Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: Playoff complaints?
Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: Playoff format gonna irk somebody
Okay, let’s get the whining and complaining out of the way.
Yes, the NHL playoff format isn’t perfect and somebody from the Metro Division is going to be royally pissed off after the first round of the playoffs. My bet is on John Tortorella losing his mind if his Blue Jackets end up losing to the Penguins in the first round after what’s been a brilliant bounce-back season both for Columbus and Torts.
The divisional-bracket style of playoffs certainly is going to always cause a good team to be eliminated early in the proceedings and will skew to the unfair side if there’s situations like this season where all the power lies in the Metro Division, aside from a little underdog hockey club called the Chicago Blackhawks.
But look at the first-round matchups you may get as a hockey fan if the season ended on Thursday afternoon:
Canadiens vs. Rangers
Senators vs. Leafs
Capitals vs. Bruins
Penguins vs. Blue Jackets
Blackhawks vs. Predators
Sharks vs. Flames
Wild vs. Blues
Ducks vs. Oilers
Sign me up for those first-round battles and the ones that ensue in the second round after those teams advance. I’m all about the divisional rivalries getting kicked up another notch by the decision of the divisional brackets.
Anyway, without further ado, here are this week’s power rankings:
1. Washington Capitals (47-17-8, previous ranking: 1)
The Caps worked through their brief doldrums and have righted the ship with Kevin Shattenkirk starting to kick in with some offense. The playoff run for them is going to be fascinating.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins (46-17-9, PR: 2)
Given the tear he’s been on with the Penguins recently, Sidney Crosby looks like he’s on a mission to capture another Hart Trophy and lead the NHL in goals as well.
3. Chicago Blackhawks (47-20-6, PR: 4)
Another year and another season where it looks like the Blackhawks are going to be the class of the Western Conference. I fully expect to see this team in the Stanley Cup Final if they can remain healthy.
4. Columbus Blue Jackets (47-19-6, PR: 3)
Three of the four teams that have clinched their playoff berths already reside in the Metro Division, so what does tell you about that playoff bracket this spring. The Blue Jackets haven’t strayed at all this season, and are moving step for step with the Capitals and Penguins.
5. Minnesota Wild (44-22-6, PR: 5)
The Wild have won just three of their past 10 and have dropped well behind the Blackhawks in the Central Division. But they may have their mojo back after a big win over the Sharks.
6. New York Rangers (45-25-4, PR: 7)
The Blueshirts are treading water, going 4-4-2 in their past 10 games, and have dropped two in a row. This seems like a team highly motivated to keep that top wild-card spot and get out of the brutal Metro Division bracket.
7. Montreal Canadiens (41-23-9, PR: 9)
Carey Price is predictably hitting his stride under new Habs coach Claude Julien, and is 6-1-0 with a 1.55 goals-against average and .942 save percentage in March.
8. San Jose Sharks (42-24-7, PR: 6)
The Sharks have lost four in a row and have scored a grand total of four goals in those games. So, we’re saying there’s an offensive problem for the Sharks right now.
9. Ottawa Senators (40-24-8, PR: 8)
The Senators ended their tailspin against the Bruins, but it looks like they’re going to have a hard time catching the Habs at this point. Guy Boucher’s trap system in the playoffs is not exactly going to be Must See TV.
10. Anaheim Ducks (39-23-11, PR: 11)
The Ducks have taken nine of their past 10 points and taken down mostly playoff teams in that run with wins over Washington, San Jose and Edmonton.
11. Calgary Flames (41-28-4, PR: 12)
The winning streak is over, but the Flames snapped back and won two of three while continuing to push hard toward the top of the Pacific Division. Glen Gulutzan has done a nice job with that crew.
12. Edmonton Oilers (39-25-9, PR: 12)
Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby are both putting on a pretty awesome finishing drive toward NHL Awards season. Five goals and 13 points in nine games in March for McDavid, who can surely taste his first NHL playoffs experience at this point.
13. Toronto Maple Leafs (34-23-15, PR: 18)
Give the Leafs credit, not even the rare Mike Babcock screw-up on the Toronto bench can derail this group right now. The Leafs are playing good hockey again even if things have slowed down for Auston Matthews a little bit.
14. Boston Bruins (38-29-6, PR: 13)
Three losses in a row have everybody in Boston ready to hit the panic button, but this is a different team and a different coach. A couple more losses this week, though, and it could be the same old sad Country Western song at the end.
15. St. Louis Blues (39-28-5, PR: 14)
The Blues have won eight of their past nine and have essentially punched their playoff ticket at this point. A couple of two-goal games from Vladimir Tarasenko during that stretch certainly didn’t hurt.
16. Nashville Predators (36-25-11, PR: 15)
The Predators have two of the most unsung players of the year in the NHL this season in Viktor Arvidsson and Ryan Ellis and they continue to guard the rear of the Western Conference playoff group.
17. New York Islanders (34-26-12, PR: 17)
A big win over the Rangers has the Islanders back within a couple of points of a playoff spot with a big showdown against the Bruins looming this weekend. A loss in regulation for either team could be very, very damaging.
18. Tampa Bay Lightning (34-29-9, PR: 18)
The Bolts are really, really banged up physically and have lost four in a row. It’s desperation mode right now where another loss or two could usher them out of the playoff picture before Steve Stamkos even has a say about it.
19. Los Angeles Kings (34-31-7, PR: 19)
It’s a hopeless situation in LA where they’re playing out the string and will be forced to watch playoff hockey this spring barring some crazy happening down the stretch. The Kings just couldn’t muster that extra something to get over the hump.
20. Carolina Hurricanes (31-27-13, PR: 20)
We’ve seen this before from Carolina where they’re essentially eliminated from playoff consideration and then they become spoilers down the stretch. They’re doing it again while taking points in nine of their past 10 games to inch up the Metro Division.
21. Philadelphia Flyers (33-31-8, PR: 21)
The Flyers have lost five of their past seven and continue to have the same old problem keeping the puck out of the back of their net. It’s a Broad Street tale as old as time.
22. Winnipeg Jets (33-33-7, PR: 22)
Blake Wheeler with five goals and 13 points in nine games in March. He isn’t going down without a fight as any good captain would do with a young team getting swept under in the West.
23. Buffalo Sabres (30-32-12, PR: 23)
It’s too bad we won’t see Jack Eichel in the playoffs this season. With seven goals in 11 games, the second-year forward is cranking it up as high as he can go down the stretch.
24. Florida Panthers (31-30-11, PR: 24)
Two wins in their past 10 games and a minus-25 goal differential are just yuck-worthy numbers from the Panthers in a season that should have been so much better. As it turned out, the Jagr milestone stuff was the only thing of good note to come out of this season for them.
25. Vancouver Canucks (29-34-9, PR: 25)
A combined three goals from the Sedin Brothers and Loui Eriksson (who was hurt) in March as the offense has gone right in the dumpster for Vancouver. They were better than we thought, but still not very good.
26. New Jersey Devils (27-33-12, PR: 26)
A 2-10-2 record in their past 14 games has doomed the Devils, but they at least they seem to have finally pulled themselves out of their recent turmoil. They could use an infusion of more talent with their group.
27. Detroit Red Wings (29-32-11, PR: 27)
The Wings have won three of their past four games, but it’s not going them a lot of good right now. It’s a sad end to Joe Louis Arena that there will be no playoff hockey there in its final run as the home of the Winged Wheels.
28. Dallas Stars (29-33-10, PR: 28)
The Stars took a 1-0 win over the Sharks with Kari Lehtonen playing beautifully between the pipes, but it’s too little, too late for the NHL’s 29th-ranked defense. Giving up three-plus goals per game is a difficult way to go through life in the NHL.
29. Arizona Coyotes (27-37-9, PR: 29)
Radim Vrbata was honored by the Coyotes for playing in his 1,000th NHL game recently. So, he has that going for him, which is nice as Arizona finishes out another lost season.
30. Colorado Avalanche (20-49-3, PR: 30)
It’s been almost two weeks, and the Avs are still the only team that’s been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. What a dumpster fire this whole thing was out in Colorado this season, eh?