NHL Power Rankings: Bruins, Capitals, Blues form Big 3 at the top
Who is the best team in the NHL?
Well, right now it’s difficult to go with anybody else besides the Boston Bruins. They are riding an eight-game winning streak, they have a 14-point lead in the Atlantic Division as they are running away with things and the plus-36 goal differential is easily tops in the NHL. They are getting competition from a Washington Capitals team that is back on their game this season and actually beat the Bruins head-to-head in their only meeting of the season. There’s also the defending Stanley Cup champs out in St. Louis just a couple of points behind both of them while impressively doing it without star scorer Vladimir Tarasenko. That might take a big bite out of them when it comes playoff time.
But it’s a good thing for all three teams that they have competition for the top spot in the NHL, and it’s definitely a good thing that both the Bruins and Capitals are neck-and-neck for the No. 1 seed in the East. That way they can perhaps both avoid the malaise that infected the Tampa Bay Lightning last season when they marched out to such a big lead that they kicked it into cruise control for the entire second half of the season.
It looks like it will be more of a grind for both Boston and Washington to be tops in the East, and that should be enough to keep them both sharp ahead of the respective stretch runs that are still way, way in the future.
Now on to the power rankings:
31. Detroit Red Wings
(7-20-3, rank last week: 31)
The Red Wings have lost 10 games in a row and dropped all the way down to the bottom of the Atlantic Division. But they did beat the Bruins in regulation, which completely defies explanation.
30. New Jersey Devils
(9-14-4, rank last week: 29)
The Devils finally put John Hynes out of his misery coaching a Devils team that’s going absolutely nowhere this season. The question is where they go now. The young talent is beginning to accumulate, but it feels like it’s a rudderless roster at the NHL level.
29. Los Angeles Kings
(11-15-2, rank last week: 30)
Ilya Kovalchuk hasn’t skated with the Kings since Nov. 9 and is sitting at home making the silly money that L.A. paid out to him as a free agent. What a horrendous signing that was.
28. Ottawa Senators
(11-16-1, rank last week: 31)
The Senators have lost five games in a row and once again look like a team dropping toward the bottom rung of the NHL. But at least Mark Borowiecki stopped a robbery in Vancouver, so he has that going for him.
27. Chicago Blackhawks
(11-12-5, rank last week: 20)
The Blackhawks have lost three games in a row and sport a 3-5-3 record away from the United Center. Water seems to be seeking its level with a middling roster in terms of depth and talent.
26. Columbus Blue Jackets
(11-12-4, rank last week: 26)
Four goals in 27 games. What happened to Cam Atkinson? Was his offense that closely tied to Artemi Panarin or is he just going through a tough stretch in Columbus?
25. Anaheim Ducks
(12-12-4, rank last week: 25)
The Ducks have lost 10 of their 13 games and the promise of a decent start to this season is over. As expected it’s become way too difficult for the Ducks to scrape and scrap for wins when they can’t generate enough offense.
24. Nashville Predators
(12-10-5, rank last week: 17)
Offense is becoming an issue for the Predators, who are 3-5-2 in their last 10 games and are dropping like a stone in the Central Division.
23. Calgary Flames
(13-12-4, rank last week: 23)
The Flames have won two games in a row and given interim head coach Geoff Ward a chance to show what he can do at the NHL level. Ward is a good guy, so here’s hoping he and the Flames climb out of this Bill Peters mess to become a much better team for it.
22. Minnesota Wild
(13-11-4, rank last week: 28)
The Wild have won four games in a row and pulled up into the mix within the Central Division. Good news for them, but let’s also hope there is good news for Devan Dubnyk and his family as he continues to be out of the lineup for the Wild.
21. Montreal Canadiens
(12-10-6, rank last week: 17)
The Habs have ended their losing streak, but they are 2-5-3 in their last 10 games and have dropped way back in the Atlantic Division. It feels like storm clouds are gathering for Marc Bergevin and Claude Julien.
20. New York Rangers
(13-10-3, rank last week: 24)
Everybody is talking about Artemi Panarin, but Ryan Strome has 23 points in 26 games for the Blueshirts. The Rangers aren’t near the top of the Metro Division, but they are still squarely in the mix to compete for the playoffs. That’s progress.
19. Toronto Maple Leafs
(13-12-4, rank last week: 19)
The Maple Leafs have a brand new coach hand-picked by the GM and they already need to be read the riot act for quitting at the end of a 6-1 loss to the Flyers. Boy, the trouble in Toronto might be deeper than we think.
18. San Jose Sharks
(15-13-1, rank last week: 11)
The Sharks are 7-3-0 in the last 10 games and have played themselves back into the mix out West after a horrendous start. It looks like Erik Karlsson has finally put his game back together.
17. Vancouver Canucks
(14-11-4, last week: 15)
Everybody will talk about Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat with the Canucks, but Quinn Hughes is making a big impact on the back end for Vancouver as well. There’s a really talented young crew being built there by Jim Benning.
16. Buffalo Sabres
(13-10-5, rank last week: 22)
Jack Eichel and the Sabres are hanging around in the Atlantic, and Eichel himself is putting up a monster season. It remains to be seen if they sustain this for the year after they fell off the map last year.
15. Dallas Stars
(15-11-3, rank last week: 7)
It looked like the Stars were making their move toward respectability this year, and now they are again sagging with a four-game losing streak. The four goals scored in the four losses ain’t going to get it done.
14. Vegas Golden Knights
(15-11-4, rank last week: 21)
The Golden Knights have won four games in a row and after a slow start Max Pacioretty has kicked it up a notch offensively for Vegas. Things are wide open in the Pacific, so they still look like a formidable team in the West.
13. Tampa Bay Lightning
(13-9-3, rank last week: 14)
The Lightning aren’t completely rolling right now, but they are in a position where they can at least push the Bruins should they catch fire at some point. The fewest games played of any team around the league puts them in a spot where they will sneak upon people.
12. Florida Panthers
(13-9-5, rank last week: 13)
Brett Connolly is leading the Panthers in goals as they continue to trail the B’s distantly for second place in the Atlantic Division. I’m still not buying them as getting into the postseason over the Leafs and Bolts, though.
11. Pittsburgh Penguins
(14-9-4, rank last week: 9)
The Penguins have lost two games in a row and are 4-3-3 in their last 10 games, which would indicate the reality of being without their best player has set in for the Pens. They need to keep treading water until Sid the Kid comes back.
10. Carolina Hurricanes
(16-11-1, rank last week: 6)
It always seemed strange that the Carolina Hurricanes just let Bill Peters go from his job with the Canes, but they certainly must be glad they did given the recent things that have come to light. Plus there's the fact that Rod Brind’Amour appears to be a very good hockey coach.
9. Colorado Avalanche
(16-8-2, rank last week: 10)
Poor Nathan MacKinnon. Any other year he’d be the slam dunk favorite for the Hart Trophy with 17 goals and 42 points in 26 games, but a couple of guys named David Pastrnak and Leon Draisaitl are eclipsing him right now.
8. Arizona Coyotes
(16-9-4, rank last week: 8)
While the Coyotes are in a good place because of their goaltending and improved defense, their leading scorers are Connor Garland and Nick Schmaltz. Is that sustainable offense?
7. Winnipeg Jets
(17-10-1, rank last week: 11)
While things are a bit more volatile than usual with the guys in front of him, Connor Hellebuyck is having one of best seasons between the pipes for a Jets team that just keeps on moving forward.
6. Philadelphia Flyers
(16-7-5, rank last week: 12)
The Flyers have won five in a row and continue to show a bit of a boom-or-bust propensity that’s been their way of doing things over the last few seasons. They’re looking like a young team that’s turning into playoff material.
5. Edmonton Oilers
(17-9-3, rank last week: 4)
What a revelation Mikko Koskinen has been for the Oil. They finally have some strong goaltending to go along with their elite, top-end forwards and speedy attack.
4. New York Islanders
(18-6-2, rank last week: 3)
One of the few goalie tandems that can give the Bruins a run for their money is Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss on the Island. They continue to lead the Isles to another strong season in the Metro.
3. St. Louis Blues
(18-5-6, rank last week: 5)
The Blues are setting the standard in the West and riding a four-game win streak. But can we talk about something? How on earth is a team that plays the way they do in the bottom third of the NHL in total penalty minutes? Are the refs watching the same game as the rest of us?
2. Washington Capitals
(20-4-5, rank last week: 2)
The Capitals are one of the few teams in the NHL keeping pace with the Bruins right now and giving them a run for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. It could be a fun battle between these two this season.
1. Boston Bruins
(20-3-5, rank last week: 1)
The Bruins have won eight in a row, still haven’t lost in regulation on home ice and now have a commanding 14-point lead in the Atlantic Division. They are just piling it up right now.