NHL: Five Sleeper Teams For The 2021 Playoffs

NHL: Five Sleeper Teams For The 2021 Playoffs
Florida Panthers centre Aleksander Barkov is congratulated after scoring a goal during the second period against the Philadelphia Flyers, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, in Sunrise, Fla. (Lynne Sladky/AP)

Although the NHL season just started, the standings are tight between teams. Since it is a shortened season, teams play these games as if they are worth 4 points each, instead of the usual two points for a win.

But teams can’t take their ranking for granted because if they go on a losing streak, they could see themselves no longer in playoff contention. Some teams are so hot that even though they played fewer games so far, they are currently playoff contenders. Here are five teams to watch out for come playoff time:

Florida Panthers

Before the 2019-2020 NHL season, The Florida Panthers brought in goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky from the Columbus Blue Jackets, and last year he didn’t play up to the expectation. Even though he hasn’t played so well this year, Florida’s other goaltender, Chris Driedger, is off to a scorching start.

Through 7 games, they have 12 points and currently sit 3rd in the Discover Central division. They have scored three or more goals in all but one of their games. Their power play is 23.7% effective, and power kill is 84.5% effective. Both stats are excellent for a team looking for a playoff run. 

Vegas Golden Knights

One key for success for any team is strong goaltending. The Vegas Golden Knights have one of the best goalie duos in the league. Marc-Andre Fleury has a 1.00 GAA, and .951 save percentage, winning all 3 of his starts this season. Through 7 games, they have 11 points and are currently in 4th place in the Honda West division.

Forward Mark Stone leads the way with a team-high 11 points on the season. With a productive offense, strong defensemen, and top-notch goaltending, the Golden Knights look like a playoff-caliber team.

Boston Bruins

One year after winning the President’s trophy for leading the NHL in points, the Boston Bruins’ expectation to thrive was very high. All-star forwards Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak both had offseason surgeries. As training camp began, Brad Marchand came back strong and healthy.

However, for Pastrnak, the expectation was for him to return in mid-February. Lucky for the Bruins, he made his season debut on January 30. He has five goals in his first three games, two assists, and 19 shots on goal. He is a key for their offense. Through 10 games, the Bruins are first in the Massmutual East division with 16 points. With great goaltending from Jaroslav Halak and Tuukka Rask and this high-powered offense, the Bruins are a team to watch come playoff time.

Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens’ offense is off to a hot start. They have scored four-plus goals in 7 of their first 11 games. They are currently in 2nd place in the Scotia North division with 16 points. NHL’s leading goal scorer, Tyler Toffoli, was brought in during the offseason to the Canadiens. He has made an immediate impact improving their offense every night.

Defenseman Jeff Petry has 13 points, second-most for a defenseman this season. On September 7, the Canadiens traded for goaltender Jake Allen and signed him to a two-year extension to back up Carey Price. Allen has a .930 save percentage and a 2.02 GAA, both very helpful in the highest-scoring division in the NHL. If their goal-scoring can continue and their goalies can keep them in games, the Canadiens are a team destined for success.

Carolina Hurricanes

The Carolina Hurricanes have won six of their first eight games and are currently 4th in the Discover Central division. Before getting injured, goaltender Petr Mrazek had a 0.99 GAA and a .955 save percentage. Even with him out, goaltender James Reimer has also played very well. Forward Andrei Svechnikov is always fun to watch after he had a lacrosse style goal last season.

Defenseman Dougie Hamilton is looking to bounce back to his pre-injury 2019-2020 self. Following a midseason trade last season from the Florida Panthers, Vincent Trocheck has contributed five goals and two assists. If Mrazek comes back strong from injury and the rest of the team continues playing well, the Hurricanes are a sleeper team come playoff time.

 

Sammy Berger
About Sammy Berger 12 Articles
Sammy Berger is a huge Islanders, Giants and Nets fan. He also covers Hockey and College Basketball for Uncut Sports News.
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