Christmas time is here. The weather is colder, the songs bring cheer, and the NHL season is near the halfway mark.
It’s not just boys and girls that Santa Claus has to check on if they’re naughty or nice. Some NHL teams are also on the list for that shiny new bike, or a giant lump of coal.
Alas, Santa is a bit busy this time of year so he’s asked me — Danta Claus — to make this list and report back to him. Oh, and he’s also asked me to provide some good picks for you this week, as you all have been good, too. We’ll try to keep that going.
Arizona Coyotes: Christmas came early for Arizona. A new, shiny Taylor Hall was tucked under its tree last week. Hall has points in three straight games entering Monday and scored his first goal Sunday.
Washington Capitals: The top team in the league is asking for the Norris Trophy this year, and it might happen. John Carlson has 47 points, 12 more than the next man on the list. He’s leading the charge while Alex Ovechkin keeps scoring goals and passing legends.
Vegas Golden Knights: Once teetering on the naughty list, the Golden Knights have won nine of 13 entering Monday’s game against Colorado. Max Pacioretty has been superb and is looking to be well worth the $7 million per season he signed for last year.
Carolina Hurricanes: The storm surge is coming through with a vengeance. They’re tucked behind the Islanders and Capitals in the Metro, but don’t sleep on Carolina, as the ‘Canes are 7-2-1 in their past 10 entering Monday.
St. Louis Blues: The defending Stanley Cup champions have won five straight entering Monday. This is your friendly reminder they’re atop the Western Conference without Vladimir Tarasenko.
Pittsburgh Penguins: No Sidney Crosby. No Patric Hornqvist. Evgeni Malkin has missed a lot of games. Yet, the Penguins hold the first wild card in the East entering Monday. They deserve all the presents.
Detroit Red Wings: You can’t be the worst team in the league and not get coal. Remember that three-game winning streak that included triumphs over Boston and Vegas? Since then, the Red Wings have gone 2-14-2. We’re doubling up on the coal, and that’s being nice.
San Jose Sharks: The writing was on the wall the moment the Sharks re-signed Erik Karlsson to that long-term deal. Not that that was a bad idea, but the lack of depth and inability to address goaltending has the Sharks tied for last in the Pacific Division. Peter DeBoer died for this.
Tampa Bay Lightning: From winning the Presidents Trophy, to being swept in the first round, to now seven points out of the second wild card in the Eastern Conference entering Monday. It’s ridiculous how bad it is in Tampa right now.
New Jersey Devils: We’ve touched on the Devils plenty in the past few weeks, so here’s something new: They’ve been outscored 11-4 since trading Taylor Hall entering Monday. The white flag has been waved.
Maple Leafs at Devils: Toronto has stormed back to win four in a row, now second in the Atlantic. The schedule gets a tad easier with a visit to New Jersey, and that should be a solid win for the Leafs. MAPLE LEAFS
Predators at Penguins: Amidst of Pittsburgh’s injuries, the Penguins remain one of the best home teams in the league (14-4-2). Welcoming a struggling Nashville team to town should be a welcoming sight for the Pens. PENGUINS
Stars at Coyotes: Arizona will be on the second game of a back-to-back (at Vegas on Saturday), and this is a stretch where they’ll likely rely on Adin Hill. Dallas, no matter the goalie, should fare well. STARS
Last week: 2-1