NHL.COM: Who are the nominees?
Pittsburgh Penguins (19-12-4)–This team has a new coach and new players and has played a lot of close games this season.
It has also made some good moves.
But this team still has to find its groove with new players like goalie Ben Bishop, defenseman Josh Yohe and defenseman Nikita Zadorov.
Boston Bruins (18-13-3)–The Bruins are on the bubble to win their first Stanley Cup since 1996.
It could be a while before the Bruins are back in the postseason.
And there are some tough questions surrounding goaltender Tuukka Rask, who has been out since Jan. 1 with an upper-body injury.
But it’s hard to imagine that Boston can fall out of the race in the first round.
St. Louis Blues (15-16-4, minus-7)–They’re not on the ice for a lot.
But they’re on the same team as some of those teams that have been eliminated.
The Blues are also still without captain Alex Pietrangelo, who is out with an injury.
Chicago Blackhawks (14-15-3, minus 10)–Even though they’ve played a bunch of close-game games, they’ve been getting a lot more consistent goaltending from Jonathan Quick and Brian Elliott.
They could make a run at the Stanley Cup.
Nashville Predators (14, minus 7)–With some of their star players missing time, the Predators are going to need some help from their defense to get into the postseason this season, especially with the departure of defensemen Shea Weber and Paul Gaustad.
Los Angeles Kings (13, minus 6)–There’s still plenty of uncertainty with the Kings, especially as they enter a tough stretch in which they’ll face tough teams.
But the Kings should have enough talent to make it into the second round.
New York Rangers (12-16, minus 3)–One of the biggest surprises of the season so far is how much the Rangers have improved this year.
They’ve added some young talent, including defenseman Michael Grabner and goalie Henrik Lundqvist, and some veteran players like defenseman Marc Staal, forward Kevin Hayes and goalie Ryan Miller.
Columbus Blue Jackets (12, minus 8)–Columbus has won the past four Stanley Cups, but there’s still a lot to work on defensively.
Coach Todd Richards has also been a great fit with goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, and forward Artem Anisimov is a big part of the team’s offense.
Nashville (12-, minus 3), Detroit (11-19-4), Chicago (11, minus 4)–Detroit’s depth could help the Predators make the playoffs this season with a strong defense.
The Blue Jackets have a lot going on, but their biggest problem is goaltending.
Philadelphia Flyers (11)–It’s hard not to feel good about the Flyers, who are making some significant moves this offseason.
They’re getting a couple of big pieces in forward Matt Read and defenseman Mike Richards.
They also have veteran forwards Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.
Detroit Red Wings (10, minus 5)–I’m not sure what to make of the Red Wings’ season.
They lost their star player to injury last year, but it seems like they’re trying to rebuild the roster to compete for a playoff spot this season without Michal Neuvirth.
Minnesota Wild (9, minus 2)–Despite losing forward Ryan Hartman, the Wild have a talented group of young players that will have to improve this season to get back to the playoffs.
The Wild need to improve on their goaltending, which is one of the reasons they’ve lost their starting goaltender to injury.
Pittsburgh (9)–Pittsburgh is not exactly on the map this season but it’s still one of hockey’s better teams.
The Penguins have a solid roster and some of its best players.
San Jose Sharks (8)–San Jose had a rough season, but the Sharks have a young core and a solid coach in Peter DeBoer.
Anaheim Ducks (7) –I’m going to be surprised if the Ducks are in the playoffs, but they should be.
They are the best team in the Pacific Division and they’re going to have a good chance at the Cup.
Los Angels Angels (6) –The Angels are going through some transition with new manager Mike Scioscia, but his first-year team has some young pieces, including center fielder Brett Lawrie and outfielder Ryan Braun.
St Louis Blues –It’s tough to predict this Blues team, which has had a lot at stake for much of the year.
But there’s a lot riding on the Blues in the final month.
Carolina Hurricanes (5) –There’s a