The NHL trade deadline has passed, as teams are scrambling to make a final push for the playoffs. There are less than twenty games remaining in the season and still, there isn’t one clear-cut front-runner to claim the Stanley Cup.

The Eastern Conference this season has been excitingly tight in points, as it seems every week there is a new team leading their respective division. The East from top to bottom has been, for the most part, has been pretty strong throughout the season, making it hard for just one team to run away with the conference. The Atlantic Division alone, own the three top teams in the Eastern Conference; the Tampa Bay Lightning (98 points), Boston Bruins (92 points), and the Toronto Maple Leafs (85 points).

The Western Conference has been shaken up due to the new expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights. Prominent teams from the West such as St. Louis and Chicago are now on the outside looking in and don’t seem to be pursuing the playoffs after being “sellers” at the deadline. The shift in power in the West has been evident as teams with younger cores have been dominating the conference, with Nashville (97 points), Winnipeg (91 points) and Vegas (91 points) leading the way.

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been terrorizing the league with their explosive offense led by Nikita Kucherov with 87 points on the season and their incredible goaltending behind Veinza Trophy front-runner, Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Tampa Bay owns the most points in the NHL with 97 points and the best goals per game average with 3.6 goals. The Lightning are also 10th in goals against (2.8), 3rd in power play percentage (23.8%), but have been lacking an effective penalty kill (77.7%) as they rank 24th in the league.

The Lightning went all in at the deadline to acquire defenseman Ryan McDonagh and forward J.T.

Miller from the New York Rangers for the hefty price of a 2018 first round pick, 2018 seventh round pick, forward Vladislav Namestnikov, prospect defenseman Libor Hajek, prospect forward Brett Howden. Howden and Hajek were two promising prospects for the Lightning, but this trade has made it obvious that they’re in “Stanley Cup or bust” mode.

(via Tampa Bay Lightning Instagram)

The acquisition of McDonagh has solidified the Lightning’s defensive core and should help bolster the blue-line, along with their lack of proficiency on the penalty kill. McDonagh could be the piece of an already elite core that can make the Lightning win their second cup in franchise history.

Boston Bruins

The Bruins have emerged as one of the top Stanley Cup contenders behind rookie defenseman Charlie Mcavoy, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask.

The Bruins are 4th in the league in goals per game (3.3), 3rd in goals against (2.5), 12th in powerplay percentage (20.8%), and 7th on the penalty kill (82.9%). Across the board, the Bruins have been pretty solid considering the injuries to both forward Patrice Bergeron and defenseman Charlie Mcavoy.

Marchand leads the team in points with 67 points and has grown into a leader for the injury-plagued Bruins. Marchand has scored 29 goals this season and has relieved the pressure and questions surrounding the Bruins on whether or not they can sustain their success.

Charlie Mcavoy is one of the leaders for the Bruins in time on ice with an average of 22.07 minutes per game. Mcavoy was recently diagnosed with a sprained left MCL and will be out for the next four weeks.

With all the success the Bruins are having this season, it should translate to even more success in the playoffs when Bergeron and Mcavoy are implemented back in the lineup. The Bruins have shown off their depth on their roster and have further expanded on it.

The Bruins traded forward Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey, defenseman Ryan Lindgren, a 2018 first-round pick, and a 2019 seventh-round pick to the Rangers for forward Rick Nash. This trade has shown that the Bruins are confident in their team to be big buyers for Rick Nash in order to push for the Stanley Cup. The Bruins will be a team to watch in April.

(via Boston Bruins Instagram)

Nashville Predators

The Nashville Predators are atop of the Western Conference with 97 points and are currently riding a ten-game winning streak. The Predators have been led by defenseman P.K. Subban, who has been efficient on both ends of the ice, putting up a team-leading 35 assists and 24.07 time on ice. Also, Forward Viktor Arvidsson has been a great surprise this season, as he leads the Preds in goals with 25, and goaltender Pekka Rinne, who is fifth in the league with a goals-against average of 2.28.

The Predators are the best in the league in terms of goals against average (2.5), 6th in the league in goals per game (3.2), 4th in powerplay percentage (22.2%), and 12th on the penalty kill (82.0%).

Nashville has a strong chance to continue their dominant play into the playoffs, but they will still have to go through the Jets and the Golden Knights, setting up an exciting fixture in the West.

Vegas Golden Knights

The newest NHL team, the Vegas Golden Knights, have been taking the league by surprise as they are currently leading the Pacific Division with 91 points. The Golden Knights are having one of the greatest seasons by a first-year expansion team. Vegas is being led by a group of players that teams were willing to get rid of at the expansion draft.

Forward William Karlsson is leading the Knights with 35 goals on the season and teammate Jonathan Marchessault is leading the team in points with 60 on the year. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has been a key piece to this scrappy group of players. Fleury was selected in the Expansion Draft from the Pittsburgh Penguins and gives this young team some much-needed experience going into the playoffs.

The Golden Knights are 2nd in the league in goals per game (3.4), 9th in goals against (2.7), 9th in powerplay percentage (21%), and 17th on the penalty kill (80.3%). In order to sustain some success, the Knights must get better on both the powerplay and penalty kill.

At the deadline, Vegas went out and acquired forward Tomas Tartar from the Red Wings in exchange for a 2018 first-round pick, a 2019 second-round pick, and a 2021 third-round pick. This trade shows that Vegas firmly believes they are built to win now and will do anything to get their way to the finals.

(via Vegas Golden Knights Instagram)