NHL Power Rankings: B/R Experts' Week 23 Poll
The start of the Stanley Cup playoffs is just over the horizon, and teams are trying to reach peak performance just in time for the NHL's second season.
One team is doing that better than all the rest right now—the Boston Bruins, who have won 12 straight games, their longest streak since winning 13 in a row during the 1970-71 season.
Is that enough to push the Bruins ahead of the San Jose Sharks, who were last week's top team in the power rankings? Is San Jose's 7-1-2 mark in its past 10 games enough to keep it at No. 1?
The panel has convened once again to rank the entire league from top to bottom. Allan Mitchell, Lyle Richardson, 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 24.
30-26: Buffalo Sabres-New York Islanders
30. Buffalo Sabres (Last Week: 30). They have dropped eight of nine but found a way to earn a 3-1 win against the Oilers this past week. That win marks the only time during that stretch in which the Sabres have scored more than two goals in a game.
29. Edmonton Oilers (Last Week: 29). The week started with a 5-1 victory against Nashville and concluded with a 3-1 loss to Buffalo and an 8-1 loss to Calgary. The loss to the Flames featured an Oilers jersey being thrown onto the ice at Rexall for the second time this season.
28. Florida Panthers (Last Week: 28). They had a surprising start to their week when they beat the Sharks in San Jose, but proceeded to drop their next three games. Since arriving in a trade with Vancouver, Roberto Luongo is 3-4-1 with a 2.62/.919 split.
27. Vancouver Canucks (Last Week: 24). The Canucks took two of three last week and are 4-2-0 in their past six games. Amazingly, they are only three points out of a playoff spot in the West.
26. New York Islanders (Last Week: 27). It was a light two-game week for the Islanders in which they were crushed 6-0 by Minnesota and shut out Columbus 2-0. They are a respectable 5-5-1 since losing John Tavares for the season.
25-21: Calgary Flames-New Jersey Devils
25. Calgary Flames (Last Week: 26). The Flames went 2-1 last week and are 4-2 in their past six games. It’s a nice finish for a team that should be losing in order to help its draft lottery standing, but it’s been a while since anything was done right in Calgary.
24. Carolina Hurricanes (Last Week: 25). A 2-1 week was quite impressive for a team out of the playoffs. The Hurricanes beat the Blue Jackets and Jets and fell 3-2 to the Blackhawks in Chicago.
23. Winnipeg Jets (Last Week: 21). A 3-2 home loss to the also-ran Hurricanes probably spells the end to any playoff hopes the Jets may have still harbored for themselves. Dustin Byfuglien has six goals in 10 games this month.
22. Ottawa Senators (Last Week: 23). There were far more people in the world who had the Senators winning the East this season than there were people who thought they’d be all but done with a little more than two weeks remaining. They have lost six in a row and allowed 25 goals in those games.
21. New Jersey Devils (Last Week: 20). They barely have a playoff pulse after a 2-2-0 week. They are five points out of eighth place in the East and will likely need to finish 9-1-0 to crack the postseason.
20-16: Nashville Predators-Phoenix Coyotes
20. Nashville Predators (Last Week: 22). They pulled a shocker Sunday night, beating the Blackhawks in Chicago 2-0. They went 2-2 last week and will need to run the table to have any shot of reaching the playoffs.
19. Dallas Stars (Last Week: 10). They were able to stop the bleeding of a four-game losing streak with a 3-2 win against the Senators on Saturday. You can’t place the Stars’ struggles on Jamie Benn, who has seven goals and 13 points in 11 games this month.
18. Washington Capitals (Last Week: 17). The Capitals went West and kept their season alive by getting five of six points on the road against San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim. Once they face the Kings and Bruins this week, the schedule gets a lot easier for the Caps.
17. Toronto Maple Leafs (Last Week: 16). The free fall continues. They have lost five straight and allowed 27 goals in their past seven games. Jonathan Bernier needs to get back soon, as no team in the NHL relies on its goaltender more than the Leafs.
16. Phoenix Coyotes (Last Week: 19). They took a one-goal lead into the third period against the Bruins on Saturday, but lost the game in regulation 4-2. It’s third time the Coyotes took a lead into the third period this month and left the game with zero points to show for it.
15-11: Columbus Blue Jackets-Detroit Red Wings
15. Columbus Blue Jackets (Last Week: 12). In a crucial game Sunday with the Islanders, the Blue Jackets were blanked 2-0. They lost three of four last week, and since dealing Marian Gaborik at the trade deadline have 15 goals in nine games.
14. Minnesota Wild (Last Week: 14). March has been devastating to the Wild, who are 4-3-4 this month. They went 2-2-1 last week and have allowed eight power-play goals in their past 24 short-handed situations.
13. Tampa Bay Lightning (Last Week: 11). The Lightning had their five-game winning streak snapped Saturday in a 4-3 overtime road loss to the Penguins. Since Steven Stamkos returned from his broken leg, the Lightning are 5-1-3. Stamkos’ return also marked the debut of trade deadline acquisition Ryan Callahan.
12. Philadelphia Flyers (Last Week: 18). The Flyers have won five straight, beating an impressive list of teams: Pittsburgh twice, St. Louis, Dallas and Chicago. They are 8-1-1 in March. Goaltender Steve Mason has found his form in March, which is a big reason why the Flyers are surging. He is 7-1-1 with a 2.43/.918 split this month.
11. Detroit Red Wings (Last Week: 13). They let a point slip away against Minnesota on Sunday, blowing a two-goal lead in a 4-3 overtime loss. They still went 3-0-1 last week to climb into a playoff spot.
10. Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 15
Recent Trend: The Habs won two of three last week and four of five overall. The hot streak coincides with the return of Carey Price from injury, but he has a .906 save percentage since coming back from a lower-body injury he suffered during the Olympics.
Big Picture: With the Maple Leafs fading, the Canadiens look like they will be in a battle with the Lightning for second place in the Atlantic.
By the Numbers: Thomas Vanek had a hat trick in Montreal's 6-3 win against Colorado on Tuesday. In his other seven games since he was acquired at the trade deadline, Vanek has one goal and one assist.
9. Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 7
Recent Trend: They have just one win in their past five games and have allowed at least five goals in three of those losses.
Big Picture: It looks like a third-place finish in the Central is the Avalanche's destiny. They have slipped behind the Blackhawks and have an extremely difficult final 11 games, seven of which will come on the road.
By the Numbers: Calder Trophy favorite Nathan MacKinnon hasn't been filling the net recently like he had been all season. He had 22 goals in his first 58 games, but just one goal in his past 13 games.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 8
Recent Trend: The Penguins bounced back from a home-and-home sweep at the hands of the Flyers last weekend to go 2-1-1 this past week.
Big Picture: It's a long shot that they will catch the Bruins for first place in the East. They appear ensconced as the No. 2 seed and will likely face the top wild-card team in the first round of the playoffs.
By the Numbers: The Penguins are 0-4 this month when Sidney Crosby fails to register a point. When he gets his name on the scoresheet, the Penguins are 6-0.
7. New York Rangers
Last Week: 9
Recent Trend: They ripped off three straight victories last week, beating the Senators, Blue Jackets and Devils on the road by a combined score of 13-5.
Big Picture: Those wins are virtual season-savers, as the teams just outside the top eight in the East that are right behind the Rangers have been heating up. The Rangers' best-case scenario is finishing second in the Metropolitan; the worst-case is missing the playoffs.
By the Numbers: The Rangers won't play on back-to-back days for the rest of the season, which means Henrik Lundqvist could start the team's final 10 games. It would be the second-fewest starts of his career since he became a full-time starter in 2006-07, when he started 62 games in 2011-12.
6. Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 6
Recent Trend: They snapped a two-game slide by trouncing the Panthers 6-2 on Sunday. They are 3-4-2 in their past nine games.
Big Picture: It will be a battle with San Jose for the top spot in the Pacific and the right to avoid the Los Angeles Kings in the first round. Finishing first in the conference and potentially the NHL is still not out of the question.
By the Numbers: Since losing top offensive defenseman Cam Fowler to a knee injury, the Ducks are 2-for-5 on the power play after a 1-for-33 drought.
5. Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 5
Recent Trend: The Kings had dropped three straight before winning their previous two games against the Capitals and Panthers. Before this 2-3-0 stretch, they had won eight in a row.
Big Picture: Teams would have to fold for the Kings to finish anywhere but third in the Pacific. They will either face the Ducks or the Sharks when the playoffs get under way.
By the Numbers: Marian Gaborik has somewhat helped the Kings' goal-scoring problems. He has two goals in eight games, over which time the Kings have averaged 2.63 goals per game. It's not great, but it's better than the 2.30 they were averaging before acquiring Gaborik.
4. St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 3
Recent Trend: They split the week by going 2-2-0 with wins against the Jets and Penguins and losses to the Flyers and Blackhawks. Since acquiring Ryan Miller, the Blues are 9-2-1.
Big Picture: They remain in control of the West and have a shot at the Presidents' Trophy. They have a six-point lead in the Central and a three-point lead on the Sharks for the top spot in the conference. The Blues hold a game in hand on San Jose.
By the Numbers: Not that he's contending with Miller for a starting job or more playing time, but Brian Elliott has made the most of his few starts. He's only made three since Feb. 28, but he stopped 78 of 81 shots in those games.
3. Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 4
Recent Trend: The Blackhawks went 2-1-1 on the week, ending it Sunday with a 2-0 loss to the Predators.
Big Picture: It looks as though they will have to settle for second in the Central. They are six points back of the Blues, who have played one fewer game than the Blackhawks.
By the Numbers: The Blackhawks are 6-5-1 since returning from the Olympic break.
2. San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 1
Recent Trend: The Sharks had won six straight before going 1-1-1 last week, including a 3-2 regulation loss to the Panthers.
Big Picture: They have overtaken the Ducks for first place in the Pacific and put themselves in contention to win the West and possibly the Presidents' Trophy. A strong finish could be the difference between facing the Kings or a wild-card team in the first round.
By the Numbers: Patrick Marleau reached 30 goals on Saturday for the seventh time in his past nine seasons. The two seasons in which Marleau failed to get to 30 were in 2013, when there were only 48 games, and in 2007-08 when he inexplicably had 19 goals in 78 games.
1. Boston Bruins
Last Week: 2
Recent Trend: They haven't lost a game since March 1 and went 4-0-0 last week. They beat the Devils, Wild, Coyotes and Avalanche by a combined score of 12-4.
Big Picture: With 103 points, they are in the driver's seat for winning the Eastern Conference. They are in a tight battle for the Presidents' Trophy and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs, which could be a difference-maker should they reach the Stanley Cup Final.
By the Numbers: It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize the West is the superior conference to the East as a whole, but the Bruins shouldn't be part of that conversation. They are 17-4-4 vs. the West this season and 9-0-2 in their past 11 against the superior conference.