NHL Power Rankings: Should Bruins be Stanley Cup favorites?
Let’s be honest about all this. The new format of 24 teams for the playoffs with play-in rounds, round-robins and hub cities is a total crapshoot. We have no idea what will play as big-time strengths or weaknesses once the games start getting played, and how the time off is going to impact different players.
All we can really go on right now is how the teams looked when the regular season went on pause, how they played over the first six months of the regular season and how healthy some of those teams are now with months and months for their injured guys to heal up. So with that, let’s put together our modest power rankings of the remaining 24 teams that will proceed to the playoff round once things get going in July or August.
Or hopefully once things get going for the NHL in July or August.
24. Chicago Blackhawks
(32-30-8, rank at season pause: 25)
While it certainly seems right that Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith are back in the playoffs, they absolutely don’t deserve to be there. And they are going up against a hungry, electric Oilers team that has been clamoring for the postseason over the last couple of years.
This could be a series that’s over pretty quickly for the Blackhawks if things proceed as expected.
23. Montreal Canadiens
(31-31-9, rank at season pause: 23)
It feels good that the Habs are in the postseason and they will have a fun play-in series vs. the Penguins. They also have a shot in any series with Carey Price.
But there are also legit concerns with one of their best players a Type-1 diabetic in Max Domi and a head coach in Claude Julien who's getting up there in years.
22. Minnesota Wild
(35-27-7, rank at season pause: 21)
The Wild sold off players at the trade deadline and clearly didn’t have any intentions on making the postseason. It’s something of a cruel joke that Minnesota is going to make the play-in cut.
They also have a goalie in Devyn Dubnyk who sounds like he does not want to play for understandable family reasons. That’s a tough situation for them to be in.
21. Arizona Coyotes
(33-29-8, rank at season pause: 22)
The Coyotes could be the kind of young group that doesn’t know any better and stuns everybody in the playoff tournament. But it seemed like they were in a bit of a tailspin and that Taylor Hall didn’t do much to better their cause after the big trade early in the season.
It might be a big ask for them to all of a sudden come together in a play-in playoff series.
20. Winnipeg Jets
(37-28-6, rank at season pause: 19)
The Jets are dangerous in a short series with players like Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers along with Blake Wheeler up front, and with Connor Hellebuyck as arguably the best goalie in the entire league.
They are also a big, strong and tough foe for the Flames in the play-in round if they get their snarl game going.
19. Florida Panthers
(35-26-8, rank at season pause: 18)
The Panthers get a new lease on life with an underachieving group after it looked like they were sellers at the trade deadline while shipping off Vincent Trocheck.
Sergei Bobrovsky could be a real equalizer in a short play-in series against a New York Islanders team that isn’t very long on star power.
18. New York Rangers
(37-28-5, rank at season pause: 20)
The Rangers were on the bubble for playoff contention based on a strong second half and Artemi Panarin is one of the most dangerous players in the league.
Could King Henrik come up with some magic in a short series to upset the Carolina Hurricanes, who they handily beat in all four meetings during the regular season? Maybe.
And maybe we now know why the Hurricanes voted against the playoff format.
17. Vancouver Canucks
(36-27-6, rank at season pause: 17)
Another young group with Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and Co. that could prove to be real big problems in a play-in series against a Wild team that seems like they might not even want to play.
Certainly, Vancouver could be one of those dark horse teams that everybody needs to look out for coming out of the play-in round.
16. Nashville Predators
(35-26-8, rank at season pause: 16)
The Predators seemed to finally be getting their defense-and-goaltending formula down just as the regular season went on pause, and Pekka Rinne is still very much capable of stealing any playoff series.
Given their postseason experience, this could be a really difficult play-in round draw if they decide they want to actually compete. They will have plenty of advantages over a young, inexperienced Coyotes crew in a play-in series.
15. Columbus Blue Jackets
(33-22-15, rank at season pause: 14)
The Blue jackets looked like goners when it came to the playoffs, but they will get new life thanks to the 24-team format. They have a tough draw with a play-in series against the Maple Leafs and that could make it a quick one-and-out for the Blue Jackets.
But they won’t be easy prey and they are getting Seth Jones back healthy when the postseason gets going.
14. Calgary Flames
(36-27-7, rank at season pause: 15)
The Flames are another one of those young, skilled teams that could get a big-time advantage right out of the starting gate before the physical pounding of the playoffs begins to slow them down.
Just call them Toronto East when it comes to this old/young theory in the new playoff format.
13. Carolina Hurricanes
(38-25-5, rank at season pause: 11)
Give the Hurricanes credit. They weren’t afraid to look like a bunch of self-serving you-know-whats after voting “no” on the return to play proposal during the NHLPA discussion.
Honestly, a wild card team has nothing to complain about if they are stuck in a play-in round.
12. New York Islanders
(35-23-10, rank at season pause: 12)
The Isles were another team that was in a major funk at the time of the regular season pause, and could be helped out tremendously by the large break in the action.
They should get Johnny Boychuk back healthy and that will be a boost in terms of leadership and back-end presence in the postseason.
11. Toronto Maple Leafs
(36-25-9, rank at season pause: 13)
The Maple Leafs could be a very dangerous team come playoff time because of their young legs, their speed and the elite level of skill they will be bringing to the table.
Some think those skills will play big after everybody has been off the ice for months, but we’ll see how that goes in practical application.
10. Edmonton Oilers
(37-25-9, rank at season pause: 8)
The Oilers will go into the playoffs with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and will have the benefit of the play-in games to get their footing underneath them in the postseason.
That should bode well for the Oil if their star players get going quickly as they make quick work of a Chicago Blackhawks team that really doesn't deserve to be in the postseason in the first place.
9. Pittsburgh Penguins
(40-23-6, rank at season pause: 7)
Arguably the biggest loser in the new format, the Penguins slid out of the second spot in the Metro Division with a second-half swoon and now need to take part in the play-in games.
They also will be without Nick Bjugstad as he just opted to undergo season-ending surgery this week. They will be a tough out if they advance past the play-in round, but it’s on them that they are even in that predicament in the first place.
8. Dallas Stars
(37-24-8, rank at season pause: 10)
The Stars had lost six games in a row at the time of the regular season hitting the pause button, so they were saved by the bell so to speak while still getting the play-in round bye.
The question is whether the Stars are going to need a babysitter outside of Tyler Seguin’s hotel room like the Bruins did during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Social distancing is going to be a challenge for some players.
7. Vegas Golden Knights
(39-24-8, rank at season pause: 9)
The Golden Knights managed to put themselves in the top spot in the Pacific Division at the pause and it looks like they might even host the Western Conference Hub bracket.
That bodes pretty well for the Golden Knights when it comes to holding an advantage as one of the top seeds.
6. Philadelphia Flyers
(41-21-7, rank at season pause: 6)
The Flyers were the hottest team in hockey right around the time of the regular season pause, and they pushed their way into the top four seeds in the East. The question is whether they can pick up that momentum after the break.
Carter Hart will be a strength for the Flyers in a short series, but they are a really, really young and inexperienced group at many spots.
5. Colorado Avalanche
(42-20-8, rank at season pause: 5)
The Avs had been playing good hockey at the time of the regular season pause and they have a young, highly talented group that should bounce back quickly with the new format.
This could be a really, really dangerous team in the Western Conference if they start getting some momentum behind them.
4. Washington Capitals
(41-20-8, rank at season pause: 3)
The Capitals are big, strong and nasty, they are skilled and they have a group that got over the hump with the Stanley Cup a couple of seasons ago. Nobody is expecting any one-and-done-type performances this postseason from the Caps.
A well-rested Alex Ovechkin could be absolutely lethal in a playoff series with a quick sprint to the Cup in front of him.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning
(43-21-6, rank at season pause: 4)
The Lightning were hitting their stride in the second half of the year and they will get Steven Stamkos back healthy for the playoffs.
That already picks them up a few notches in the tough out category, and they still have a mission to win now with their group.
2. St. Louis Blues
(42-19-10, rank at season pause: 2)
The best team in the West and the reigning Stanley Cup champs now don’t have to deal with the Stanley Cup hangover effect, will have a healthy Vladimir Tarasenko and are ready to mix it up again in the Western bracket.
1. Boston Bruins
(44-14-12, rank at season pause: 1)
The first team to 100 points and the NHL’s best goal differential with a plus-53 are now wiped off the board. They are still a veteran, proven group with talent, mental toughness and a winning pedigree.
They are the favorites headed into the postseason, but how much will that actually carry them to greatness once the games are being played?