NHL Power Rankings: Lightning Lose No. 1 Position, Avs and Caps Share Top Spot

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistApril 1, 2021

NHL Power Rankings: Lightning Lose No. 1 Position, Avs and Caps Share Top Spot

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Just when it appeared the Tampa Bay Lightning were invincible, they proved otherwise.

    The defending Stanley Cup champs had their most challenging week of 2020-21, dropping three straight games for the first time this season and falling (gasp!) into a first-place tie in the Central Division.

    The skid also cost the Lightning the penthouse suite—at least temporarilyin the weekly B/R power rankings, where a three-way split among the four-person voting panel yielded another tie at the top.

    Reaping the benefits of the decision gridlock were the Colorado Avalanche and Washington Capitals, who moved up from fourth and seventh, respectively, to assume the dual No. 1 positions.

    Just seven days earlier, the Lightning were a unanimous choice.

    Of course, the upheaval was not limited to the elite teams. In fact, take a look at our comprehensive 31-to-1 placements this time around, and let us know how you see it in the comments section.

Nos. 31-26: Sabres, Ducks, Red Wings, Senators, Sharks, Devils

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    Chris Seward/Associated Press

    31. Buffalo Sabres (Last Week: 31st)

    It's not good when your straits are so dire that people start referencing the worst non-expansion teams of all time—which Yahoo Sports did this week, listing the 2020-21 Sabres ahead of just three of the lowliest bottom-dwellers of the post-Original Six era. Going winless for more than a month will do that.

            

    30. Anaheim Ducks (Last Week: 30th)

    It's hard to score goals when you don't get shots, and that's precisely the problem that has dogged the Ducks throughout March. Anaheim was outshot 48-15 in Monday's 5-2 loss in Colorado, which ran its shot differential for the month to minus-71. That was worse than all but five teams in the league.

            

    29. Detroit Red Wings (Last Week: 28th)

    The afterglow of a sweep of the visiting Columbus was short-lived, as the Red Wings headed to Miami and found themselves down three in the first period on the way to a 4-1 loss to the Panthers. It's the first of four straight in Florida for Detroit, though Filip Zadina did end an 11-game scoring drought.

             

    28. Ottawa Senators (Last Week: 29th)

    Predictably, the Senators were affected by the COVID-19 concerns surrounding the Montreal Canadiens, against whom they had two games scrubbed this week. They won't play until Thursday night, meaning they will have gone a full week without games since losing in OT to Toronto on March 25.

           

    27. San Jose Sharks (Last Week: 27th)

    Two wins at home and two losses on the road were bullet points for the Sharks, who saw Patrick Marleau, at 41, pass for second on the league's all-time games list. He's played at least 74 games in 18 non-truncated NHL seasons and has the league's second-longest active ironman streak.

              

    26. New Jersey Devils (Last Week: 26th)

    The Devils had a golden opportunity to escape with a .500 week but saw a two-goal lead evaporate in the third period and a subsequent overtime power-play chance squandered on the way to a shootout loss to Boston. On the plus side, captain Nico Hischier is working out again after a sinus fracture.

Nos. 25-21: Stars, Kings, Blue Jackets, Canucks, Flames

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    25. Dallas Stars (Last Week: 24th)

    The bad news: Dallas lost three times in four games this week. The good news: Reinforcements are on the way. Injured forward Tyler Seguin, who had hip surgery in November and has not played this season, has been skating on his own and could begin practicing after the Stars return from a road trip next week.

            

    24. Los Angeles Kings (Last Week: 19th)

    Rebuilding? Retooling? Reacting? Call it what you like, but amid a week in which the Kings failed to win, the transaction wire was alight. Defenseman Christian Wolanin arrived from Ottawa for Michael Amadio and forward Brendan Lemieux came from the New York Rangers in exchange for a 2021 fourth-round draft pick.

           

    23. Columbus Blue Jackets (Last Week: 20th)

    Well, if you're going to win one game in a week, why not make it against the Stanley Cup champions? That success came Tuesday night, after a series of lineup jiggles brought newly acquired defenseman Mikko Lehtonen into the mix along with former Ohio State product Zac Dalpe—who made his 2020-21 debut.

         

    22. Vancouver Canucks (Last Week: 22nd)

    With the players on the shelf for much of the week, the Canucks front office got to work on a significant offseason priority, locking down emerging No. 1 goalie Thatcher Demko to a five-year contract. The 25-year-old was stellar in last summer's playoffs and has 12 wins in 25 starts this season.

            

    21. Calgary Flames (Last Week: 21st)

    There's concern in Calgary about Jacob Markstrom, who's gone 4-7 in 12 starts since colliding with Vancouver's Tanner Pearson on Feb. 17. He's allowed at least three goals eight times in those games, and his save percentage has tumbled to .902—14th in the NHL among goalies with at least 20 games played.

Nos. 20-16: Flyers, Rangers, Blackhawks, Blues, Coyotes

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    Joe Puetz/Associated Press

    20. Philadelphia Flyers (Last Week: 16th)

    A near-tumble against the historically futile Sabres—the Flyers rallied from three goals down to win in overtime—was a cautionary blip that may or may not have prompted the subsequent waiving of defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. The 2012 draft choice had 11 points in 25 games prior to the move.

            

    19. New York Rangers (Last Week: 18th)

    A dreadful start has morphed into fringe playoff contention for the Rangers, who defeated Washington on Tuesday to climb to within five points of fourth place in the East. It will likely mean a heavy workload for Igor Shesterkin, who allowed seven goals on 113 shots in his last three games—a .939 save percentage.

          

    18. Chicago Blackhawks (Last Week: 17th)

    Another mixed week for the Blackhawks, who split four home games—losing twice to Nashville and beating Florida and Carolina—and fell into a tie for fourth in the Central heading into Wednesday's games. Dylan Strome missed a game for the birth of a daughter and then scored in his return.

           

    17. St. Louis Blues (Last Week: 14th)

    The Blues scored three times in three losses and fell to 17th in the league in goals per game. Part of the cause is a tangible drop in scoring from defensemen, who have contributed five goals in 21 games after starting the season with 10 in 14. Torey Krug, a free-agent signing from Boston, hasn't scored since Jan. 23.

              

    16. Arizona Coyotes (Last Week: 23rd)

    Two impressive wins over San Jose extended the Coyotes' run to three straight heading into Wednesday. Arizona scored nine times and allowed only two goals against the Sharks and moved to within a point of skidding St. Louis in the West. Christian Dvorak had two goals and an assist in the victories.

Nos. 15-11: Canadiens, Predators, Oilers, Bruins, Jets

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    15. Montreal Canadiens (Last Week: 15th)

    Ten days off was just the scenario the Canadiens needed, as they ripped Edmonton 4-0 after a bevy of postponements because of COVID-19 protocols. Meanwhile, the team will soon benefit from the arrival of veteran Eric Staal, who was acquired from Buffalo for third- and fifth-round picks in 2021 but must quarantine after crossing into Canada.

            

    14. Nashville Predators (Last Week: 25th)

    It's a bird. It's a plane. It's the Nashville Predators, soaring back to respectability and a tie for a playoff berth with four wins during a week in which they outscored opponents 16-6. That makes six straight wins overall for the Preds, who had been forecast as trade deadline sellers but may be changing course.

            

    13. Edmonton Oilers (Last Week: 11th)

    It's hard to draw definitive conclusions on the Oilers, who lost a two-goal lead at Toronto on Saturday, rallied to beat the Maple Leafs two days later and then laid an egg in a rescheduled game Tuesday at Montreal. Connor McDavid also received a $5,000 fine for an elbow on Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi.

          

    12. Boston Bruins (Last Week: 10th)

    David Pastrnak netted the shootout winner in a defeat of New Jersey but had just a single point in four games after scoring 27 points in his first 21 games. Elsewhere, coach Bruce Cassidy called out some players for a lack of energy, including the fourth line of Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman.

             

    11. Winnipeg Jets (Last Week: 12th)

    It's Winnipeg's turn in the "Can Anyone Catch Toronto" chute, with a two-gamer against the Maple Leafs that began Wednesday and continues Friday. The Jets entered the series a point out of first place after a week that yielded 15 goals and a nod from Sports Illustrated for the best forward group in the NHL.

Nos. 10-6: Islanders, Maple Leafs, Wild, Penguins, Panthers

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    10. New York Islanders (Last Week: 5th)

    An OT win at Boston was followed by consecutive losses at Pittsburgh, which presumably means the Islanders will be thrilled to get home for six straight beginning Thursday with Washington. New York is a poor 2-5-1 against the Penguins this season and a stellar 20-5-3 against everyone else.

             

    9. Toronto Maple Leafs (Last Week: 9th)

    It's a four-game western trip for the Maple Leafs, who began two games with Winnipeg on Wednesday and will continue with two at Calgary through Monday. Center Alex Galchenyuk, acquired from Carolina in mid-February, has three assists in six games after a single point in eight games with the Hurricanes.

         

    8. Minnesota Wild (Last Week: 8th)

    The Wild are winning and will enter April in the race for first in the West. Still, Minnesota had a minus-97 shot differential across its past seven games entering Wednesday and will face Vegas and Colorado four times from Thursday through next Wednesday. The Avalanche won the teams' past two meetings, 5-1 and 6-0.

             

    7. Pittsburgh Penguins (Last Week: 13th)

    And all of a sudden, the championship window in Steel City is open again. The Penguins finished a four-win week with two straight over the Islanders and completed the month with a 12-3-1 record that yielded a league-best 25 points. Pittsburgh has allowed three or fewer goals in 14 straight games.

              

    6. Florida Panthers (Last Week: 6th)

    Three wins in four games and a plus-seven goal differential for the week are certainly positive, but presumably losing defenseman Aaron Ekblad for the remainder of the season to a leg injury dealt a significant emotional blow to a surging team. He had surgery Monday and will miss 12 weeks.

Nos. 5-1: Lightning, Golden Knights, Hurricanes, Capitals, Avalanche

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    5. Tampa Bay Lightning (Last Week: 1st)

    The Tampa Bay Lightning are human. The reigning Stanley Cup champs had lost just six times in regulation through 32 games before falling three straight times this week alone. Conn Smythe winner Victor Hedman left Tuesday's loss to Columbus after an awkward fall but returned a few shifts later.

             

    4. Vegas Golden Knights (Last Week: 2nd)

    Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo practiced for the first time Monday and was on track to return Wednesday night after not playing since March 6 against San Jose. Pietrangelo had 10 points—including two on the power play—in 19 games before his injury. He had 22 power-play points for St. Louis in 2019-20.

           

    3. Carolina Hurricanes (Last Week: 3rd)

    Live by the one-goal game, die by the one-goal game. The Hurricanes got a little of both, defeating Columbus and Tampa Bay 4-3 before losing 2-1 to Chicago. The two wins, coupled with the Lightning's skid, moved the Hurricanes within a single point of first place in the Central.

           

    1 (tie). Washington Capitals (Last Week: 7th)

    A late implosion resulted in a loss to the Rangers to end the week, but it was still almost entirely positive for the Capitals, who finished March with an 11-3 record and in a tie with the Lightning and Panthers for the most points in the league (50). Alex Ovechkin had 11 goals for the month and has 18 for the season.

         

    1 (tie). Colorado Avalanche (Last Week: 4th)

    Two games against St. Louis will finish a six-game homestand in which the Avalanche are 3-1 after a 9-3 victory over Arizona on Wednesday. Colorado will finish the next seven-day stretch with a two-game visit to Minnesota. Elsewhere, 2019 first-round pick Alex Newhook turned pro with an entry-level deal.

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