NHL Power Rankings: Will bye week be a factor?
So now some NHL teams are in hurry up and wait mode.
The Edmonton Oilers are in their bye week this week after defeating Montreal and then flying back to Edmonton on Sunday night, and will rest, recharge and then make their final push for their first playoff spot in quite some time. The Bruins will be on their bye week coming up, and have a different feeling while helplessly watching to see how many Eastern Conference teams will actually pass them in the standings while they sit idle.
The NHL and NHLPA are reportedly going to sit down after the season is over and discuss whether the bye week was a good thing or a bad thing for the players and the league, and how it all played out with this season’s crazy compacted schedule. While the bye week is nice for the players, something tells me a lot of them are going to give a thumbs down on a compacted schedule that had the Bruins, for example, play 50 games in roughly 102 days in the first half of the season.
That’s a crazy pace for any team, and perhaps counts as one of the reasons why they fell apart after a strong start. But that’s a story for another day. This season NHL teams will have bye weeks and everybody must hope that significantly raises the level of play across the league headed into final months of the season.
Without further ado here are this week’s power rankings:
1. Washington Capitals (37-11-6, previous ranking: 1)
Fourth in goals per game, first in goals against and well into the NHL’s top-10 in both power play and penalty kill. The Capitals are killing it across the board and have really hit their stride in the dog days of the NHL season that usually drag other team’s down.
2. Minnesota Wild (35-12-5, previous ranking: 2)
Who had the Minnesota Wild becoming the best team in the Western Conference and Zach Parise 10th on the team in points this season? The Wild are a deep, interesting team with a lot of young players coming into their own this season.
3. Columbus Blue Jackets (34-13-5, previous ranking: 3)
The Blue Jackets have hit a little bit of a holding pattern since their epic winning streak, but let’s all stop and appreciate the kind of season Cam Atkinson is having for the Blue Jackets: 26 points and 48 points in 52 games is a strong, strong showing.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (33-13-6, previous ranking: 4)
The Penguins are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and have a very easy go of their schedule for the rest of February. This could be Pittsburgh’s time to really make a move if they want to overtake Columbus and Washington for Metro Division superiority.
5. Chicago Blackhawks (33-17-5, previous ranking: 7)
The Blackhawks have won three games in a row, and seem to finally be taking some umbrage with the Wild usurping their spot at the top of the Central Division. Jonathan Toews is beginning to come alive as well, and that should make other teams very, very afraid.
6. San Jose Sharks (33-17-4, previous rank: 5)
Back-to-back losses to the Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes are nothing to write home about for the Sharks. If they also drop a road game to the Bruins on Thursday night then they really have problems.
7. New York Rangers (34-18-1, previous ranking: 8)
The Rangers have a nice little three-game winning streak going, so let’s just hope that Charles Oakley doesn’t decide to drop into any Blueshirts home games anytime soon.
8. Montreal Canadiens (30-17-8, previous ranking: 6)
The Canadiens have lost four games in a row, and the 4-0 shutout loss to the Colorado Avalanche has to be rock-bottom for Les Habitants. The sad thing is there isn’t anything that anybody else in the Atlantic Division can do about it.
9. Edmonton Oilers (29-18-8, previous ranking: 10)
The Oil entered a week off with a shutout win over the Montreal Canadiens, and then had to watch the Super Bowl on the long plane ride back from Montreal to Edmonton. Word is that Milan Lucic was going nuts on the Oil charter cheering and rooting for his Patriots while watching the game on a computer.
10. Anaheim Ducks (28-17-10, previous ranking: 9)
Bad start to a six game road trip through the East with three losses in a row for the Ducks, who are still comfortably in a Pacific Division spot regardless of the struggles.
11. Ottawa Senators (27-18-6, previous ranking: 11)
The Senators have lost back-to-back games to Buffalo and St. Louis by a combined 10-0 score. Boy, that’s about as badly as you can play in a two-game stretch especially if you’re a playoff team.
12. Toronto Maple Leafs (25-17-10, previous ranking: 14)
Auston Matthews was the first NHL rookie to hit the 25-goal mark this season as he continues his season-long lap around the league prior to his Calder Trophy acceptance speech.
13. Nashville Predators (26-19-8, previous ranking: 13)
The Predators have been looking to get tougher and grittier with Cody MacLeod and Vern Fiddler trades over the last month, and now the path is there for them to make their big push in the Central Division.
14. Philadelphia Flyers (26-21-7, previous ranking: 12)
Vladimir Putin apparently wants to play in a game against the Philadelphia Flyers alumni during a series of games they’re going to play in Russia. I don’t see it as a good idea for anybody to slash or cross-check him on Mother Russia’s turf, so Bobby Clarke better be on his best behavior.
15. St. Louis Blues (27-22-5, previous ranking: 17)
It’s too late to call it one of those successful runs after a coach is fired, but the Blues have won a couple of games in a row after the firing of head coach Ken Hitchcock.
16. Calgary Flames (28-25-3, previous ranking: 21)
The Calgary Flames practiced in Central Park on their trip through the East Coast, and they’ve risen up five spots in the power rankings. That might be the tonic for other NHL teams looking for a spark as they swing through the Big Apple.
17. Florida Panthers (23-19-10, previous ranking: 19)
The Panthers have won three games in a row and look like a different team since getting Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov back in the lineup. Given the way some other teams are struggling in the Atlantic, it’s the right time for Florida to make their move.
18. New York Islanders (23-18-10, previous ranking: 15)
The Isles are 6-1-2 in nine games since Doug Weight took over as Isles head coach, and are now pushing into a potential playoff spot as they keep winning games. The teams in the East are making their move, and perhaps that’s part of the reason Boston chose now as the time to make a coaching change.
19. Los Angeles Kings (27-23-4, previous ranking: 16)
Back-to-back 5-0 losses to the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals are a cold dose of reality to Peter Budaj and the Los Angeles Kings. Their standing as 24th in the NHL in offense is not going to cut it with their No. 1 goalie still out of action.
20. Boston Bruins (26-23-6, previous ranking: 18)
The loss last weekend to the Maple Leafs was a crushing one, and was the final straw in Claude Julien losing his job as head coach of the Black and Gold. It remains to be seen how the Bruins respond, but a winning streak and an elevated level of play wouldn’t surprise this humble hockey writer.
21. New Jersey Devils (23-21-10, previous ranking: 25)
The Devils have taken seven of their last eight points and are making their final push to get toward a playoff spot whole riding Cory Schneider between the pipes. It’s going to be difficult for them to hop over so many other hopeful teams in the East, but that’s the bed they’ve made.
22. Carolina Hurricanes (24-21-7, previous ranking: 24)
The Hurricanes had a nice little three-game winning streak happening until they slammed headlong into the Washington Capitals, and lost in humbling 5-0 fashion. Damn that NHL reality bites, doesn’t it?
23. Buffalo Sabres (22-21-10, previous ranking: 22)
The Sabres have taken 5-of-8 points in February and Jack Eichel and Evander Kane are both leading the way offensively for Buffalo. It feels like it’s too late for this season given some of their roster issues, but the Sabres can still do a lot to get optimism high for next season. And mathematically they’re still potentially alive, so there’s that.
24. Detroit Red Wings (22-21-10, previous ranking: 28)
The Wings snapped their five game losing streak, but you’re starting to hear significant Wings players being mentioned in trade rumors. Interesting times in Detroit, who finds itself stuck in the same place as the Bruins are trying to ice competitive teams for so long.
25. Winnipeg Jets (25-27-4, previous ranking: 20)
Another two-game losing streak for a Winnipeg Jets team feels destined for a coaching change with Paul Maurice in the near future, and should have at least been alive for a playoff spot until the very end of the season.
26. Tampa Bay Lightning (24-24-6, previous ranking: 23)
Watch out everybody. The Tampa Bay Lightning have won two games in a row and appear to be finally emerging from their season-long rest period. Is it too late and can they sustain it? Stay tuned to “As the Atlantic Division Turns” to find out these answers and more.
27. Vancouver Canucks (23-24-6, previous ranking: 27)
The Canucks have lost four games in a row and may finally be submerging into the non-playoff wasteland for the final time this season. Give the Canucks credit for having more life to them than people expected, but there is some work to be done there.
28. Dallas Stars (21-23-10, previous ranking: 26)
Tyler Seguin is sick of talking about losing. Okay, there seems to be a simple antidote to that kind of thing: winning. The Stars are floating along and limping toward the finish line during a really, truly disappointing season.
29. Arizona Coyotes (17-28-6, previous ranking: 29)
I’ll just repeat what I said last week for emphasis: Somebody please rescue Shane Doan from this team. It’s tough to see the five goals and 17 points for him coming out of the NHL All-Star break knowing that a chance at a Stanley Cup might really energize him.
30. Colorado Avalanche (15-33-2, previous ranking: 30)
The Avs have won a couple of games in a row and even threw a 4-0 shutout beatdown at the lilting Habs over the last few days. But none of that can rescue Colorado from the rock-bottom they’ve hit this season, and the need to bust up that roster and start over again with a much better plan in place.