NHL Power Rankings: B/R Experts' Week 22 Poll
A lot has happened in the nearly two weeks since our last ranking of the NHL's 30 clubs.
First, we were fresh off the trade deadline, with each team having been affected either through a dramatic trade or lack thereof, and we were left to guess as to how those players on the move would fit in at their new homes. Now, we've seen the early results.
The panel has convened once again to rank the entire league from top to bottom. Dave Lozo, Allan Mitchell, Lyle Ricardson, Carol Schram, Rob Vollman and I all voted this week. As always, an emphasis is placed on recent results over full-season totals.
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.
Unless otherwise noted, news and statistics are courtesy of NHL.com and are current through the start of action on March 17.
30-26: Buffalo Sabres-Calgary Flames
30. Buffalo Sabres (Last Week: 30). The Sabres have posted six consecutive losses, with four of those coming against non-playoff teams.
29. Edmonton Oilers (Last Week: 29). The Oilers are 4-3-2 since the Olympic break, with the single-biggest factor in the team's rise being vastly improved goaltending. There's still a pile of work to be done in Edmonton, though.
28. Florida Panthers (Last Week: 27). Florida has just a single win in its last five games. Roberto Luongo had a shutout against Buffalo in his first game back but has allowed three or more goals in the four games following that performance.
27. New York Islanders (Last Week: 28). The Islanders have had a pillow-soft schedule since the Olympic break, and while the team impressed in a crazy 7-4 win over Vancouver, that victory had been immediately preceded by losses to Edmonton and Calgary.
26. Calgary Flames (Last Week: 26). Calgary is treading water these days with a .500 record in its last four games. A 7-2 beatdown of the Anaheim Ducks was a recent high point.
25-21: Carolina Hurricanes-Winnipeg Jets
25. Carolina Hurricanes (Last Week: 24). Carolina started the week well, but a lopsided loss to the Bruins and then a defeat at the hands of Edmonton has them sliding one spot in these rankings.
24. Vancouver Canucks (Last Week: 25). Vancouver has won two of its last four games and three of its last six, but some of the losses (6-1 vs. Dallas, 7-4 against the New York Islanders) have been brutal. The defeat at the hands of the Islanders saw the Canucks blow a 3-0 lead and allow seven goals in the third period, a historic collapse.
23. Ottawa Senators (Last Week: 21). The Senators slide two spots after posting three consecutive losses last week. Ottawa had points in two of those games, but it isn't nearly enough for a team that was hoping to somehow still reach the postseason.
22. Nashville Predators (Last Week: 23). The Predators have had a tough, tough month but showed signs of recovery with a better week. The club won three of four before falling to St. Louis on Saturday.
21. Winnipeg Jets (Last Week: 18). The Jets finally snapped a string of six consecutive losses with an impressive 7-2 win over Dallas. That lone victory wasn't enough to keep the team from sliding three spots.
20-16: New Jersey Devils-Toronto Maple Leafs
20. New Jersey Devils (Last Week: 20). The Devils are 2-2 in their last four games, continuing a trend of roughly .500 hockey since the Olympic break.
19. Phoenix Coyotes (Last Week: 22). Phoenix had a pretty soft schedule last week, with two games against Florida-based teams and another in Calgary, but the club did manage to win all of those contests. The lone defeat in that span came in Boston at the hands of the Bruins.
18. Philadelphia Flyers (Last Week: 19). Philadelphia moves up one spot with back-to-back wins over the Pittsburgh Penguins. It's not quite enough to erase losses to Toronto and New Jersey in the two games prior, but it does bump the team slightly higher here.
17. Washington Capitals (Last Week: 17). Another team treading water, the Capitals ended their week with a pair of wins but started it with a pair of losses.
16. Toronto Maple Leafs (Last Week: 16). As with most of the teams in this range, Toronto alternated wins and losses over the last week. What makes the Maple Leafs more impressive is that they did it during a road trip that took them through the Pacific Division. What makes them less impressive is that they allowed 40 or more shots in three of the four games they played this week, including two of those wins.
15-11: Montreal Canadiens-Tampa Bay Lightning
15. Montreal Canadiens (Last Week: 14). Montreal has been pretty mediocre of late, sitting around the .500 mark since the Olympic break, and that trend has continued. The team beat Ottawa in overtime and topped the pitiful Sabres to win two of its last four games.
14. Minnesota Wild (Last Week: 13). The Wild ripped off three straight wins after the Olympic break and looked poised to make some noise in the West, but they have slipped recently. While the team has points in its last four games, only one of those contests was a Minnesota victory.
13. Detroit Red Wings (Last Week: 10). Detroit falls three spots, and deservedly so. The Red Wings had just a single victory last week, a shootout win over lowly Edmonton.
12. Columbus Blue Jackets (Last Week: 15). The Blue Jackets keep climbing both these rankings and the overall NHL standings. Columbus won two of three games last week, with the other contest a shootout decision in favour of San Jose.
11. Tampa Bay Lightning (Last Week: 9). The Lightning ended a five-game winless streak with victories over Florida and New Jersey in the tail part of the week, but they need to do more to climb back into a top-10 position.
10. Dallas Stars
Last Week: 12
Recent Trend: The Stars are 3-1-1 since our last edition of the power rankings, a record good enough to keep them in possession of the final wild-card slot in the Western Conference.
Big Picture: With Minnesota's strong play over its last 10 games and the collapse of the Vancouver Canucks, it appears that the next 14-15 games will be a two-way battle between Dallas and the Phoenix Coyotes for the final postseason spot out west.
By the Numbers: Tim Thomas (and his ridiculous Florida-themed pads) had to step into the breach when Stars starter Kari Lehtonen went down to injury. Thomas went 2-1-1 with a .892 save percentage, and his performance was a decidedly mixed bag. He was pulled after allowing four goals on 17 shots agianst Winnipeg on Sunday.
9. New York Rangers
Last Week: 7
Recent Trend: New York is 3-3-0 since our post-deadline review of the league and has just a single win in its last four games.
Big Picture: The Rangers are in a tough fight for one of the final few playoff spots out East. Currently, the team inhabits the final wild-card berth but sits just one point back of second place in the Metropolitan Division and only two points up on Washington (currently outside the playoffs).
By the Numbers: Martin St. Louis is 0-for-19 in shots on goal and has just a pair of assists in seven games since being acquired by the Rangers. If he keeps firing with that frequency, the career 13.6 percent shooter will start scoring goals, but until he does, he'll be labeled a disappointment or, as the New York Post's Larry Brooks put it, a "non-factor."
8. Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 8
Recent Trend: For now, the Penguins hold steady in the eighth position in these power rankings, but a pair of losses to Philadelphia over the weekend were unfortunate. With five of their next six at home, the Pens have a chance to rebound, but with four of those games against Western Conference opponents, it won't be easy.
Big Picture: Realistically, none of these games matter all that much individually for Pittsburgh. With 92 points, the Penguins have a 15-point lead for top spot in the Metropolitan Division, but they're three points back of Boston for the conference lead and seven points back of St. Louis in the Presidents' Trophy race.
By the Numbers: Despite low buying prices at the deadline, Pittsburgh opted for nondescript additions like Lee Stempniak and Marcel Goc. To date, the duo have been disappointing, with a combined stat line of 12 games, no goals, four assists and just nine shots between them.
7. Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 11
Recent Trend: Up, up, up. Colorado is 7-3-0 since the Olympics. The only concern is the Avs' ability to play with Cup contenders. While Colorado beat Chicago twice in that span, they posted losses against Los Angeles, St. Louis and Anaheim.
Big Picture: The wins over Chicago have the Avalanche one point up on the Blackhawks for second in the Central Division. It's a near certainty that Colorado and Chicago will play each other in the first round; the only question now is, which one will be the home team?
By the Numbers: PA Parenteau had been a fixture in trade rumours for much of the year, but he began playing some of his best hockey after the Olympics, with four goals in six games following the break.
On just his second shift in a March 10 game against Winnipeg, however, Parenteau injured his knee. NHL.com's Rick Sadowski quotes Avs coach Patrick Roy as saying the forward will now miss four to six weeks, indicating that his participation in the playoffs is a question mark.
6. Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 6
Recent Trend: Anaheim followed up the trade deadline in ugly fashion, losing four consecutive contests. The worst of the lot was a 7-2 thrashing by the Calgary Flames, a lopsided score that most obervers would automatically have assumed favoured the Ducks rather than Flames.
It may have sparked the team; Anaheim has won the two contests following that loss.
Big Picture: Anaheim is two points back of St. Louis for the top spot in the West and tied with San Jose (with one game in hand) for first in the Pacific Division. The loser of the battle with San Jose will most likely play Los Angeles in the first round, so it really, really matters.
By the Numbers: It's nearly certain at this point that Ryan Getzlaf will lead the Western Conference in scoring. With 73 points, he's four up on Dallas' Tyler Seguin and five ahead of Patrick Kane in Chicago. Teammate Corey Perry currently sits fourth with 67 points.
5. Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 5
Recent Trend: Los Angeles' eight-game winning streak recently came to an end with losses to the Ducks and Maple Leafs. Given that the Kings held a 79-49 edge in shots in those two games combined, it's unlikely that the team is too worried about it.
Big Picture: Barring a major shock, the Kings are going to stay where they are. Los Angeles has a seven-point lead on Phoenix for third place in the Pacific but sits 15 points back of San Jose and Anaheim. L.A. is going to be a terrifying first-round opponent for one of those clubs, but by the same measure, the Kings aren't going to have an easy time of it.
By the Numbers: Marian Gaborik, like a lot of high-profile deadline additions, hasn't posted spectacular numbers immediately in his new home. His shot rates, however (17 shots in five games), are spectacular, and given Gaborik's track record (career 12.9 percent shooter), he's eventually going to start burying those.
4. Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 1
Recent Trend: There's little doubt that the Blackhawks are Stanley cup contenders, but the team's recent results are underwhelming. Chicago is just 4-4-0 since the Olympic break and recently lost a pair of games to Colorado, the team's likely first-round playoff opponent.
Big Picture: Chicago is too far back to catch St. Louis for the top spot in the Central Division but easily far enough ahead of Minnesota not to worry about falling outside the top three. With just a single point separating the Blackhawks and the Avs, however, it's going to be a dogfight the rest of the way to see who gets home-ice advantage in the first round.
By the Numbers: Despite his team's struggles, goaltender Corey Crawford has been red hot in March. He has a 4-2-0 record and a .931 save percentage in the month and has kept the opposition to only a single goal in all four wins.
3. St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 3
Recent Trend: St. Louis is 7-0-1 in March. The team has been excellent all season and is, frankly, terrifying right now.
Big Picture: The Blues are going to take the top spot in the Central Division, and the question now is whether or not they take first overall in the NHL. With 99 points, the team is two up on Anaheim and San Jose and four ahead of the Bruins in the race for the Presidents' Trophy.
By the Numbers: They paid a hefty price to acquire him, but the Blues have to be pleased with the early returns on goalie Ryan Miller. The veteran 'keeper is 6-0-1 with a .932 save percentage through seven games in St. Louis.
2. Boston Bruins
Last Week: 4
Recent Trend: Boston has won eight consecutive games.
Big Picture: The Bruins have to be pretty pleased with where they find themselves. Nobody in the Atlantic Division can match their talent, and Boston isn't plagued by the playoff demons of the East's other elite regular-season team (Pittsburgh). Given the toughness of the schedule out west, Boston might be the smart bet right now as the team most likely to make the Stanley Cup Final.
By the Numbers: Torey Krug has a significant lead in scoring among Boston defencemen, but it's interesting to see what happens when power-play points are taken out of the equation. Krug has 18 points at even strength one ahead of both Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk (17 each) and just two ahead of Dougie Hamilton and Andrej Meszaros (16 each).
It speaks to the depth of Boston's defence that (including injured Dennis Seidenberg) the team has seven defencemen with double-digit point totals at evens.
1. San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 2
Recent Trend: Six consecutive wins and a 7-0-1 record in March have propelled San Jose into the top spot in these rankings.
Big Picture: Despite San Jose's exceptional season, the team's last 13 games of the season have real importance. The Sharks are presently tied with Anaheim at 97 points, with the winner getting one of the Western Conference wild-card teams in the first round and the loser presumably getting L.A.
Additionally, San Jose is only two points back of St. Louis for the Presidents' Trophy; winning that would not only be a feather in the cap but guarantee home-ice advantage throughout the postseason.
By the Numbers: In a season full of positives, the play of Tyler Kennedy has been a real disappointment. The undersized forward was a nice sleeper acquisition by San Jose over the summer. He previously had a 45-point campaign in Pittsburgh but has just four goals this season and may not reach the 20-point mark.