NHL Power Rankings: Lightning and Maple Leafs Tied for No. 1 Spot

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2021

NHL Power Rankings: Lightning and Maple Leafs Tied for No. 1 Spot

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    And now, it's Month 3.

    The NHL glided into March and edged closer to the midway point of its abbreviated 56-game season with all but eight of the league's 31 teams having played at least 20 games through Tuesday night.

    B/R's hockey cabal marked the new month by convening for its weekly debate and compiling a new bottom-to-top list. Turns out it was a stretch of significant upheaval in the rankings, with dual occupants at the top, a new occupant at the bottom and several in-between clubs seeing dramatic rises or falls in their stocks.

    Take a look at where everyone landed, and let us know what you think in the comments section.

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

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    31. Buffalo Sabres (Last Week: 28th)

    A week of bald-faced ugliness ends with a trip to the bottom of the barrel for the Sabres, who scored five goals in four losses. An MSG Network analyst suggested they had "quit on their season" during a Tuesday loss to the New York Rangers, and trade rumors now surround both Jack Eichel and Taylor Hall.

               

    30. Ottawa Senators (Last Week: 31st)

    The Senators escape the rankings basement thanks to two more wins in four games, which gives them six wins in 10 games since they sat 2-12-1 on Feb. 11. On the less-positive side, veteran center Derek Stepan was shut down for the season with a shoulder problem after scoring once in 20 games.

                 

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

    It's graduation from the 30s to the 20s for the Red Wings, who scored three goals across two losses and 10 goals across two wins in an up-and-down week. Finnish veteran Valtteri Filppula was cut after scoring twice in 20 games this season and 193 times in 1,038 NHL games dating back to 2005-06.

            

    28. Vancouver Canucks (Last Week: 27th)

    Though they had played the most games in the division (26) through Tuesday, the Canucks are still second from the bottom in the North with just nine wins and 20 points. Braden Holtby has won just four of 11 starts and has a 3.56 goals-against average and an .893 save percentage.

            

    27. Anaheim Ducks (Last Week: 29th)

    A shootout loss, an overtime loss and a one-goal regulation loss were the product of a frustrating week for the Ducks, though 2018 first-round pick Isac Lundestrom scored his first career hat trick on four shots in a 5-4 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Monday. He now has five goals in 15 games this season.

                       

    26. Dallas Stars (Last Week: 21st)

    Florida wasn't an ideal stop for the Stars, who lost once at the Florida Panthers and once at the Tampa Bay Lightning and then dropped another at home to the Lightning after the week began with an Anton Khudobin shutout. Dallas hasn't beaten Tampa Bay in regulation in a regular-season game in nearly five years.

Nos. 25-21: Devils, Rangers, Sharks, Blue Jackets, Predators

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    25. New Jersey Devils (Last Week: 20th)

    It's a five-spot dip for the intermittently promising Devils, who were dinged for 13 goals across four games, including three straight losses after an overtime win at Buffalo. All three losses came on home ice, which lowered New Jersey's record to 2-7-1 at home against 5-2-1 on the road.

             

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

    Two up and two down wasn't a horrid result in what's been a difficult season for the Rangers, but it didn't help the long-term picture as the team sank to sixth in the East Division, six points out of the final playoff spot. Artemi Panarin hasn't played since Feb. 20 after allegations he assaulted an 18-year-old woman in 2011 surfaced.

             

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

    A dozen goals in two games are often good for two wins. Not so for the Sharks, who surrendered seven while scoring six against the St. Louis Blues and then reached a half-dozen again in a rout of the Colorado Avalanche. Veteran Erik Karlsson scored his first of the season and 136th of his career against the Avs.

             

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

    A dearth of offense was the biggest issue for the Blue Jackets across four games, during which they scored just six goals overall and only two in losses to the Chicago Blackhawks (2-0) and Nashville Predators (2-1 and 3-1). Still, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen gave coach John Tortorella a vote of confidence.

           

    21. Nashville Predators (Last Week: 26th)

    Goaltending was sterling in two Predators wins over Columbus, during which Juuse Saros allowed two goals on 59 shots. The other two games were a different story, as Nashville surrendered nine in losses to the Red Wings and Carolina Hurricanes. Saros was hurt in the loss to Carolina and remains day-to-day.

Nos. 20-16: Flames, Coyotes, Kings, Canadiens, Penguins

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    20. Calgary Flames (Last Week: 23rd)

    The fifth-place Flames seem to be settling into have-not territory in the North Division, where the top four teams are above .500 and the bottom three are below. Calgary allowed 16 goals while dropping three of four games, and a chaotic warmup before a Tuesday loss to Ottawa became internet fodder.

              

    19. Arizona Coyotes (Last Week: 22nd)

    The Coyotes were surely happy to see the departure of the Colorado Avalanche, whose wins on Friday and Saturday saw them outscore Arizona 9-4. Veteran defenseman Alex Goligoski, 35, is the subject of trade chatter in the final season of a five-year, $27.4 million contract.

              

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

    The Kings began the week with the second of two straight wins over the St. Louis Blues but scored only four times in two consecutive losses to the Minnesota Wild prior to Wednesday night's loss to Arizona. The first Minnesota contest ended a three-game win streak for goalie Jonathan Quick, who's won five of 11 starts this season.

                 

    17. Montreal Canadiens (Last Week: 12th)

    The Canadiens were outscored 8-4 in two losses to the Winnipeg Jets before a defeat of the Senators gave interim coach Dominique Ducharme his first win on Tuesday. The upheaval continued, however, with the firing of goalie coach Stephane Waite after the Ottawa game.

                 

    16. Pittsburgh Penguins (Last Week: 11th)

    Two wins and two losses marked a tumultuous week for the Penguins, who lost to the Washington Capitals, beat the Philadelphia Flyers and split with the New York Islanders. Superstar captain Sidney Crosby did not practice Wednesday, a day after he and an assistant coach entered COVID-19 protocol.

Nos. 15-11: Blues, Blackhawks, Oilers, Flyers, Islanders

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

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

    Two wins in three games heading into Wednesday kept the Blues in the thick of the West Division mix, where they sat a point behind the Vegas Golden Knights and a point up on Minnesota through Tuesday night. Winger Vladimir Tarasenko is expected to return during a six-game trip to California.

                

    14. Chicago Blackhawks (Last Week: 13th)

    Positivity continued with two wins in three games for the league's most surprising team, but the coming schedule features five consecutive contests against the two teams that played for the Stanley Cup last season. Finnish rookie Kevin Lankinen remains steady with a .924 save percentage.

               

    13. Edmonton Oilers (Last Week: 7th)

    The good news: The Oilers had still won 11 of their last 15 games heading into Wednesday night's finale of a three-game series with the Toronto Maple Leafs. But they have shown no consistent ability to crack the league's elite level and are just 4-6 combined against Toronto and the Winnipeg Jets.

                

    12. Philadelphia Flyers (Last Week: 16th)

    Three wins and two shutouts were positive talking points for the Flyers, who beat the Rangers (4-3) before outscoring Buffalo (6-0) across two straight victories. Of concern, Philadelphia has scored just three times in its past 30 power-play opportunities and sits 21st in the league at 17.7 percent overall.

               

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

    Wins are coming in multiple ways these days for the Islanders, who sit just outside the top 10 after scoring seven times in a defeat of the Bruins and then allowing a single goal while beating the Penguins and Devils. Winger Oliver Wahlstrom had three goals and two assists in the four games.

Nos. 10-6: Wild, Jets, Avalanche, Capitals, Bruins

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    10. Minnesota Wild (Last Week: 18th)

    The days of the staid old neutral zone-trapping Wild were DOA this week as the new-look Minnesotans scored 17 times in four games, winning three and getting a point in an overtime loss to Vegas. Kirill Kaprizov is tops among NHL rookies in both points (17) and assists (11) through Tuesday's games.

           

    9. Winnipeg Jets (Last Week: 8th)

    It was a good week to go all-in on the Jets, who scored 13 goals while winning three times in four games against Montreal (2-0) and Vancouver (1-1). The streak put Winnipeg a point up on Edmonton for second in the North through Tuesday.

             

    8. Colorado Avalanche (Last Week: 9th)

    Losses to the Wild and Sharks bookended two wins over the Coyotes for the Avalanche, who were at San Jose again Wednesday. A team meeting followed a Monday loss in which the Sharks finished with six straight goals. "[Conversations] were to the point and honest and fair," Avs coach Jared Bednar said.

           

    7. Washington Capitals (Last Week: 10th)

    It's a welcome return to prosperity for the Capitals, who used three victories through Tuesday to surge into a first-place tie with the Islanders atop the East. Goalie Ilya Samsonov returned to the Washington net for the first time since mid-January in a 3-2 defeat of the Devils, stopping 19 of 21 shots.

             

    6. Boston Bruins (Last Week: 2nd)

    It was a bloodletting between the pipes for the Bruins in losses to the Islanders and Rangers, with goalies Jaroslav Halak and Tuukka Rask allowing 13 goals. Rask solidified things with 20 saves in a 4-1 defeat of the Rangers on Sunday before a visit by the Capitals on Wednesday night.

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

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    5. Florida Panthers (Last Week: 5th)

    The Panthers won just once in four games but stay in fifth on the power of a remarkable start that's seen them lose just four times in regulation over 21 games. A split with the Stars was followed by two straight extra-time defeats by Carolina, once in overtime and once in a shootout.

              

    4. Carolina Hurricanes (Last Week: 3rd)

    The Sunshine State taketh away but also giveth for the Hurricanes, who began the week with two losses to the Lightning before finishing with two defeats of the Panthers and another win at Nashville. Goaltender James Reimer is 8-3 in 11 starts since Petr Mrazek suffered a thumb injury in late January.

           

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

    Two overtimes meant two victories for the up-again Golden Knights, who sat first in the West through Tuesday night thanks to those wins over Anaheim and Minnesota before a series finale with the Wild on Wednesday. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is an early-season Vezina candidate with a .935 save percentage.

            

    1(tie). Toronto Maple Leafs (Last Week: 1st)

    People were looking forward to the three-game set between the North Division front-runners and the surging Oilers, but the first two showed the chasm between the Maple Leafs and their Canadian brethren. Toronto was 3-0 through Tuesday even without Auston Matthews and Frederik Andersen.

            

    1(tie). Tampa Bay Lightning (Last Week: 4th)

    The defending Stanley Cup champs are hard enough to play against. But when you can't score against them, it's almost unfair. The Lightning played four games in a week, winning them all while allowing a single goal. That's three more shutouts for Andrei Vasilevskiy, whose goals-against average is down to 1.65 through 17 games.