NHL Power Rankings: Stanley Cup Champion Lightning All Alone at the Top
It was an especially busy week in a remarkably busy season.
The NHL saw another coaching change, welcomed back a superstar after a leave of absence and agreed to a massive television deal that brings ESPN back into the hockey business for the first time since 2005.
Oh, and a lot of teams played a lot of games, too.
That was the main focus of the B/R ice hockey collective as it convened for a weekly debate and compilation of new bottom-to-top power rankings. Significant upheaval remained the rule, with a new occupant at the top, some shifting just above the bottom and several in-betweens seeing dramatic rises or falls.
Take a look at where everyone landed, and let us know what you think in the comments section.
Nos. 31-26: Sabres, Red Wings, Ducks, Senators, Sharks, Devils
31. Buffalo Sabres (Last Week: 31st)
Just when you thought things in Buffalo couldn't get any worse, the Sabres tossed out a second straight winless week—stretching their skid to eight straight games—in which they were outscored 20-10. Jack Eichel is out for the time being, too, after a hard check during Sunday's loss to the New York Islanders.
30. Detroit Red Wings (Last Week: 29th)
Two steps forward preceded one step back for the Red Wings, who were routed by the Carolina Hurricanes before dropping an overtime decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Detroit held a one-goal lead into the third period against the champs in a game played before 750 fans at Little Caesars Arena.
29. Anaheim Ducks (Last Week: 27th)
Nail-biting was the theme of the week for the Ducks, who lost a pair of one-goal decisions before winning two games in overtime. The two wins yielded 11 goals for Anaheim, a nice bump from its average of 2.31 goals per game through 26 outings. That clip is good for 29th among 31 teams.
28. Ottawa Senators (Last Week: 30th)
The standings and scores don't always show it, but there's been a distinct improvement in fortunes for the Senators since a dreadful start in January. A 1-2 week didn't get Ottawa out of the North Division cellar, but the Calgary Flames became the second team to fire a coach after a game with the Senators.
27. San Jose Sharks (Last Week: 23rd)
The Sharks were blanked twice while opening the week with three straight losses before finally rebounding with an overtime defeat of the St. Louis Blues on Monday. Meanwhile, Daniel Kaplan and Kevin Kurz of The Athletic reported the team is considering nixing the final four-plus seasons on Evander Kane's seven-year, $49 million deal (h/t Justin Cuthbert of Yahoo).
26. New Jersey Devils (Last Week: 25th)
A shutout of the Boston Bruins was the outlier during a week in which the Devils allowed 17 goals in losses to the New York Rangers (twice) and Washington Capitals. Goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood is just 1-6 since beginning the season with a 4-0-1 stretch, and his goals-against average has swelled to 2.97.
Nos. 25-21: Predators, Canucks, Stars, Blue Jackets, Rangers
25. Nashville Predators (Last Week: 21st)
Two losses to the Florida Panthers preceded extra-session work for the Predators, who defeated the Dallas Stars in a shootout before losing to the Hurricanes in overtime. Nashville's depleted blue-line corps took another hit when Dante Fabbro was suspended two games for an elbow against Carolina.
24. Vancouver Canucks (Last Week: 28th)
There's some light at the midway point of the 2020-21 tunnel for the Canucks, who strung together two wins over the North-leading Toronto Maple Leafs and another over the Montreal Canadiens heading into Wednesday night. Goalie Thatcher Demko allowed four goals on 101 shots in the trio of victories.
23. Dallas Stars (Last Week: 26th)
Inconsistent much? The Stars resembled last year's Stanley Cup finalists while blowing out the Columbus Blue Jackets and Chicago Blackhawks by an 11-1 total, but the week was even-up thanks to one-goal losses to Columbus and the Predators. Rookie winger Jason Robertson had two goals and five assists.
22. Columbus Blue Jackets (Last Week: 22nd)
It wasn't exactly an offensive extravaganza for the Blue Jackets, who managed just five goals while dropping two of three games. The team's rate of 2.59 goals per game is 26th in the league, and its average shot total of 28.9 is tied for 22nd. Patrik Laine hasn't scored in seven games since Feb. 23.
21. New York Rangers (Last Week: 24th)
Are the Rangers awakening from a first-half slumber? Maybe. Or maybe it's just when they play the Devils. New York scored 12 times in two wins over New Jersey but was outscored 9-3 in consecutive losses to the Pittsburgh Penguins. No. 1 pick Alexis Lafreniere had his first multi-point game last Thursday.
Nos. 20-16: Flames, Coyotes, Kings, Canadiens, Blackhawks
20. Calgary Flames (Last Week: 20th)
It's back to the future for the Flames behind the bench with the arrival of Darryl Sutter, who coached the team to a Stanley Cup Final in 2004 before winning a pair of championships with the Los Angeles Kings. He replaced Geoff Ward and sent the team to a bag skate in the first practice after his arrival.
19. Arizona Coyotes (Last Week: 19th)
One-goal wins over the Kings and Colorado Avalanche sandwiched a split with the Minnesota Wild for the Coyotes, who sat a point out of fourth in the West Division after Tuesday's games. Ominously, though, goalie Darcy Kuemper left Monday's game and is listed week-to-week with a lower-body injury.
18. Los Angeles Kings (Last Week: 18th)
A three-loss week made it five in six games through Tuesday night for the Kings, who find themselves in a goaltending bind, too, after Cal Petersen entered COVID-19 protocol and Jonathan Quick exited a game with an upper-body injury. That means they have turned to Troy Grosenick, who had not played in an NHL contest since 2014.
17. Montreal Canadiens (Last Week: 17th)
Lose one game in overtime and another in a shootout, but win the other by six goals. Such is the tumult of the Canadiens, who were the league's best team early before a plummet led to a fired coach. Montreal has allowed 16 goals in six games under interim boss Dominique Ducharme, winning twice in regulation.
16. Chicago Blackhawks (Last Week: 14th)
The Blackhawks were competitive, if not particularly successful, in four games against last season's final two playoff teams. Chicago won once, lost once and got an overtime point once against Tampa Bay before it was routed, 6-1, by Dallas. The loss to the Stars was the 1,000th game of forward Patrick Kane's career.
Nos. 15-11: Oilers, Flyers, Wild, Penguins, Blues
15. Edmonton Oilers (Last Week: 13th)
It was back to the drawing board for the Oilers after a calamitous three-game set against the Maple Leafs saw them outscored 13-1. Wins against Calgary and Ottawa (twice) righted the ship somewhat, and the team has been connected to trade rumors regarding forwards Eric Staal and Jake DeBrusk.
14. Philadelphia Flyers (Last Week: 12th)
A split with the Penguins was the precursor to a one-off loss to Washington and a one-off defeat of Buffalo for the Flyers, who pulled goalie Carter Hart against the Sabres. He's been yanked from three starts this season and has a 3.61 goals-against average in 15 games after posting a 2.42 GAA last season.
13. Minnesota Wild (Last Week: 10th)
Two wins in three games with the Vegas Golden Knights make for another solid week for the Wild, who scored once on the power play Wednesday night to marginally improve the dreadful 5-of-74 clip they had entering the game. Winger Kirill Kaprizov continues to lead all rookies in assists and points.
12. Pittsburgh Penguins (Last Week: 16th)
It's three straight and four of six for the once-again-resurgent Penguins, who cooled off a red-hot Rangers team with nine goals in two games on Sunday and Tuesday. Goaltender Tristan Jarry is 8-3 in his last 11 starts dating back to mid-February, and his 10 wins overall are tied for ninth-best in the league.
11. St. Louis Blues (Last Week: 15th)
If you feel like you saw a little extra Blues hockey this week, you're right. St. Louis went beyond 60 minutes of regulation three times in four games through Tuesday night, winning once, and it added a one-goal defeat of Anaheim to make it a two-win, six-point week—helping maintain second in the West.
Nos. 10-6: Avalanche, Jets, Bruins, Capitals, Islanders
10. Colorado Avalanche (Last Week: 8th)
It looked like a banner week for the Avalanche after a shutout of San Jose and a one-goal decision over Anaheim, but subsequent losses to the Ducks and Coyotes reined in the optimism. Forward Nathan MacKinnon was due back Wednesday night after missing three games following a hard hit on March 3.
9. Winnipeg Jets (Last Week: 9th)
Winning two of three was at least slightly tempered by the 13 goals the Jets allowed, including seven on 28 shots against Connor Hellebuyck and Laurent Brossoit by the Canadiens on Saturday. Winnipeg is middle of the pack in both total goals allowed (16th, tied) and goals allowed per game (19th).
8. Boston Bruins (Last Week: 6th)
The Bruins offense all but evaporated as the team lost three of four, scoring just seven goals though it somehow allowed only six. Defenseman Brandon Carlo is likely out for a bit after he was on the receiving end of a dangerous hit from Washington's Tom Wilson, who was suspended seven games.
7. Washington Capitals (Last Week: 7th)
Boston's famine was Washington's feast as the Capitals managed 11 goals in four games, including wins over the Bruins, Flyers and Devils. Winger T.J. Oshie has five of his six goals on the power play for the Caps, whose 27 percent success rate with the man advantage is sixth-best in the league.
6. New York Islanders (Last Week: 11th)
If you think you can find a team that had a better week than the Islanders, don't bother. New York won three straight games against Buffalo and added another against Boston in a Tuesday shootout, stretching its streak to six in a row and climbing into first place in the East Division through Tuesday.
Nos. 5-1: Panthers, Maple Leafs, Hurricanes, Golden Knights, Lightning
5. Florida Panthers (Last Week: 5th)
Sunday's loss to the Hurricanes was the only blemish on the week for the Panthers, who won three times, scored 17 goals and kept themselves just two points behind Tampa Bay in the Central. Former Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky has heated up, winning four of his last five starts while allowing 13 goals.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs (Last Week: 1st, tie)
Whaddya know? The Maple Leafs can have bad weeks, too. Front-runners or co-front-runners in the rankings for two straight weeks, Toronto tumbled to fourth thanks to a three-game skid that followed three routs of Edmonton. The Leafs managed just six goals while falling to Vancouver (twice) and Winnipeg.
3. Carolina Hurricanes (Last Week: 4th)
This just in: The Hurricanes are pretty good. Three wins this week pushed their latest streak to six in a row. Carolina is getting especially strong play at center these days, where Sebastian Aho, Vincent Trocheck and Jordan Staal have combined for 33 goals and 70 points through 25 games.
2. Vegas Golden Knights (Last Week: 3rd)
A week that started with three straight wins took a downturn for the Golden Knights, who dropped consecutive decisions to the Wild on Monday (2-0) and Wednesday (4-3). More bad news: Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo is out for the "foreseeable future" after blocking a shot Saturday.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning (Last Week: 1st, tie)
Let's face it. The Lightning could easily have been first every week this season already considering their status as defending Stanley Cup champions and elite play in the first two months. But they're getting better. Two wins over three games in Chicago and another at Detroit have Tampa Bay first in the Central.