What a week of NHL action! With some surprising upsets, teams heating up, and others falling apart, I’ll waste no time getting into it.
Here are the NHL power rankings, as of 8:00 A.M. on Tuesday, March 23, 2021.
NHL POWER RANKINGS #31-21
31. Buffalo Sabres (6-20-4), Last Week’s Ranking: 31
Buffalo tied a franchise record with their 14th straight loss Monday night against the Rangers. Head Coach Ralph Krueger was fired after the 12th loss, but he’s far from the only problem. The NHL record is 17 games. With two games at Pittsburgh, one at Boston, then home against the Flyers next Monday, we’ve got an excellent chance to witness history. As a team, the Sabres have scored 62 goals this season. As a player, Connor McDavid has 60 points. It’s sad to think this scoring race could favor McDavid at the end of the season.
30. Anaheim Ducks (9-18-6), Last Week’s Ranking: 30
It was only a matter of time before the anemic offense dragged down the rest of the team. Anaheim has three wins in their last 18 games. They’ve been outscored 31-11 in their last seven games. I wonder if Dallas Eakins will be the next head coach to get the axe. The Ducks desperately need a franchise reset.
29. Detroit Red Wings (10-18-4), Last Week’s Ranking: 28
Robby Fabbri recorded his second career hat trick during Thursday’s 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars. That win marked the second time this season Detroit won back-to-back games. However, they still score the third-fewest goals per game while allowing the sixth-most.
28. Ottawa Senators (11-20-3), Last Week’s Ranking: 29
Ottawa is still a couple of years away from being a couple of years away. But there are signs of life for this much-maligned team. The Senators picked up points in each of their past four games (2-0-2), beating the first place Maple Leafs for the third time this season and scoring late to beat the Flames Monday.
27. San Jose Sharks (12-14-4), Last Week’s Ranking: 25
The Sharks snapped a four-game losing skid with a 2-1 victory over the Kings on Monday. Devan Dubnyk has lost his last three starts, and statistically speaking, the Sharks have the league’s second-worst goaltending tandem behind Philadelphia.
26. Nashville Predators (14-17-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 26
Nashville is, amazingly, four points out of a playoff spot. However, it feels like this team would need a miracle to make up that ground. Top pairing defensemen Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis are still out, but with wins in three of their last four games, including plucky victories over Tampa Bay and Florida, the Predators aren’t dead yet.
25. New Jersey Devils (11-14-4), Last Week’s Ranking: 27
Taking two of three against the Pittsburgh Penguins last week moves the Devils up in the standings. Nico Hischier is still out until early April, and the Devils are probably out of playoff contention, even without being mathematically eliminated. Expect Kyle Palmieri to be a trade deadline target for contending teams.
24. Dallas Stars (10-10-8), Last Week’s Ranking: 22
I feel bad for rookie goaltender Jake Oettinger. No other goaltender has more overtime losses than Oettinger (six), and while he’s put up excellent numbers (.913 save percentage, 2.23 GAA, one shutout), it hasn’t translated to the win column. This team desperately needs Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov back in the lineup, along with the laundry list of others on the injury report.
23. Arizona Coyotes (13-14-5), Last Week’s Ranking: 19
With one win in their last seven games, Arizona will be hard-pressed to rally the rest of the season to make the playoffs. After forfeiting their first-round pick this season due to Combine Testing Policy violations, Arizona should be looking to sell whoever they can at the trade deadline. Their current roster isn’t good enough to compete and needs more than just a few tweaks to get back into playoff contention. Rumors of a Phil Kessel trade are starting to swirl as well.
22. Columbus Blue Jackets (13-13-7), Last Week’s Ranking: 24
Columbus’ last regulation win came on March 4. They’ve gone 3-2-3 since then, so while the Blue Jackets are hanging around in the standings, they aren’t going on a run in either direction. However, with a pair of wins over the Carolina Hurricanes, they’ve crept back into contention for the fourth seed in the Central Division.
21. Calgary Flames (15-15-3), Last Week’s Ranking: 16
Things in Calgary are beginning to fall apart. Back-to-back losses to Toronto and Ottawa have the Flames at a distant sixth in the North Division. With only two playoff series wins since the 2004-05 lockout, Calgary could be looking at a franchise reset, as Johnny Gaudreau’s name has entered the trade rumor mill.
NHL POWER RANKINGS #20-11
20. Vancouver Canucks (16-17-3), Last Week’s Ranking: 21
Vancouver is starting to put it together, and as wild as the North Division has been this season, a second-half run could put them into the playoff picture once again. However, they’ve got a lot of issues to work out before getting there. Getting Bo Horvat, Elias Pettersson, Tanner Pearson, Brandon Sutter, and a slew of others back healthy is at the top of that list.
19. Los Angeles Kings (13-12-6), Last Week’s Ranking: 23
The Kings have eliminated extended losing streaks in recent weeks, but they’ve also had a hard time stringing wins together. For a club at a crossroads between an aging core of veterans (Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Dustin Brown, and Jonathan Quick) and the young players at the crux of the club’s future (Adrian Kempe, Gabriel Vilardi, Alex Lizotte, Jaret Anderson-Dolan), the Kings may sell off some of their assets to invest for the long run. However, I see them on a shortlist of teams who have the assets, interest, and opportunity to make a big trade for Buffalo’s Jack Eichel. It may not happen at the trade deadline, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens this offseason.
18. New York Rangers (14-13-4), Last Week’s Ranking: 20
Igor Shesterkin is nearing a return, but Keith Kinkaid has filled in brilliantly between the pipes. Artemi Panarin’s return has sparked the club as well. When this team returns to a fully healthy lineup, they may creep back into the playoff picture. The Rangers are well within striking distance of Philadelphia and Boston.
17. Chicago Blackhawks (14-13-5), Last Week’s Ranking: 15
Chicago’s slide continues, as they’ve now lost four straight and seven of their last 10. Kevin Lankinen has come back down to earth after his hot start and has lost five of his past six starts. To make the playoffs, they’ll likely need Patrick Kane to carry the team yet again. However, Kirby Dach practiced in full on Monday and is getting closer to a return. Help may be on the way.
16. Philadelphia Flyers (15-11-4), Last Week’s Ranking: 13
It’s gut-check time for the Flyers, who were demolished in a 9-0 rout against the New York Rangers last Wednesday and allowed 20 goals in four games since last week’s rankings. Philadelphia has lost seven of its last ten games and has fallen to a distant fifth in the East Division. Carter Hart will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, and his play lately all but guarantees his next contract won’t be a big one.
15. Montreal Canadiens (14-8-9), Last Week’s Ranking: 17
Imagine how good this Canadiens team would be if they didn’t have to play overtime games. Only two other teams have more than six overtime losses this year, but Montreal is alone at the front of the pack. Losing leading scorer Tyler Toffoli (18 goals, nine assists) through at least Friday won’t help matters either.
14. St. Louis Blues (16-11-5), Last Week’s Ranking: 14
St. Louis is off until Thursday when they’ll play the Minnesota Wild for the first time this season, and the rest couldn’t come at a better time. The Blues’ injury list continues to mount. With centers Tyler Bozak, Ivan Barbashev, and Oskar Sundqvist all injured (with Sundqvist out for the rest of the season), St. Louis is incredibly thin down the middle of the lineup.
13. Pittsburgh Penguins (19-11-2), Last Week’s Ranking: 11
Evgeni Malkin is on injured reserve with a lower-body injury, and the Penguins felt his absence during Sunday’s overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils. Still, they’re third in the East and playing well. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Penguins make a trade deadline move for a middle-six forward or a second-pairing defenseman, but I also don’t expect them to bring in top-tier talent. They’ve already traded away their first, third, fourth, and sixth-round picks this season.
12. Winnipeg Jets (19-11-2), Last Week’s Ranking: 9
Winnipeg has flown under the radar this season, while Toronto and Edmonton have snatched most of the headlines. However, they’re two points out of first place, waiting in the shadows to strike. The Pierre-Luc Dubois trade has yet to pay significant dividends, but with Winnipeg’s center depth, they’re a tough team to beat.
11. Edmonton Oilers (21-13-0), Last Week’s Ranking: 18
The Oilers are tied for first in the North Division. Mike Smith’s play in net has steadied the team, winning five of his last six games. The team has won seven of their last nine. However, Monday’s game against Montreal was postponed due to COVID-19. It is unclear whether the Oilers or Canadiens had a positive test, so we will need to monitor this situation.
NHL POWER RANKINGS – THE TOP 10
10. Boston Bruins (16-8-4), Last Week’s Ranking: 10
David Pastrnak, Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci, and Craig Smith are all in COVID-19 protocol, and two of their games (against Buffalo and New York) were postponed, so Boston is ineligible to move this week.
9. Minnesota Wild (19-10-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 6
Injuries to Marcus Foligno and Matt Dumba cooled the Wild off in a hurry, and the team showed they’re still a step behind Colorado and Vegas in the West Division. While they’re certainly capable of finishing third in the standings, a first-round playoff exit seems likely. The defense and goaltending are in place; both Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen are having excellent seasons, but a league-worst 9.3% power play is the biggest flaw with this club.
8. Toronto Maple Leafs (20-10-2), Last Week’s Ranking: 8
Losing six of their last eight games, the Maple Leafs are now tied with the Edmonton Oilers for first place in the North Division and are only two points clear of Winnipeg for third. Goaltender Frederik Andersen (13-8-2, 2.91 GAA, .897 save percentage) has regressed this season. Toronto may look to add a goaltender at the trade deadline.
7. Florida Panthers (20-7-4), Last Week’s Ranking: 4
Florida hasn’t yet shown they can hang with Tampa Bay and Carolina in the Central Division, losing five of their eight matchups this season against those clubs. They’re a talented squad, but they’ll need to do more than rack up wins against lower-tier teams as the season continues.
6. Colorado Avalanche (20-8-2), Last Week’s Ranking: 12
There has been an awakening in Denver. The Avalanche offense exploded against the Wild (who are usually one of the better defensive teams in the league) and the Ducks to the tune of 19 goals in three games. We’re finally seeing the Colorado team we thought we’d see at the start of the season. If this continues, look out.
5. New York Islanders (21-8-4), Last Week’s Ranking: 5
The Islanders are back on top of the East Division standings, but with captain Anders Lee done for the season after tearing his ACL, the Islanders are in a precarious position. I expect them to be buyers at the trade deadline, bringing in some extra offensive firepower now that moving Lee to long-term IR frees up $7 million in cap room.
4. Washington Capitals (20-7-4), Last Week’s Ranking: 7
Tom Wilson finally returned to the ice and picked up an assist, but the Rangers snapped the Caps’ seven-game win streak. Still, Washington is keeping it close in the East Division and has two games in hand on the Islanders.
3. Carolina Hurricanes (21-7-3), Last Week’s Ranking: 1
Every time I put the Hurricanes at the top of my rankings, they lose at least two games the following week. However, they blanked the Blue Jackets 3-0 Monday night as Alex Nedeljkovic posted his second career shutout.
2. Vegas Golden Knights (22-7-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 3
Robin Lehner has won both of his starts since returning to the lineup after an injury. While Marc-André Fleury is still having a Vezina-caliber season, easing his workload down the stretch to keep him refreshed for the playoffs will help the Golden Knights tremendously.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning (23-6-2), Last Week’s Ranking: 2
The Bolts are back on top, where they’ve been for most of the season. A sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks and a win over third-place Florida is enough to reclaim the top spot. Ryan McDonagh left the Florida game with a lower-body injury, but with Tampa Bay’s depth, they can soften the impact if McDonagh is unavailable long term.
How do your rankings compare? I’d love to hear from you! Sound off on Twitter @MulletsVoxDB, and let me know what you think.
Thank you for reading, and see you next week!