Joe Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: Sharks surge, but Lightning still rule
Joe Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings
It seems like every week there’s a new red-hot team in the Western Conference ready to make a run at being the top team out there.
This week it’s the Sharks after winning six games in a row and going 7-0-3 over their last 10 games while even Evander Kane is getting into the act with a couple of goals in their last win over the Canucks. San Jose has five 20-goal scorers, six players with over 40 points, and veteran guys like Jumbo Joe Thornton who are around for veteran support once things get a little nasty in the postseason, so it sure looks like the Sharks are built for the long haul.
Now it’s just a matter of staying hot over the last few months of the season and making certain they’re at the top of the heap in the West once the dust settles before the playoffs. The Sharks were hyped as the team to beat out West to start the season, and now they are absolutely, positively playing like it in all phases of the game.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning (42-11-4)
Nikita Kucherov leads the NHL in points and is at the heart of a Tampa Bay club that’s been dominant all season. They are running away with everything at this point.
2. San Jose Sharks (34-16-7)
The Sharks have won six games in a row and taken over the mantle of hottest team in the Western Conference. A Sharks/Lightning matchup in the Stanley Cup Final wouldn’t be too shabby, would it?
3. Winnipeg Jets (36-18-3)
The Jets are averaging 3.44 goals per game and topping out at over 25 percent success rate on the power play. That is some damn fine offense and has pushed them to the top of the Central Division.
4. Calgary Flames (34-16-6)
The Flames have lost three in a row and four of their last five as a couple of jaunts to the East Coast seem to be taking their toll on the Flames. But at least Elias Lindholm got to have a little Carolina celebration at his former NHL home.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs (35-18-3)
The Leafs have won five out of six games and seem to be settled in with their group after the big Jake Muzzin trade. Unfortunately they are still far behind the Lightning in the Atlantic Division.
6. New York Islanders (33-17-6)
The Isles are doing it with defense, physicality and some consistent goaltending, but one has to wonder how long they can win with the 24th-ranked offense and the 27th-ranked power play. They have to work very hard for their goals.
7. Boston Bruins (32-17-8)
The Bruins have done well playing through adversity all season, and that will continue with David Pastrnak out for at least a few weeks and probably more. The B’s just can’t catch a break.
8. Nashville Predators (33-21-5)
How is it that the Predators have such good defensemen but also have the NHL’s worst power play? It just doesn’t compute even if their forwards are pretty average.
9. Montreal Canadiens (31-18-7)
The Montreal Canadiens have gone 7-1-2 over their last 10 games and continue to look like a legitimate playoff team. Claude Julien will certainly get some deserved Jack Adams chatter this season.
10. Washington Capitals (31-19-7)
Alex Ovechkin is a monster with almost 40 goals and over 60 points in 56 games this season, but nobody else on the Washington roster has more than 20 goals. They could certainly use a little more spreading of the old offense.
11. Columbus Blue Jackets (32-20-3)
The Blue Jackets are still winning games, but it sure feels like things are going to be messy until they finally address the Artemi Panarin situation. It feels like that will be sooner than later.
12. Pittsburgh Penguins (29-20-7)
Who had Jake Guentzel as the leading goal-scorer on the Penguins this season? Anybody? Anybody?
13. Vegas Golden Knights (31-23-4)
The Golden Knights are playing good enough defense to push their way into the playoffs, but they don’t even have a single 20-goal scorer on their roster right now. That could be tough sledding in the playoffs.
14. Buffalo Sabres (28-21-7)
Jeff Skinner is one of the statistical oddities of the NHL this season. He has 34 goals and only half that many assists (17), and clearly isn’t going to ever have the term “play-maker” attacked to his description.
15. Carolina Hurricanes (29-22-6)
The Hurricanes are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and are pushing their way into the playoff picture. It leaves them in an interesting position with the trade deadline a couple of weeks away.
16. Dallas Stars (29-22-5)
The Stars are second in the NHL in goals against and fifth in the NHL in penalty kill success rate, and they sit in a playoff spot. That is not a coincidence for a team that used to try to win shootouts with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn.
17. St. Louis Blues (28-22-5)
The Blues have won seven games in a row and have gone 8-2-0 in their last 10 games to push back into the playoff picture. So it looks like they might not be a seller at the trade deadline after all.
18. Minnesota Wild (27-25-5)
The Wild aren’t exactly flying into the second half with a 4-4-2 record in their last 10 games, but they’re still taking up that final wild card spot in the Western Conference.
19. Philadelphia Flyers (26-24-7)
The Flyers had their long winning streak snapped, but they’re still winning games and trying to push their way up from the bottom. It may be too far to go for them, however.
20. Vancouver Canucks (25-25-7)
Elias Pettersson is absolutely something special for the Canucks, but they just don’t have enough depth to really make a push out West. But something is building out there.
21. New York Rangers (24-24-8)
The Rangers appear to be in seller’s mode with Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello as their biggest bargaining chips, and will once again reload in their extended rebuilding project.
22. Arizona Coyotes (25-26-5)
Alex Galchenyuk is their leading goal-scorer with 12 goals in 46 games. Boy all the fancy stats computers must be exploding out in the desert.
23. Chicago Blackhawks (23-25-9)
The seven-game win streak is over for the Blackhawks, and now they’ve got to think very seriously about selling off some players at the trade deadline. Credit them for still having the pride that made them champions so many times.
24. Colorado Avalanche (22-23-11)
One win in the last 10 games and eight losses in a row overall for an Avs team that has completely lost its wheels. So much for that best line in hockey, eh?
25. Florida Panthers (23-24-8)
Credit the Panthers for giving Frank Vatrano some time to develop, and lo and behold he’s on the cusp of becoming a 20-goal scorer at the NHL level. It’s not helping them in the win/loss column much, though.
26. Edmonton Oilers (24-26-5)
The Oilers are a mess. This is not a recording.
27. Detroit Red Wings (22-28-7)
The Red Wings don’t rank higher than 22nd in the NHL in any of the major team categories. That speaks to a Wings team that really doesn’t do anything particularly well and needs more talent among its ranks.
28. Los Angeles Kings (23-28-5)
Ilya Kovalchuk has just 11 goals and 26 points after signing a big three-year deal this summer. Those other teams must sure be glad they didn’t make that investment on a clearly aging Russian player.
29. New Jersey Devils (21-27-8)
The Devils are allowing 3.41 goals per game with a pretty pedestrian offense. It’s pretty darn difficult to win hockey games that way.
30. Anaheim Ducks (21-26-9)
The firing of Randy Carlyle as coach and installation of GM Bob Murray as interim coach really has all the makings of a complete house-cleaning in Anaheim. The Ducks have fallen, and they’ve fallen badly.
31. Ottawa Senators (21-30-5)
The Sens continue to sink down the drain in the Atlantic Division. This team feels like it’s a long, long way away from being competitive or relevant, doesn’t it?