5. NEW YORK ISLANDERS
The Isles are tied with Pittsburgh at the top of Metropolitan division with a record of 19-8-0. The Islanders are the surprise of the season for me at this point and aside from their let down yesterday against St. Louis, they appear to be the real deal. Jaroslav Halak just squandered his first defeat in 11 starts against the Blues and sits at 14-5-0 on the year with a .920 SV% and 2.26% GAA. The biggest news of the year is the Blue line acquisitions of Johnny Boychuk (Boston) and Nick Leddy (Chicago). Even with, it would’ve been hard to predict their success through the first quarter of the year, but they stand well embedded in a playoff position and don’t seem to be slowing down. Their test against the Chicago Blackhawks this Saturday on their home ice in Long Island, will tell us more about whether this team just makes the playoffs or if they’re going deep in them.
4. NASHVILLE PREDATORS
The Predators are one of the most solid teams in the league so far this season. With new head coach Peter Laviolette making a turn in focus to offense, they have dazzled so far this season. Calder Memorial Trophy candidate Fillip Forsberg is a plus 21 on the year and has 25 points (11G/14A) and the addition of James Neal has helped pushed the Preds over the top. If anyone thought they wouldn’t be a contender this year, they haven’t been paying attention. Despite their success, they’ve just lost a crucial game to their rival to the north Chicago Blackhawks and it wasn’t nearly as close as the 3-1 score would suggest. Their loss to the Chicago Blackhawks is what drops them from 3rd to 4th, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of their success yet. With the Predators current level of consistency, I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up starting the post season in Smashville against the Blues.
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3. VANCOUVER CANUCKS
Vancouver is a team that seems to have rediscovered their footing after dealing Ryan Kessler to Anaheim for Nick Bonino and
replacing Roberto Luongo with Ryan Miller (16-5-0; .904 SV% ; 2.60 GAA) between the pipes. The Canucks have had their issues in years past, but aside from the debacle they had last year, they’ve continuously been a post season contender. This year it looks like the Canucks are officially back. They currently sit tied for second in the Western Conference with a replicated record to the Chicago Blackhawks at 18-8-1. In their last five games Vancouver has gone 3-2 with their only losses to the Red Wings and a freak evening in Toronto. The fact that the organization has found the Sedin twins a third solid line mate in Radim Vrbata has helped them post a combined total of 50 points, each with 25 (Daniel 7G/18A Henrik 6G/19A). It doesn’t stop there, Vrbata is the Canucks 3rd point leader behind the twins with 21pts (11G/10A). There’s no denying that the Vancouver Canucks are going to cause some headaches in the Pacific this year – if not win it all.