories together. That is something they have done just three times this season.
The Golden Knights set a high bar when it comes to expansion teams in recent years, but the Kraken are continuing to impress in just their second season in the league. Last year's totals of 27 wins and 60 points are in their sights, with 18 wins and 40 points on the board already after just 32 games.
The Kings continue to lead the league in games played, which is important to consider when ranking this team. Currently sitting second in the Pacific Division, the Kings are one victory away from breaking the 20-win mark, nearing the halfway point of their season. Rivals Seattle (5), Calgary (2) and Edmonton (2), all have games in hand, to try to reel them back in.
One defeat in their last nine games leaves this Rangers team in much better shape as we approach the new year. With no fewer than six of the top 16 teams in the league playing in the Metropolitan Division, there is bound to be some fierce competition for both the automatic and wild-card spots in the coming months.
The Pens had three tight games this week, winning one and losing one each in regulation and overtime. It wasn’t a catastrophic week, considering the two losses came against the form team in the NHL, Carolina. Sidney Crosby remains on track to achieve his 18th successive season at above a point-per-game, leading the league in even-strength points, with 33 in 33 games.
Connor Hellebuyck leads the league in Goals Saved Above Average, and is in the top three in Wins, Shutouts and Saves. With a top-five defense, the Jets are giving themselves every chance of going deep into this season. Josh Morrissey continues a remarkable breakout season, having already eclipsed his career-high in points, after just 34 games. A Norris Trophy candidate, perhaps?
This was a huge week for the Avs, who continue to struggle to score goals but have managed to stop allowing them, at least just enough to win, for now. Three wins this week, all of which required overtime, mean that the Avalanche have now won four straight games for just the second time this season. Nathan MacKinnon's return is still over a week away.
Dallas ended a five-game road trip with a 3-1-1 record, highlighting this team's ability to win on the road. The Stars are fourth in the league for road points this season, with 10 wins from 18 games. Jason Robertson and Jamie Benn are both point-per-game players on the road this campaign, with 21 and 18 points through 18 games, respectively.
Tampa Bay are one of only two NHL teams to have won every game where they have led after the first period, with Boston being the other. On 13 occasions, Tampa have led at the first intermission, and each time they have taken the two points. US betting apps may be taking note and adjusting their live odds accordingly.
If the season started on December 1st, the Carolina Hurricanes would have been the top team at Christmas. The Canes have yet to lose in regulation this month, with a 10-0-1 record and a 42-27 goal differential. Jordan Staal has relished his improved deployment after Sebastian Aho's absence. The veteran Staal has 10 points in his last 11 games, leading the team over that stretch.
It would be harsh to say that the incredible winning form of earlier in the season is long forgotten, but the form of the last three weeks has certainly tempered expectations in NJ somewhat. The Devils are 1-6-1 in their last eight games, scoring fewer than 2.5 goals per game in that time. The underlying numbers are still impressive, so they shouldn't struggle much longer.
The Golden Knights have only allowed 17 first-period goals so far this season, by far the lowest in the NHL. With that solid base to build upon, it is no surprise that Vegas are second in the league for wins, with 24. No fewer than eight players on this team have recorded 20 points already this season, a number matched only by the Kings and Bruins.
Another perfect week for the Leafs, albeit with only two games played and both of those at home. In Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and John Tavares, Toronto has three players with 39 or more points, a number matched only by the Oilers. Canada sports betting sites will no doubt be seeing a lot of action on this team in the coming weeks and months.
Another perfect week for the Bruins keeps them at the number one spot, as they show no obvious signs of faltering in their Presidents' Trophy bid. With 47 points, David Pastrnak leads the team in scoring, by some distance. His 24 goals in 33 games have him at a 60-goal pace, which would be a career high for the Czech winger.