We’ve turned the calendar and are now in the third month of the NHL season. Hopefully, things are back on track with combatting COVID-19. The revamped testing procedures appear to be working, as all teams were able to get their games in this week, and the amended schedules should keep things relatively close to the original timing.
Seven of the top 11 teams by point percentage played Monday night, along with four of the bottom six. There’s been plenty of movement this week, and the curse of the #1 spot in the NHL power rankings lives on. Another team takes the top spot this week. Let’s get into it!
31. Detroit Red Wings (7-14-3), Last Week’s Ranking: 31
After a pair of wins last week, Detroit left goaltender Thomas Greiss out to dry in a 7-2 loss against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday. After going 16-9-4 with the Islanders last season, Greiss is 1-11-3 this year, but it’s hard to put all the fault on him. In Greiss’ last three starts, Detroit has been outscored 17-6. Given it’s another building season, I would expect to see more of Evgeny Svechnikov in the lineup down the stretch, and perhaps Joe Veleno and Moritz Seider will be recalled from their loans to European teams.
30. Ottawa Senators (8-15-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 30
Are the Senators actually….good?? I’m not ready to say that year, but with wins in five of their past six games, including two over both the Montreal Canadiens and Calgary Flames, they’re certainly looking much better than how I expected them to a few weeks ago. Drake Batherson has scored in six straight games to tie Brady Tkachuk for the team lead with nine goals.
29. Buffalo Sabres (6-10-3), Last Week’s Ranking: 27
Buffalo is a dumpster fire of an organization right now, and Sabres fans will be the first to tell you that. In the last week, both Jeff Skinner and Jack Eichel were scratched. Skinner was a healthy scratch to send a message that no goals and one assist so far this season is not good enough, especially for a player with a $9 million cap hit through the 2026-27 season. Eichel said Monday he was not injured when he was scratched, furthering speculation he’s on the way out of town. The Sabres don’t HAVE to trade their star player and give in to Eichel’s demands, but the longer they go without moving him, the more toxic things get in Buffalo.
28. Vancouver Canucks (9-14-2), Last Week’s Ranking: 29
The Canucks picked up their first shutout win of the season Monday night after three first period goals left the Winnipeg Jets looking for answers. The win snapped a four-game losing skid, so they’re far from headed in the right direction, but Vancouver at least has a pulse. While I hate using +/- as a stat, it’s indicative of the trend when Quinn Hughes (two goals, 19 assists) leads all defensemen in points but is also second-worst in +/- at a repugnant (-13).
27. Anaheim Ducks (6-11-5), Last Week’s Ranking: 26
Anaheim’s comeback effort came up short Monday night as the Ducks extended their league-worst seven-game losing streak. They’re keeping games close, thanks in large part to John Gibson. However, if things keep going the wrong direction in Anaheim, Gibson may ask for a trade. He’s tied for the league lead in shutouts with three, despite leading the league in high danger shots against (116). With six years remaining on a team-friendly deal ($6.4 million AAV), Gibson should fetch a haul if he asks out. Otherwise, Anaheim may continue wasting his best years.
26. Columbus Blue Jackets (8-10-5), Last Week’s Ranking: 23
Only one of Columbus’ regulation losses has come by one goal. The rest have all been by at least two. After five straight losses, I’m ready to admit I vastly overestimated where the Blue Jackets would finish this season. One of their biggest issues is in the faceoff dot. Columbus is winning 46.0% of their faceoffs this year, the third-lowest rate in the league. This futility directly leads to allowing the seventh-most shots (32.0) and fourth-most goals against (3.26) per game in the league. Jack Roslovic (33.5%) has been particularly awful in the dot.
25. Nashville Predators (10-11-0), Last Week’s Ranking: 28
Exactly half of Nashville’s wins have come over the Blue Jackets. While that’s enough to be a spot ahead of Columbus in the power rankings, they are still behind the Jackets in the standings. It’s been an ugly season, but Juuse Saros looks to be getting himself sorting out in net, letting in two goals total in his past two starts.
24. New York Rangers (7-9-3), Last Week’s Ranking: 24
New York split their homestand with the Boston Bruins, including an impressive 6-2 win on Friday. Alexandar Georgiev is 2-0-2 in his last four starts, and Chris Kreider has stepped up in Artemi Panarin’s absence with four goals and an assist in his past three games. However, Igor Shesterkin has just one win in his last six starts.
23. San Jose Sharks (8-9-2), Last Week’s Ranking: 25
San Jose lost a crazy 7-6 game Saturday night against the St. Louis Blues, but they responded with an impressive 6-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche Monday night. Getting Erik Karlsson back into the lineup was a big help as well. Karlsson scored his first goal of the season to help put Monday’s game out of reach. The Sharks are starting to play more competitive hockey and have shown they can pour on the offense when given the opportunity.
22. New Jersey Devils: (7-8-2), Last Week’s Ranking: 22
The Devils are only one point ahead of Buffalo for last place in a loaded East Division, but they’re also only one point behind the Rangers with two games in hand. This young team has a ton of talent but also has a ton of experience to gain. Nico Hischier has three points in five games since his return, and Ty Smith (two goals, nine assists) leads all rookie defensemen in points.
21. Dallas Stars (6-6-4), Last Week’s Ranking: 21
Dallas’ collapse from their Stanley Cup Final wasn’t something anyone saw coming, and the road back to the Cup is about to get dramatically harder. The Stars are about to start a stretch of 40 games in 70 days. They also won’t have more than one day off in a row at any point. Jake Oettinger has been solid in net, but the wins just haven’t broken his way yet. That said, with only one win in their past nine games, Dallas is lucky they aren’t lower on this list.
20. Calgary Flames (10-11-2), Last Week’s Ranking: 19
With a 2-5-1 record in their last eight games, it feels like the Flames are burning out. A 3-0 shutout loss against the Oilers on Monday has the alarm bells sounding. Jacob Markstrom is still out of the lineup with an upper-body injury, but he’s close to returning. Monday’s warmup (below) was a microcosm of how this season has gone for Calgary.
The beautiful game pic.twitter.com/Wj1vFE0O3s
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) March 2, 2021
19. Arizona Coyotes (9-9-3), Last Week’s Ranking: 20
The Coyotes lost back-to-back games against Colorado last week and are starting to become an afterthought in the West Division. They don’t rank in the Top 10 in any category but also don’t rank in the bottom 10 of most categories either. One area that must improve is their shots per game. Arizona musters 26.5 shots per game, the second-lowest total in the league. On the bright side, Conor Garland (seven goals, 12 assists) is halfway to last season’s point total (39).
18. Los Angeles Kings (9-7-4), Last Week’s Ranking: 18
The Kings lost their six-game win streak with a pair of losses against the Minnesota Wild, one of which was a Matt Dumba buzzer-beater with 0.3 seconds remaining in OT. Calvin Petersen has been particularly impressive, going 3-0-2 in his last five starts. Los Angeles is hanging around the West Division, and youngsters Gabriel Vilardi, Mikey Anderson, Carl Grundstrom, and Adrian Kempe are all playing well.
17. Montreal Canadiens (9-6-5), Last Week’s Ranking: 14
Montreal lost both of their games after firing head coach Claude Julien last Wednesday, continuing a five-game losing streak (0-2-3). Thankfully for Habs fans, the rest of the North Division hasn’t been good either, keeping them in fourth in the standings. They’ll play the Ottawa Senators Tuesday night in hopes of getting back on track, though it won’t be easy. Ottawa has won three of their four meetings this season.
16. Pittsburgh Penguins (11-8-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 15
Tuesday night, the Penguins will take on the Philadelphia Flyers. It will be their first game against a team OTHER than the Washington Capitals or New York Islanders since February 1. Now that there’s a different team on the schedule, we’ll see if Pittsburgh fails or flourishes. Having the third-worst penalty kill (72.1%) in the league isn’t helping either. Both shots that got past Casey DeSmith during Sunday’s 2-0 shutout loss came on the power play.
15. Edmonton Oilers (14-10-0), Last Week’s Ranking: 11
Edmonton claimed goaltender Alex Stalock off waivers from Minnesota to add to their goaltending depth, though Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen have played relatively well this season (Smith in particular). Stalock is still recovering after a heart condition brought on by COVID-19 but is close to a return. He may join the taxi squad after his two-week quarantine once he arrives in Canada. Connor McDavid is also on pace for a 93-point season. That stat blows my mind, and it’s even more impressive when you consider he’s just entering his prime. The best is yet to come.
14. Chicago Blackhawks (12-7-4), Last Week’s Ranking: 17
Chicago is up to the top half of the rankings after yet another strong week where they won three of their four games. Patrick Kane scored his 400th career goal on Sunday, the 10th U.S.-born player to hit that mark. At his current pace, he will catch John Leclair (406) later this season and may move up to eighth on the U.S.-born goal-scoring list if he can catch former Blackhawks captain Tony Amonte (416).
13. St. Louis Blues (12-8-2) Last Week’s Ranking: 13
Few teams have been hit harder with injuries this year than the Blues. Tyler Bozak, Colton Parayko, and Jaden Schwartz are all out indefinitely. Ivan Barbashev, Carl Gunnarson, Jacob de la Rose, and Robert Thomas have all missed time. On the bright side, Vladimir Tarasenko will be returning to the lineup soon, likely during their current road trip.
12. Colorado Avalanche (11-7-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 5
The Avalanche are starting to worry me. Tabbed by many as a Stanley Cup contender, Colorado hasn’t run away with the West Division the way we thought they might. Valeri Nichushkin has come back down to Earth after an excellent defensive season last year, while Tyson Jost and Ryan Graves haven’t met expectations so far. Make no mistake, the Avalanche are still an extremely dangerous team. They haven’t shown it lately, thus the move down the rankings, but I still think they will be competing for the Division Title in the playoffs.
11. Winnipeg Jets (13-7-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 10
While the standings show things a little differently, the Jets are, in my book, the second-best team in the North Division right now. Their +12 goal differential is tied for fifth-best in the league. Connor Hellebuyck may be the best goaltender in the North and could contend for his second Vezina Trophy this year.
10. New York Islanders (11-6-4), Last Week’s Ranking: 16
Few teams have seen more varied positioning in my rankings this year than the Islanders. They’re also heading into a stretch where seven of their next eight games are against the Devils and Sabres. Good teams don’t just win two out of three games and hope for the best; they find ways to string together five or more throughout the season, not just staying afloat but gaining ground in the standings. These next two weeks are an excellent opportunity, and I expect the Isles to take advantage. Rookie goaltender Ilya Sorokin may see a bigger role in that stretch as well.
9. Washington Capitals (12-5-4), Last Week’s Ranking: 8
Ilya Samsonov picked up the win Sunday, his first win since January 14 after being sidelined with COVID-19. Nicklas Backstrom was the first Capitals skater to hit 10 goals this season and leads the team with 25 points. Washington lost 7-4 to the Philadelphia Flyers before a set of games was postponed due to coronavirus, so they’ll have Sunday’s rematch circled on the calendars.
8. Minnesota Wild (12-6-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 12
Minnesota’s six-game win streak ended with an overtime loss at Vegas Monday night, but the Wild made the Golden Knights work for the W. In their last seven games, the second line of Kirill Kaprizov, Victor Rask, and Mats Zuccarello combined for eight goals and 17 assists. With each passing week, my prediction that Kaprizov would win the Calder looks better and better.
7. Philadelphia Flyers (11-4-3), Last Week’s Ranking: 9
Travis Konecny is a game-time decision on Tuesday, and his return would mean the Flyers are almost at a fully healthy roster. A three-game series with rivals Pittsburgh and Washington makes this a measuring stick type of week for the Cup hopefuls. The back-to-back 3-0 shutouts over the Buffalo Sabres made for impressive wins for Brian Elliott and Carter Hart.
6. Florida Panthers (13-4-4), Last Week’s Ranking: 6
The Florida Panthers are one of the biggest surprises of the season in my book. Chris Driedger (7-2-2, 2.25 GAA, .926 save percentage) has stepped up to give the Panthers a steady 1-2 punch in net behind Sergei Bobrovsky. Carter Verhaeghe (seven goals, eight assists) has already exceeded last season’s points total, and he has scored two game-winners. Showing that they can go toe-to-toe with Carolina and Tampa Bay, they’ll be a force come playoff time.
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5. Toronto Maple Leafs (17-4-2), Last Week’s Ranking: 7
Does Toronto have the most wins in the league? Yes. However, when you’re only playing North Division opponents, the numbers are going to look better. Enjoy things now while you can, Leafs fans. While Toronto should advance to the semifinal round as the division winner, I have a hard time seeing how they beat any of the four teams above them on this list right now.
4. Boston Bruins (12-5-2), Last Week’s Ranking: 1
Boston slides down three spots this week after a pair of ugly losses against the New York Islanders (7-2) and New York Rangers (6-2). They’re also down to second in the East Division, but they do have two games in hand. Charlie Coyle has four points (three goals, one assist) in his last four games after going without a point in the previous eight.
3. Carolina Hurricanes (14-6-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 2
Three straight losses to Tampa Bay show the Hurricanes are still a step behind the defending champs. I wouldn’t be surprised if they make a trade to add some forward depth. Petr Mrazek’s return is imminent, which will be a big help in net, though James Reimer and Alex Nedeljkovic have played admirably in his stead. Teuvo Teravainen and Jake Gardiner may be back soon as well (Teravainen is expected to play Thursday).
2. Vegas Golden Knights (13-4-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 4
Even in those ugly metallic gold helmets, Vegas looked good Monday night, rallying from down two in the third to tie the game 4-4 with 42 seconds left (and who better to score than former Wild forward Alex Tuch?), then Max Pacioretty scored the winner in OT. Mark Stone had five primary assists to extend his team lead in points (four goals, 18 assists). Good teams find ways to win games where they don’t play well, and that resiliency bodes well for the Golden Knights once the playoffs start.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning (14-4-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 3
The defending champs are back on top! Andrei Vasilevskiy was named the NHL’s first star of the week after going 3-0-0 and recording two shutouts. Anthony Cirelli scored a goal and an assist in his first game back from injury. At this point, there’s a very real shot the Lightning go back-to-back. Three straight against Chicago this week should make for an interesting series.
As always, if you think your team is overrated or underrated, I’d love to hear from you! Find me on Twitter @MulletsVoxDB and sound off. Thank you for reading!