NHL Power Rankings: B/R Experts' Week 22 Poll

Jonathan Willis@jonathanwillisNHL National ColumnistFebruary 29, 2016

NHL Power Rankings: B/R Experts' Week 22 Poll

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Monday's 3 p.m. ET trade deadline is almost upon us.

    Already, we've seen sellers moving veteran players, looking for young assets who could help with a rebuild and losses down the stretch to improve draft position. We've seen buyers shore up areas of perceived weakness. We have also seen a handful of teams cling rigidly to the fence.

    In this, our last power rankings prior to the deadline, our regular look at which direction clubs are moving gets cast in special focus by the trades we've already seen transpire. 

    I'll be your host as we go through the happenings of the past week, but the rankings that follow aren't solely based on my assessment. Instead, we've assembled the usual panel of Bleacher Report hockey writers—Adrian DaterSteve MacfarlaneAllan MitchellLyle RichardsonCarol Schram and yours truly—and had everyone submit their own list, which we then used to calculate an average ranking for each team.

    Read on to see where your team ranks.

30-26: Edmonton Oilers-Buffalo Sabres

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    Gary Wiepert/Associated Press

    30. Edmonton Oilers (last week: 30) 

    The Edmonton Oilers snapped a seven-game losing streak with a win over the New York Islanders on Sunday. The team has been better over its last three games, but that was just its second win in a stretch of 12 contests. If there's light at the end of the tunnel, it's that the loss of rental players such as Teddy Purcell and Justin Schultz should be more than made up for once Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Oscar Klefbom come off the injured list.


    29. Toronto Maple Leafs (last week: 29)

    The Toronto Maple Leafs managed to pick up a win along with their two losses this week. It was only their second victory in the last 10 games. Already one of the weakest clubs in the NHL, Toronto has been rapidly shipping out everything that isn't nailed down; it's an excellent long-term strategy, but the rest of the 2015-16 season isn't likely to offer much joy on the ice.


    28. Calgary Flames (last week: 25)

    The Calgary Flames fall three spots in the rankings after losing every game they played last week. The club has one win and seven losses in its last eight contests. As with most of the teams at this end of the list, Calgary has moved to divest itself of NHL talent, exchanging it for future assets. Those moves are not likely to aid a late-season resurgence.


    27. Arizona Coyotes (last week: 23) 

    The Arizona Coyotes went 0-of-4 on the week and are the not-so-proud owners of a five-game losing streak. Briefly a legitimate playoff threat, the Coyotes' poor play over most of February has all but eliminated them from postseason contention.


    26. Buffalo Sabres (last week: 24)

    The Buffalo Sabres have one win to show for a three-game California road trip: a 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Friday. The other two losses were both shutouts. According to TheFourthPeriod.com, the Sabres are expected to send away one or more players prior to Monday's trade deadline, but they aren't likely to do the same level of fire sale as many teams near the bottom of the league standings. 

25-21: Winnipeg Jets-Ottawa Senators

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    25. Winnipeg Jets (last week: 26)

    The Winnipeg Jets managed to more or less tread water in the rankings this week, thanks in part to already being so low on the scale, and as a result of a surprising 6-3 victory in Texas over the formidable Dallas Stars on Thursday. That one win isn't enough to change the team's outlook, however. Winnipeg has lost five of its last six games, and the departure of Andrew Ladd to the Chicago Blackhawks should help ensure more losses.


    24. Columbus Blue Jackets (last week: 28)

    The way the Columbus Blue Jackets string together winning streaks after their season has been flushed away is simply astounding. With a 10-point gap separating the team from the playoffs, Columbus went 3-0-1 on the week, improving to 7-2-3 in the month of February. Goaltender Joonas Korpisalo, the club's current starter, has a 0.927 save percentage in 2016.


    23. Vancouver Canucks (last week: 27)

    The Vancouver Canucks' modest two-game winning streak was snapped in a loss to San Jose on Sunday. The Canucks are eight points out of a playoff spot, and according to Thomas Drance of Sportsnet.ca, it is expected the team will make an effort to cash in on some of its veterans, with defenceman Dan Hamhuis near the top of the list.


    22. Montreal Canadiens (last week: 22)

    The Montreal Canadiens are 3-0-1 in their last four games, including a somewhat surprising 4-3 victory over the league-leading Washington Capitals this week. It's too little, too late to save the team's season, and with the blue line reduced to ash by injury and several forwards already traded away, it wouldn't be a surprise if this was a blip. The wild card is goalie Carey Price, someone the Canadian Press reported this week (h/t CBC Sports) is making strides as he tries to come back after a prolonged absence.


    21. Ottawa Senators (last week: 21)

    The lights are still on at the Canadian Tire Centre, as the Ottawa Senators closed to within four points of a playoff spot. The Sens won two of three this week and are 5-1-0 in their last six games, though it's worth noting two of those were shootout wins and that the run was preceded by a three-game losing streak. Dion Phaneuf has six points in nine games since arriving at the team in early February and has played more than 21 minutes in each of those contests.

20-16: Carolina Hurricanes-Philadelphia Flyers

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    Karl B DeBlaker/Associated Press

    20. Carolina Hurricanes (last week: 17)

    In the end, the Carolina Hurricanes seemingly couldn't collect wins fast enough to convince general manager Ron Francis it was worth hanging on to his pending free agents. The team's official website reported separate trades of both Eric Staal and Kris Versteeg on Sunday, robbing the team of two of its top-six forwards.


    19. Minnesota Wild (last week: 18)

    Although they only fell a single spot in these rankings, this was a bad week for the Minnesota Wild. The club had gone 4-0 in the immediate aftermath of head coach Mike Yeo's dismissal, but this week saw three straight losses to Eastern opponents before a Sunday win over the Florida Panthers. Minnesota is only two points out of the playoffs; it's critical to avoid these kinds of lulls.


    18. New Jersey Devils (last week: 20)

    Our panel is weirdly bullish on the New Jersey Devils, who lost two of three this week and have gone down in defeat five times in their past half-dozen matchups. I'm inclined to attribute it to the struggles of other clubs and the confusion over whether New Jersey is going to sell off a few of its pending free agents prior to Monday's trade deadline. The Devils are only three points back of the final playoff spot out East, but they have played three more games than its incumbents, the Pittsburgh Penguins.


    17. Colorado Avalanche (last week: 16)

    The Colorado Avalanche went 1-1 on the week, beating the Sharks in the shootout but falling to the Detroit Red Wings in regulation. The final wild-card team in the West, Colorado is just two points up on Minnesota, and the Wild have a game in hand. Minny slipped this week, but it looks like there could be a photo finish between these two for that final spot.


    16. Philadelphia Flyers (last week: 19)

    The Philadelphia Flyers continued a recent roll with wins over the Wild and Coyotes and have improved to 4-1-1 over their last six games. Of the five teams out East that might plausibly push their way into the postseason with a strong run down the stretch, Philly is the closest to doing it; the team is just three points back and has played just 61 games. Encouragingly, the team has four games left of its six-game homestand; it won the first two and is set to play a trio of non-playoff teams—the Flames, Oilers and Blue Jackets—before finishing against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

15-11: Pittsburgh Penguins-Nashville Predators

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    15. Pittsburgh Penguins (last week: 13)

    At first glance, Saturday's 4-1 win over Winnipeg was just a continuation of the Pens' annoying recent trend of alternating wins and losses every other game. A key difference is that Evgeni Malkin returned to the lineup, playing his first game since Feb. 2. Pittsburgh has been remarkably one-dimensional offensively in his absence, and his return should strengthen the team's chances of hanging on to the final playoff berth out East.


    14. San Jose Sharks (last week: 12)

    San Jose slips two spots after a mediocre 1-1-1 showing in Week 22. A playoff spot is all but assured for the Sharks, who are third in the Pacific Division and own a 12-point lead on the team in fourth place, the Canucks. The additions of three useful veterans from Toronto—James Reimer, Roman Polak and Nick Spaling—should ultimately end up helping the club in the short term, though the cost in futures was relatively high.


    13. Detroit Red Wings (last week: 14)

    The Wings won both of their games this week, edging the red-hot Blue Jackets in the shootout and topping the Avalanche in Colorado, thereby improving to 6-2-3 over their last 11 tilts. One odd sour note in all of this success is the offensive dry spell for star rookie Dylan Larkin, who has a single goal and just one assist in his last nine games.


    12. New York Islanders (last week: 10)

    The Isles have been having a good month but went through a mildly disappointing week, needing overtime to beat the Flames and losing in regulation to the Oilers. Altogether, the team went 2-1-0, which isn't bad, but it would have been nice to see stronger performances against three non-playoff teams. One bright spot has been the play of depth forward Casey Cizikas, who has points in four straight games and nine points in his last 10 after putting up just 14 in his first 50 contests.


    11. Nashville Predators (last week: 15)

    The Nashville Predators had a great week, playing four games in just six days and winning all of them, including contests against the St. Louis Blues in Nashville and the Blackhawks in Chicago. The team is now 6-0-3 in its last nine games and has plenty of positive individual stories. Filip Forsberg scored two hat tricks in the course of the week and has 12 goals and 16 points in his last 11 games. 

10. Boston Bruins

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Record: 34-23-6, 74 points

    Last week: 9


    Big Picture

    The Boston Bruins won two games and lost two games this week, with the most important of those contests coming on Sunday against the Lightning. Tampa Bay's win allowed the Bolts to leapfrog the Bruins for second in the Atlantic and move to within just two points of division-leading Florida. Boston is in third with only a one-point lead on Detroit in fourth. It's unlikely the team will fall out of the playoffs, but seeding will be interesting; anything from first to fourth in the division is entirely possible.


    By the Numbers

    It's tempting to look at Brad Marchand's 17.2 shooting percentage and shrug off his insane goal-scoring campaign, but that viewpoint is a poor one. Marchand's career shooting percentage is 15.5 percent, so he's only a touch above his established level of ability. What's changed is his shot rate and power-play performance—he's already set career highs with 186 shots and six power-play goals.

9. Florida Panthers

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Record: 35-19-8, 78 points

    Last week: 8


    Big Picture

    Florida's lead in the Atlantic Division could slip right out of its hands. The Panthers lost two of the three games they played this week, all of them to non-playoff teams, and they are 4-4-3 over their last 11. The Lightning are just two points back, the Bruins four and the Red Wings five.


    By the Numbers

    It's easy to forget how cheap much of Florida's forward corps is. Ignoring the effectively retired Marc Savard, newcomers Teddy Purcell and Jiri Hudler rank second and fourth, respectively, among Panthers forwards in cap hit. With a base salary of just over $660,000, Vincent Trocheck is the cheapest of those forwards but is also one of a whopping eight on the roster or injured reserve earning under $1 million.

8. Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Record: 36-22-4, 76 points

    Last week: 11


    Big Picture

    The Lightning won their sixth consecutive game with Sunday's dispatch of the Boston Bruins. That has allowed the team to climb to second in the Atlantic and move to within two points of the Panthers in first place. Exact seeding in the Atlantic is going to be impossible to determine until much closer to Game 82, but the Bolts are certainly on the right track.


    By the Numbers

    J.T. Brown has 18 even-strength points this year, which puts him ahead of Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat, who have 15 each. Last season, Johnson and Palat combined for 105 even-strength points; Brown contributed just nine.

7. New York Rangers

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    Record: 36-20-6, 78 points

    Last week: 7


    Big Picture

    February has been kind to the New York Rangers, and last week was no exception, with the Rangers winning two of three games and hanging onto a five-point lead over the Islanders for second in the Met. There's still enough time for upsets, but it appears the Rangers and Islanders will meet in the first round, with the former holding home-ice advantage.


    By the Numbers

    The newest member of the Rangers is Eric Staal, acquired from Carolina on Sunday for a collection of futures. He's having a poor offensive season, but it would be a mistake to underrate the effect of shooting percentage. Staal has scored on just 6.3 percent of his shots this year, the lowest total of his career and the first time since his rookie season, 2003-04, that he's under 9.0 percent.  

    Generally, these sorts of slumps are temporary and correctable. If Staal had been shooting at his career average of 10.6 percent, he'd have 17 goals instead of just 10.

6. St. Louis Blues

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Record: 36-20-9, 81 points

    Last week: 4


    Big Picture

    It was a rough week for the Blues. A five-game winning streak came to an end with consecutive losses to the Sharks, Rangers and a particularly humiliating 5-0 defeat at the hands of the Predators. They attained a measure of redemption with a win over Carolina on Sunday. Points-wise, St. Louis is behind Chicago and Dallas but by such a small amount that winning the Central remains a possibility.


    By the Numbers

    Of the top 11 teams in the NHL, the Blues have the worst goal differential, a modest plus-three. The second-lowest total belongs to the Anaheim Ducks (plus-nine), who started the year in a big pit. No other club in the top 11 has a goal differential lower than plus-20.

    How are they winning? St. Louis has the third-best win percentage in one-goal games in the NHL. In games decided by more than one goal, they have 16 wins and 17 losses.

5. Anaheim Ducks

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    Record: 34-19-8, 76 points

    Last week: 6


    Big Picture

    Anaheim has been the best team in the league over the past few weeks. A perfect 3-0 run this week extended the club's winning streak to eight games, and the team is 15-1-1 over its last 17 contests. It wasn't all that long ago that the Los Angeles Kings' lead in the Pacific seemed insurmountable, but the Ducks have managed to climb to within two points with a game in hand. 


    By the Numbers

    Remember Ryan Getzlaf's slow start? He's atoning for it and then some these days.

    Anaheim's captain has points in 11 straight games, 17 of them in all. This follows a run of 11 points in 11 games. Over Getzlaf's last 22 contests, he has failed to record a point on only two occasions.

4. Los Angeles Kings

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Record: 37-21-4, 78 points

    Last week: 5


    Big Picture

    Three straight wins got the Kings' week off to a nice start and pushed their winning streak to four games, but all three of those victories came against non-playoff teams. The main event was Sunday's contest with Anaheim, a game in which L.A. came out on the wrong side. That moved the Ducks to within two points of Los Angeles, suddenly making the race for top spot in the Pacific competitive.


    By the Numbers

    There shouldn't be any question about how dominant the Kings are at maintaining puck possession. Twelve of the league's top 17 players by Corsi metrics play in Los Angeles. Drew Doughty leads all defencemen in the category.

3. Dallas Stars

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    Record: 38-19-6, 82 points

    Last week: 3


    Big Picture

    The Stars are in a heated three-way battle with Chicago and St. Louis for the top spot in the Central. They are one point back of the former with a game in hand and one point up on the latter with two games in hand. The tightness of the race makes the team's recent performance more disappointing; Dallas has lost five of its last six games.


    By the Numbers

    The decision of general manager Jim Nill to sign an expensive Antti Niemi to complement an expensive Kari Lehtonen was always a bit of a head-scratcher, and it hasn't looked good for much of this year. Lehtonen has an underwhelming .906 save percentage, but at least that's better than Niemi's .904.

2. Chicago Blackhawks

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Record: 39-20-5, 83 points

    Last week: 2


    Big Picture

    The Blackhawks have made a splash on the trade market, adding both top talent and depth to an already strong team. New top left wing Andrew Ladd played in his first game since rejoining on Sunday, picking up an assist as Chicago knocked off the Washington Capitals 3-2. As with St. Louis and Dallas, the Blackhawks are in a tough fight for top spot in the Central, but the real battle will come in the postseason.


    By the Numbers

    The addition of Ladd, as well as Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise, was important to shore up the Blackhawks' questionable depth up front. The drop-off from No. 7 scorer Teuvo Teravainen (26 points) to No. 8 scorer Andrew Desjardins (nine points) was extreme. Prior to the moves, Chicago was leaning heavily on just two lines. Weise and Fleischmann should help add an extra layer to the Hawks attack.

1. Washington Capitals

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Record: 45-12-4, 94 points

    Last week: 1


    Big Picture

    Washington is running away with first place in the NHL, holding an 11-point lead on second-place Chicago. That makes it quite a bit easier to live with a mildly displeasing week in which the Caps won only two of their four games and lost Sunday's marquee matchup against the Blackhawks. 

    As has been the case for weeks, the Capitals have more or less ensured a successful regular season. The trick will be duplicating it in the playoffs.


    By the Numbers

    Brooks Orpik missed much of the year, and despite its success, Washington missed him. The team may not have realized how quickly he'd make an offensive impact, though. In seven games back, Oprik has collected six points; that's as many as he put up over 70 games in the entire 2006-07 NHL season.


    Statistics courtesy of NHL.com and Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com. Salary information via General Fanager. Trade details courtesy of Sportsnet's Trade Tracker.