Joe Haggerty’s NHL Power Rankings: The Elimination Party grows
Joe Haggerty’s Morning Skate: The Elimination Party grows
The elimination party is here for the NHL and it’s not just for the Colorado Avalanche and the Arizona Coyotes anymore. Here lies the Canucks, Jets and Stars in the Western Conference as well, and the dearly departed New Jersey Devils, Detroit Red Wings, Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference.
In lieu of flowers, please send draft picks, new head coaches and a fresh perspective for each of these down on their luck groups. Let’s hope optimism springs eternal for all of them when training camps open in the fall. Some - the Sabres and Jets, for instance - might even be pretty good next season with a few roster improvements.
But for this season, they are all spoilers and losers at this point, and nothing more.
Anyway, without further ado, here are this week’s power rankings:
1. Washington Capitals (51-17-8, previous ranking: 1)
The Capitals have reeled off six wins in a row, and it’s only a matter of time before they wrap up another President’s Trophy. This is your best team on paper going into the playoffs.
2. Chicago Blackhawks (49-21-7, PR: 3)
The Blackhawks are the class of the West and Patrick Kane has taken it to another level with 10 goals and 19 points in 15 games in March. Chicago looks strong and ready once again.
3. Columbus Blue Jackets (49-19-8, PR: 4)
The plus-62 goal differential for the Blue Jackets is second in the NHL behind just Washington, but you can’t help but wonder if this is a first-round playoff victim kind of team.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (46-19-11, PR: 2)
The Penguins have lost four in a row and look totally beatable as Evgeni Malkin slowly works his way back from a shoulder injury and Kris Letang heals up for the playoffs as well.
5. Montreal Canadiens (44-24-9, PR: 7)
The Habs are on the upswing again and have won three in a row while running away with the Atlantic Division bragging rights. Carey Price is going to be tough to beat in the postseason.
6. New York Rangers (46-26-5, previous rank: 6)
The Blueshirts have lost a couple in a row and Jimmy Vesey is getting healthy scratched. Interesting times for the Rangers as they prep for a trip over to the Atlantic Division bracket in the playoffs.
7. Minnesota Wild (45-24-8, PR: 5)
The Wild have snapped out of their funk, but two wins in the past 10 games is two wins in the past 10 games. You hope it’s not another Bruce Boudreau team preparing for their pratfall.
8. Anaheim Ducks (42-23-12, PR: 10)
One regulation loss in their past 10 games and Ryan Getzlaf dropped 20 points in March. Now, the Ducks are in first place in the Pacific Division after chasing pretty much all year and it sure looks like they’re making their move.
9. Edmonton Oilers (43-25-9, PR: 12)
Four wins in a row for the Oil and Connor McDavid has a legit shot at cracking the 100-point barrier this season. It sure looks like he’s hitting another level down the stretch, which is impressive for such a young player.
10. San Jose Sharks (43-27-7, PR: 8)
Three wins in their past 10 while limping to the finish line for the Sharks, who might be getting a little long in the tooth with their core group at this point.
11. Ottawa Senators (41-26-9, PR: 9)
It sure feels reality is finally crashing down for the Senators as they fall back to the pack in the Atlantic Division. Three losses in a row and a negative goal differential and now Erik Karlsson is banged up as well. The sky is falling.
12. Calgary Flames (43-30-4, PR: 11)
Matthew Tkachuk is a little bit dirty, but he’s my kind of player. He’s stirring things up for the Flames and getting things ready for what could be a nasty first go-round in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
13. Toronto Maple Leafs (37-24-15, PR: 13)
The Leafs have won five of the last six games, and Curtis McElhinney did a really nice job of filling in for Frederik Andersen after he got knocked in the coconut. It’s easy to see Toronto potentially passing the Senators and getting home ice in the first round.
14. Nashville Predators (39-27-11, PR: 16)
Even though the Predators have lost their past couple of games, they’ve done a good job of really fortifying their playoff position. They could push some better teams in the postseason because of their defense and goaltending situations.
15. St. Louis Blues (42-28-6, PR: 15)
It’s amazing to watch Jake Allen now and compare him with the Jake Allen from the first half of the season. He’s 8-1-1 with a .951 save percentage and a 1.39 goals -against average in March, and has been lights out for the Blues after doing the sieve thing in the first half of the year.
16. Boston Bruins (41-30-6, PR: 14)
Three wins in a row for a Bruins team that’s found their footing, but they have a bit more digging to do if they want to pass a few teams in the rankings. Two goals allowed in the last three games is pretty, pretty, pretty good.
17. Tampa Bay Lightning (38-29-9, PR: 18)
The experienced, talented Lightning have won four in a row, and will be getting Steve Stamkos and Tyler Johnson back down the stretch. This is the clear and present danger for the Bruins if anybody is going to bypass them and knock them out of the playoffs.
18. Carolina Hurricanes (35-27-14, PR: 20)
Sebastian Aho has been one of the NHL’s hottest rookies in the second half of the year and is helping lead a Hurricanes team that is once again catching fire after it’s probably a little bit too late.
19. New York Islanders (35-29-12, PR: 17)
The Isles look like they’re out of gas after coming all the way back from the bottom of the Metro Division. Doug Weight has done a good job there, but the regulation loss to the Bruins last weekend was a killer for them.
20. Los Angeles Kings (36-33-7, PR: 19)
The Kings may be fading out into the Cali sunset, but at least Jarome Iginla went out on his shield in Calgary with a Gordie Howe hat trick and a flashback performance. It looks like it’s time for some changes with a core group that had a great run together.
21. Philadelphia Flyers (37-32-8, PR: 21)
The Flyers have won three in a row and are going out kicking and screaming, but they’re also laying waste to other team’s playoff hopes as well. Their win over the Isles on Thursday night was classic spoiler action.
22. Winnipeg Jets (36-35-7, PR: 22)
The Jets have won three 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. That should be priority No. 1 this season for a Jets team with plenty of talent up front.
23. Buffalo Sabres (32-33-12, PR: 23)
The Sabres have won four of their past six and the only two losses were to Columbus and Pittsburgh. Let’s hope this is a harbinger of good things to come for a Sabres team that needs to take the leap, and needs to find a stud D-man somewhere along the way as well.
24. Florida Panthers (33-33-11, PR: 24)
The Panthers have lost three in a row and have officially been eliminated from the playoffs. What a mess that organization made of their hockey club this season with some unneeded changes. This goes down as a lost season for a group that should have been in the postseason.
25. Vancouver Canucks (30-37-9, PR: 25)
A 2-7-2 record in their past 11 is limping to the finish line, and their offense has gone into the dumpster down the stretch. Rough first season for Loui Eriksson with the Canucks.
26. New Jersey Devils (27-35-14, PR: 26)
The Devils are playing out the string and waiting until next season. Rookie Joe Blandisi has been solid in the last month perhaps giving Jersey another player they can roll with next season.
27. Detroit Red Wings (31-34-12, PR: 27)
Four of the last five games for the Wings in this non-playoff season will be at Joe Louis Arena, but it’s kind of sad that such a historic building is closing with a dud of a Red Wings/Devils tilt as the regular season finale.
28. Dallas Stars (31-35-11, PR: 28)
Dallas is so much more talented than a team stuck in the dregs of the Western Conference. Some good individual players in Big D, but it sure doesn’t feel like they played like a team this season, does it?
29. Arizona Coyotes (27-41-9, 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 at the NHL level here at the end of the season.
30. Colorado Avalanche (20-53-3, PR: 30)
Seven losses in a row and a minus-108 goal differential and counting for an absolute embarrassment of an Avalanche team. How this core group of players didn’t get blown apart with trades at the deadline is simply beyond me and obviously beyond Joe Sakic as well.