NHL Power Rankings: B/R Experts' Week 19 Poll
As the Olympic break approaches, which team sits atop the Bleacher Report power rankings?
Last week, it was the San Jose Sharks, who were riding both an impressive seasonal record and an exceptional hot streak. Now, after a little trouble in Alberta, their grip on first place is precarious; will they fall, and if so, to which rival team?
Our panel is back again to rank the entire league from 1-30. Voting this week are Dave Lozo, Allan Mitchell, Lyle Richardson, Carol Schram and me. The criteria remain the same, and the vote will focus heavily on recent performance, with the overall NHL standings only serving as an anchor point for each team.
Read on to see where every NHL team ranks, and please note the rankings are the result of the panel's voting, not one person's decision on the rankings.
Unless otherwise noted, statistics are courtesy of NHL.com and current through February 2.
30-26: Buffalo Sabres-Calgary Flames
30. Buffalo Sabres (Last Week: 29). Buffalo had won just two of nine games when they rolled into Colorado on Saturday; the Avs handed them a 7-1 loss. The Sabres have surrendered 30 or more shots in each of their last 10 games.
29. New York Islanders (Last Week: 27). The Islanders have lost five straight games and are now firmly in the NHL basement, eight points back of 25th-ranked New Jersey and just one point ahead of the Flames and Panthers.
28. Edmonton Oilers (Last Week: 30). The Oilers have won three of their last four games, but the situation isn't exactly rosy. Edmonton beat San Jose on Wednesday only thanks to a 59-save shutout performance by Ben Scrivens (a modern NHL record) and lost its last contest to Boston when Scrivens could not turn aside all 41 shots he faced.
27. Florida Panthers (Last Week: 26). The Panthers have allowed 16 goals in their last three games, losses to Columbus, Toronto and Boston.
26. Calgary Flames (Last Week: 28). The Flames have won five straight contests, and it is an even more remarkable run given what went before. Before its current stretch of wins, Calgary had lost 12 of its previous 15 games.
25-21: Washington Capitals-New Jersey Devils
25. Washington Capitals (Last Week: 23). There are two ways to look at the Capitals. The optimistic take is that Washington has won three of its last five contests; the pessimistic way is that it has won one regulation game in its last dozen. The second better reflects the team's current performance.
24. Philadelphia Flyers (Last Week: 24). Last week, the Flyers took their first tentative steps away from an ugly run that had seen them win just two of nine games. Philadelphia won two of three as Steve Mason recorded shutouts against Detroit and Los Angeles. The wins marked the first time since January 8 that Mason had allowed fewer than three goals in a start.
23. Nashville Predators (Last Week: 25). It would be easier to get excited about Nashville's recent resurgence—a run of three games that includes two wins and an overtime loss to the powerhouse Blues—if it had not been immediately preceded by consecutive losses to Calgary and Edmonton (the last a 5-1 shellacking).
22. Montreal Canadiens (Last Week: 22). Michel Therrien's Habs seem to be doing their best to get the coach fired. The club's defensive game has fallen apart and its offensive creativity seems easily thwarted of late. Montreal's underlying numbers have fallen off dramatically, and the team has just two wins in its last eight contests.
21. New Jersey Devils (Last Week: 19). The Devils have just been treading water over the last week with a win, a loss and an overtime loss. It is a decidedly less-than-ideal record for a team in a desperate fight for its playoff life, but it isn't terrible considering that it took place over a three-game Western Conference road swing.
20-16: Winnipeg Jets-Detroit Red Wings
20. Winnipeg Jets (Last Week: 21). The Jets continue to win under new head coach Paul Maurice; the team's record since the coaching change is now 8-2-0, and suddenly, it sits only four points back of a playoff spot.
19. Vancouver Canucks (Last Week: 13). Vancouver has a lone regulation win in its last 10 games, and even that came by a single goal against a lowly Edmonton Oilers squad that avenged the loss in the most recent meeting between the two teams. The Canucks hang on to the final playoff position in the West by a single point, and challenger Phoenix has a game in hand.
18. Ottawa Senators (Last Week: 16). An impressive run by the Senators—one that has them in the thick of the race for a playoff position—has faltered of late. Ottawa is 3-3-2 in its last eight games and has surrendered points to other teams in the same tight postseason race in the process.
17. Phoenix Coyotes (Last Week: 20). The Coyotes are on the verge of displacing Vancouver in the final wild-card spot out West but can't seem to put together a run of their own. Phoenix has won exactly half of its last 10 games, alternating wins and losses over the last six, including an overtime failure against the Canucks that is currently the difference between being in the postseason and golfing in early April.
16. Detroit Red Wings (Last Week: 14). The good news for the Red Wings is that their shootout luck has reversed; the club has won three of its last four games that ended after overtime. The bad news is that the Wings can't seem to win any other way. The Red Wings' sole regulation win in its last 10 contests came over the slumping Canadiens.
15-11: Carolina Hurricanes-Toronto Maple Leafs
15. Carolina Hurricanes (Last Week: 17). Wins in five of their last six games have the Hurricanes on the precipice of the postseason; the club now sits only a single point back of Detroit for the final wild-card spot and has a game in hand. The team's only loss in that span saw Carey Price stop 36 shots in Montreal.
14. Minnesota Wild (Last Week: 12). A four-game road trip disrupted any momentum Minnesota had coming off a successful run last week. The Wild escaped with just a single win, dropping decisions in San Jose, Colorado and Calgary.
13. Dallas Stars (Last Week: 18). The Stars' momentum slowed last week, but the team still has an impressive record of late, with points in five of its last six games (including four wins) and most recently a 2-0 shutout victory over the NHL-leading Ducks.
12. New York Rangers (Last Week: 11). The Metropolitan Division is currently comprised of the Pittsburgh Penguins and everyone else, but New York at least has the most points of the latter group. The Rangers also boast wins on the NHL's biggest regular-season stage, with a pair of outdoor wins highlighting the week.
11. Toronto Maple Leafs (Last Week: 15). Toronto climbs four spots after posting three consecutive victories over the last week. That's the good news; the bad news is that the team was outshot 80-58 by the Lightning and Panthers in its last two contests and only escaped thanks to exceptional work by Jonathan Bernier.
10. Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 9
Recent Trend: Offence has been a huge problem for the Kings of late. The team has all of three goals in its last six games and slides another spot in these rankings thanks to three losses this week. Los Angeles now has just one win in its last nine contests.
Big Picture: The Kings have slipped down the Pacific Division standings. They are 10 points back of second-place San Jose and nearly 20 points behind Anaheim; what was once a competitive three-way race hasn't been for a while now. With only a four-point lead on Phoenix, the situation has reached a point where one can begin to wonder if the Kings will hang on in their fight for a playoff spot.
By the Numbers: The Kings rank 29th in the NHL with just 2.25 goals per game; only the woeful Buffalo Sabres are worse.
9. Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 8
Recent Trend: Tampa Bay slips a little after losing two games last week, but the team really has not been bad. The Lightning have won four of their last six contests and outshot the opposition 80-54 in the two defeats.
Big Picture: The Lightning have to be happy with where they find themselves. Tampa Bay is now only four points back of Boston for the Atlantic Division crown, and alternate captain Steven Stamkos is practicing once again, meaning that the club can expect to add an impact player for the stretch drive.
By the Numbers: Victor Hedman, a surprising and controversial snub for Sweden's Olympic team, is enjoying what is easily the best season of his career. With 11 goals in just 48 games, he has a chance to double his career totals in that category this season, and with 36 points, he's already 10 better than his previous season high.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 10
Recent Trend: Columbus is on a tear. The Blue Jackets have gone 11-4-0 in the new year and the team has won its last two contests, including a win over the Capitals that has Columbus in the postseason over Washington.
Big Picture: Despite the Blue Jackets' strong work, they cannot afford any slip-ups. With 60 points, the team is within two points of five teams currently outside playoff position and could easily find itself sliding down the standings in a hurry.
By the Numbers: Columbus is, somewhat surprisingly, one of the NHL's 10 best even-strength teams. With a 1.11 goals for/goals against ratio at five-on-five, the Blue Jackets are just ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins in that department.
7. Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 3
Recent Trend: The run that saw the Ducks win 18 of 19 games seems to be over. Since a 9-1 win over Vancouver, Anaheim has alternated wins and losses, including defeats at home against Winnipeg, Minnesota and Dallas.
Big Picture: With a five-point lead on Chicago for the Presidents' Trophy, the Ducks can almost coast into the postseason.
By the Numbers: With a 1.45 goals for/goals against ratio, the Ducks are the NHL's most dominant team in five-on-five situations.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 5
Recent Trend: Pittsburgh has been winning roughly two-thirds of its games the last while but is just .500 over its last four contests, beating Los Angeles and Buffalo but falling to Dallas and Phoenix.
Big Picture: The Penguins have a five-point lead on Boston for the top slot in the Eastern Conference and a 15-point lead on the Rangers for the Metropolitan Division crown.
By the Numbers: Sidney Crosby has a 20-point lead on linemate Chris Kunitz for the scoring title in Pittsburgh. There can be no doubt as to who is the primary offensive weapon on the team this season.
5. Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 7
Recent Trend: Colorado climbs two spots on the back of a perfect week that saw wins over Dallas and Minnesota, as well as a 7-1 rout of the Buffalo Sabres.
Big Picture: With a 10-point lead on Minnesota for third place in the Central Division, Colorado is almost assured a postseason berth and will likely earn a first-round matchup against either St. Louis or Chicago.
By the Numbers: Andre Benoit was an early surprise this season, seizing a key role in Colorado after a career largely spent in Europe or the high minors. The 30-year-old continues to average more than 20 minutes per game on the Avs blue line.
4. Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 4
Recent Trend: Chicago's ever-so-slight recovery was enough to keep them in place in the minds of our panel; the team collected points in all three games this week, going 1-0-2 in the first part of a seven-game road swing.
Big Picture: The Blackhawks sit second in the NHL. The only question for the team is how best to address the weaknesses that have cropped up during a subpar January.
By the Numbers: Backup goaltender Antti Raanta looked poised to give Corey Crawford a run for his money but has faltered of late. After posting an impressive .920 save percentage over his first 11 starts, he's down to a .877 number in his last eight games.
3. Boston Bruins
Last Week: 6
Recent Trend: With the exception of a tough loss to Montreal, Boston has been rolling of late. The team has five wins in its last six contests.
Big Picture: The wins have given the Bruins a welcomed bit of breathing space in the Atlantic Division, where it had been starting to look like they might slide out of first. Boston now has a four-point lead on Tampa Bay.
By the Numbers: Remarkably, 34 of Boston's 35 wins came in either regulation or overtime; the team has gone to the shootout four times and holds a 1-3 record there, one of the worst in the league. Only New Jersey has fewer shootout wins.
2. San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 1
Recent Trend: San Jose falls out of first, and deservedly so. A run of six consecutive wins put the Sharks in the top spot in these rankings, but they've had some recent losses. Still, it's hard to blame San Jose for falling to Edmonton on a night where Ben Scrivens had a 59-save shutout, and a tired and frustrated team losing the next night is understandable, too.
Big Picture: The Sharks have carved out a niche in the tough Pacific Division, nine points back of first-place Anaheim and 10 ahead of the third-place Kings.
By the Numbers: Joe Pavelski often isn't the first name that comes to mind when considering the Sharks' offensive weapons, but he is among the team's most effective options. He leads San Jose (and sits third in the NHL) with 29 goals, and his 54 points rank second on team behind Joe Thornton (55).
1. St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 2
Recent Trend: The Blues have won four of their last five games, despite playing the majority of those on the road.
Big Picture: St. Louis has played fewer games than the majority of NHL teams, and as a result, their point totals are a little misleading. In terms of points per game, only the Anaheim Ducks have a better record than the Blues.
By the Numbers: Jaroslav Halak has recovered nicely from a lousy December (3-3-1, .885 save percentage), winning six of his eight starts in January and posting a .939 save percentage, his best monthly total since 2011-12.
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