Haggerty's Power Rankings: Playoff preview edition
Joe Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: Playoff preview edition
The NHL is almost ready for next week’s big dance, and we’re just seeing some final primping and rehearsing before it comes down to show time.
The only thing up in question right now is the final team in the Eastern Conference where the Senators, Maple Leafs, Lightning and Islanders are battling it out for two remaining playoff spots with Ottawa and Toronto holding the upper hand. Erik Karlsson is banged up for a Senators team that’s leaking oil at the end of the season, and somehow the Islanders have won three games in a row despite losing John Tavares from their lineup.
So it looks like some of these things won’t be resolved until the final game of the regular season, but we do know is that Montreal/Rangers and Pittsburgh/Columbus are going to be some pretty damned good first-round match-ups no matter happens.
Anyway, without further ado, here are this week’s power rankings:
1. Washington Capitals (54-18-8, previous ranking: 1)
Nine wins in their past 10 games and now they’ve clinched the President’s Trophy and home ice throughout their playoff run. Bring on the postseason because that’s the only place left for them to prove anything.
2. Chicago Blackhawks (50-22-8, PR: 2)
The Blackhawks have clinched everything they can clinch in the West and lost the past couple of games with half-measure performances. But make no mistake about it, this is the beast of the West.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins (49-19-11, PR: 4)
The good news is that they’ll be getting a healthy Evgeni Malkin back for the playoffs. The bad news is that Kris Letang is done before the playoffs even get going.
4. Columbus Blue Jackets (49-22-8, PR: 3)
The Blue Jackets have dropped four in a row, and might just be depressed about their looming first-round matchup against Pittsburgh. That’s a tough draw in the opening round.
5. Minnesota Wild (47-25-8, PR: 7)
The Wild are out of the woods and back into playoff prep mode, and Zach Parise is back from that nasty injury after taking a stick to the eye area. All that said, I have no idea what to expect from this team in the playoffs.
6. Anaheim Ducks (44-23-13, PR: 8)
The Ducks are 7-0-3 in their past 10 and playing their best hockey. A Thursday night showdown between the Blackhawks and Ducks could be a Western Conference Final preview.
7. Montreal Canadiens (46-25-9, PR: 5)
The Canadiens have successfully transitioned under Claude Julien the past couple months, but a first-round matchup against Metro Division Rangers is a tough draw for them.
8. New York Rangers (47-27-6, PR: 6)
15 goals, 26 points and a minus-11 rating for Jimmy Vesey, and he’s been benched a bit down the stretch. So, maybe he wasn’t worth all that hoopla after all, eh?
9. Edmonton Oilers (44-26-9, PR: 9)
Everybody knows about Connor McDavid and the Oil offense, but they’ve really clamped down on the defense in the stretch run. Edmonton certainly looks like they’re playoff-ready to me.
10. San Jose Sharks (44-26-9, PR: 10)
It sounds like Jumbo Joe is going to be okay for the playoffs after a scare with a leg injury and they’re going to need him in a tough playoff field out of the Pacific Division.
11. Boston Bruins (44-30-6, PR: 16)
The Bruins have gone from unworthy of being in the playoffs to the team that nobody wants to meet in the playoffs after they ripped off six wins in a row. The steely-eyed performance against Tampa to clinch the playoffs certainly showed me something.
12. St. Louis Blues (43-29-7, PR: 15)
Jake Allen is 14-7-2 with a 1.79 goals-against average and .939 save percentage since the All-Star break. That, ladies and gentlemen, is why the Blues are in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
13. Toronto Maple Leafs (39-25-15, PR: 13)
Auston Matthews has 16 goals in 31 games since the NHL All-Star break and has joined William Nylander and Nazem Kadri in pushing the Leafs into the playoffs.
14. Ottawa Senators (42-27-10, PR: 11)
Erik Karlsson is banged up and Ottawa has lost nine of their past 12 games while plummeting in the Atlantic Division. This team looks like easy pickings in the first round of the playoffs after exceeding expectations all season.
15. Nashville Predators (40-28-12, PR: 14)
The Predators have lost four of five and scored seven goals over that time span. This is not the time of year to be suffering an offensive power outage.
16. Calgary Flames (42-32-4, PR: 12)
Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan have led the way for the Flames in their push for the playoffs since the All-Star break, but don’t underestimate Brian Elliott tying this whole thing together with his play between the pipes.
17. Tampa Bay Lightning (39-30-10, PR: 17)
In the end, Tampa Bay was too banged up for too much of this season. We all now know just how valuable that Steve Stamkos is to everything the Lightning are doing down in Tampa.
18. New York Islanders (38-29-12, PR: 19)
The Islanders have won three in a row in the midst of losing John Tavares and they’re still clinging to life for a playoff spot. That is all kinds of NY heart from the boys in Brooklyn.
19. Philadelphia Flyers (38-33-9, PR: 21)
A 1-0 OT loss to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night sounds like the kind of meaningless, late-season game that nobody wants to play in, watch or be anywhere near. It’s a tough end for a Flyers team that looked like they were destined for much more early this season.
20. Los Angeles Kings (38-34-7, PR: 20)
Aside from Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Tanner Pearson, there was just nothing going on offensively for the Kings down the stretch this season. This team needs more youth, more skill and maybe a different approach behind the bench if they want things to change.
21. Carolina Hurricanes (35-30-14, PR: 18)
The Hurricanes made a late push like they always do, and then fell short in the moment of truth like they always do. It’s as predictable as it gets in the NHL these days, but they do have some talent down there in NASCAR country.
22. Winnipeg Jets (38-35-7, PR: 22)
The Jets have won five in a row after being eliminated from the playoffs and just never got the goaltending they needed for an extended run at a playoff spot. If I were a Jets fan, I’d be a little pissed right about now.
23. Buffalo Sabres (33-35-12, PR: 23)
Wins and losses are of little importance to the Sabres right now as it sounds like Kyle Okposo is dealing with a pretty significant illness. Our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family for a full recovery.
24. Florida Panthers (33-35-11, PR: 24)
The Panthers have lost five in a row and have officially been eliminated from the playoffs for a little while now. This goes down as a lost season for a group that should have been in the postseason, and made a few too many tweaks to an organization that was running perfectly fine.
25. Vancouver Canucks (30-40-9, PR: 25)
Going 2-10-2 in their past 14 is limping to the finish line, and their offense has gone straight into the dumpster down the stretch. It ended up being a rough first season for Loui Eriksson with the Canucks and a good thing the Bruins didn’t over-extend to sign him.
26. New Jersey Devils (28-37-14, PR: 26)
At least Kyle Palmieri had a really good season for the Devils, so they have that going for them…which is nice. The Devils have some work to do to stack this roster back up with NHL talent that’s going to win games for them.
27. Detroit Red Wings (32-36-12, PR: 27)
The Red Wings have lost four of their past five and they’re going out of this season with a whimper at the end. What a bummer of a conclusion for the Joe.
28. Dallas Stars (33-36-11, PR: 28)
Three even-strength goals for Tyler Seguin since the All-Star break is pretty weak sauce, if you ask me. The Stars don’t feel like a very motivated bunch these days.
29. Arizona Coyotes (29-41-10, PR: 29)
The Coyotes season has long since been over, but BU’s Clayton Keller gives them some hope for next season as he gets his feet wet with two assists in three games in the NHL at the end of the season.
30. Colorado Avalanche (22-54-3, PR: 30)
Boy, you have to be absolutely dreadful to lose 50-plus games in regulation in the NHL. That also being kind to the Avalanche, who have sucked out loud this season.