NHL Power Rankings: Bruins, Lightning rule from atop the Atlantic
What was expected all season has finally come true in the past few weeks.
Everybody around the hockey world expected the Atlantic Division to be the NHL’s best with Boston, Tampa Bay and Toronto dominating as three of the league’s best teams and each predicted to fill the playoff spots at the top of their division. Well, now the Bruins and the streaking Lightning are sitting at Nos. 1 and 2 and the Leafs are occupying the third divisional playoff spot.
Coincidentally, Boston and Tampa Bay are the top teams in the power rankings this week, too.
It took a six-game win streak for the Bruins to push back into the top spot before their disappointing loss to the Red Wings on Sunday and it’s taken a Bolts team that’s gone an astounding 20-2-1 since Dec. 23 to close the gap on the Black and Gold. Now, they are at the top of the rankings with less than two months to go in the regular season as a Feb. 24 trade deadline looms for both teams to fortify their rosters.
It seems that finally, the Atlantic Division is living up to the hype showered upon it before the season.
Now, on to the rankings:
31. Detroit Red Wings
(14-40-4, rank last week: 31)
The Red Wings are horrible, but they have managed to somehow beat the NHL’s best team, the Bruins, a couple of times this season. No idea how that has happened.
30. New Jersey Devils
(20-25-10, rank last week: 30)
The Devils have to decide if they’re going to sell off a bunch of their parts and start over building around their youngest stars, or if they have enough to build around after dealing Taylor Hall. That doesn’t sound easy.
29. Los Angeles Kings
(19-33-5, rank last week: 29)
The Kings have dropped five in a row and started their selling procedure by dealing away Kyle Clifford and Jack Campbell. Expect more to come for a franchise that should have traded away some of these assets last spring.
28. Ottawa Senators
(18-27-11, rank last week: 28)
The Senators have lost six in a row and the fans are going away in droves. For that to happen in a Canadian market tells you that the Senators are in big, big trouble.
27. San Jose Sharks
(24-28-4, rank last week: 26)
In a season where the Sharks don’t have much going for them, Jumbo Joe Thornton reaching 1,500 points is a pretty big deal. Or even a Jumbo deal if you will.
26. Anaheim Ducks
(23-26-7, rank last week: 27)
It’s just about time for the Ducks to become sellers. It will be interesting to see who ultimately goes for an organization that’s got a long way to go back toward Stanley Cup contention.
25. Buffalo Sabres
(25-24-8, rank last week: 25)
It sure didn’t feel like Sam Reinhart was being very accountable when he didn’t want to talk about a long, ultimately bad shift in a loss last week, but at least he’s responded with some strong games.
24. Chicago Blackhawks
(25-23-8, rank last week: 20)
And just like that, the Blackhawks have lost four in a row and are again fading out ahead of the trade deadline. It continues to be a monumental disappointment for a team that used to achieve greatness regularly.
23. Nashville Predators
(26-22-7, rank last week: 19)
The Predators have lost two in a row and continue to spiral out of the playoff picture. It’s a pretty epic underachievement for a group that should have been contenders.
22. New York Rangers
(28-23-4, rank last week: 23)
The Rangers have won a couple in a row and are toying with the idea of keeping Chris Kreider rather than trading him to the highest bidder. Bold strategy, Cotton.
21. Minnesota Wild
(27-23-6, rank last week: 24)
The Wild dealt away Jason Zucker and GM Bill Guerin says the trades will continue if the Wild quit on the season. I’d expect more trades from Minnesota.
20. Montreal Canadiens
(27-24-7, rank last week: 21)
The Canadiens are mathematically alive for the playoffs, but the lower-body injury to Shea Weber is a crippling one. Once again, the Habs aren’t going to be in the playoffs.
19. Winnipeg Jets
(29-24-5, rank last week: 21)
The modest three-game winning streak has been dashed, but the Jets are hanging around in playoff position just a few points back. They need to show something if they’re going to be playoff-caliber though.
18. Florida Panthers
(30-20-6, rank last week: 18)
It’s amazing that the Panthers are in playoff contention at all given how much Sergei Bobrovsky has struggled in his first season with Florida. They need better defense and goaltending if they’re going to survive.
17. Carolina Hurricanes
(32-21-3, rank last week: 17)
After a slow start, Sebastian Aho has surpassed 30 goals and 50 points and is playing the way he normally does as one of the NHL’s exciting, young stars. The Canes have some work to do if they want to be in the playoffs, however.
16. Calgary Flames
(29-22-6, rank last week: 16)
The Flames have won a couple of games in a row and are another team bunched up in the Pacific Division where it’s going to take a long winning streak for somebody to separate from the pack.
15. Arizona Coyotes
(27-21-7, rank last week: 14)
The Coyotes are still in a playoff spot, but they are also facing some serious consequences both on and off the ice. How on Earth is John Chayka going to hold onto his job with a floundering team and a front office that’s being investigated for some pretty serious allegations in their scouting department?
14. Vegas Golden Knights
(28-22-8, rank last week: 15)
The Golden Knights are still protecting a playoff spot and coasting along in the Pacific, but they are most definitely not playing up to their capabilities right now either.
13. Philadelphia Flyers
(31-19-7, rank last week: 13)
The Flyers are in the driver’s seat for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, but it’s going to be a battle with the Hurricanes and Panthers.
12. Toronto Maple Leafs
(30-19-8, rank last week: 18)
The Maple Leafs have addressed a couple of their weak spots by trading for Kyle Clifford and Jack Campbell, and they are back in a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.
11. Vancouver Canucks
(31-21-5, rank last week: 6)
A lot of talk about protecting Elias Pettersson this week. One thing is for sure, the Canucks are going to have to keep their young scorer healthy if they want to maintain their playoff spot.
10. Edmonton Oilers
(30-20-6, rank last week: 12)
It is absolutely ridiculous that Leon Draisaitl might hit 100 points for the season before the month of February is up. Edmonton is making their move for the top spot in the Pacific Division.
9. Columbus Blue Jackets
(30-17-10, rank last week: 9)
Elvis is the word in Columbus where rookie goaltender Elvis Merzlikins has five shutouts this season and appears to be the heir apparent to Sergei Bobrovsky. The ankle injury to Seth Jones is a key one, though, for a team with little margin for error.
8. Dallas Stars
(32-19-5, rank last week: 10)
Ben Bishop putting together a Vezina Trophy-worthy season in Dallas and the Stars are playing a playoff-brand of hockey. The question is how that’s going to play when things get elevated in the postseason?
7. New York Islanders
(33-16-6, rank last week: 7)
Kiefer Bellows scored his first two NHL goals this week and could bring some energy, enthusiasm and offense to an Islanders team that could always use a little more of that among their hard-working ranks.
6. Colorado Avalanche
(33-16-6, rank last week: 8)
The Avs have won five in a row and are the only team in the Western Conference to hit 200 goals this season. Once they fortify their ranks at the trade deadline, this could be the favorite coming out of the West.
5. St. Louis Blues
(33-15-5, rank last week: 5)
The Blues have lost seven of nine as they continue to lead the Central Division, but are looking like a tired team playing through some major injuries. They need a trade pronto.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins
(34-15-6, rank last week: 3)
The Penguins are pushing the Capitals in the Metro Division and they just got even better with the deal for Wild winger Jason Zucker. Pittsburgh is going to be a handful in the postseason for anybody that crosses their path.
3. Washington Capitals
(36-15-5, rank last week: 1)
The Capitals are hitting a rough patch, but Alex Ovechkin has been anything but that while shooting to an NHL-best 40 goals scored in 55 games this season.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
(37-15-5, rank last week: 5)
The Lightning have won eight in a row, have lost only twice in regulation since Christmastime and are finally living up to their talent level. They are starting to get banged up physically, though, so that’s something to keep an eye on.
1. Boston Bruins
(34-11-12, rank last week: 2)
The Bruins' six-game winning streak has been snapped, but they now cling tightly to the top point total in the NHL with the Lightning breathing down their neck. It’s mind-boggling that they’ve lost twice to the Red Wings.