At the start of the year it could be argued that there were 2 premiere divisions in the NHL. The Atlantic, with the Penguins, Rangers and Flyers (and even the Devils) was my pick to be the best in the East, while the Central with Nashville, Detroit, Chicago and St. Louis would have been considered the toughest in the West.
As it turns out, just over a quarter of the way into the season, the Ottawa Senators find themselves in what is arguably the toughest (and best) division in hockey. As of Wednesday morning, 4 of the 5 playoff positions are occupied by Northeast Division teams. Montreal sits on top of the conference, with 23 points, while Boston, Toronto and Ottawa occupy spots 5 through 7, tied with 20 points.
The other four spots in the Eastern Conference are split between the Atlantic (Pittsburgh and New Jersey) and the Southeast (Carolina and Tampa).
In the West, Chicago is heads and shoulders above the competition in the Central, while the Pacific Division also has 4 teams in playoff position today- Anaheim, San Jose, Phoenix and Dallas. The other 4 spots are also split between the Northwest (Vancouver) and the Central division (Chicago, St. Louis and Nashville).
So which is the best division?
By total points, here is the ranking (before Wednesday’s games):
One way to determine the strength of a division is to compare how they fair against the other divisions. Since it is a shortened season, there is no interconference play, so the records indicate play against the other two divisions in their conference.
So surprise surprise, the two top divisions are the Northeast and the Pacific. Of the Pacific Division’s 42 total wins, 9 of them came by way of shootout, as opposed to only 5 of 45 of the Northeast Division’s victories required a skills competition.