NHL Power Rankings: Maple Leafs Back in the Top Spot

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistFebruary 25, 2021

NHL Power Rankings: Maple Leafs Back in the Top Spot

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    Peter Power/Associated Press

    And now it's a real hockey season.

    The NHL skated into the final week of February with some signature elements of nearly every recent league year, including a mid-winter game in a spectacular outdoor setting, a player in an Edmonton Oilers uniform putting up prolific offensive numbers and a coach being shown the door thanks to an underperforming team.

    Claude Julien became the fall guy Wednesday for the Montreal Canadiens' recent on-ice struggles. It's a rapid change from an early run that had them atop these rankings at the start of February.

    The B/R hockey team reset the dials this week for another bottom-to-top look at the league through Tuesday night's games. Scroll through to take a look at where we placed your favorite squad, and let us know what you think in the comments section.

Nos. 31-26: Senators, Red Wings, Ducks, Sabres, Canucks, Predators

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    31. Ottawa Senators (Last Week: 31st)

    Two straight wins over the Montreal Canadiens made it a break-even week for the Senators, who are still mired in the North Division muck but have won five of their past 11 games. Youngster Brady Tkachuk scored twice in Tuesday's defeat of the Habs, who passed on him in the 2018 draft.


    30. Detroit Red Wings (Last Week: 30th)

    Three losses in four games for the Red Wings was bad enough, but scoring only four times in those four games was far worse. The stretch began with a 2-0 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks and ended with a 2-0 loss to the Nashville Predators. Detroit is last in the league with 1.86 goals per game.


    29. Anaheim Ducks (Last Week: 23rd)

    Trevor Zegras' arrival to the NHL eased some of the sting of a winless week for the Ducks, who scored only once in two straight games before blowing a 3-0 lead to the Arizona Coyotes on Monday and losing 4-3. Zegras, 19, played more than 13 minutes against Arizona and didn't seem out of place.


    28. Buffalo Sabres (Last Week: 25th)

    A .500 run over four games ended a desultory three-game skid for the Sabres, who nevertheless had to hear a kickstarted version of trade rumors about franchise face Jack Eichel. Also, Jeff Skinner has no goals in 14 games and was benched for Monday's game against the New York Islanders.


    27. Vancouver Canucks (Last Week: 27th)

    It was all downhill for the Canucks after a defeat of the Calgary Flames on Feb. 17. Three straight losses followed, including a 4-3 decision to the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday in a game Vancouver led 3-0 in the first period. Center Elias Pettersson has hit an NHL-high eight posts or crossbars in 23 games.


    26. Nashville Predators (Last Week: 28th)

    A comeback win in Columbus and a shutout win in Detroit were a welcome tonic for the Predators, who had won only twice in their previous nine games. The 2-0 defeat of the Red Wings on Tuesday yielded two power-play goals from a man-advantage attack ranked 21st among the league's 31 teams.

Nos. 25-21: Sharks, Rangers, Flames, Coyotes, Stars

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    25. San Jose Sharks (Last Week: 26th)

    A porous week in which the Sharks surrendered 13 goals in three games came to an abrupt end Wednesday when their practice facility was closed and a player entered COVID-19 protocol. Thursday's game with the Vegas Golden Knights has already been postponed.


    24. New York Rangers (Last Week: 29th)

    The Rangers ended a prolonged skid with consecutive wins over the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals on Thursday and Saturday, but the headlines quickly turned to Artemi Panarin, who took leave after accusations arose regarding a physical assault on an 18-year-old woman in Latvia in 2011.


    23. Calgary Flames (Last Week: 17th)

    The skid was steep for the Calgary Flames, who scored a goal apiece while allowing 14 in losses to Vancouver and Edmonton (twice). David Rittich righted the ship with a 34-save effort in a 3-0 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday. Still, Calgary sat 23rd in goals per game through Tuesday.


    22. Arizona Coyotes (Last Week: 20th)

    The Coyotes dropped a pair to the Los Angeles Kings before rebounding with a one-goal win over Anaheim on the Monday in the first of two games. Arizona rallied from a three-goal deficit against the Ducks, which Christian Dvorak ignited with his eighth goal of the season—a penalty shot.


    21. Dallas Stars (Last Week: 18th)

    Anton Khudobin stopped 49 shots, but it wasn't enough to keep the Stars from losing 3-1 to the Florida Panthers on Monday, their sixth straight loss. Thanks to myriad weather- and COVID-19-related postponements, Dallas will play 43 games in 76 days to end the season, including 10 back-to-backs.

Nos. 20-16: Devils, Blue Jackets, Wild, Kings, Flyers

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    Derik Hamilton/Associated Press

    20. New Jersey Devils (Last Week: 21st)

    The skidding Sabres continued to be New Jersey's kryptonite, beating the Devils twice and making it three wins in four meetings this season. Meanwhile, the Devils will be allowed to fill the Prudential Center to 10 percent of capacity beginning March 1 after an announcement by Gov. Phil Murphy.


    19. Columbus Blue Jackets (Last Week: 19th)

    A shutout win to begin the week turned into a goaltending free fall in which the Blue Jackets allowed 10 goals in high-scoring losses to Nashville (4-2) and the Chicago Blackhawks (6-5). Still, streaking newcomer Patrik Laine had four points, including two power-play goals, in the three games.


    18. Minnesota Wild (Last Week: 22nd)

    Getting back to work was a boon for the Wild, who had played only twice in February's first 17 days. In three games through Tuesday, they scored 14 times and surrendered only four goals. The line of Kirill Kaprizov, Victor Rask and Mats Zuccarello had 14 combined points in defeats of Anaheim and San Jose.


    17. Los Angeles Kings (Last Week: 24th)

    It may be time to stop being surprised about the Kings, who won three times through Tuesday to push their win streak to five. Los Angeles entered Wednesday in a three-way tie for third in the West Division, only four points back of first-place Vegas. The Kings sit 11th in both goals for (3.12) and allowed (2.76) per game.


    16. Philadelphia Flyers (Last Week: 9th)

    The Flyers couldn't win no matter the climate, dropping a 3-2 decision to the Rangers at home before a 7-3 shellacking by the Bruins in an outdoor game at Lake Tahoe. Slumping third-line center Nolan Patrick could be headed to right wing after practicing with left winger Claude Giroux and center Kevin Hayes.

Nos. 15-11: Blues, Islanders, Blackhawks, Canadiens, Penguins

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    15. St. Louis Blues (Last Week: 10th)

    A win in the opener of a two-gamer with the Sharks was a successful start to the week for St. Louis, but it nosedived after that with a 5-4 loss to San Jose and a shutout by the Kings on Monday. Twelfth-year veteran defenseman Carl Gunnarsson suffered a season-ending right-knee injury in the loss to L.A.


    14. New York Islanders (Last Week: 11th)

    The Pittsburgh Penguins rudely halted the Islanders' three-game win streak with 4-1 and 3-2 victories on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. A defeat of Buffalo followed, with a one-off contest with the Boston Bruins on deck. About 1,400 fans will be welcomed to Nassau Coliseum starting on March 18.


    13. Chicago Blackhawks (Last Week: 16th)

    Two wins in three games made it four out of five overall for the Blackhawks, including a 6-5 victory over the Blue Jackets in a Tuesday night shootout. A rejuvenated Patrick Kane has 30 points in 21 games, his best start since the 2015-16 season that netted him (pun intended) an MVP award and a scoring title.


    12. Montreal Canadiens (Last Week: 7th)

    Talk about your quick turnarounds. The Canadiens were an early-season success story thanks to a prolific start, but a stretch of only two wins in eight games after Feb. 2 cost head coach Claude Julien and assistant Kirk Muller their jobs Wednesday. Dominique Ducharme is taking the interim reins.


    11. Pittsburgh Penguins (Last Week: 14th)

    Add the Penguins to the list of teams experiencing a resurgence. They notched three wins this week and five in their past six overall. In more ominous news, forward Jason Zucker left Tuesday's game with the Washington Capitals with an apparent leg injury and won't play Thursday, and perhaps well beyond too.

Nos. 10-6: Capitals, Avalanche, Jets, Oilers, Golden Knights

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    Larry MacDougal/Associated Press

    10. Washington Capitals (Last Week: 15th)

    It was a two-up, two-down week for the Capitals, who ended Tuesday only two points out of first place in the East Division but just three points up on fifth. Free-agent pickup Henrik Lundqvist was in pads Tuesday for the first time since open-heart surgery in January, but his return date is still iffy.


    9. Colorado Avalanche (Last Week: 8th)

    The Avalanche completed a split of a four-game series with the Golden Knights on the way into a Wednesday night game with visiting Minnesota. Nathan MacKinnon had four points in those four games after sitting out one contest against Minnesota with a lower-body injury. He still leads the team with 18 points in 14 games.


    8. Winnipeg Jets (Last Week: 12th)

    The Jets moved into third in the North with two straight wins against Vancouver after beginning the week with a one-goal loss to the Edmonton Oilers. Like Laine in Columbus, Pierre-Luc Dubois has thrived in his new surroundings, netting two goals and an assist in three games since clearing Canada-bound quarantine.


    7. Edmonton Oilers (Last Week: 13th)

    Amazing what goaltending can do, eh? The Oilers stamped themselves the hottest team in the NHL with a four-win week, allowing only seven goals across wins over Winnipeg, Calgary (twice) and Vancouver. Oh, and Connor McDavid is pretty good, too. He had four goals and four assists in those four games.


    6. Vegas Golden Knights (Last Week: 3rd)

    Fresh off that four-game series with the Avalanche, the Golden Knights will sit for a few days before a scheduled Saturday night visit to the Ducks in Anaheim. Forward Tomas Nosek returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since he was pulled from a game because of COVID-19 protocol on Feb. 9.

Nos. 5-1: Panthers, Lightning, Hurricanes, Bruins, Maple Leafs

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    Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images

    5. Florida Panthers (Last Week: 6th)

    The wins kept coming for the Panthers, who took three of four before a Wednesday night loss against the Stars in South Florida. Winger Anthony Duclair had two goals and two assists in a five-game stretch after registering only four assists in his first 11. He scored 23 goals with Ottawa in 66 games in 2019-20.


    4. Tampa Bay Lightning (Last Week: 2nd)

    The Lightning will finish off their series with the Hurricanes before welcoming the Stars for a two-game rematch of the 2019-20 title round on Saturday and Tuesday. A handful of line switches got the champs going again after a brief skid, leaving coach Jon Cooper to liken the impact to a jolt of Red Bull.


    3. Carolina Hurricanes (Last Week: 5th)

    As good as things looked for Carolina after a 4-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, they got worse following 4-2 and 3-0 losses to the Stanley Cup champs on Monday and Wednesday. There will be mandatory masks, no cash transactions and no tailgating when fans return in Raleigh next week.


    2. Boston Bruins (Last Week: 1st)

    The rout of the Flyers in Lake Tahoe was a signature 2020-21 moment for the Bruins thanks to David Pastrnak's shades in the most watched game in the history of NBC Sports Network. It wasn't all good, though. Defenseman Jeremy Lauzon is out for at least a month after fracturing his left hand.


    1. Toronto Maple Leafs (Last Week: 4th)

    It's a return to the top for the league's winningest team (15) and its third-most prolific with 3.5 goals per game. Two defeats of Ottawa and one of Montreal preceded a loss to Calgary, and an interesting stretch looms when the Maple Leafs visit red-hot Edmonton for three between Feb. 27 and March 3.