KnupSports NHL Power Rankings Feb 23

 

I hope you’re enjoying reading these NHL power rankings as much as I’m enjoying writing them! This season is unlike any other, but with hockey every night, there’s a ton to watch. For a hockey nut like me, it’s awesome to know I can always find a game.

Six of the top seven teams by point percentage were in action Monday night, and there was quite a shakeup at the top of the rankings. Only one team (Dallas) was ineligible to move this week due to COVID-19 postponements. Here are the rankings headed as of 8:00 A.M. on February 23.

 

31. Detroit Red Wings (5-12-3), Last Week’s Ranking: 31

Detroit’s offense continues to struggle, as they’ve now joined the Anaheim Ducks as the only teams averaging fewer than two goals per game on average. The Red Wings have scored three goals or more twice in their past 12 games. Jonathan Bernier made 38 saves in a massive 2-1 win over the Panthers Sunday.

30. Ottawa Senators (5-14-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 30

Ottawa followed up their absurd comeback against Toronto last week with an upset over the Montreal Canadiens this week. They’ve now won three of their last five games. Marcus Hogberg was between the pipes for two of those three wins. They’ll play the Calgary Flames in five of their next seven games in the Battle of the Tkachuk’s; Brady for Ottawa, Matthew for Calgary. That series could get scrappy.

29. Vancouver Canucks (8-12-2), Last Week’s Ranking: 25

Vancouver is 2-7-2 in their past 11 games. There’s really no reason they should be as putrid as they’ve been this year. Brock Boeser is tied for second in the league with 12 goals. Quinn Hughes (two goals, 19 assists) leads the league in points among defensemen. They have the league’s tenth-best penalty kill. Goaltending has been sloppy, but Demko and Holtby are both better than they’ve played this season.

28. Nashville Predators (7-10-0), Last Week’s Ranking: 27

Like Vancouver, Nashville has struggled with inconsistency in net. Juuse Saros was supposed to be the heir apparent to 38-year-old Pekka Rinne, who will likely retire at the end of this season. However, Saros (3-5-0, 3.47 GAA, .882 save percentage) doesn’t look like the long-term answer. The good news is Russian star goaltender Yaroslav Askarov is waiting in the wings, though he may spend the next two seasons in the KHL before arriving.

27. Buffalo Sabres (5-8-2), Last Week’s Ranking: 23

Buffalo got devastating news Monday as it was announced defenseman Jake McCabe needs surgery to repair his ACL, MCL, and meniscus in his right knee. Jack Eichel trade talk is heating up with the Sabres on track to miss the playoffs for a tenth consecutive season. Jeff Skinner, who has six seasons remaining after this year at $9 million AAV, was a healthy scratch Monday. Skinner has no goals and one assist in 14 games this season. A late power play goal sunk the Sabres 3-2 against the Islanders Monday night.

26. Anaheim Ducks (6-10-3), Last Week’s Ranking: 26

Anaheim ruined Trevor Zegras’ NHL debut with a second-period meltdown Monday night. The Ducks held a 3-0 lead, but it evaporated in 3:47 after allowing a shorthanded penalty shot goal, their third shorthanded goal against this season. They now sit at the bottom of the West Division standings.

25. San Jose Sharks (7-8-2), Last Week’s Ranking: 29

Martin Jones’ GAA has climbed every year in San Jose while his save percentage has taken a massive drop. The Sharks have pieces in place to be a competitive team, but the underwhelming play in net keeps them from being their best. On the bright side, Erik Karlsson could return from injury this week, which would help San Jose all over the ice. The two-time Norris Trophy winner has yet to play 75% of the games in a season since being traded from Ottawa, but he is one of the most efficient defensemen in the game when he’s healthy.

24. New York Rangers (6-7-3), Last Week’s Ranking: 28

Rangers leading scorer Artemi Panarin (five goals, 13 assists) announced Monday he would be taking a leave of absence from the team after a Russian tabloid claimed he assaulted an 18-year-old woman in Latvia in 2011. Panarin, the Rangers, and his teammates from that time all vehemently denied the claims, which were made by a less-than-credible former coach.

The bigger issue is this claim was believed to be part of a smear campaign after Panarin’s vocal social medial support of Alexei Navalny, the opposition leader against Russian President Vladimir Putin. Panarin has family in Russia as well, so his absence could be to bring them to the U.S. for their own safety.

23. Columbus Blue Jackets (8-7-4), Last Week’s Ranking: 22

The Blue Jackets are falling apart. They’ve lost three of their past four, including a home loss against the Nashville Predators. Having defensemen Zach Werenski and David Savard out with injuries is part of the issue, but Columbus as a team isn’t doing what they’ve done in the past to be successful. They allowed the third-fewest goals per game (2.61) a year ago but allow the sixth-most (3.35) this year. Columbus isn’t shooting the puck enough (32.5 SOG/G last year, 28.8 SOG/G this year), and the penalty kill (73.8%) has been horrendous.

22. New Jersey Devils (6-5-2), Last Week’s Ranking: 6-5-2

New Jersey fell a bit in the rankings this week after a pair of losses against Buffalo and Washington. While the win over Boston was impressive, the Buffalo loss, in particular, was a game the Devils needed to win. I would have ranked them ahead of Dallas this week, but the Stars were ineligible to move based on the COVID-19 rules I implemented a few weeks ago. Bend enough, and you’ll break. That said, with two games against the Sabres this week followed by two home games against the Capitals, new Devils captain Nico Hischier can lead the charge through the rest of the season.

21. Dallas Stars (5-4-4), Last Week’s Ranking: 21

ENJOYING KNUP SPORTS NHL POWER RANKINGS? Click the link here for more NHL news and coverage from Knup Sports!

Despite their game Monday night, Dallas is ineligible to move this week because of multiple COVID-19 postponements last week. That said, they’re lucky I set the rules that way. Eleven teams average fewer than 29 shots against per game, but that’s how many Dallas let up in just the second period Monday night. Anton Khudobin stood on his head, stopping 49 of 51 shots, but the Stars’ offense was nowhere to be found. They’ve lost six straight, with three of those losses coming in overtime or the shootout. They’re certainly capable of earning a playoff spot in the Central Division, but they can’t fall any further behind.

20. Arizona Coyotes (8-7-3), Last Week’s Ranking: 17

Arizona rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win 4-3 against the Ducks Monday night, but they really shouldn’t have allowed themselves to get that far behind. The Coyotes don’t shoot the puck enough (27 per game, third-lowest in the league) to take the pressure off of Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta. Add to that the bombshell story in The Athletic about the toxic environment in the front office and things in the desert look bleaker by the day.

19. Calgary Flames (9-9-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 16

Not a great week for the Flames, but they did shut out the Maple Leafs Monday night for David Rittich’s first win of the year in net. Matthew Tkachuk scored his 100th career goal in the win. Five of their next seven games are against the Ottawa Senators and Matthew’s younger brother, Brady. A more significant blue line contribution from Chris Tanev and Noah Hanifin (combined one goal, five assists this year) would help spark the offense.

18. Los Angeles Kings (8-6-3), Last Week’s Ranking: 24

The red-hot Kings have won five straight games, most recently on the heels of Jonathan Quick’s 54th career shutout, tying him with Bernie Parent and Ed Giacomin for 23rd on the all-time list. Dustin Brown is more than halfway to last season’s goal total in 50 fewer games. If they keep playing the way they have lately, the Kings could sneak their way into the playoffs.

17. Chicago Blackhawks (9-6-4), Last Week’s Ranking: 20

The Blackhawks have played more overtime games (eight) this season than any other team. Despite a roster that is missing some of its top talents, Chicago is finding ways to stay competitive from game to game. The ice time younger players are getting now, especially Pius Suter, Philipp Kurashev, and Nicolas Beaudin, will pay off over the next few years and is keeping the Blackhawks’ window slightly open.

16. New York Islanders (9-6-3), Last Week’s Ranking: 18

Semyon Varlamov is almost single-handedly keeping the Islanders relevant. He’s tied for the league lead with three shutouts this year. The Islanders are tied with the Capitals for second in the East Division. Mathew Barzal (six goals, nine assists) leads the team in points, but he has been held off the scoresheet in the past four games.

15. Pittsburgh Penguins (9-6-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 19

Sidney Crosby has played 1,000 NHL games. One of the best to ever lace up the skates, Crosby leads the Penguins in points with six goals and nine assists this year. While the defensive concerns and sub-par goaltending are still a major point of concern for the long-term, the Penguins are in the thick of it in a stacked East Division.

14. Montreal Canadiens (9-5-3), Last Week’s Ranking: 10

Montreal has dropped four of their last five and lost in overtime to the Ottawa Senators Sunday night. They’ve cooled off in a bad way and now sit fourth in the North. Jonathan Drouin thankfully wasn’t seriously hurt on Sunday, where he left with an injury. Drouin should be cleared to play Tuesday.

13. St. Louis Blues (10-7-2), Last Week’s Ranking: 12

The Blues have lost three of their past four games, two of which were shutout losses. St. Louis sits one point behind Vegas at the top of the West Division, but they’ve played three more games than the Golden Knights and two more than Colorado, who is three points back. I wonder if seven straight games against the Coyotes has the Blues out of rhythm. With five of their next six games against Anaheim and San Jose, who are at the bottom of the standings, there’s a golden opportunity to get back on track.

12. Minnesota Wild (9-6-0), Last Week’s Ranking: 13 

Mats Zuccarello has been on fire since coming back from offseason surgery. He’s scored two goals and four assists in two games, and there’s been an instant connection with rookie Kirill Kaprizov, whose 13 points lead all rookie scorers. Victor Rask had a three-point game on Monday, and Marcus Foligno had a Gordie Howe hat trick in a 6-2 victory, the third straight Wild win.

11. Edmonton Oilers (12-8-0), Last Week’s Ranking: 14

Ok. I KNOW how much I’ve talked about Connor McDavid in the power rankings before, but he’s at 37 points in 20 games. I can’t NOT talk about how insanely good he is this year. An almost two-point-per-game pace is bonkers. Getting Ethan Bear back this week will help the blue line, and if Mike Smith can stay hot, Edmonton can hang at the top of the North Division.

10. Winnipeg Jets (11-6-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 11

Winnipeg picked up a pair of wins last week, but it was troubling to see the Jets needing overtime to beat the Vancouver Canucks, especially after they let up a goal with 38 seconds remaining to force overtime. On the bright side, Pierre-Luc Dubois scored twice in that contest, including the overtime game-winner.

9. Philadelphia Flyers (8-4-3), Last Week’s Ranking: 7

Philadelphia is still recovering from COVID-19, as they played without Justin Braun, Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny, Scott Laughton, Oskar Lindblom, and Jakub Voracek against Boston on Sunday. When they’re at full strength, the Flyers are one of the more dangerous teams in the league, but for now, they’re down a bit in the rankings until they get healthy.

8. Washington Capitals (9-5-3), Last Week’s Ranking: 9

Washington is getting back on track with the roster finally healthy. Ilya Samsonov is set to return Tuesday night. He’s been out since January 17 with COVID-19. Alexander Ovechkin needs five more goals to tie Phil Esposito for sixth on the all-time goal scoring list.

7. Toronto Maple Leafs (14-4-2), Last Week’s Ranking: 6

The loss to Ottawa last week was terrible, but getting shutout by Calgary’s backup goaltender David Rittich Monday night might be even worse. Auston Matthews is still six goals clear of the next-closest scorer, netting 18 goals already this season. If Toronto advances far enough in the playoffs to face a non-Canadian team this year, they could be in trouble.

6. Florida Panthers (12-3-2), Last Week’s Ranking: 8

Don’t look now, but the Panthers might actually be pretty good! After putting 51 shots on net Monday night, Florida’s 3-1 win has them on top of the Central Division. The Panthers are scoring the fifth-most goals per game (3.41) this season, with offseason acquisition Patric Hornqvist (eight goals) doing much of the heavy lifting, including two game-winners.

5. Colorado Avalanche (9-5-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 5

At first glance, betting the under in Avalanche games doesn’t seem to make sense this season, given the abundance of offensive weapons Colorado can utilize. However, the under total has hit in 64.3% of their games this season. Why is that? Partially because over/under totals are set higher in Avalanche games, and partly because Colorado’s defense and goaltending have been excellent. Philipp Grubauer ranks second in the NHL in save percentage (.932) and GAA (1.78).

4. Vegas Golden Knights (11-4-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 1

It was a tough week for Vegas, losing two of three games. However, they picked up a shutout Monday night, their second in four games, and both against the Avalanche, which is why the Golden Knights are one spot ahead of Colorado in the rankings this week. Fleury’s third shutout of the season ties him with John Gibson and Semyon Varlamov for the most shutouts in the league.

3. Tampa Bay Lightning (11-4-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 4

Tampa Bay has been playing excellent hockey lately, even without Anthony Cirelli, who has missed the last four games with an injury. Cirelli is a major part of the Lightning penalty kill, but Tampa Bay has only allowed one power play goal in his absence. Steven Stamkos’ team-leading ninth goal of the season set the tone for Monday night’s win. He now has four goals and two assists in his last four games.

2. Carolina Hurricanes (12-4-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 2

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been shut out twice in their last 98 games. Both of those times, it was against the Hurricanes. While Carolina came out flat Monday night in a 4-2 loss against Tampa Bay, they were 5-0-1 in the six games prior. The Canes are still getting excellent offensive production, especially from depth scorers like Nino Niederreiter (nine goals), Vincent Trocheck (nine goals), and Jordan Staal.

1. Boston Bruins (11-3-2), Last Week’s Ranking: 3

NHL Power Rankings

Boston rolled over the Philadelphia Flyers 7-3 at Lake Tahoe on Sunday, led by a David Pastrnak hat trick. Pastrnak now has 59 goals and 113 points in his last 82 games dating back to last season. He has nine goals in nine games this year. Boston was still a competitive team while he was out of the lineup. Now that he’s back? They’re deadly.

The Bruins take this week’s top spot, but will they be the first team to hold No. 1 in the rankings in back-to-back weeks this season? Tune in next week to find out!