Thanksgiving in the NHL: One thing the top 10 teams should be thankful for
The Lightning have Steven Stamkos to thank, and the Blues should be extra grateful for Brayden Schenn
As the NHL season approaches the holidays, plenty of teams have begun to separate themselves from the pack -- for better or worse.
And all of the teams who find themselves on the top of league standings have things for which to be thankful. Here's one thing each of the top 10 contenders should most be grateful for as December draws near:
Tampa Bay Lightning
It has to be Steven Stamkos. Nikita Kucherov is the man that has made this team soar to the top of the league, but Stamkos has not only returned from a daunting 2016-17 absence but evolved into the NHL's steadiest setup man.
St. Louis Blues
The trade for Brayden Schenn should be the ultimate gratitude prompt. Vladimir Tarasenko is lighting it up, as is Jaden Schwartz, but we already knew they would play big roles for the Blues. Schenn, meanwhile, has been a Godsend from Philadelphia.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Let's just stick with the obvious and say Auston Matthews. It's easy to take his scoring prowess for granted after a monster start in 2016-17, but he's the reason their defensive deficiencies might not keep them from Cup contention.
It's either Connor Hellebuyck or Steve Mason (for opening the door to Hellebuyck). Hellebuyck is coming off a rough outing against Nashville, but he has bounced back before. His net-minding has been the x-factor for a sleeper of a postseason contender.
New Jersey Devils
Be thankful for Ray Shero, the general manager who put faith in this team's wellspring of youth. Shero, of course, doesn't get credit without Nico Hischier, Taylor Hall, Miles Wood and Will Butcher shining, but he's the overseer of long-term promise.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Artemi Panarin had a killer goal recently, but with Columbus reportedly eyeing center help, John Tortorella and Co. should be most thankful they have such a rock at the other end of the ice in Sergei Bobrovsky. He's still one of the best.
Thank the Colorado Avalanche. When the Avs finally coughed up Matt Duchene, they set into motion Nashville's acquisition of Kyle Turris, which in turn fortified an already loaded depth chart. The Preds are getting scarier.
Los Angeles Kings
Let's heap some praise on Jonathan Quick, who quickly made L.A. fans forget about 2016-17 with a flaming start to the new season. With Ben Bishop out of town and Quick back to full speed in net, the Kings have caught the NHL by surprise.
Vegas Golden Knights
There's actually even more to be thankful for in Pittsburgh than there is in Vegas, because in any normal circumstance, a minus-16 goal differential would not spell success. Be most thankful for Matt Murray, who has pushed forward without a sturdy No. 2 and a defense in transition.
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