NHL Power Rankings: Blues sneaking under radar; Kings take care of business
In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings the Florida Panthers maintain their top spot even though their winning streak came to an end on Sunday against a Tampa Bay Lightning team that might have flipped the playoff switch.
In the Western Conference, the St. Louis Blues continue to inch their way closer to the top with a 16-game point streak that has seen them go 14-0-2 as they continue to fight the Minnesota Wild for home-ice advantage in the First Round. The Blues remain a fascinating team because even with their flaws (defense?) they have some real strengths that could make them a nightmare playoff opponent. Their offense is as good and deep as any team, while Ville Husso has solidified the all-important goalie position. They are getting lost in the shuffle a little bit playing in the shadow of Colorado in the Central Division, but this is not a team to take lightly.
The Los Angeles Kings have also managed to solidify their playoff chances despite some major injury concerns on defense by going on a four-game winning streak and feasting on a favorable schedule down the stretch.
We take a look at all of that and more in this week’s rankings.
Where does your team sit as we enter the final week of the 2021-22 regular season?
To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!
1. Florida Panthers (Last week: 1). They were going to lose eventually and the second half of a back-to-back against a team like Tampa Bay was always going to be a tough task.
2. Colorado Avalanche (LW: 2). They have lost four games in a row, but I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt here and a longer leash because they have everything wrapped up in the West as far as seeding is concerned. Every team slips at some point during the season.
3. St. Louis Blues (LW: 4). They are 14-0-2 in their past 16 games, have one of the NHL’s best records, and are just kind of quietly lurking under the radar.
4. Carolina Hurricanes (LW: 6). The big question for Carolina this season would be if their goalies could A) stay healthy and B) play well. Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta have been outstanding as a duo all year. But health is now a concern.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 3). This is a very deep team with a better defense than it gets credit for having. This could be the year they do something in the playoffs. Then you look at the goaltending and see who their likely First Round matchup is (Tampa Bay) and you get worried again.
6. Calgary Flames (LW: 5). You have to like their potential path in the West. The opportunity for an extended playoff run is right there in front of them.
7. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: 9). It looked like they were developing some questions late in the season and then beat Toronto, Nashville, and Florida by a combined score of 22-7. Guess they got the message that it is time to flip the switch.
8. Minnesota Wild (LW: 8). It is a testament to how good the rest of the top teams in the league are that the Wild only get the eighth spot. Great goaltending duo two dominant scoring lines.
[Related: Wild have to find a way to keep Fiala]
9. New York Rangers (LW: 7). They did so much to improve their depth at the trade deadline, and now they are dealing with injuries to Andrew Copp, Filip Chytil, and Kaapo Kakko.
10. Edmonton Oilers (LW: 10). Mike Smith’s improved play has been a game-changer. But how long will that continue?
11. Washington Capitals (LW: 12). Another 50-goal season for Alex Ovechkin has overshadowed what has been a strong bounce back season for Evgeny Kuznetsov. Ovechkin’s injury is something to watch, though the team says he is “day-to-day.”
[Related: Ovechkin injured in loss to Maple Leafs]
12. Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: 14). They are going to have to play either Florida, Carolina, or the New York Rangers in the opening round, and none of those matchups look to be a picnic. Especially if Tristan Jarry is not ready to return.
13. Boston Bruins (LW: 12). Getting David Pastrnak back brought the offense a much-needed boost. They have been struggling to score goals again lately.
14. Los Angeles Kings (LW: 17). The injuries could have derailed their season but they took care of business against the teams they were supposed to beat. Huge progress year for the Kings’ rebuild.
15. Dallas Stars (LW: 12). They can deliver a knockout punch to Vegas on Tuesday.
16. Nashville Predators (LW: 16). It is very important that they stay in the first Wild Card spot and avoid getting put into the Colorado/Central playoff bracket.
17. Vegas Golden Knights (LW: 15). If they miss the playoffs this could be an ugly offseason. No excuses for this.
18. Buffalo Sabres (LW: 20). Tage Thompson has 37 goals this season. The most goals Jack Eichel ever scored in a season for Buffalo was 36. No commentary on those numbers. Just two factual numbers.
19. Vancouver Canucks (LW: 18). There are reasons to be optimistic about next season (improved play under Bruce Boudreau, good core players) and reasons to be pessimistic about next season (will Boudreau be back? What changes to the roster and core are ahead this offseason?).
[Related: Pondering 12 NHL coaching decisions for the offseason]
20. New York Islanders (LW: 19). They are almost certain to bring back the same coach and largely the same roster next season. It might not be the worst play.
21. Columbus Blue Jackets (LW: 21). Jakub Voracek is having the best five-goal season ever. I do not mean that as an insult. He is legitimately having a very good season. The puck just will not go in the net for him.
22. Winnipeg Jets (LW: 22). There is some real talent here but this team just seems stale.
23. Ottawa Senators (LW: 25). The Erik Karlsson trade (which produced Josh Norris and the pick that resulted in Tim Stützle) could be a franchise-changer if they could just build around these guys.
24. Detroit Red Wings (LW: 23). Very important offseason ahead here. Pressure is now on.
25. San Jose Sharks (LW: 28). Misery loves company and they really seemed to love ruining Vegas’ playoff chances.
[Related: If 2021-22 season does not inspire Sharks’ rebuild, what will?]
26. New Jersey Devils (LW: 26). Lot of young talent here that needs to stay healthy and get a supporting cast around it.
27. Anaheim Ducks (LW: 24). They have four wins in 24 games since March 2. Those wins have come against San Jose, Arizona, Philadelphia, and Columbus.
28. Philadelphia Flyers (LW: 29). Noah Cates has been a nice bright spot here at the tail end of the season.
29. Seattle Kraken (LW: 30). This is what we remember expansion teams looking like.
30. Chicago Blackhawks (LW: 31). The short-term (and long-term) outlook here is very grim.
31. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 27). Arizona has lost 17 of its previous 19 games and the Canadiens still managed to catch them for worst record in the league based on points percentage. Yikes.
32. Arizona Coyotes (LW: 32). I know Montreal has the worse record at the moment, but the Coyotes’ season-long tank has been really something. Their remaining games are against Minnesota, Dallas, and Nashville. All playoff teams with something to play for. It would be a surprise if Arizona wins any of them.