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Who is the NHL's best?
Several front-runners to choose from
1/14/09 - By Steve Flores

Are the Sharks the best team in hockey? The season is half over and the standings show that the Bay Area franchise has more points than any other. But, does this mean the Sharks are better than Detroit and or Boston ? The answer, at the moment, is that that there is no answer. The playoffs exist to provide the solution to this query.

I won't stop here and wimp out though. I will give you my opinion to the question. I eat, breathe, sleep and dream of hockey. I watch a lot of games folks ( thank you Center Ice) and lately I have been concentrating on games played by the Wings and the Bruins.

First let's talk about Boston . The Bruins are the hottest team in the NHL right now. Without much regard for all of the headlines that the Sharks made during the first half of the season, the Bean town boys kept plugging away and continued to win until they have essentially equaled the Sharks in the standings (my apologies to you sticklers of dotted I's and crossed T's). The Bruins have played with energy, flow, confidence, grit and determination.

They skate, hit, shoot and have had quality goaltending with Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez in the pipes. They are impressive to watch and are a team loaded with highly skilled youth. Marc Savard is a quality pivot man and is as masterful a setup man as Joe Thornton is with the Sharks. Phil Kessel is a cancer survivor who has also taken flight in his move to the wing (from center) and has become an elite goal scorer. Milan Lucic is a tough battling winger who backs down from no one and David Krejci is emerging from seemingly no where to spearhead a second line that may be the best number two line in the league.

Throw in Zdeno Chara and Dennis Wideman and that is just the tip of the iceberg on a team that, at the moment, is THEE most exciting team to watch right now in the NHL. Note that I am not saying they are the best team, but they are fun to watch. They have their mojo going full throttle right now and they are as entertaining to view as any. They are good folks and this is why there place in the standings is no fluke.

They are starting to be levied with some key injuries now (Lucic, Kessel, Patrice Bergeron, Fernandez) so let's see how well they deal with the adversity. But make no mistake this is a youthful, skilled roster and built for the future.

Ok people: Detroit . The Red Wings are defending champions. They are pro's and as calm and even keeled a team as there is in hockey. Their emotions never seem to ascend too far up after a win and they never seem to fall too deeply into the depths after a loss. Everything is taken in stride as they play with a confidence of a team that has been there, done that - which, of course, they have!

Datsyuk, Lidstrom, Zetterberg, etc etc etc. We all know the names and those names are all showing up for work and doing that which they have to do during the 82 game grind. This team is built to win and they know how to do just that. They are struggling a bit in goal and rank 22nd on the kill. Yet, they play through it and somehow, some way you just know that they will be there at the end. On the flip side they have the league's top ranked Power play and they have an aura about them. They are the current premier franchise in the league and they plug away in impressive fashion each and every night.

The Sharks have hit a lull that the other two teams have not faced as of yet. The Sharks have managed to find ways to win and they are still better than most teams. They have been soundly throttled by the Wings and the Calgary Flames of late and they plainly and simply are a solid team. But the team has not looked as sharp as it did early on.

No team could maintain a style of play that they were exhibiting but, at the moment, the team is not even close to that dominant level which they exhibited in their first 30 contests. Yes, they are winning, but not dominating, That's also ok as a win is a win is a win.

Prior to this recent array of injuries the Bruins have continued to dominate. Yes, DOMINATE! The Bruins have not been merely 'sliding by' - they have been playing beautiful hockey and have also earned every bit of their sterling record.

And the Wings? Well, the Wings are, well, they are the Wings - they have nothing to prove.

What's the bottom line? I have no idea. All I know is that the 2008-09 Stanley Cup champion will more than likely be one of these three franchises. At the moment Boston is the hottest, the Wings are the most consistent and they Sharks are the team trying to find a bit more consistency.

We still have half a season to go before the 'real season' begins. It has been awhile since the league has had three teams playing this well at any one time. April, May and June should provide some exciting moments on frozen pond en route to what should be one of the most entertaining post-season's in recent NHL history.

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