NHL Power Rankings: Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers Tied for Top Spot

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2022

NHL Power Rankings: Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers Tied for Top Spot

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    Marta Lavandier/Associated Press

    At this point, it makes perfect sense.

    Considering that either the Carolina Hurricanes or Florida Panthers have held the top spot in seven of the 10 editions of B/R's weekly NHL Power Rankings this season, it's hardly a shock that the teams are sharing space atop the first incarnation since the start of the new year.

    The Hurricanes and Panthers each grabbed a pair of first- and second-place votes in the B/R hockey writing team's ballots, putting them ahead of a top-five pack that also includes the New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs. The Rangers, Maple Leafs and Lightning had each spent a week at the top since the last time the Panthers were No. 1 in the seventh edition of the rankings.

    Florida climbed five spots after finishing sixth overall in the most recent rankings, while the Minnesota Wild took the biggest tumble, falling from eighth to 12th.

    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: Canadiens, Coyotes, Kraken, Senators, Sabres, Blackhawks, Devils

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    32. Montreal Canadiens (Last Week: 31st)

    The Canadiens have been outscored 14-6 in losing three straight since Christmas and won't play again until Wednesday thanks to myriad postponements. The team has 20 players and two coaches in the league's COVID-19 protocol, including forward Tyler Toffoli, defenseman Jeff Petry and goalie Jake Allen.


    31. Arizona Coyotes (Last Week: 32nd)

    The results haven't changed much for the Coyotes, who have gone 2-7-1 in their past 10, but the personnel might. Multiple reports suggest the team is fielding offers for defenseman Jakob Chychrun, who will come at a steep asking price, according to TSN's Darren Dreger.


    30. Seattle Kraken (Last Week: 28th)

    The Kraken were expected to be competitive, but goaltending—including a league-worst .874 save percentage—has been poor. "You're always hoping that things go right for you, that you have a chance to make the playoffs," general manager Ron Francis told ESPN's Greg Wyshynski. "Unfortunately for us, it's gone the other way."


    29. Ottawa Senators (Last Week: 30th)

    Speaking of protocols and postponements, the Senators have played just once since Christmas—a 6-0 loss at Toronto—and won't play again until at least Saturday. Before that game on New Year's Day, they hadn't played since Dec. 18. In fact, they have not won a game since an 8-2 rout of the Panthers in Florida on Dec. 14.


    28. Buffalo Sabres (Last Week: 27th)

    It's three losses in three post-Christmas games for the Sabres, who are without both Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs—two prizes from the Eichel trade—thanks to COVID-19. "The growth potential that we have here [is exciting]," coach Don Granato told the Buffalo News' Lance Lysowski. "And this is stunting all of that, but that's OK."


    27. Chicago Blackhawks (Last Week: 25th)

    The Blackhawks have been busy, albeit not successful, since the arrival of 2022—losing three times in the first four days of January to extend their streak to five games without a win. Meanwhile, a midweek deal saw Chicago acquire Sam Lafferty from Pittsburgh for 2016's No. 8 overall pick, Alex Nylander.


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

    The Devils had a marked post-Christmas boost, winning three straight games before dropping a decision in Boston on Tuesday. The bad news: Dougie Hamilton has a broken jaw, Pavel Zacha and Yegor Sharangovich are on the COVID-19 list and goalie Jonathan Bernier is done for the year following hip surgery.

Nos. 25-21: Blue Jackets, Flyers, Islanders, Red Wings, Sharks

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    25. Columbus Blue Jackets (Last Week: 22nd)

    The new year hasn't been particularly favorable for the Blue Jackets, who were outscored 14-6 in consecutive home losses to Carolina and Tampa Bay. "We are in it right now, and nobody feels sorry for us," coach Brad Larsen said. "We're not feeling sorry for ourselves.”


    24. Philadelphia Flyers (Last Week: 23rd)

    A win in Seattle preceded losses in San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim for the Flyers, who will kick off a homestand against Pittsburgh on Thursday. Captain Claude Giroux and defenseman Ivan Provorov were unavailable for the loss to the Ducks, prompting Carter Hart to label the league's COVID-19 protocol "a joke."


    23. New York Islanders (Last Week: 26th)

    It's a rare climb for the Islanders, who won games on Dec. 30 and Jan. 1 but are now idle until Jan. 13. Multiple changes to the schedule mean a visit to Philadelphia on Jan. 18 will be the only road game of the month for a team that played its first 13 games of 2021-22 away from home while waiting for UBS Arena to open.


    22. Detroit Red Wings (Last Week: 20th)

    The Red Wings righted the ship with a six-goal outburst against San Jose on Tuesday after losing consecutive games while scoring a single goal in each. "I definitely saw a sense of urgency from our team," coach Jeff Blashill said. "We didn't give them much space at all. I thought we battled hard."


    21. San Jose Sharks (Last Week: 21st)

    San Jose gave up 14 goals in two losses on the road to start 2022, and they may be without defensemen Erik Karlsson and Jake Middleton after both suffered upper-body injuries Tuesday in Detroit. "It's going to be a thing where we'll even have to see how they feel," coach Bob Boughner said.

Nos. 20-16: Canucks, Stars, Kings, Oilers, Jets

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    20. Vancouver Canucks (Last Week: 24th)

    The Canucks have registered two wins and a shootout loss in three games since Christmas, extending their run under Bruce Boudreau to nine straight games with at least a point. As Daily Hive's Rob Williams pointed out, it's the first time they have done that since a 10-0-3 run in 2012 helped lead to a Northwest Division title and a Presidents' Trophy.


    19. Dallas Stars (Last Week: 17th)

    The Stars are set to return to action for the first time in 17 days on Thursday, when they will host Florida. Captain Jamie Benn is eligible to play after coming off COVID-19 protocol on Tuesday. "Will we be rusty? Who knows?" GM Jim Nill told the Dallas Morning News (h/t NHL.com). "But we've got to go win games."


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

    A 6-3 defeat of the Flyers on New Year's Day was the 500th win in the career of coach Todd McLellan, who became the 27th coach in league history to reach that number. "The wins are important," he said. "As people hit milestones, you talk about them, but it's always about the team."


    17. Edmonton Oilers (Last Week: 15th)

    As if a 2-8-2 stretch weren't difficult enough, the Oilers announced that Connor McDavid, Derek Ryan and Tyson Barrie were placed into COVID-19 just hours before Wednesday's 4-2 loss in Toronto. "With the way things are going here, it's a daily occurrence," coach Dave Tippett said.


    16. Winnipeg Jets (Last Week: 18th)

    A victory over the Coyotes in Arizona was the third in four games under interim coach Dave Lowry. "We want to make sure we take care of our end," he said. "We will create more than enough chances. We will create more than enough opportunities to win hockey games."

Nos. 15-11: Ducks, Flames, Bruins, Wild, Golden Knights

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    Sam Morris/Associated Press

    15. Anaheim Ducks (Last Week: 14th)

    A defeat of the Flyers on Tuesday ended a four-game skid that stretched over two weeks for the Ducks, who are still searching for a GM to replace Bob Murray, who resigned in November. Franchise stalwarts Scott Niedermayer and Paul Kariya have been added to the search committee, per TSN's Pierre LeBrun.


    14. Calgary Flames (Last Week: 13th)

    Calgary had scored 11 goals while winning two straight after Christmas, but the skein quickly ended when they encountered Florida and lost 6-2 to open a three-game trip. "There's not a postseason if you play like you did [Tuesday],” coach Darryl Sutter said. "That's a different level of team. We're not there yet."


    13. Boston Bruins (Last Week: 16th)

    A 5-3 win over visiting New Jersey was the third straight for the Bruins since the calendar turned, a streak during which 13 players have scored. "I'm just happy that we're back, especially in the new year," star winger David Pastrnak said. "We've been playing some great hockey in these last three games."


    12. Minnesota Wild (Last Week: 8th)

    The Wild set the stage for the NHL debuts of recent first-round picks Matt Boldy (No. 12, 2019) and Marco Rossi (No. 9, 2020) when they were called up from Iowa of the AHL on Tuesday. "We're not putting them there just to see if they can play," coach Dean Evason said. "We're putting them there to score goals."


    11. Vegas Golden Knights (Last Week: 12th)

    The Golden Knights won twice and had an OT loss in their first three post-break games, but the run ended with a 3-2 loss to Nashville in rookie goalie Logan Thompson's first NHL start. "He came in and gave us a chance to win a game we probably didn't deserve to," coach Pete DeBoer said of Thompson, who stopped 23 of the 26 shots he faced. "That's all you can ask."

Nos. 10-6: Predators, Blues, Penguins, Avalanche, Capitals

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    10. Nashville Predators (Last Week: 10th)

    Nashville picked up one point in its first two games after Christmas, but two wins since have elevated the Predators to 8-1-1 in their past 10 and to first in the Central Division as of Thursday morning. "You may not win every game, but you don't want to lose is your identity," coach John Hynes said. "Our identity is there."


    9. St. Louis Blues (Last Week: 11th)

    Center Jordan Kyrou picked up where he left off since Christmas to maintain what's been his best statistical season, producing three points in a win over Edmonton and four more against Minnesota in the Winter Classic—a record for the event. "He's played really well for us all year,” coach Craig Berube said. "He's a really good offensive player.”


    8. Pittsburgh Penguins (Last Week: 9th)

    It's almost go-time for Evgeni Malkin, who's not played since having surgery on his right knee in June. He's returned to practice without contact restrictions and could return during Pittsburgh's six-game road trip that begins Thursday. "This is the last step," coach Mike Sullivan told reporters. "So he's getting close."


    7. Colorado Avalanche (Last Week: 7th)

    The Avalanche have won twice and scored eight goals in 2022, but nearly all the team-related chatter is about the OT game-winner that defenseman Cale Makar scored against Marc-Andre Fleury to beat Chicago. "One of the best goals of the year," fellow blueliner Erik Johnson said. "That was pretty sweet to watch from the bench."


    6. Washington Capitals (Last Week: 5th)

    The return to play has yielded five of a possible six standings points for the Capitals across three games, but more interesting is the historic mark they are approaching. As the Washington Post's Scott Allen and Ben Sumner reported, the all-time franchise goal differential is down to minus-5, so the team may soon reach plus territory for the first time since its first game in October 1974.

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

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    5. Toronto Maple Leafs (Last Week: 3rd)

    A 6-0 blanking of Ottawa on Jan. 1 was the fourth shutout this season for goalie Jack Campbell, good for second in the league as of Thursday morning behind Jacob Markstrom of Calgary's five. His 1.86 goals-against average and .939 save percentage are also second in the NHL—both trailing Charlie Lindgren of St. Louis among goalies who have played at least five games this season.


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

    The Lightning had lost three straight while being outscored 17-6 but bounced back with a barrage in a 7-2 defeat of Columbus on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the team waived center Riley Nash, which could be a precursor to the imminent return of Nikita Kucherov, who played three games in October before suffering a lower-body injury. "Hopefully after [Tuesday's game], he becomes into a little bit of a day-to-day [option]," coach Jon Cooper said.


    3. New York Rangers (Last Week: 4th)

    A win on New Year's Eve preceded two more victories to open 2022 for the Rangers, and it's got some people familiar with the team suggesting that it could be primed for a Stanley Cup run. "If this was how they were playing at the end of April, boy, you'd really like their chances," said radio analyst and former Ranger Dave Maloney. "They're kicking on all cylinders."


    1 (tie). Florida Panthers (Last Week: 6th)

    The red-hot Panthers ran their latest streak to four with the defeat of the Flames, during which they got 47 saves from goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and a goal from veteran Joe Thornton, who's scored at least once in every calendar year since 1997. He has four goals in 19 games this season.


    1 (tie). Carolina Hurricanes (Last Week: 2nd)

    It's four straight wins overall and two in a row since Christmas for the Hurricanes, who entered Wednesday having won the most games (23), surrendered the fewest goals (66) and posted the best goal differential (plus-40) in the league. Still, they are only third in the Eastern Division behind Washington and the Rangers.