NHL Power Rankings: Where Every Team Stands Heading into the Playoffs

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistMay 14, 2021

NHL Power Rankings: Where Every Team Stands Heading into the Playoffs

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    If you feel like you might have seen this before, you have.

    The Colorado Avalanche were a popular pick to have a successful regular season on the way to a Stanley Cup championship—the third since the franchise relocated from Quebec City in 1995.

    With a defeat of the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night in Denver, coach Jared Bednar's team delivered on Part 1 of the promise, securing the league's best record across an abbreviated 56-game schedule.

    Also, with the victory comes the Presidents' Trophy and favored status to capture the Cup, though only eight teams have completed the hardware parlay since the trophy was first awarded in 1986.

    Colorado was one of those, winning both the trophy and the Cup in 2001.

    But that's not all.

    The regular-season finale also cemented the Avalanche's place atop the weekly B/R power rankings, thanks to a unanimous decision from the five-person hockey-writing team.

    It's Colorado's first top-spot placement since April and knocks the Carolina Hurricanes back after their one-week stay at No. 1.

    Click through to see how the list came together from Nos. 31 to 2 as well, and drop a thought or two in the comments section to let us know how we did.

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

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    Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

    31. Buffalo Sabres (Last Week: 31st)

    Regardless of which side of the "disconnect" between Jack Eichel and the Sabres you choose to align yourself, it's pretty clear the situation between the organization and the No. 2 draft pick in 2015 has veered perilously close to untenable. That'll be the recurring story in Buffalo this offseason.


    30. Anaheim Ducks (Last Week: 29th)

    Few goals. Few wins. That's the main takeaway from 2020-21 for the Ducks, whose 124 goals in 56 games were the fewest in the league. And if you're looking for a culprit, it's all about the power(less) play, which scored on just 8.9 percent of its opportunities—worst in the league by 2.5 percentage points.


    29. New Jersey Devils (Last Week: 28th)

    It was another year of suffering for the Devils, who shipped out veterans and kept stocking the cupboard with prospects and draft picks. But there's a ton of wiggle room under the salary cap because of it, which could mean another run at Taylor Hall or even a call to the Sabres about Jack Eichel. "The message is, we don't want to be in the same place," coach Lindy Ruff said.


    28. Columbus Blue Jackets (Last Week: 30th)

    It's six seasons and out for John Tortorella in Columbus after it was reported and then confirmed over the weekend that he and the organization would mutually part ways at season's end. He exits after making the playoffs four times—including the memorable sweep of the high-powered Tampa Bay Lightning in 2019—and winning more games than any coach in Blue Jackets history.


    27. San Jose Sharks (Last Week: 24th)

    It wasn't a celebratory lap with the Stanley Cup, but veteran Patrick Marleau did get some cool parting gifts at the close of his 23rd and possibly last NHL season. Now the league's record-holder for games played, Marleau was presented with a stick used by Gordie Howe, whose record Marleau broke, in his final game back on April 6, 1980. The presentation was requested by the Howe family.


    26. Detroit Red Wings (Last Week: 27th)

    It was a rough year in Detroit, too, but former coach Scotty Bowman endorsed GM Steve Yzerman's plan. "To have a good team and keep it together takes a lot of gymnastics," Bowman told the Detroit Free Press (via Detroit Sports Nation). "Steve's not impatient. It takes five years to build a team, and he's only in his second year. Look what he did in Tampa Bay. Those are his players and look how well they've done."

Nos. 25-21: Canucks, Flames, Senators, Kings, Coyotes

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    Michael Owen Baker/Associated Press

    25. Vancouver Canucks (Last Week: 26th)

    The Canucks still have a few more games to play on a COVID-19-ravaged schedule, but now that the playoffs are no longer a possibility, the focus turns to coach Travis Green, who is not signed to return next season. "I'm not going to comment on coaching negotiations," GM Jim Benning said in March. "But it's something that we would like to get done moving forward."


    24. Calgary Flames (Last Week: 20th)

    Inconsistency as a team and a lack of production from top-line forwards spelled doom for the Flames, who were bounced from playoff contention for the first time in three seasons after having qualified in four of the past six. Calgary was 11-11-2 under coach Geoff Ward and 12-15-1 under his replacement Darryl Sutter. Also, the Flames' average of 2.63 goals per game was just 23rd in the NHL through Wednesday.


    23. Ottawa Senators (Last Week: 25th)

    The Senators were as dreadful as dreadful could be in the early going, but they found competitive legs and revealed a mettle as the schedule progressed under coach D.J. Smith. A defeat of cross-province rival Toronto was a nice way to finish. "I feel we played right to the end, win or lose," he said. "These guys are getting better, and it's just good to see."


    22. Los Angeles Kings (Last Week: 22nd)

    The season has been forgettable overall for the Kings, but the homestretch perked up with the debut of teenage center Quinton Byfield, selected second overall at the 2020 draft. The 6'4", 215-pounder played six games from April 28 to May 7, getting between 12:59 and 17:59 of ice time, registering one assist and posting a positive plus/minus (plus-1).


    21. Arizona Coyotes (Last Week: 19th)

    The team's seventh miss of the playoffs in eight seasons meant the end of the line for coach Rick Tocchet, who was let go after four years behind the Arizona bench. The Coyotes lost 12 of 15 games in a key stretch after essentially standing pat at the trade deadline, winding up three points outside of the postseason. Tocchet qualified once in his four seasons.

Nos. 20-16: Flyers, Blackhawks, Rangers, Canadiens, Stars

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    Peter Power/Associated Press

    20. Philadelphia Flyers (Last Week: 21st)

    It was inglorious fall from No. 1 Eastern Conference seed to no playoffs for the Flyers, who saw a number of core players either stagnate or regress. Goalie Carter Hart went from a 2.42 goals-against average and .914 save percentage to a 3.67 and .877. "He's climbed the ladder very quickly, and clearly this year didn't go the way he had hoped or the way we had all hoped," GM Chuck Fletcher said.


    19. Chicago Blackhawks (Last Week: 23rd)

    The end-of-season news turned ugly off the ice when an unidentified former player sued the Blackhawks, alleging he and a teammate were sexually assaulted in 2010 by Brad Aldrich, who was a video coach at the time. WBEZ Chicago said Aldrich was convicted of a sex crime in Michigan from a separate incident and is a registered sex offender in that state.


    18. New York Rangers (Last Week: 16th)

    Thought the purge was over after the Rangers axed John Davidson and Jeff Gorton from the front office? Think again. Coach David Quinn also took the fall for a mediocre season on Wednesday, along with three of his assistants. New GM Chris Drury said a search would begin immediately. "That message has been sent and received," forward Ryan Strome said. "We've just got to get into the playoffs."


    17. Montreal Canadiens (Last Week: 15th)

    An 0-5 skid was not the way the Canadiens wanted to close the regular season, but the onset of the playoffs will mean the returns of goalie Carey Price and forward Brendan Gallagher. Price hasn't played since suffering a concussion against Edmonton on April 19, while Gallagher broke his right thumb on April 5 after he was hit by a teammate's shot.


    16. Dallas Stars (Last Week: 18th)

    Given that only a four-point gap existed between the fifth-place Stars and the fourth-place finish that would have yielded a playoff berth, it's no surprise the season will be recalled with regret. Additionally, Dallas lost 14 OT games and saw a lot of players struggle with production. "Our team play was really strong, but we had some individuals who I don't think had very good years," coach Rick Bowness said.

Nos. 15-11: Jets, Blues, Predators, Islanders, Oilers

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    15. Winnipeg Jets (Last Week: 17th)

    Given their 2-7 deficit in the season series with first-round foe Edmonton, it stands to reason that better goaltending will be required for the Jets to stick around for Round 2. Starter Connor Hellebuyck was 2-5 against the Oilers with an .877 percentage and a 3.96 goals-against average. For the season overall in those categories, his numbers were 2.60 and .915.


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

    Whether it will matter remains to be seen, but the Blues will have more fan support for at least two home playoff games with a boost in allowed attendance from 4,100 to 5,000 at Enterprise Center—or 27.6 percent of capacity. "Any fans help, so for us 5,000 [is good]. Hopefully that goes up more and more. We'll see,” forward Brayden Schenn said. "We obviously love playing in front of our fans."


    13. Nashville Predators (Last Week: 13th)

    The bad news? Nashville beat first-round opponent Carolina twice in eight head-to-head matchups. The good news? Those two wins came in the final two games of the season—by a combined 8-1 total—so the Predators will have some optimism to cling to as they open the postseason. Prior to those two games, Nashville had one standings point (an OT loss on March 9) and was outscored 30-13 in the first six.


    12. New York Islanders (Last Week: 12th)

    The alarm bells sounded when starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov left the season finale with Boston after two periods with a lower-body strain. But coach Barry Trotz tempered fears by saying that the team's breakout star of last year's playoffs would be good to go when New York travels to Pittsburgh. "I don't have any concerns that he's not going to be ready for the series," Trotz said.


    11. Edmonton Oilers (Last Week: 11th)

    The Oilers finished the season with a pair of OT wins over North Division boogeyman Montreal and head to the postseason's first round brimming with confidence. They've defeated Winnipeg six straight times, have won seven in a row on the road, boast the best power play in the league at 28.1 percent and a penalty kill that's the best in the North Division.

Nos. 10-6: Bruins, Capitals, Wild, Lightning, Penguins

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    10. Boston Bruins (Last Week: 10th)

    As third-place teams go, they don't get a lot more dangerous than the Bruins as they enter a first-round series with second-seeded Washington. Boston was 4-2 in regulation and got two more standings points with OT losses against the Capitals this season and was 12-4-1 down the stretch after the trade deadline on April 12. Goalie Tuukka Rask was 7-1 in nine starts after returning from an injury in mid-April.


    9. Washington Capitals (Last Week: 9th)

    As for the Capitals, the status in the net isn't quite as cut-and-dried as it is with the Bruins. Coach Peter Laviolette hadn't named a Game 1 playoff starter as of Thursday evening, with the decision likely down to rookie Vitek Vanecek (21-10-4, 2.69 goals-against average) or second-year man Ilya Samsonov (18-13-4, 2.69). Also on the roster is veteran Craig Anderson, who appeared in just four games this season.


    8. Minnesota Wild (Last Week: 6th)

    First things first, there's a first-round playoff series to plan for against the West Division's elite. But mentions of the Wild in connection with a potential Jack Eichel trade are making the off-ice rounds in the final throes of the regular season. "Obviously the idea of Eichel playing with Kirill Kaprizov on the same line certainly seems to be fun to think about," TSN's Pierre LeBrun said.  


    7. Tampa Bay Lightning (Last Week: 5th)

    The Lightning lost their final two games, both to the Florida Panthers. And they lost their final three meetings with the Panthers in the season series by a 14-4 margin. So it's no surprise Tampa Bay fans are a trifle concerned with the prospect of facing Florida in the first round. Still, the sight of injured stars Victor Hedman, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov practicing on Thursday was welcome.


    6. Pittsburgh Penguins (Last Week: 7th)

    It didn't generate the volume of headlines that Taylor Hall's move from Buffalo to Boston did, but the Penguins' acquisition of Jeff Carter from the Los Angeles Kings on April 11 triggered a 10-3-1 run down the stretch and a first-place finish in the East. The 36-year-old, a two-time Stanley Cup champion in L.A., scored nine goals and notched 11 points with Pittsburgh.

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

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    5. Toronto Maple Leafs (Last Week: 8th)

    Speaking of goaltenders, Frederik Andersen returned to the Toronto net on Wednesday night, his first appearance since March 19. He allowed four goals on 28 shots in a 4-3 OT loss to Ottawa. Jack Campbell made 18 starts for the Maple Leafs in Andersen's absence, winning 14 times and allowing two or fewer goals in 10 of those games.


    4. Florida Panthers (Last Week: 4th)

    The Panthers are set to face their cross-state rivals in the playoffs for the first time, and though they had their way in the season series—going 5-2-1 in eight games with a plus-seven goal differential—they'll have goalie questions. Youngsters Chris Driedger and Spencer Knight were a combined 18-6-3 but have never played a playoff game. Veteran Sergei Bobrovsky had a .906 save percentage across 31 games.


    3. Carolina Hurricanes (Last Week: 1st)

    Another team, another set of goalie questions. Alex Nedeljkovic and Petr Mrazek were respectively second and sixth in goals-against average among goalies who played 10 games and second and 10th in save percentage. But the former has never played in the playoffs and the latter is 11-14 in 26 starts. "It's fairly easy. Somebody's going to play, and you feel good about all of them," coach Rod Brind'Amour said.


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

    High-priced goalies Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury performed to their tax bracket all season. Fleury finished the season with his sixth shutout on Wednesday and won his final nine games while not allowing more than two goals in any game. He and Lehner (13-4-2, .913 save percentage) earned the Jennings Trophy as the primary goalies on a team that allowed the fewest goals (124).


    1. Colorado Avalanche (Last Week: 2nd)

    The pace-setting Avalanche will have home-ice advantage in every series and will play any Game 7s that are necessary at Ball Arena. It will be a bit more crowded there in the playoffs after the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment granted approval to boost the number of fans allowed from 4,050 in the regular season to 7,750 in the postseason.