Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: Separation time
Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: Separation time
The dog days of February have arrived for the NHL. The trade deadline is less than a month away and separation is starting to arrive around the league. It appears the top eight teams have been decided in the East with the Florida Panthers fading from view, but that last playoff spot should be a hell of a race to the finish. Vancouver has a four-plus point cushion over talented teams in Colorado, Los Angeles, Minnesota and Dallas, but it’s difficult to envision the Canucks separating from the rest of the pack. That means there will be some barnburner games down the stretch out West over the next few months, but then again what else is new? Without further ado here are this week’s power rankings:
1. St. Louis Blues (34-13-4, rank last week: 3) - The Blues have won seven in a row despite losing All-Star defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, and continue to roll through the Central Division.
2. Anaheim Ducks (34-12-6, rank last week: 1) – The Ducks have bounced back with a couple of wins after losing to the Blackhawks and Sharks last weekend.
3. Nashville Predators (33-12-16, rank last week: 2) – Pekka Rinne and the Predators were spanked by the Ducks in his return to the lineup. Give a big credit to former UMass-Lowell standout Carter Hutton for keeping the Preds in the mix while Rinne was out.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning (33-15-5, rank last week: 8) – The Lightning continue to be the class of the East and lead the conference in goal differential.
5. Detroit Red Wings (30-12-9, rank last week: 7) – The Red Wings say that they use the New England Patriots as a model for their franchise. Quick, somebody check the curves on their stick blades!
6. Montreal Canadiens (32-15-3, rank last week: 5) – I am shocked that PK Subban was fined $2,000 for flopping, diving or embellishing. Shocked.
7. New York Islanders (33-17-1, rank last week: 4) – The Islanders are treading water without Kyle Okposo as the power play has gone into a slump.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins (29-14-8, rank last week: 9) – The Penguins are in win one/lose one mode right now, and their last three wins were against the Oilers, Devils and Jets. Not very impressive hockey right now for the Pens.
9. New York Rangers (30-15-4, rank last week: 10) – The Rangers capped off the week with an impressive win over the Bruins after unexpectedly losing Henrik Lundqvist to a throat issue. So much speed on this team up front.
10. Chicago Blackhawks (31-18-2, rank last week: 6) – The Blackhawks have dropped two in a row, and are smack dab in the middle of their midseason malaise. It should last for another week or two before they really kick it into stretch drive sprint mode to the playoffs.
11. San Jose Sharks (28-18-7, rank last week: 13) – Joe Pavelski might be my favorite player to watch in the NHL. He plays the game the right way, and is fearless around the front of the net despite never being the biggest guy on the ice.
12. Washington Capitals (27-15-10, rank last week: 14) – Braden Holtby could be a big difference-maker for the Capitals when it comes to playoff time. He held the Kings and Sens to one goal in the last two wins for the Caps, and is in the top five in goals against average and save percentage.
13. Boston Bruins (27-17-7, rank last week: 12) – Two regulation losses since Jan. 1 is nothing to sneeze at, but the 3-2 loss to the Rangers brought up some old issues with the Black and Gold.
14. Calgary Flames (29-20-3, rank last week: 16) – Wins in eight of their past 10 games have the Flames coming pretty close to stamping their playoff passes, and has to discourage the teams chasing them in the standings.
15. Winnipeg Jets (26-18-9, rank last week: 11) – Five losses in a row and the Evander Kane track suit incident have the Jets dangling over the edge of the precipice. It’s hard to envision any scenario where Kane stays in Winnipeg.
16. Vancouver Canucks (28-19-3, rank last week: 15) – The Canucks have lost four of their last six, and are showing only wins over the Sabres and Jets in that span. They are hanging on the playoff ledge out West.
17. Florida Panthers (23-17-10, rank last week: 18) – The Panthers are pulling out of a tailspin, but losing seven of eight games around the All-Star break might have been the final stake in their playoff coffin.
18. Minnesota Wild (24-20-6, rank last week: 22) – The Wild are winning, and Devan Dubnyk has been pretty good in the short term. We’ll see if this lasts.
19. Colorado Avalanche (22-19-11, rank last week: 20) – It’s about time one of those young guns showed they cared out in Colorado. Good for Nathan MacKinnon dropping the gloves even if it seems to be something of a futile move.
CHECKING FROM BEHIND
20. Dallas Stars (23-20-8, rank last week: 19) – Tough week for the Stars with losses to the Avalanche and Lightning. If one of those two teams is going to make a miracle run, I’m thinking it’s not the defensively inept Dallas club.
21. Los Angeles Kings (21-18-12, rank last week: 17) – The Kings are certainly capable of again doing damage as a No. 8 seed in the playoffs, but their playoff hopes are fading. Three losses in a row is a crucial bit of slippage at this time of year.
22. Philadelphia Flyers (22-22-8, rank last week: 25) – The Flyers are just playing out the string at this point, but it’s pretty amazing that they continue to live inside the heads of the Penguins players.
23. Ottawa Senators (20-21-9, rank last week: 21) – It would certainly be painful, but trading away Chris Neil, Chris Phillips and other veteran assets is the right move with a Sens team that won’t be making it this season.
24. Columbus Blue Jackets (21-25-3, rank last week: 24) – No Sergei Bobrovsky equals no miracle second half for the Blue Jackets.
25. New Jersey Devils (20-22-9, rank last week: 26) – The Devils are 4-1 coming out of the All-Star break, and playing with some pride. You’d expect nothing less from that group of veterans and pros.
26. Toronto Maple Leafs (22-26-4, rank last week: 23) – The Leafs have lost 10 in a row, and will continue skipping the stick salute to fans as they swirl down the drain.
27. Carolina Hurricanes (18-26-7, rank last week: 27) – The young Canes are playing with guts and determination, and Alex Semin is a dog. It’s the same old, same old in Carolina.
28. Arizona Coyotes (19-26-7, rank last week: 28) – The Oilers and Coyotes are neck and neck with a minus-52 goal differential, tied for worst in the Western Conference. That is tough to do.
29. Edmonton Oilers (14-29-9, rank last week: 29) – The Oilers have won five times in 25 chances on the road this season. Why even bother playing the games?
30. Buffalo Sabres (15-34-3, rank last week: 30) – Two wins for the Sabres since Dec. 27 should at least earn them Connor McDavid if nothing else. Tank you, very much.