mark of the 2018-19 NHL season Julien Gauthier Jersey Womens , and we now have a firm idea on which teams look like Stanley Cup contenders - and which clubs will simply hope for the best in the upcoming draft lottery.16 teams make the playoffs every year, but there are really only five teams that have placed themselves in the class of "elite". These are the five teams that look like true Stanley Cup contenders as we head into the new year.Read on for more.5. Calgary Flames Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY SportsThe Flames should have been a Cup contender in 2017 and 2018, but they underachieved to the max - and it led to the firing of bench boss Glen Gulutzan last spring. Well, new head coach Bill Peters has gotten the most out of this talented club - and the Flames are sitting atop the Pacific Division right now.advertisingThough the likes of Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Mark Giordano and Matthew Tkachuk continue to perform at their usual standards, there are two other players widely responsible for the turnaroud.Goalie David Rittich has emerged as the starting goalie, compiling a 12-4-1 record with a 2.22 goals against average and .926 save percentage. Now that Calgary has their answer in the crease, they've finally lived up to expectations. Who'da thought?And finally, newcomer Elias Lindholm - acquired in a blockbuster deal with the Carolina Hurricanes - is enjoying a career year with 17 goals and 41 points. He, Gaudreau and Monahan have formed one of the most dynamic lines in the NHL.advertisingThe Flames are loaded with superstar scorers, big-time playmakers on defence and a reliable goalie. This is truly a bonafide Stanley Cup contender Womens Evander Kane Jersey , and perhaps the best Flames team we've seen over the past 20 years.4. Nashville PredatorsThe Predators have lost five games in a row, but let's not overlook this team. The defending Presidents' Trophy winners sit pretty at 22-14-6, despite a rash of injuries to key players.P.K. Subban has missed 19 games, Filip Forsberg 12 and Austin Watson 18. And yet, the Predators are still among the elite teams in the Western Conference. At full strength, this Nashville squad is arguably the most complete team in the NHL.advertisingSubban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm form the NHL's best defensive unit, while Pekka Rinne looks like the favorite to win the Vezina Trophy once again. Everything is there defensively and in the crease.Keep in mind Nashville is also just two years removed from a Stanley Cup Final appearance. They have more than enough playoff experience and a roster built around speed, skill and toughness. There are few flaws on this team, and they'll be an extremely tough out come playoff time.3. Toronto Maple Leafs Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY SportsThe Maple Leafs are second in the Eastern Conference, even though Auston Matthews missed 14 games. Even though William Nylander didn't join the team until December after a lengthy contract holdout. Even though their blue line hasn't been very sound defensively in 2018-19.advertisingToronto relies entirely on its high-powered offense and goalie Frederik Andersen Authentic Joe Pavelski Jersey , but both sides have answered the call. Only the Lightning have scored more goals this season than the Maple Leafs.Just how balanced is the scoring in Toronto? Newcomer John Tavares is third in team scoring with 24 goals and 42 points. Mitch Marner (50 points) and Morgan Rielly (44 points), lead the way.The Maple Leafs have separated themselves from most other quality teams in the East, including the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens. If they add a reliable rearguard at the deadline, Toronto will have all the makings of a true Stanley Cup contender.advertising2. Winnipeg JetsAfter a sluggish start, the Jets have taken flight and sit atop both the Central Division and Western Conference. That doesn't bode well for the Predators - whose Presidents' Trophy-winning season in 2017-18 went to waste after Winnipeg eliminated them in the second round.The Jets are far and away the most complete team in hockey right now.Mark Scheifele (22 goals, 49 points), Blake Wheeler (48 points), and Patrik Laine (23 goals, 30 points), lead the charge. Nikolaj Ehlers and Kyle Connor are both going to post 20-30 goal seasons, too.Winnipeg is 24-11-2 - four points up on the Preds for tops in the division. What's scary is that reigning Vezina Trophy finalist Connor Hellebuyck (2.91 goals against average Joe Thornton Jersey , .909 save percentage), hasn't even played up to his usual standards. And yet the Jets are the top team in the West.advertisingHellebuyck is going to turn it around very soon, and the likes of Dustin Byfuglien聽and聽Jacob Trouba聽will help the blue line play more sound defensively in the second half. Consider the Jets the team to beat in the Western Conference.1. Tampa Bay Lightning Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsWhen was the last time a team has asserted themselves in a class of their own this early in the season? The Tampa Bay Lightning are the team to beat in 2019, because there are simply no weaknesses on this team.They rank first in goals (160), and are holding their own on defense despite losing Andrei Vasilevskiy for several weeks.聽Just how good are the Lightning on offense? Steven Stamkos is "only" third in team scoring with 43 points. Nikita Kucherov (61 points), and Brayden Point (49 points), lead the way.advertisingReigning Norris Trophy winner Victor Hedman is playing like somebody that doesn't want to relinquish the award. Six players on the Lightning already have double-digit goals. Did we mention Stamkos and Kucherov are both Hart Trophy candidates?Tampa Bay has played in three of the last four Eastern Conference Finals, too, so we know the pressure doesn't bother them a bit. This is a legitimate championship contender with absolutely zero flaws. That is why they've separated themselves from everybody else in the first half of the season.advertising CALGARY, Alberta — The Calgary Flames believe in themselves and for good reason as they are tied for the top spot in the Pacific Division through 29 games.Calgary (14-9-1) has won four of their past five games as they head into an encounter against the Dallas Stars on Wednesday.“We like a lot of the things we’re doing. I think we can always improve and we’re always going over things we can do better,” Calgary’s captain Marc Giordano told Flames TV after Tuesday’s practice.Article continues below ...“The last couple of days (of practice) there’s been a lot of work done on our forecheck and moving the puck as defensemen to our forwards.“We want to play with confidence. We think we’re a good team but we just need to keep bringing the same game every night. The biggest thing in this league is consistency. We need to bring it every night.”The Stars (12-10-3) are fifth in the Central Division after a 1-0 overtime loss in Edmonton on Tuesday.Consistency has eluded Calgary’s No. 1 goaltender Mike Smith this season. Through 14 games, Smith’s recorded a poor 3.29 goals-against average and .883 save percentage. The rough start has left the 36-year-old battling to keep his starting job ahead of David Rittich Joonas Donskoi Jersey , who has a 2.04 GAA through 12 contests.Smith got the net against his former team Sunday and was solid in a 6-1 victory over the Coyotes in Arizona. He came off the ice Tuesday and spoke positively for the first time in a long time.“You understand it’s just one game,” Smith told Flames TV. “It’s a definitely a work in progress. Every day you come to the rink and want to get better and find some consistencies in your game. “Last game was definitely a better game for myself but the team played outstanding in front of me. It definitely was a confidence builder and I want to just come to the rink today and keep it going.”The Stars have lost four straight on the road (0-3-1).Dallas has been going with No. 2 goalie Anton Khudobin because Ben Bishop has been out for a week after suffering a muscle strain in New York last week. Bishop could be back in the net Saturday in Vancouver.It’s possible the Stars will give Landon Bow his first NHL start in Calgary on Wednesday. The 23-year-old was called up from the American Hockey League when Bishop was hurt.Khudobin started all four games in Bishop’s place and has allowed 13 goals in that time. He played back-to-back last Friday and Saturday.Stars head coach Jim Montgomery was non-committal before Tuesday’s game, however.“We haven’t thought that far ahead,” he told Sportsday. “Dobby said that it was the first time he played back-to-back in four years and he felt great. I thought he was actually better in the second game than he was the first. We’ll see how he goes tonight and make a decision tomorrow.”The Flames made a minor trade Tuesday. They acquired defensemen Andrew Nielsen, who hails from nearby Red Deer, Alberta, from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for forward Morgan Klimchuk. Both players have been toiling in the American Hockey League this season.