Power Rankings: Who will stop Blue Jackets?
Power Rankings: Who will stop Blue Jackets?
Most of the long winning streaks are over, and the rank-and-file in the NHL are simply trying to stay alive for a playoff spot. Then there’s the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have ripped 16 wins in a row and are just one victory away from trying the longest win streak in NHL history.
Eventually it will end, of course, as all good things do in the NHL. But the Blue Jackets are a ridiculous plus-52 in goal differential, which should begin to convince any doubters that Columbus is absolutely for real in the Metro Division. That’s bad news for teams like the Penguins, Capitals and Rangers, who are going to have to dig down deep if they want to overtake the Blue Jackets. Then again Columbus looks like the perfect candidate to run away with the regular season, take home the President’s Trophy and then fade out of the playoffs with an early exit when things matter.
For now, though, the Blue Jackets are kings of the NHL hill, and the other 29 teams must bow down in honor to them and their 16 wins in a row, and counting.
Without further ado here are this week’s power rankings:
1. Columbus Blue Jackets (27-5-4, previous ranking: 1)
Building up 16 wins in a row earns you top billing in the NHL power rankings when you’re just one win away from tying the all-time record. Them’s the rules.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins (25-8-5, previous ranking: 2)
Man alive…Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel are just balling for the Penguins. All three are point-per-game players for Pittsburgh. I have no idea which was the last NHL team to have three high profile players all finish as point-per-game players, but I’ll bet it’s been awhile.
3. Montreal Canadiens (24-9-6, previous ranking: 3)
It was a storybook performance with both Shea Weber and Alexander Radulov figuring in the scoring in their return to Nashville. We all knew Montreal was probably going to win that trade in the short term, but they’re really, really winning it at this point.
4. Minnesota Wild (23-9-4, previous ranking: 6)
The winning streak has been broken for the Wild, but they’ve put themselves in a great position in the Western Conference with games in hand on most. Nobody in the West is even close to their plus-37 goal differential.
5. New York Rangers (27-13-1, previous ranking: 4)
A 4-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres? Woo wee that’s going to stink for a while. The Rangers are perfectly well enough into their playoff push, but there are definitely some things to quibble with about their consistency. A nice bounce-back with a five goal outburst against the Flyers.
6. Washington Capitals (23-9-5, previous rank: 8)
The Capitals are 10-2-2 in their last 14 games and have won three games in a row over New Jersey, Ottawa and Toronto. A 6-5 overtime win over the Leafs with Alex Ovechkin for the overtime game-winner sounds like a pretty darn entertaining game.
7. Chicago Blackhawks (23-12-5, previous ranking: 5)
The Blackhawks have lost five of the last six games including defeats at the hands of the Avalanche, Jets and Hurricanes. They’re still hanging onto the top spot in the Central Division, but not for long with the way that the Minnesota Wild are playing hockey right now.
8. San Jose Sharks (23-13-2, previous ranking: 7)
The Sharks are the best that the Pacific Division have to offer right now, but the home-and-home loss to the Los Angeles Kings has put a dent into their intimidation factor.
9. St. Louis Blues (20-13-5, previous ranking: 10)
Vladimir Tarasenko once again showed his star power in the Winter Classic and continues to carry a Blues team that’s strong, if not quite as good as last season’s group.
10. Anaheim Ducks (19-12-8, previous ranking: 13)
The plethora of young D-men the Anaheim Ducks have in their system is just an embarrassment of riches, and should spur on a trade of one of those defenseman at some point this season. One wonders if they really want to upgrade this year’s team with those moves, or if they have the salary cap space to actually do that a blockbuster trade of some of their own roster players.
11. Edmonton Oilers (19-13-7, previous ranking: 12)
The power of Connor McDavid wasn’t enough to take down the Columbus Blue Jackets. So one has to wonder what will be able to take down the Blue Jackets. It could get ugly with the Oil coming to Boston on Thursday night if the Bruins don’t show up ready to play.
12. Philadelphia Flyers (20-15-5, previous ranking: 11)
The Flyers have lost five games in a row, and are going just as cold as they were hot during their win streak. I guess the triumphant return of Michael Neuvirth wasn’t all it was cracked up to be against the Rangers.
13. Ottawa Senators (20-13-4, previous ranking: 9)
The Senators have lost three games in a row as they keep trotting out Mike Condon for every single game playing in place of Craig Anderson. Guy Boucher has done a good job of getting the most out of this Senators roster, but a meteoric crash back to Earth was inevitable for this team.
14. Los Angeles Kings (19-15-4, previous ranking: 15)
The Kings continue to stay afloat with Peter Budaj and Matt Zatkoff. That’s one of the most unlikely stories of the 2016-17 hockey season, but it’s been 100 percent true for a Los Angeles team that just keeps hanging around and staying alive in a lessened Pacific Division.
15. Toronto Maple Leafs (17-12-8, previous ranking: 16)
The Auston Matthews overtime game-winner in the Centennial Classic was another chapter in a fantastic NHL rookie season book that the No. 1 overall pick is penning. The playoffs in Toronto would make it the ultimate success story for Matthews and the rest of his young guns.
16. Tampa Bay Lightning (19-16-4, previous ranking: 18)
Andrei Vasilevskiy has started seven games in a row for the Lightning as they look to make a push in the Atlantic Division. The Bolts are 4-2-1 in those seven games, but the six goals allowed to Winnipeg in his final start was a bit of a rough one.
17. Boston Bruins (20-16-4, previous ranking: 17)
The Bruins are stuck in the mud and need a long winning streak in order to guarantee themselves a playoff spot. I don’t see that happening for the Black and Gold, who waived Anton Khudobin after the weak shutout loss to the Devils.
18. Calgary Flames (21-17-2, previous ranking: 14)
Where would the Calgary Flames be without Chad Johnson and his 2.34 goals average this season for his hometown club? The Flames just have to keep hoping that Johnson can keep the magic going for a few more months.
19. Nashville Predators (16-14-7, previous ranking: 22)
Losing to the Habs in overtime and watching Shea Weber score a goal in the game, with PK Subban on the sidelines with an injury no less, must have torture for the good people of Smashville.
20. Florida Panthers (16-15-8, previous ranking: 23)
The door is ajar for Florida to make a move up in the Atlantic Division standings, but the Panthers have lost five of their last six games including defeats to divisional foes in Boston, Toronto and Detroit. It doesn’t feel like there’s a lot of urgency with this group right now.
21. Carolina Hurricanes (16-14-7, previous ranking: 19)
A 4-2-3 record in their last nine games is pretty good for Carolina, but it’s not going to get them into the playoffs. In fact it might take something akin to an act of the hockey gods to get Carolina into the playoffs given the play of the clubs at the top of the division.
22. Dallas Stars (16-15-8, previous ranking: 20)
The Stars are 18th in the NHL in goals scored and 20th in the league in the power play. How in the world are they so bad offensively with the kind of talent on that roster? Clearly the injury to Jamie Benn is a big part of it, but they still have way too much talent for their paltry production.
23. New Jersey Devils (16-16-7, previous ranking: 25)
A big win for the Devils over divisional foe Carolina, and it appears that Cory Schneider is again going on a hot streak that is Jersey’s best hope for success.
24. Vancouver Canucks (19-18-3, previous ranking: 27)
The Canucks have won five games in a row and are once again making mild rumblings in the Pacific Division. At least they are the king of the Western Conference’s weak sisters while taking wins over the Avalanche and Coyotes.
25. Winnipeg Jets (19-19-3, previous ranking: 21)
Nikolaj Ehlers isn’t a player that’s an NHL household name, but he leads the Jets with 22 assists this season. They have so much young talent that just hasn’t come together this season.
26. Buffalo Sabres (14-15-8, previous ranking: 26)
All it took was a Jack Eichel outburst in Boston after a second straight loss to the Bruins, and it seemed that Buffalo was all of a sudden flying right again. People listen when the best players speak in NHL dressing rooms.
27. Detroit Red Wings (16-16-5, previous ranking: 24)
The Red Wings look like they’re going to miss the playoffs for the first time in almost three decades. While it’s clearly not something Detroit wants, it might just be the proper step for a team that needs a bigger rebuild than the current roster they’re icing.
28. New York Islanders (15-15-6, previous ranking: 28)
The Islanders have waived Jaroslav Halak and sent him to the AHL in another sign that this team is going nowhere fast. Waiving goalies is becoming en vogue as the Bruins waived Anton Khudobin on Wednesday as well.
29. Arizona Coyotes (11-22-5, previous ranking: 29)
The Coyotes have lost eight games in a row and have completely faded into oblivion in the Western Conference. It’s time for John Chayka to get on the phone and start making some deals with a roster that was a complete disaster.
30. Colorado Avalanche (12-25-1, previous ranking: 30)
The Avs have lost four in a row, and have begun listening to phone calls on Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene and other tradable assets. This team needs to blow up the roster and start again with core players they’ve identified as part of the solution.