Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: Parity rules
Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: Parity rules at the break
The All-Star break has arrived, and amazingly only the Arizona Coyotes and the Colorado Avalanche can truly be considered completely out of it.
It’s the wonder of NHL parity and teams being so bunched together for long portions of the season to give those clubs a chance, and to be able to sell to the fans that your hometown team’s chances haven’t been dashed. In fact there isn’t a single club in the Eastern Conference that would be considered to have a losing record, and there are only three of them in the Western Conference with Arizona, Colorado and the Dallas Stars being “under .500.”
It also means there aren’t many trades happening right now because Arizona and Colorado are the only sellers, and there are a ton of buyers looking to improve their respective teams with the playoff pressure rising daily. So enjoy it, NHL fans, with your team still in the playoff hunt and probably within a winning streak of pushing into the playoff structure.
Or wait until next year Arizona and Colorado.
Without further ado here are this week’s power rankings:
1. Washington Capitals (32-10-6, previous ranking: 1)
Washington has scratched and clawed their way to the position as rightful top dogs in the Metro Division, and they once again look poised to come out of the East. It all comes down to performance issues in the playoffs for them.
2. Minnesota Wild (31-11-5, PR: 3)
It’s a bit of a weak year for the Central Division and for the Western Conference in general, but Minnesota is one of the best and brightest that they have to offer. This might be the year when they become more than first round fodder in the playoffs.
3. Columbus Blue Jackets (32-11-4, PR: 2)
The Blue Jackets have come back down to Earth and proof positive is their last loss to the New York Islanders. The NHL’s top-ranked power play, good defense and a top tier goaltender is a pretty tough combo to beat.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (30-12-5, PR: 6)
The Penguins’ 20-3-2 record on home ice is pretty amazing, and they’ve really found their stride lately. It’s disappointing that Evgeni Malkin is going to have to skip the All-Star Game with an injury after a brilliant season.
5. Montreal Canadiens (29-13-7, PR: 4)
Approaching the break, the Habs look like the best that the Atlantic Division has to offer. Carey Price, Alex Radulov, Shea Weber, Jeff Petry and Max Pacioretty all having good seasons.
6. San Jose Sharks (31-16-2, PR: 10)
The clear NHL conspiracy to keep Brent Burns from dominating the Breakaway Challenge at All-Star Skills Competition with his Chewbacca mask is a scandal of miniscule proportions.
7. Chicago Blackhawks (30-15-5, PR: 5)
Watching the Blackhawks sleep through a Friday night game against the Bruins where they toyed with them for 58 minutes, before hitting another gear for the win, was amazing. It was also a sad commentary on how far the B’s have fallen.
8. New York Rangers (31-17-1, PR: 8)
Henrik Lundqvist seems to be out of his personal funk and that’s very good news for the Blueshirts. They’re treading water right now, but they’re in a very good spot overall.
9. Edmonton Oilers (27-15-8, PR: 9)
The Oilers are 7-2-1 in their past 10 games and rolling toward the playoffs with a well-rounded, exciting group. That’s right. There will be playoffs in Edmonton this spring. I’m calling it right now.
10. Ottawa Senators (26-15-5, PR: 10)
The Senators continue to push up toward the top in the Atlantic Division and exceed expectations as they undergo major organizational chances. It’s proof that it can be done.
11. Toronto Maple Leafs (23-14-9, PR: 12)
The Maple Leafs are headed into the break on a strong wave and they’re putting themselves in an extremely good position. The only question is whether Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner can be strong finishers in their first NHL go-round.
12. Anaheim Ducks (27-15-9, PR: 14)
Rickard Rakell has hit 20 goals this season for the Ducks and Ryan Kesler is their leading point guy. Anaheim is getting plenty of support, but it feels like something is missing with this team as they coast through the Pacific Division again this season.
13. Nashville Predators (23-17-8, PR: 19)
P.K. Subban has returned for the Predators as they look to shore up things in the Central Division, and have gone on a bit of a winning binge as of late.
14. Philadelphia Flyers (24-19-6, PR: 14)
It’s going to be a dogfight for an up-and-down Flyers group for the final third of the season, but the bottom line is this: If Steve Mason plays well, then they’re going to be happy at the end of it all.
15. St. Louis Blues (24-19-5, PR: 11)
Doug Armstrong has put his team on notice that he’ll start trading veteran rental options like Kevin Shattenkirk if the Blues don’t start forging their own playoff path. It’s going to be tough as long as Jake Allen is playing like a beer league goalie.
16. Boston Bruins (24-21-6, PR: 16)
The Bruins snapped their season-worst four game losing streak against the Red Wings, but that isn’t exactly the throat-clearing, chest-thumping moment people are waiting for from this team. It’s been a frustrating, middling season for the Bruins, and the playoffs are starting to drift away.
17. Vancouver Canucks (23-20-6, PR: 21)
The Canucks are somehow sitting in a playoff spot in the West. I don’t know how and I don’t know why, but give them credit for managing to stay above expectations this season.
18. Los Angeles Kings (23-21-4, PR: 18)
The Kings are outside a playoff spot as they get ready to be the host club for the All-Star Game. It’s not where they want to be at this point, but the show must go on as they say out in Hollywood.
19. Florida Panthers (20-19-10, PR: 24)
The Panthers have lost four games in a row after a very tumultuous first half of the season. They need to regroup in a big way at the All-Star break, but there’s a path for them to get into the playoffs if they want to take it.
20. New York Islanders (20-17-9, PR: 28)
It’s pretty clear at this point that the move needed to be made with Jack Capuano. The Isles are 3-0-1 under new coach Doug Weight, and have taken down the Kings, Stars and Blue Jackets in the process.
21. Calgary Flames (24-24-3, PR: 15)
Glen Gulutzan has officially hit his breaking point with the Flames current mode of operation, and crushed them after a brutal road loss to the Canadiens. This team continues to under-perform.
22. Tampa Bay Lightning (22-22-5, PR: 20)
The 3-6-1 record in their past 10 games doesn’t exactly scream out urgency or making a last stand for the playoffs, does it? Something is very wrong with this Lightning group even though they have the built-in excuse with the Steve Stamkos injury.
23. Buffalo Sabres (20-18-9, PR: 26)
The Sabres have won three games in a row and Jack Eichel is leading surge for Buffalo. Like so many teams down in the standings, it’s getting to be now or never for this team to make a push upward.
24. Dallas Stars (19-20-10, PR: 24)
The talent is there, but three losses in a row and a 3-5-2 record in their past 10 games scream out a team drowning in its own mediocrity. You have to wonder when the questions start popping up for Lindy Ruff in Dallas.
25. Detroit Red Wings (20-20-9, PR: 25)
Four losses in a row for the Red Wings, who are limping into the All-Star break without Thomas Vanek and Dylan Larkin. Detroit is fast, but they’re not really tough or particularly gritty when it comes to grinding out wins.
26. Carolina Hurricanes (21-19-7, PR: 17)
The Hurricanes are hanging around, but Cam Ward is starting to fall back to reality after a really strong first half of the season. They may need some help if they’re going to make a playoff push.
27. Winnipeg Jets (22-25-4, PR: 27)
Lo and behold, Ondej Pavelec has been okay since coming back from the AHL. It hasn’t really helped the Jets rise up from the dregs of the Western Conference, but I guess it’s a testament to his character.
28. New Jersey Devils (20-20-9, PR: 23)
A goal differential of minus-28 is the worst mark in the Eastern Conference and betrays a talented Devils team that should be better than this. It might be too late for them this year, but they need to pick it up a bit.
29. Arizona Coyotes (15-26-6, PR: 29)
The Coyotes have won two in a row, and Keith Yandle told reporters he thinks Coyotes management knows what they’re doing when Florida blew through town last week. Man, everything is coming up roses for the Yotes.
30. Colorado Avalanche (13-31-2, PR: 30)
You know it’s been a disastrous season when one of your best players is scratched for an illness and everybody assumes he’s just been traded to kick off blowing the whole thing up. Strange days indeed, Avs.