Most NHL teams will hit the halfway mark of the season this week. It’s hard to believe we’re already 50% of the way to the playoffs, but this season is unlike any other. The rest of the season will be a ride, and the playoffs will be just as entertaining as ever.
Here are this week’s NHL power rankings.
NHL Power Rankings #31-21
31. Buffalo Sabres (6-14-3), Last Week’s Ranking: 29
Man, oh man, are things getting bad in Buffalo. Beyond Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart’s name has entered trade talks as well. Looking at the Sabres’ roster, it doesn’t make sense that they’re as bad as they are. But Rasmus Dahlin is a league-worst -21. The next closest player is -16. Linus Ullmark is out for the next month, so goaltenders Carter Hutton and Jonas Johansson both have sub-.900 save percentages and GAA’s over 3.39. Jeff Skinner, Taylor Hall, and Jack Eichel have combined for five goals all season, but at least Hall and Eichel are contributing with assists (14 and 18, respectively).
30. Detroit Red Wings (7-16-3), Last Week’s Ranking: 31
Detroit moves up this week not because they’ve been good but because Buffalo has been that bad. However, the Red Wings do have some hope on the horizon. With the trade deadline just over a month away, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Red Wings improve their draft stock by taking on a bad contract or two. They have more than $8.7 million in cap room, and I’d think they could be of great help to a cash-strapped contender. Bobby Ryan could be a good low-risk trade piece as well on a $1 million cap hit.
29. Ottawa Senators (9-18-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 30
Playing the Flames five times in two weeks did wonders for Ottawa’s spot in the standings and now accounts for a third of their season win total. Thomas Chabot is on a three-game point streak, which is closer to what we’ve expected from him this year. He now sits fifth in the NHL in time on ice per game (25:42), and he’s the youngest player in the Top 10.
28. Anaheim Ducks (8-12-6), Last Week’s Ranking: 27
Anaheim has won back-to-back overtime games and is starting to figure out how to score again. Trevor Zegras’ beautiful assist on Adam Henrique’s overtime game-winner (https://www.nhl.com/video/henrique-nets-overtime-winner/t-321868868/c-7744928) has me hopeful the Ducks put him in more situations where he can drive the offense. With six overtime/shootout losses this season, Anaheim is close to putting it together, but they need to stop giving away multi-goal leads.
27. Dallas Stars (7-8-5), Last Week’s Ranking: 21
Dallas will need to decide soon about whether they’ll want to sell at the trade deadline. Sitting a distant seventh in the Central Division standings, only two points clear of Detroit, the Stars have a long way to go to return to the playoffs this season. They’ll need to clear a ton of cap room this offseason as well to re-sign Miro Heiskanen, and that won’t be cheap. Andrew Cogliano would make sense as a depth acquisition.
26. Nashville Predators (11-14-0), Last Week’s Ranking: 25
Juuse Saros has missed the last 3+ games with an upper body injury, and the Preds snapped a three-game losing skid with a shootout win over the Dallas Stars on Sunday. Pekka Rinne made 35 saves in that win. Even when they’ve been healthy, Nashville hasn’t been good, but without Saros, Luke Kunin, Matt Duchene, Ryan Ellis, and Luca Sbisa, the Predators could be trade deadline sellers as well.
25. Columbus Blue Jackets (10-11-5), Last Week’s Ranking: 26
Columbus, Dallas, and Nashville are all teams I thought would be better than they’ve been this year. For the Blue Jackets, it’s been a significant regression from goaltender Joonas Korpisalo. His save percentage is below .900, and his GAA is above 3.00, which are never good numbers. Max Domi (three goals, four assists) has been a major disappointment after being traded for Josh Anderson, who has 10 goals this season for the Canadiens.
24. New Jersey Devils (8-11-2), Last Week’s Ranking: 22
While the shutout of Boston was nice, New Jersey’s offense continues to sputter. Before that win, the Devils lost five straight games, and they’ve scored two goals or fewer in five of their past six, including the win. However, Scott Wedgewood picked up 40 saves in the shutout and notched both his second win and second shutout Sunday. Next up is a road game against the Capitals, then three straight against the red-hot Islanders.
23. San Jose Sharks (9-11-3), Last Week’s Ranking: 23
Five of San Jose’s nine wins have come in the shootout or in overtime. They aren’t blowing opponents out of the water by any stretch, especially being shut out twice in their last four games, but baby steps. They’re out of the cellar in the West Division. In the past three games where Erik Karlsson has recorded a point, the Sharks have picked up at least one point in the standings as well.
22. New York Rangers (10-10-3), Last Week’s Ranking: 24
Chris Kreider (13 goals) has stepped up to deliver the scoring with Artemi Panarin still out of the lineup. There is still no timetable for Panarin’s return. Sunday’s loss at the Penguins snapped a three-game win streak, but the Rangers are trending upward, heading into a stretch where they’ll really be tested: at Pittsburgh, at Boston, then home against the Flyers to start next week.
21. Vancouver Canucks (12-15-2), Last Week’s Ranking: 28
The biggest rankings jumper this week, Vancouver is on a three-game win streak. Even better, two of those wins came against the division-leading Maple Leafs. I won’t go so far as to say the Canucks have turned the page, but they’re back to moving in the right direction. Thatcher Demko has won each of his past four starts. Solving the issues in net will go a long way towards getting Vancouver back to the playoffs.
NHL Power Rankings #20-11
20. Los Angeles Kings (10-8-6), Last Week’s Ranking: 18
The Kings have impressed this year compared to where I thought they’d be. Unfortunately, with losses in five of their past six games, and the one win coming in overtime, a move down in the rankings was necessary this week. On the plus side, three of those losses came in overtime as well, so Los Angeles is at least close in the standings. It’s a building year for a young club, and last year’s second overall pick, Quinton Byfield, is in the AHL until he’s ready to jump to the pros.
19. Calgary Flames (11-12-3), Last Week’s Ranking: 20
Jacob Markstrom is back from injury, but the Flames have dropped both games since his return. The Flames are down to sixth in the division, one point behind Vancouver, but they can climb up the North Division ranks with three games in hand. Andrew Mangiapane (eight goals, five assists) had a breakout year last year but hasn’t shown as much growth as I would’ve anticipated.
18. Arizona Coyotes (12-10-3), Last Week’s Ranking: 19
Arizona has won three of their past four games, and two of those wins came against teams ahead of them in the standings (Minnesota and Colorado). They played the first of a seven-game road trip Monday and upset the Avs despite being outshot 35-14. The Coyotes can hang with most teams on the backs of their quality goaltenders, Antti Raanta and Darcy Kuemper, but with a minimal scoring punch, I see an early playoff exit, if they manage to get there.
17. Edmonton Oilers (16-11-0), Last Week’s Ranking: 15
The Oilers a good hockey team, but this year, they’ve yet to show they can be great. Three straight losses against the Maple Leafs weren’t exactly promising, but responding with wins over Calgary and Ottawa was necessary, and the Oilers took care of business. They can continue to gain ground in the standings with two more games against Ottawa this week, a team against which Connor McDavid has 22 points in 14 career games.
16. Montreal Canadiens (11-6-7), Last Week’s Ranking: 17
The Canadiens picked up their league-leading seventh overtime/shootout loss as they fell 2-1 against Vancouver on Monday. Even worse, the Canucks scored with less than a minute remaining to tie the game. Montreal’s clutch gene is nowhere to be found, and as is tradition, they wasted another brilliant outing from Carey Price.
15. Pittsburgh Penguins (14-9-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 16
Pittsburgh allows fewer goals per game (3.13) than they did a few weeks ago, but there’s still plenty of work to do to wrap up a playoff spot. Now that the goaltending has picked up, the Penguins can pour it on against the Rangers and Sabres this week to start gaining ground on the top teams. Amazingly, none of the Pittsburgh skaters have hit the 10 goal mark this season. Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust are tied for the team lead with eight each.
14. Colorado Avalanche (13-8-2), Last Week’s Ranking: 12
Colorado’s losing ways simply don’t make sense. On paper, they have one of the best rosters in the league. But losses at home against Anaheim and Arizona aren’t good enough. The Avalanche are desperately clinging to the fourth spot in the West Division, but they’re only one point ahead of Arizona and two ahead of L.A. Once Nathan MacKinnon starts scoring goals again (only five this season), the rest of the team will likely follow suit.
13. St. Louis Blues (14-8-4), Last Week’s Ranking: 13
Welcome back to the lineup, Vladimir Tarasenko! The Blues couldn’t have got Tarasenko back at a better time, with a few days off before a weekend series with the Vegas Golden Knights. Still dealing with myriad injuries, St. Louis is practically in survival mode right now, but with any luck, they’ll get Jaden Schwartz, Tyler Bozak, Oskar Sundqvist, and Colton Parayko back in the next week as well.
12. Chicago Blackhawks (13-8-5), Last Week’s Ranking: 14
Patrick Kane will play in his 1,000th NHL game Tuesday night, becoming the 53rd U.S.-born player to hit that mark. He’s three points behind Joe Mullen, and five behind Keith Tkachuk, on the points list among U.S. skaters, and he’ll likely hit that mark to move into sole possession of fifth place on the list later this week or early next.
11. Winnipeg Jets (15-8-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 11
The Jets will get their biggest test of the season so far with three games at Toronto this week. Coming off an embarrassing 7-1 loss to the Canadiens Saturday, I expect Winnipeg to come out of the gates firing and win the first of the series. Neal Pionk (three goals, 15 assists) has blossomed into a first line defenseman, and Mark Scheifele (11 goals, 22 assists) is rapidly climbing the scoring leader list.
NHL Power Rankings – The Top 10
10. Philadelphia Flyers (12-7-3), Last Week’s Ranking: 7
Philadelphia is a hard team for me to place anywhere on this list. Carter Hart has one win in his last four starts. Since the COVID-19 postponement, the Flyers are 4-4-1. If they want to compete for the top seed in the playoffs, they need to start stringing wins together and not alternating between wins and losses. We’ve seen the talent; now we need to see it consistently.
9. Florida Panthers (15-5-4), Last Week’s Ranking: 6
The Panthers are two points out of first and a point behind Carolina for second in the Central Division standings. However, each of their last three losses came against the Hurricanes: in regulation, in overtime, and the shootout. It was nice to see Sergei Bobrovsky pick up a pair of wins over Nashville, though he still needs to bring his GAA back down. Carter Verhaeghe (eight goals, eight assists) has been an exciting player to watch this season, too.
8. Minnesota Wild (14-8-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 8
After seeing a two-goal third period lead slip away last week against the Vegas Golden Knights before losing in overtime, the Wild learned their lesson and held on for a 2-0 shutout win this Monday. Much of the attention has been on Kirill Kaprizov, and for good reason, though Kaprizov’s play has overshadowed what an excellent year Kaapo Kahkonen is having. Kahkonen picked up his first career shutout (26 saves), and now has a 10-4-0 record with a 2.13 GAA and a .924 save percentage.
7. Washington Capitals (14-6-4), Last Week’s Ranking: 9
The big news out of Washington this week is Tom Wilson’s suspension. Wilson will be sitting out the next seven games after boarding Boston defenseman Brandon Carlo. The hit was unpenalized at the time, but Wilson has made a habit of borderline physical play. I’m surprised the suspension wasn’t longer, but I digress. Without Wilson, the Caps will need to build momentum this week at home against New Jersey then on the road against Philly and Buffalo.
6. New York Islanders (15-6-4), Last Week’s Ranking: 10
The Islanders have quietly become one of the hottest teams in the league. Going 7-0-1 over their past 10 games, New York is on top of the East Division, which looks like it will be the toughest division to win this season. While their last three were against the admittedly awful Buffalo Sabres, beating any team three times in a row is tough to do. The Islanders are also allowing the third-fewest goals per game this season at 2.20, and with Ilya Sorokin looking stronger every game, their goaltending tandem will serve them well.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs (18-6-2), Last Week’s Ranking: 5
Wayne Simmonds is nearing his return, and with how well the Maple Leafs were playing before he got hurt, they’ll be even better once he hits the ice again. Toronto is tops in the North, as expected, and the defense and goaltending are much improved. The Leafs are allowing 2.42 goals per game, the fifth-lowest rate in the league. It’s been their Achilles heel in recent years, so if they can stay consistent in their own zone, they’ll be a tough team to beat down the stretch.
4. Boston Bruins (13-6-3), Last Week’s Ranking: 4
The Bruins are starting to concern me with their inconsistency. They play well against competitive opponents like the Capitals, then get shut out by the Devils. Brad Marchand is just outside the Top 10 in points this season, but Boston lacks scoring prowess aside from their top line. Rask and Halak are still dangerous between the pipes, but the Bruins need to put a run together to keep pace in the division.
3. Vegas Golden Knights (16-5-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 2
Vegas goaltender Marc-André Fleury looks like the Vezina winner right now, leading the league in GAA (1.57) and save percentage (.943). They were shut out by the Wild Monday night, though they were missing Alex Pietrangelo and Mark Stone. Still, they’re the most competitive team in the Western Conference right now (is that still ok to say with the one-season division realignment? I’m going to allow it…).
2. Carolina Hurricanes (17-6-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 3
Carolina has firmly established itself as the second-best team in what was the Eastern Conference behind the Lightning and is likely Tampa Bay’s biggest threat to repeating as Stanley Cup Champions. I would be stunned if they don’t end up meeting in the second round of the playoffs. Especially with Petr Mrazek due to return any day now, the Hurricanes are one of the top teams in the league, and their championship window is only just beginning to open.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning (17-4-2), Last Week’s Ranking: 1
For the first time the season, we have a team repeat as the top team in the power rankings! Tampa Bay has more than earned it. The Lightning are scoring the most goals per game while allowing the fewest. On top of that, they’ve got Top 5 power play AND penalty kill units. Once the playoffs start, one of their best players, Nikita Kucherov, will rejoin the club after recovering from offseason hip surgery. They’re already the best, and they’re going to get better.
Now it’s your turn. Which team did you put at the #1 spot this week? Did I underrate your favorite team or overrate your rival? Let me know on Twitter @MulletsVoxDB.
Thank you for reading!