NHL Power Rankings: B/R Experts' Week 21 Poll
We have no change at the top of the Bleacher Report power rankings for the week ending Feb. 21, and why would we?
The Washington Capitals, No. 1 last time around, have won their last three games and stand at 43-10-4 after 57 games. They have an outside shot at the all-time NHL record for most wins in a season, set by the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings (62). But maybe it's not such an outside chance when you look at the numbers.
They have to go 19-6 in the final 25 games to tie the record. That sounds very doable for this squad.
There was not a whole lot of movement among most teams, although the Minnesota Wild did make a nice jump. As the season gets later and later, moving—here in our rankings and in the real NHL standings—gets tougher to do. We're in the final quarter of the season, with the Feb. 29 trade deadline almost upon us.
Things will change. But how much remains to be seen. Our panel this week includes yours truly, Carol Schram, Steve MacFarlane, Jonathan Willis, Allan Mitchell and Lyle Richardson.
What did we get right and wrong with our rankings this week? We're all ears.
30-26: Edmonton Oilers-Winnipeg Jets
30. Edmonton Oilers (last week: 27)
Here we go again. Can the Edmonton Oilers finish last and therefore have the best chance at getting another No. 1 pick in the draft? Will Auston Matthews join Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov in the Oilers' No. 1 Pick Club?
It will be embarrassing for the team and the league if that happens. How many top picks does this organization need just to not be last? And maybe, just maybe, the Oilers should look for a defenseman or a goaltender with that top pick this time.
29. Toronto Maple Leafs (last week: 30)
It's not like the Toronto Maple Leafs earned their move up from last place in the rankings. It's more that another team was just worse than they were.
The Leafs have 16 of their 25 final games at home, though, so they'll probably win some down the stretch. But do their fans really want that? Would tanking for Matthews be the better play?
28. Columbus Blue Jackets (last week: 29)
In a 4-0 loss to the Buffalo Sabres last week, goalie Joonas Korpisalo gave up a 149-foot goal to David Legwand. That's just the kind of year it's been for the Columbus Blue Jackets, whose fans are hoping they can win the Matthews sweepstakes.
How nice would Matthews be as a replacement for the departed Ryan Johansen?
27. Vancouver Canucks (last week: 22)
The reeling Vancouver Canucks took a four-game losing streak into Sunday's home game against the Colorado Avalanche. Playoff hopes are all but gone. Expect them to sell off some pieces at the trade deadline, including veteran forward Radim Vrbata, who could probably help a contender.
Coach Willie Desjardins has taken some heat in Vancouver, but there likely wasn't much he could've done with this aging cast. Season-ending injury losses of center Brandon Sutter and D-man Alex Edler didn't help, either.
26. Winnipeg Jets (last week: 21)
Jaromir Jagr might have delivered the wooden stake to the Winnipeg Jets' final playoff hopes with his two-goal effort in a 3-1 Florida Panthers win Saturday. According to Sports Club Stats, the Jets' playoff chances, after that loss, stand at 1.5 percent.
As Jim Carrey might ask: "So you're telling me there's a chance?"
25-21: Calgary Flames-Ottawa Senators
25. Calgary Flames (last week: 26)
The Dennis Wideman fiasco (suspended 20 games for cross-checking a linesman) was the dominant story with the Calgary Flames, which gives you an idea of the kind of year it's been in Calgary. Wideman has appealed Commissioner Gary Bettman's upholding of the suspension to a third-party arbitrator. As ESPN.com's Scott Burnside reported, that hearing is expected to be held Thursday.
24. Buffalo Sabres (last week: 28)
Just when Evander Kane was starting to play well, he oversleeps, misses a practice and consequently gets suspended for a game by the team. Not good. He did return to the Sabres lineup and got an assist in a win over Columbus on Friday, though.
Let's face it, however: Kane hasn't been part of the solution in Buffalo this year. He's making $6 million a year but has provided about half a point per game on average. That's not good enough.
Another final blow to the Sabres' season is the news Ryan O'Reilly will be out for three to four weeks with a lower-body injury.
23. Arizona Coyotes (last week: 25)
Time is running short on the Arizona Coyotes' playoff hopes. They just haven't been able to string any kind of consistency together. The loss of goalie Mike Smith to injury has proved a big blow, though rookie Louis Domingue has played well at times.
The Coyotes go into Washington on Monday night for a game against the Caps. The road doesn't get any easier in other words.
22. Montreal Canadiens (last week: 19)
The Montreal Canadiens got a win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday, one game after coach Michel Therrien called out defenseman P.K. Subban for a "selfish" play that he said cost the team a game in Colorado, per Richard Labbe of La Presse. That didn't sit well with many Habs fans, many of whom would like to see a change behind the bench.
Montreal started the season 9-0 but is a long shot to make the playoffs. GM Marc Bergevin said Therrien's job is safe for the rest of the season, but there are no guarantees beyond that.
21. Ottawa Senators (last week: 23)
The Ottawa Senators lost three in a row after getting Dion Phaneuf from Toronto but have won three in succession since snapping that streak. They go out West for an important road trip, starting Tuesday, as they are on the outside looking in at the Eastern Conference playoff pack. There's still time to make it, but they'll need to do it the hard way.
Phaneuf scored his first goal as a Senator in a 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.
20-16: New Jersey Devils-Colorado Avalanche
20. New Jersey Devils (last week: 15)
Cory Schneider started his 50th game for the New Jersey Devils on Saturday, and you wonder whether he's starting to feel a bit gassed? The Devils dropped their third straight game in the 4-3 loss to the Capitals, with Schneider touched up a bit the game before, a 1-0 loss to the New York Islanders, as well.
Overall, the Devils have been better than most thought, but, again, maybe they pushed it as far as they could.
19. Philadelphia Flyers (last week: 20)
The Flyers still have a chance at the postseason, but they can't stay in win-one-lose-one mode for much longer. They need to reel off five or six wins in a row if they want to play beyond the first couple of weeks of April.
Rookie Shayne Gostisbehere is doing his part. The D-man extended his point streak to 15 games in a 5-4 win over Toronto on Saturday.
18. Minnesota Wild (last week: 24)
General manager Chuck Fletcher got just the kind of response from his team he had hoped for after he fired coach Mike Yeo on Feb. 13. Minnesota won its first four games under interim coach John Torchetti, including their Stadium Series game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.
This team still has tons of high-priced talent, so a run to the playoffs is still possible. On the other hand, lots of teams go on mini-runs after a coaching change, only to revert to the way things were before shortly thereafter. It will be interesting to see what happens with this group.
17. Carolina Hurricanes (last week: 18)
Captain Eric Staal told reporters in Ottawa on Thursday he would "not [be] crushed" if he were to be dealt by the Carolina Hurricanes by the trade deadline.
He did some backtracking when the team got back to Carolina, telling the Raleigh News & Observer, via NHL.com's Sean McCullen: "In hindsight, I shouldn't have answered some of the questions hypothetically. That happens on occasion. I'll learn from it. My focus is with this group and this team and winning games and enjoying coming to the rink with this group."
The Hurricanes still have a shot at the playoffs. Dealing Staal would be a premature tossing in of the towel.
16. Colorado Avalanche (last week: 17)
The Avs, too, are hanging in there for a playoff spot. The problem is they've probably played too many games for their liking. While they have a lead over rivals in the wild-card chase, most of those other teams have two or three games in hand on average.
Tyson Barrie picked up two goals in Saturday's win at Edmonton, his 39th and 40th points of the season. The 24-year-old defenseman figures to get a nice payday on his next contract. His existing deal expires after this season.
15-11: Nashville Predators-Tampa Bay Lightning
15. Nashville Predators (last week: 16)
The Nashville Predators got a point on Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings at home. But as has been the case almost all season, that meant the Preds lost out on a possibly crucial second point. Nashville is 1-10 in three-on-three overtime games this season, including the loss to the Kings.
Still, they're hanging in there for a playoff spot and have been playing better of late after a brutal stretch midway through the year.
14. Detroit Red Wings (last week: 8)
The suddenly streaky Wings entered Sunday's game at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers losers of five straight games on the road. They lost again, but at least they got a point in a 1-0 OT defeat.
They have also allowed more goals (157) than they've scored (151). The fact is this team has been pretty average for a while now. That 24-year postseason playoff streak is starting to look a bit more tenuous as far as getting to 25 is concerned. Where did the goal scoring go?
13. Pittsburgh Penguins (last week: 14)
Sidney Crosby is finally himself again. The star center was up to 25 goals entering Sunday's game in Buffalo after that slow start that had people wondering whether he had it anymore. He does.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are playing much better hockey than earlier in the year—not coincidentally—but they still have more ground to make up to get into the playoff picture.
12. San Jose Sharks (last week: 13)
The San Jose Sharks continue to be a difficult team to summarize. They have run hot and cold all season. They lost to Carolina on Friday, but they are still 6-3-1 in their last 10 games.
Maybe the worst news overall for the Sharks in their bid to make the playoffs is that of their final 25 games, 15 of them will be at home, where they are 11-12-3. On the road, San Jose is 20-9-2.
11. Tampa Bay Lightning (last week: 10)
The Tampa Bay Lightning go into the final week before the trade deadline with at least the certainty that star forward Steven Stamkos won't be going anywhere. Bolts GM Steve Yzerman said recently, in a statement, that he will not consider trading the potential unrestricted free agent by the 29th.
The Lightning still have to make the playoffs, which isn't a guarantee. But the chances will be a lot higher with Stamkos around for at least a little while longer.
10. New York Islanders
Record: 31-19-7, 69 points
Last week: 12
After that rough midseason patch, the Islanders seem to be getting their house back in order. They are 6-3-1 in the last 10, including a 1-0 win over the Devils on Friday, with Jaroslav Halak getting the 27-save shutout.
That was a nice start to a seven-game road trip, which continues Tuesday in Minnesota. If the Isles can survive this trip with a top-eight spot still intact, they should be able to hold on to that for a cherished ticket to the dance.
By the Numbers
John Tavares is starting to heat up again. The Isles captain has goals in five of his last eight games, making it 22 on the season. You knew he wouldn't stay in a slump for much longer.
9. Boston Bruins
Record: 32-21-6, 70 points
Last week: 7
The Boston Bruins had another pretty good week, going 2-1-0, including a thrilling 7-3 win at the Dallas Stars on Saturday in a game they trailed by two goals at one point. That finished up a six-game road trip in which Boston went 4-2-0.
They get Columbus at home Monday night, so the Bruins should keep up their winning ways. For my money anyway, Claude Julien should get serious consideration for the Jack Adams Award. Everybody wanted to fire him early in the season, but he proved the doubters wrong again. He's a top-level coach.
By the Numbers
The run winger Brad Marchand has been on has been amazing. He scored his team-leading 29th and 30th goals in the win at Dallas. That is already a career high, and he still has 23 games left in the regular season.
8. Florida Panthers
Record: 34-18-7, 75 points
Last week: 9
All hail the great Jaromir Jagr. Since he turned 44 on Feb. 15, No. 68 has three goals, including two in a 3-1 win over Winnipeg last week. That gave him 742 career goals and moved him into third place on the all-time NHL goals list behind Gordie Howe (801) and Wayne Gretzky (894).
"When I got a birthday cake for my 44th birthday, you get the wish," Jagr told NHL.com's Alain Poupart. He continued:
I said, 'I wish I'm going to be a goal scorer.' So far it worked, so maybe I'm going to catch Gordie and maybe Wayne Gretzky too, you know? Of course, I love the game. There's no reason to quit. I love the game. There's a million people who wanted to be in my position. If I can play in the NHL, why not keep going?
No argument here.
By the Numbers
The Panthers don't play again until Thursday, when they'll host the Arizona Coyotes. A win over Arizona would be Florida's 20th home triumph of the season. They're currently 19-9-4 at the BB&T Center.
7. New York Rangers
Record: 34-19-6 , 74 points
Last week: 6
Everything is going well, for the most part, with the Blueshirts of Broadway. Well, except for the fact captain Ryan McDonagh is out again, this time because of a suspension-producing elbow from Toronto's Leo Komarov. Per the New York Times' Dave Caldwell, the Rangers said McDonagh, who missed some time previously after being punched by Philly's Wayne Simmonds, will be evaluated daily.
Assuming McDonagh is back soon, the Rangers are playoff-bound. The question is, what will happen with potential UFA defender Keith Yandle? Yandle could stick around beyond the deadline, and the uncertainty surrounding McDonagh might be a contributing factor.
By the Numbers
New York's possession numbers remain in the bottom half of the league, a number that figures to decrease following every game McDonagh misses. New York is ranked 20th overall in Corsi-for percentage at 48.2 percent.
6. Anaheim Ducks
Record: 31-19-8, 70 points
Last week: 11
The Anaheim Ducks, who tied for fifth place with the Kings in our voting, are making their first appearance in our top 10 this season, and with good reason. They're playing great hockey again.
They were 8-1-1 in their previous 10 entering Sunday's game against Calgary and easily dusted the Flames, 5-2. The goaltending duo of Frederik Andersen and John Gibson has been better than it was earlier in the year. Each owns a .917 save percentage.
By the Numbers
Captain Ryan Getzlaf is leading the way with at least one point in 17 of his previous 19 games. He still has just eight goals, but he leads the team with 39 assists. That is tied for fifth in the league.
5. Los Angeles Kings
Record: 34-20-4, 72 points
Last week: 5
The Los Angeles Kings were in danger of a winless week, but they pulled out a 2-1 overtime win over Nashville on the road Saturday. That capped a 1-1-1 week. They continue to win with good goaltending and defense.
Only Washington has yielded fewer than their 137 goals. Jonathan Quick has to be in the conversation, at least, for a Vezina. His goals-against average is a stingy 2.19, and he has a .920 save percentage.
By the Numbers
Dustin Brown's goal-scoring production continues to plummet. The Kings captain, a five-time 20-goal scorer, has just eight goals after 58 games. In his last 140 NHL games, he has 19 goals.
4. St. Louis Blues
Record: 35-17-9, 79 points
Last week: 4
The St. Louis Blues have won five games in a row, yet they lost out to Dallas by two points in our panelists' voting, 167-165, for third place. We're a tough crowd to please.
The return to health of forward Jaden Schwartz has made a big difference to the Blues. He has a goal in four of his last five games and has totaled nine points in the 12 games he's played this season. Getting him back was like getting an All-Star-caliber player at the deadline.
By the Numbers
Just when the Blues got Schwartz back, though, they lost second-leading scorer Alex Steen for at least a month with a left arm injury. Losing Steen will hurt; he had 17 goals and 47 points. This probably puts pressure on GM Doug Armstrong to bring in another scorer before the deadline.
3. Dallas Stars
Record: 37-17-6, 80 points
Last week: 2
Let's face it, overall defense remains a worry for this club. Its playoff spot is virtually assured, and it's been a fun season in Big D. But games such as Saturday's, a 7-3 home loss to Boston, make you a little queasy in trying to truly believe in them.
Dallas' 169 goals allowed are the third most in its division. GM Jim Nill would probably like to add a nice player to his blue line for the playoffs—but so would almost every GM.
By the Numbers
A lot of players would take this kind of production, but Tyler Seguin probably isn't happy about recording eight goals in his last 21 games. The Stars will need the 24-year-old's higher-level production from earlier this season to return if they want to make a serious playoff run.
2. Chicago Blackhawks
Record: 38-19-5, 81 points
Last week: 3
The Blackhawks suffered an embarrassing 6-1 loss on national TV on Sunday in an outdoor game at Minnesota. But our panel still felt Chicago deserved to move up one spot from last week.
Those kinds of games will happen now and then. Otherwise, Chicago remains the points leader in the Western Conference. The Blackhawks almost always rebound with a vengeance after games such as Sunday's, so look for a strong week from them.
By the Numbers
Chicago hasn't been the puck-possession team it was last season. After Sunday's loss to Minnesota, Chicago's Corsi-for percentage fell to 50.8. Last year, Chicago had the second-highest CFP in the league at 53.6.
1. Washington Capitals
Record: 43-10-4, 90 points
Last week: 1
What a season it's been. This team has an honest-to-goodness shot at tying the all-time NHL record for most wins in a season (62). Of course, Cup-starved Caps fans would trade that record in for the silver chalice, which has eluded the franchise since it joined the league in 1974.
The worry right now in Washington—and there is always worry among Caps fans—is boredom. Can the Caps, so far ahead of the field for the top spot in the East, stay sharp in the final couple of months? To that end, coach Barry Trotz is experimenting with his lines in a move to give the players some variety.
Trotz, for example, moved Alex Ovechkin onto a line with Evgeny Kuznetsov instead of his usual center, Nicklas Backstrom. He then sounded like Dr. Phil in explaining why.
“Just sometimes it’s a little refreshing,” Trotz told the Washington Post's Isabelle Khurshudyan. “Sometimes it’s like a marriage. You got a line that’s like a marriage. Sometimes the love goes out of the marriage a little bit. You get it separated a little bit. You know, you get a little vacation from each other.”
By the Numbers
Seven hundred ninety-eight games. That's how long it took for Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik to score a game-winning goal.
It happened against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday, Orpik finally scoring the deciding goal in a win.
Statistics for this report were obtained from NHL.com, Hockeydb.com and Puckalytics.com.