NHL Power Rankings: B/R Experts' Week 17 Poll
Despite the few days off from games that count, Bleacher Report still has a new set of NHL power rankings to introduce. There is not a whole lot of change at the top from last week, as you'll see, but some other teams did make sizable moves, in both good and bad directions.
The Washington Capitals and Minnesota Wild kept up their recent torrid pace with a fine week before the NHL All-Star Game, while defending Western Conference champions the San Jose Sharks are starting to make a real run toward the top of the conference standings.
Our all-star panel of voters includes yours truly, Carol Schram, Jonathan Willis, Steve Macfarlane and Lyle Richardson.
Let's start the countdown, from No. 30 to No. 1.
30-26: Colorado Avalanche-Dallas Stars
30. Colorado Avalanche (last week: 30)
It just keeps getting worse in Denver. The Colorado Avalanche entered the break losers of seven in a row, with a 13-31-2 overall record. Young, talented forwards Gabe Landeskog and Matt Duchene continue to see their names in trade rumors, but general manager Joe Sakic's asking price is understandably high. Multiple league sources have told Bleacher Report the rock-bottom asking price for either player is a young, established defenseman and a first-round pick.
Will some team give in to the asking price before March 1? It will be interesting to find out.
29. Detroit Red Wings (last week: 26)
The overall record (20-20-9) isn't terrible, and there is plenty of hockey left to be played. But the Detroit Red Wings' 25-year run as a playoff team looks more in danger with every passing week.
The Wings stumbled into the All-Star break with a clunker of a home loss, 4-0 to former coach Mike Babcock and the Toronto Maple Leafs. There is a lot of pride within their organization, though, and counting them out would be foolish.
28. Arizona Coyotes (last week: 29)
Don't look now, but the Arizona Coyotes entered the All-Star break as winners of three in a row.
Alexander Burmistrov, claimed off of waivers Jan. 2 from the Winnipeg Jets, had five points in his first five games with the Coyotes. Goalie Mike Smith, always capable of stealing games on his own, was tremendous in a 3-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks before the break. It's too late for any playoff hopes, but maybe the Coyotes can be pretty good spoilers down the stretch.
27. New Jersey Devils (last week: 23)
The New Jersey Devils had been playing a bit better until losing their final two games before the break. They are in a four-way tie for fewest points in the East. The good news is those 49 points are still within shouting distance of a playoff spot.
There are a lot of teams to hurdle past, however. The Devils need to go on a run soon.
26. Dallas Stars (last week: 26)
As disappointing as the Dallas Stars have been, they are only a couple of wins and/or a couple of losses by the teams just ahead of them from climbing into a playoff spot.
Dallas was down 2-0 to the Buffalo Sabres in its final game before the break but scored the next four goals in a big 4-3 win. Patrick Sharp, an unrestricted free agent after this season, quieted some trade rumors with two of the goals. The ingredients are all there for a good second half, but the Stars can't spin their wheels much longer.
25-21: Tampa Bay Lightning-Buffalo Sabres
25. Tampa Bay Lightning (last week: 27)
Things continue to look dire with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bolts remain near the basement of the East and went into the All-Star break 3-5-2 in the previous 10 games.
Tampa Bay is starting to get more scoring from its top players, including Jonathan Drouin, who has 31 points in 42 games after a slow start. But the defense and goaltending hasn't been as good as last season, with neither Ben Bishop nor Andrei Vasilevskiy having a save percentage above .910.
24. Florida Panthers (last week: 22)
A playoff spot is just a few points away for the Florida Panthers. But if they are to get there, they might have to do it without top young scorers Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. Both forwards, who each put up 59 points last season, are out until March and possibly longer.
The Panthers are going to have to get it done with defense and goaltending, but at least they are well-stocked in those areas.
23. Winnipeg Jets (last week: 24)
Patrik Laine is back from a concussion, which was the best news of the week. Laine contributed to a surprising comeback win over the Chicago Blackhawks before the All-Star break, and the Winnipeg Jets continue to hang around in the Western playoff chase.
The problem is, Winnipeg has played 52 games, more than most teams. Colorado, for instance, has six games in hand on the Jets. Many others ahead of them in the playoff chase have two or three.
22. Carolina Hurricanes (last week: 19)
Just when you were ready to buy in a little on the Carolina Hurricanes, they careened into the All-Star break with a five-game losing streak.
The Hurricanes remain terrible on the road, at 6-14-6. They also have a minus-14 goal differential (126-140). After a run that got people excited about their playoff chances the Canes seem back in their usual mode of mediocrity.
21. Buffalo Sabres (last week: 25)
The Buffalo Sabres appear to be getting a little better every week. At 20-19-9, the record is at its most respectable for a few years. It'll still take a heck of a run to make the playoffs, but Buffalo seems to be energized at the prospect.
Sophomore forward Jack Eichel scored a highlight-reel goal to help beat the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, though the week finished on a sour note in Dallas, where the Sabres blew a 2-0 lead in a 4-3 loss.
20-16: Calgary Flames-Boston Bruins
20. Calgary Flames (last week: 17)
The Calgary Flames entered the All-Star break hanging on to one of the two Western Conference wild-card playoff spots. But several teams are right on their heels, and one loss could be the difference in falling out of the top eight.
The Flames are just 3-6-1 in their last 10 games, and coach Glen Gulutzan called his team's play "embarrassing" after a loss to the Edmonton Oilers. Calgary's special teams need to improve. The power play is in the middle of the pack, and the penalty-killing unit is only 18th, at 80.9 percent.
19. Vancouver Canucks (last week: 18)
Leading into the break, the Vancouver Canucks did what they were supposed to do in beating the lowly Avalanche in Denver. One more win against the nearly as bad Arizona Coyotes would have meant good times. But then Vancouver went and got shut out by the Coyotes. Still, it has been a surprisingly decent season so far for the Canucks. A playoff spot is a real possibility.
18. St. Louis Blues (last week: 15)
The playoffs were a foregone conclusion for several recent St. Louis Blues squads. This year, it looks like it's going to be a dogfight to get in.
The Blues entered the break barely hanging on to a wild-card spot, which is hardly what coach Ken Hitchcock and the club's fans would've envisioned at the start of the season. There have been problems in all areas, including in goal. Jake Allen, sent home recently to get his head together, may now be the backup to Carter Hutton. This team was only two wins away from going to the Stanley Cup Final last spring.
17. New York Islanders (last week: 21)
GM Garth Snow's coaching change appears to be working. The New York Islanders, under new bench boss Doug Weight, are playing pretty good hockey again. They are 6-2-2 in the last 10 and creeping back into the Eastern playoff picture.
Weight is 4-0-1 since taking over from Jack Capuano. Teams often go on good little runs after making a coaching change. The question is, can the Isles keep it going and not regress back to the mean?
16. Boston Bruins (last week: 14)
The Boston Bruins went into the break with a two-game win streak, including a strong 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Coach Claude Julien received his approximate 38th vote of confidence from Bruins management right after there were rumors that he was again in the firing line. Tuukka Rask continues to play well in goal, and Boston was breathing a sigh of relief after high scorer Brad Marchand received just a fine for a slew-footing incident against Detroit's Niklas Kronwall.
15-11: Philadelphia Flyers-Toronto Maple Leafs
15. Philadelphia Flyers (last week: 20)
After stumbling around for a couple of weeks, the Philadelphia Flyers are getting it together again. They will enter the post-break schedule on a three-game winning streak and holding one of the two Eastern Conference wild-card spots.
The Flyers will start on the road, in Carolina. They've found things tougher away from home, with a 10-12-3 record.
14. Los Angeles Kings (last week: 16)
After saying he thought his top goalie would return in mid-February, Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi said it will more likely be in March when Jonathan Quick returns from a groin injury, per L.A. Kings Insider's Jon Rosen.
So it remains up to understudies Peter Budaj and Jeff Zatkoff to hold the fort. Budaj, with a .916 save percentage, has done a good job and figures to get the majority of starts. The Kings have done well to be in the thick of the playoff race without their star goalie.
13. Anaheim Ducks (last week: 10)
The Anaheim Ducks stumbled into the break with a 4-0 loss in Edmonton, but things are still mostly positive for coach Randy Carlyle's club.
The Ducks are in the top eight in both power play and penalty kill, which just makes the game so much easier. If you know you can get a power-play goal most every game and that you can keep the other team from doing so more often than not, you have a big advantage.
12. Ottawa Senators (last week: 13)
A playoff spot looks likely for the Ottawa Senators, even though they are only two points up on the third-place Bruins in the Atlantic Division. Why? Because the Senators have five games in hand on Boston. Those potential 10 points give Ottawa a major leg up on the Bruins in keeping a top-three spot in the division, which would gain an automatic playoff spot.
11. Toronto Maple Leafs (last week: 11)
The Toronto Maple Leafs entered the All-Star break one point back of Philadelphia for a wild-card spot, but they do have three games in hand over the Flyers.
With Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner leading the way, the young and fast Maple Leafs look like a good bet to many to make the playoffs. They have a plus-12 goal differential (145-133) and seem to be buying into coach Mike Babcock's defensive system.
10. Nashville Predators
Record: 24-17-8, 56 points
Last week: 12
With a 7-2-1 mark in their last 10 games, the Nashville Predators entered the break feeling good about themselves after a sluggish start. Nashville moved into the third-place spot in the Central Division, which guarantees a spot in the playoffs.
Center Ryan Johansen went into the break with six points in his previous four games. He leads the team in scoring, with 36 points in 49 games.
By the Numbers
The Predators have five of their first seven games after the break at home, where they own a 13-5-6 record. On the road, they are 11-12-2.
9. Montreal Canadiens
Record: 29-14-7, 65 points
Last week: 8
Shea Weber and Carey Price made the All-Star Game after strong first halves. The Montreal Canadiens are in first place in the Atlantic, a comfortable seven points up on Ottawa. So things are looking good for the playoffs and otherwise.
Still, Montreal is only 4-5-1 in the last 10 and has injury issues, including the recent loss of valuable forward Brendan Gallagher after he was hit in the hand by a Weber shot. The Habs should get him and others back in time for the playoffs, but GM Marc Bergevin might be interested in making a move for another scorer before the March 1 deadline.
By the Numbers
The Habs have the league's second-best power play, at 23.5 percent. But the team's penalty killing needs to improve down the stretch. At 79.7 percent, the Canadiens rank 23rd.
8. New York Rangers
Record: 31-17-1, 63 points
Last week: 7
Despite entering the break with a 2-0 home loss to the Flyers, the New York Rangers are still feeling pretty good about themselves. Nobody predicted they'd have as many points as they do, and they won their three games before the aforementioned loss to Philly.
Still, the Rangers need to make Madison Square Garden a tougher place to play for opponents. They've lost five of the last seven at the Garden and have the first-place Columbus Blue Jackets coming to town Tuesday for the first game after the All-Star Game.
By the Numbers
In the seven games before the break, the Rangers went only 2-for-25 on the power play. That helped drop them to 12th overall in the league, at 20.7 percent.
7. Chicago Blackhawks
Record: 30-16-5, 65 points
Last week: 6
A Central Division title isn't looking too likely for the Chicago Blackhawks, even though the playoffs are probably a foregone conclusion.
Chicago trails the first-place Minnesota Wild by four points, and the Wild have three games in hand. Chicago stumbled into the break losing two in a row, including a 5-3 home loss to Winnipeg. In terms of good news, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews were all named to the 100 Greatest NHL Players list by the league.
By the Numbers
Marian Hossa, 38, has had a strong comeback season. In 64 games last season, Hossa scored 13 goals. He has 18 through his first 45 this term. Despite putting up 517 goals and 602 assists during his great career, the 100 Greatest selection committee snubbed him.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins
Record: 30-13-5, 65 points
Last week: 3
The Pittsburgh Penguins entered the break losers of two straight and fell to third in the Metropolitan Division. Is there reason for concern? Probably not.
The Pens just seem to be going through a bit of a flat stretch. They've shown they can beat anyone, and all that firepower up front remains a daunting proposition for opponents. Coach Mike Sullivan, however, probably wants more consistency as the season moves into the final third.
By the Numbers
The Penguins are dominant at home, with a 20-3-2 record. On the road, though, they have been average, at 10-10-3.
5. San Jose Sharks
Record: 31-17-2, 64 points
Last week: 5
Patrick Marleau certainly enjoyed his week before the break. The longtime Shark scored four goals, all in the third period, in a victory in Colorado. The next night, in Winnipeg, Marleau scored again in a 4-3 win.
The Sharks, though, were soundly beaten in their final game before the break, against Edmonton. They'll host Chicago in a big home game when league play resumes and seem to have found their footing after some flat stretches in the first half.
By the Numbers
Goalie Martin Jones' record of 42 starts is the second-most in the league, behind the 44 of Edmonton counterpart Cam Talbot. Jones has a 2.25 goals-against average, among the league leaders.
4.Columbus Blue Jackets
Record: 32-12-4, 68 points
Last week: 4
Things have certainly cooled off some for the Columbus Blue Jackets after that joyous 16-game win streak. Columbus has lost two in a row and is just 5-5-0 in the last 10.
What's gone wrong? For one thing, guys who were red-hot offensively have fallen off. Sam Gagner, for instance, has gone 16 games without a goal after a better-than-expected start. Brandon Saad has just one point, a goal, in his last eight games.
By the Numbers
Columbus' special teams continue to be fine, with the power play ranked first and the penalty-kill unit ranked ninth. But the Blue Jackets don't rate well in faceoffs. At 47.6 percent, they rank 28th overall.
3. Edmonton Oilers
Record: 28-15-8, 64 points
Last week: 9
A playoff spot seems virtually assured. The only drama remaining for the Edmonton Oilers relates to how high they can go.
They're only five points behind Minnesota for the top spot in the West, though the Wild have three games in hand. The Oilers looked great before the break, winning three straight. Connor McDavid continues to lead the league in points, with 59.
It should be fun at Rogers Place this spring.
By the Numbers
Just like Columbus, Edmonton has good numbers in most specialty areas except faceoffs. At 47.5 percent, the Oilers are tied for last in the league.
2. Minnesota Wild
Record: 32-11-5, 69 points
Last week: 2
The Minnesota Wild had it all together entering the All-Star break. They won their final two games, including an impressive 5-1 home win over St. Louis, and they are first overall in the Western Conference.
The Wild's 109 goals against is the second-best total in the league, just behind the Washington Capitals' 106. Its plus-51 goal differential is also second overall—also behind the Capitals. It should be quite a race between goalie Devan Dubnyk and Washington's Braden Holtby for the Vezina Trophy.
By the Numbers
Despite the great goals-against numbers, it is somewhat surprising the Wild are allowing more shots per game (30.3) than they are taking (29.4).
1. Washington Capitals
Record: 33-10-6, 72 points
Last week: 1
The Washington Capitals hold down the top spot in our ranking for another week thanks to an 8-1-1 mark in the last 10 games.
Just like last season, the Caps are starting to pull away from the rest of the conference in the standings. There hasn't been a weak area anywhere in their game for some time, with better balance offensively than earlier in the season. All the while, Holtby has been tremendous again in goal.
By the Numbers
It seems like center Nicklas Backstrom has been around forever, but he's still only 29. In his 10th season, Backstrom has 689 points in 701 career games. Only 178 of his points have been goals.