NHL Power Rankings: Hurricanes Drop from No. 1; Maple Leafs and Panthers Rise
The southernmost juggernaut is back in business.
After grappling back and forth with the Carolina Hurricanes for the past few weeks, the Florida Panthers have once again reached the pinnacle, capturing the No. 1 spot atop B/R's weekly NHL power rankings.
The Panthers were placed first on three of the five ballots and no lower than second on the other two, providing a broad-enough base to outpace the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers.
It was their third first-place finish in six weeks in 2021-22.
The Canadian candidates were voted first on one ballot each, enabling them to take second and third place, respectively, while the Hurricanes and Washington Capitals filled out the top five.
It's the same quintet as last week, though the Panthers jumped one spot and the Maple Leafs gained two, while the Hurricanes dropped three and the Capitals lost one.
The Oilers placed third for the fifth time in six weeks.
Read on to see how the remaining spots were filled, and feel free to drop a note or two in the comments section to let our puck heads know where they got it right, and perhaps otherwise.
Editor's note: Votes were recorded before Wednesday night's games.
Nos. 32-26: Senators, Coyotes, Canadiens, Canucks, Blackhawks, Islanders, Kraken
32. Ottawa Senators (Last Week: 31st)
Three more losses pushed the skid to five games in Ottawa heading into Wednesday, but things were particularly painful for forward Brady Tkachuk, who was bitten on the hand during a scrum with Brendan Lemieux of the Los Angeles Kings. The NHL suspended Lemieux for five games.
31. Arizona Coyotes (Last Week: 32nd)
Two road games yielded a win and a loss for the Coyotes, who had dropped two in a row at home before heading to Winnipeg and Minnesota. Meanwhile, Sportsnet's Jeff Marek speculated that Arizona could make a play for goalie Matt Murray, who was waived after going 0-5 in six starts.
30. Montreal Canadiens (Last Week: 30th)
Patrick Roy established himself on the ice while tending goal for the Canadiens. But can he return the team to glory as its general manager after the firing of Marc Bergevin? He would apparently like to find out. "What do they have to lose by trying me?" he said Tuesday (h/t Yahoo).
29. Vancouver Canucks (Last Week: 28th)
A four-game losing streak ended with a win in Montreal, but it hasn't stopped conjecture that the positions of coach Travis Green and GM Jim Benning are in jeopardy. "[Ownership wants] to win, and they were pretty much told that this year the team would be good, and they're not," former player Geoff Courtnall told The Province.
28. Chicago Blackhawks (Last Week: 27th)
The Blackhawks have just 44 goals through 21 games, and 25 of them have come from three players: Alex DeBrincat (12), Patrick Kane (six) and Brandon Hagel (seven). "Guys are going to have to break the ice; they're going to have to break through this," interim coach Derek King said.
27. New York Islanders (Last Week: 24th)
It'll be Thursday at the earliest when it comes to a return to game action for the Islanders, who were idled Saturday when an eighth player tested positive for COVID-19. New York is tentatively set to host San Jose at UBS Arena, where it's gone 0-4 and been outscored 13-3.
26. Seattle Kraken (Last Week: 29th)
How do you follow a six-game losing streak? Win four of five, especially if one of the wins is against one of the league's best teams (Florida) trying to extend a home win streak. "You're a little more excited to come to the rink. You feel a little bit better," coach Dave Hakstol said.
Nos. 25-21: Flyers, Sabres, Kings, Devils, Predators
25. Philadelphia Flyers (Last Week: 18th)
The Flyers reached the 20-game mark amid a six-game losing streak, but GM Chuck Fletcher preached patience amid a slew of injuries. "I'd really like to see what we have before we start making changes," he said. "I don't feel I've been able to see that to this point in time."
24. Buffalo Sabres (Last Week: 26th)
Journeyman goalie Dustin Tokarski has brought some stability to the net and is already just two wins away from his career-best for a season, but his status is in question after he left Tuesday's practice after taking a shot off the mask. Coach Don Granato said his goaltender is being evaluated.
23. Los Angeles Kings (Last Week: 21st)
The Kings got five of a possible six points across three games for the week, and they got back Drew Doughty on Tuesday against Anaheim after he had not played since October 22 because of a knee injury. The 31-year-old, drafted second overall in 2008, is 20 games short of 1,000 for his career.
22. New Jersey Devils (Last Week: 19th)
The Devils split a pair of 5-2 decisions at home—beating Philadelphia and losing to San Jose—but made news elsewhere by signing Jack Hughes to an eight-year, $64 million extension. The 20-year-old returned Tuesday after not playing since October 19 as a result of a separated shoulder.
21. Nashville Predators (Last Week: 17th)
It's been all or nothing lately for the Predators, who were outscored 11-4 in two losses but netted 10 goals to the opponents' two in two wins. Filip Forsberg scored four times in a Tuesday rout of Columbus, becoming the third player in franchise history to get four in a single game.
Nos. 20-16: Jets, Red Wings, Sharks, Penguins, Bruins
20. Winnipeg Jets (Last Week: 11th)
The Jets have won just once in seven games—five regulation losses, one shootout loss—in seven games since a victory over Edmonton capped a three-game win streak in mid-November. "When you go through tough times, that's when you find out what you're made of," captain Blake Wheeler said.
19. Detroit Red Wings (Last Week: 23rd)
The Red Wings reached an all-time milestone Tuesday night, beating the Bruins in Boston to record the 3,000th win in franchise history. Goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic stopped 41 shots in the victory, equaling his season-high save total in his 13th start and earning his seventh win.
18. San Jose Sharks (Last Week: 22nd)
The Sharks began the East Coast portion of a five-game road trip with a 5-2 victory in New Jersey, two days after starting the swing with a win in Chicago. San Jose is already 7-5 on the road this season after winning just 10 road games in all of 2020-21.
17. Pittsburgh Penguins (Last Week: 20th)
Evgeni Malkin was finally back on the ice, albeit in a non-contract practice scenario, on Monday after undergoing offseason knee surgery. "We're excited about that step. It's certainly real encouraging," coach Mike Sullivan said. Now 35, Malkin hasn't played since May 8.
16. Boston Bruins (Last Week: 15th)
The Bruins ran into a hot Detroit goalie in a game they played without coach Bruce Cassidy (COVID protocol) and forward Brad Marchand (three-game suspension) and in the aftermath of Jake DeBrusk's trade request. "He feels a change of scenery will get his game back," team president Cam Neely told 98.5 the Sports Hub (h/t Boston Hockey Now).
Nos. 15-11: Blue Jackets, Golden Knights, Ducks, Stars, Blues
15. Columbus Blue Jackets (Last Week: 13th)
Columbus started the week with the second and third wins in a three-game streak and was then on the short end of consecutive games in which six goals were allowed. Goalie Elvis Merzlikins was pulled in the first period of a 6-0 loss to Nashville after allowing three goals on nine shots.
14. Vegas Golden Knights (Last Week: 12th)
The Golden Knights beat Nashville by three goals and then ran into a hot goaltender in a loss to Edmonton, but a chronic concern has been a lack of power-play production. Vegas is 31st in the league with a 10.6 percent conversion rate and it's drawn fewer penalties than any other team.
13. Anaheim Ducks (Last Week: 14th)
The feast-or-famine theme was in play for the Ducks as well after they split four games, scoring nine goals in the wins and three in the losses. "I want our fans to have an expectation of us growing into an elite team," coach Dallas Eakins told The Orange County Register.
12. Dallas Stars (Last Week: 25th)
The Stars beat Carolina on Tuesday with some high-end statistical accomplishments. Goalie Braden Holtby set a record for most wins in his first 500 NHL games (293), and Roope Hintz had his first career hat trick. The Finn has scored all 10 of his goals in the past nine games.
11. St. Louis Blues (Last Week: 16th)
St. Louis finished the week strong after an iffy start, doubling up Columbus before beating Tampa Bay in a shootout after rallying from 3-0 down. It's the first two-game win streak since late October. "It's good to see people stepping up for each other throughout the game," goalie Jordan Binnington said.
Nos. 10-6: Avalanche, Lightning, Wild, Flames, Rangers
10. Colorado Avalanche (Last Week: 10th)
Seven wins in eight games preceded a five-game road trip for the Avalanche, who will play three games in Canada before heading to Philadelphia and New York. "We've been at home quite a bit here last month," captain Gabe Landeskog said. "So it will be a good test for us as a road team."
9. Tampa Bay Lightning (Last Week: 6th)
A rash of injuries to the forward group prompted Gabriel Fortier's callup from Syracuse of the AHL and led to his NHL debut on Tuesday in St. Louis. The 21-year-old, a second-round pick in 2018, had 15 shifts and a shot on goal in nearly 10 minutes of ice time. "I thought he was great," coach Jon Cooper said.
8. Minnesota Wild (Last Week: 7th)
A home win over Arizona on Tuesday gave the Wild a franchise-record 31 points through 22 games. Only one NHL team entered Wednesday with more wins than Minnesota's 15. "That fits right where we should be, where we expect to be," forward Jordan Greenway said.
7. Calgary Flames (Last Week: 9th)
Saturday's loss to Winnipeg has been the only misstep in six games for the Flames, who have given up the fewest goals in the league (43), have the best goal differential (plus-29) and are the only team with a goals-against average below 2.00 (1.95).
6. New York Rangers (Last Week: 8th)
It was seven wins in eight games heading into Wednesday night since an ugly 6-0 loss to Calgary on Nov. 6. "I think we're starting to feel like a winning team," Ryan Strome said. "I think we've got a different feel to our team. The important thing for us is continue to build."
Nos. 5-1: Capitals, Hurricanes, Oilers, Maple Leafs, Panthers
5. Washington Capitals (Last Week: 4th)
A Tuesday game that could have clinched a 10-5 month for the Capitals instead turned ugly when Florida scored four in the third period and earned a 5-4 win. The Panthers had 26 shots on goal in the final 20 minutes. "We stopped playing," coach Peter Laviolette said.
4. Carolina Hurricanes (Last Week: 1st)
A two-goal loss to Washington was bad enough, but the league made it worse with a $25,000 fine to coach Rod Brind'Amour for inappropriate conduct during the game after he disagreed with a penalty call. "I took the job thinking you could be yourself, thinking I could tell you guys what I really feel in a game or about a game," he said. "And now you clearly can't. So there you go."
3. Edmonton Oilers (Last Week: 3rd)
A three-game trip that started with a loss in Dallas turned successful with consecutive wins in Arizona and Vegas. But the return home got dicey Tuesday when Cody Ceci was placed into COVID-19 protocol and the team canceled practice. "We believe it's a one-off," GM Ken Holland said, "but until you get the results back, you don't know."
2. Toronto Maple Leafs (Last Week: 5th)
It was a 12-2 November for the Maple Leafs, including nine wins in 10 games before a December debut with Colorado. Still, Toronto began the new month only 17th in the league in scoring (2.87 goals per game) but buoyed by a 2.13 goals-against average that's second among 32 teams. "There's a great sense of team around here," coach Sheldon Keefe said.
1. Florida Panthers (Last Week: 2nd)
The aforementioned rally to beat the Capitals was the fourth time a Florida team overcame a three-goal, third-period deficit in franchise history. "The desperation level went up three or four notches in the third period," interim coach Andrew Brunette said. "It wasn't one guy. It was all four lines, all six D rolling. It was fun to watch."