NHL Power Rankings: Avalanche Overtake Hurricanes for Top Spot

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistJanuary 20, 2022

NHL Power Rankings: Avalanche Overtake Hurricanes for Top Spot

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    It wasn't hard to find Colorado Avalanche fans last fall.

    In fact, the Avalanche were a popular preseason pick to capture a first championship since 2000-01 before stumbling from the gate with just four wins in their first 10 games.

    But it appears the high has returned to Rocky Mountain hockey.

    Colorado rode a run of eight wins in its past nine games to its first perch of the season atop B/R's weekly NHL Power Rankings, finishing first or second on all ballots to outdistance a top five that also included the Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs.

    Each of those teams had spent at least one week at No. 1, but it's the first time around for the Avalanche, who jumped three spots from No. 4 to dethrone the Hurricanes.

    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, Sabres, Senators, Flyers, Devils

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    32. Montreal Canadiens (Last Week: 31st)

    It's not exactly a guarantee of a turnaround, but the Canadiens ended a six-game skid with a win in Dallas and announced the hiring of former player agent Kent Hughes as general manager. "Kent stood out, and we believe he is the right person," said Jeff Gorton, executive VP of hockey operations.


    31. Arizona Coyotes (Last Week: 32nd)

    Czech-born goaltender Karel Vejmelka doesn't get a lot of goal support from a team averaging just 2.22 goals per game, but he didn't need it in beating Toronto, 2-1, thanks to 45 saves. It was the third game this season in which he's stopped at least 40 shots, accounting for three of his five wins. He followed that up with an impressive 35-save effort against the Devils on Wednesday night.


    30. Seattle Kraken (Last Week: 30th)

    The Kraken went to a shootout to beat Chicago and end a run of nine games without a victory, stretching back to mid-December. "It's very relieving," forward Ryan Donato said. "I've said this to a lot of guys, but I've been praying for a win for a long time."


    29. Buffalo Sabres (Last Week: 28th)

    The Sabres split four games during the work and were buoyed by good goaltending in the victories at Nashville and Ottawa. Aaron Dell stopped 29 shots in a 4-1 defeat of the Predators and 43 from Michael Houser in a 3-1 defeat of the Senators. The win came in Houser's first appearance of 2021-22.


    28. Ottawa Senators (Last Week: 29th)

    Ottawa scored 10 goals in a pair of victories in Calgary and Edmonton to begin the week before managing just one in a loss to Buffalo on Tuesday. "Coming off a good road trip, we wanted to get a win," said forward Drake Batherson, who scored the lone goal despite 44 Ottawa shots.


    27. Philadelphia Flyers (Last Week: 25th)

    It's 0-for-8 in the new year and 0-for-9 overall since the last victory for the Flyers, which came on Dec. 29. They've managed just two standings points since. "We're competitors," interim coach Mike Yeo told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "We're here to win hockey games. So it doesn't feel good when you lose."


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

    The intermittent schedule continues for the Devils, who had played four times in the first eight days of the new year but just once more prior to Wednesday night's 4-1 loss at home against Arizona. Center Jack Hughes has nevertheless been red-hot, scoring four goals and producing 13 points in eight games since Christmas.

Nos. 25-21: Blackhawks, Blue Jackets, Canucks, Islanders, Oilers

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    25. Chicago Blackhawks (Last Week: 27th)

    A four-game win streak was halted by a shootout loss to the Kraken on Monday in Seattle, ending a particularly stellar run from goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. He allowed just five goals in the four victories, stopping 118 of 123 shots for a 0.959 save percentage.


    24. Columbus Blue Jackets (Last Week: 24th)

    The highs were high and the lows low for the Blue Jackets, who posted a 6-0 shutout in Carolina before dropping a 9-2 decision at Florida. "We've got to set a standard for ourselves in games and consistency is a big thing," forward Oliver Bjorkstrand said. "We can't have that big of a drop in our game."


    23. Vancouver Canucks (Last Week: 21st)

    A three-game visit to the NHL's elite resulted in losses at Florida, Tampa Bay and Carolina by a 13-5 count, but the Canucks picked up wins at Washington and Nashville thereafter. "There's a lot of heart, there's a lot of will and a lot of want," coach Bruce Boudreau said.


    22. New York Islanders (Last Week: 23rd)

    Getting back to work was ideal for the Islanders, who didn't play between Jan. 1 and 13 but have earned three wins in four games since while allowing just eight goals. "The confidence comes with playing well," coach Barry Trotz said. "It's starting to grow. The trust is starting to grow, which is key."


    21. Edmonton Oilers (Last Week: 20th)

    The Oilers' one game since Jan. 5 was forgettable to the tune of a five-goal third period and a 6-4 loss to Ottawa. Off the ice, the hockey world is buzzing about an exchange between Edmonton Journal reporter Jim Matheson and Leon Draisaitl, in which the player was asked why he was so "pissy."

Nos. 20-16: Red Wings, Stars, Ducks, Sharks, Kings

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    Darren Yamashita/Associated Press

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

    A pair with the Sabres came just in time for the Red Wings, who had dropped four in a row before sweeping Buffalo by a combined 7-2 count. Down the road, the team had three December games rescheduled for February and one more for April.


    19. Dallas Stars (Last Week: 17th)

    A streaky Dallas team has won just once in five games since a run of four straight wins. In fact, the Stars were outscored 15-5 in losses at Florida and Tampa Bay and at home to Montreal. "They all hurt," forward Tyler Seguin said. "They're all opportunities wasted that can come back and bite you."


    18. Anaheim Ducks (Last Week: 14th)

    A positive early season has begun to fritter away. The Ducks' latest 10-game stretch saw them win just twice and earn only six standings points. On the positive side, forward Troy Terry was voted to the All-Star Game by the fans, a reward for producing 36 points in his first 38 games.


    17. San Jose Sharks (Last Week: 19th)

    The Sharks went from anemic to prodigious over the course of three games, scoring once across losses to the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh before drubbing Los Angeles 6-2. Winger Timo Meier scored five goals against Los Angeles to establish a single-game franchise record.


    16. Los Angeles Kings (Last Week: 16th)

    Consecutive losses to San Jose and Tampa Bay have taken some of the shine off a new year that started with five wins in six games. "We need to get some rest. I don't know if we're physically worn out or mentally, four games in six nights with a little travel," coach Todd McLellan said. "We'll get that."

Nos. 15-11: Jets, Flames, Golden Knights, Predators, Bruins

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    15. Winnipeg Jets (Last Week: 18th)

    Three of a possible four points resulted from two games for the Jets, with two coming in a shutout at Detroit and one from an OT loss at Washington. "We don't like losing,” forward Pierre-Luc Dubois said. "[Eventually], we can probably look back at it and say we got a point against a good team in a tough building to play."


    14. Calgary Flames (Last Week: 15th)

    A 5-1 throttling of the front-running Panthers put a decisive end to a four-game skid for the Flames, who allowed 20 goals in the losses. "We're not at the top working our way down. We're at the bottom working our way up," coach Darryl Sutter said. "So we have to play complete games."


    13. Vegas Golden Knights (Last Week: 13th)

    The Golden Knights have played just six times in January's first two-plus weeks and have won just once. Most recently, they lost a 3-0 lead in a 5-3 decision against Pittsburgh. "You can't walk away from the game with nothing," forward Mark Stone said. "We've got a little soul-searching to do."


    12. Nashville Predators (Last Week: 6th)

    A calendar year that started with five straight wins has suddenly careened with four consecutive losses, during which the Predators have been outscored 16-8. "We're not playing the way we need to play to give ourselves a chance to win," coach John Hynes said.


    11. Boston Bruins (Last Week: 12th)

    Perhaps the only way to salve the wound of a 7-1 loss to Carolina was to realize it came after five consecutive wins for the Bruins. "One thing you learn over the years: You're never as bad or as good as you think," said goalie Tuukka Rask, who was pulled after allowing five goals on 12 shots.

Nos. 10-6: Blues, Capitals, Wild, Penguins, Rangers

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    10. St. Louis Blues (Last Week: 10th)

    Two wins in three games marked another successful week for the Blues, who are 5-2 since the start of January and entered Wednesday two points behind first-place Colorado in the Central Division. Former MVP Chris Pronger had his No. 44 jersey retired by the Blues prior to Monday's win against Nashville.


    9. Washington Capitals (Last Week: 11th)

    The Capitals have won just twice in seven games since the start of January, but both have come in the past three games after a four-game skid. A 4-3 defeat of Winnipeg on Tuesday was the team's first win in eight overtime games in 2021-22. "It was nice to get one," coach Peter Laviolette said. "It took a while."


    8. Minnesota Wild (Last Week: 9th)

    A run of three straight wins was snuffed by a shootout loss in Colorado on Monday, though reigning Calder Trophy winner Kirill Kaprizov scored twice and now has six goals in his past five games and 16 for the season. "He's on a mission every time he goes out there," winger Jordan Greenway said.


    7. Pittsburgh Penguins (Last Week: 7th)

    Two wins in three games for the week means the Penguins are 6-2 since resuming play on Jan. 2 after having not played since Dec. 19. "We've played some really good hockey as of late," forward Jeff Carter said. "Pretty good road trip points-wise for us. It wasn't our best road trip. But we found ways to win."


    6. New York Rangers (Last Week: 8th)

    A 6-3 victory in a marquee Wednesday night matchup with the visiting Maple Leafs came after a stretch of three wins in four games for the Rangers, who allowed just six goals. Igor Shesterkin stopped 63 of 65 shots in wins over San Jose and Philadelphia after not playing in 11 days thanks to a stint in the COVID-19 protocol.

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

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

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

    There's just something about a 3-1 lead and the Maple Leafs. Toronto has blown 3-1 leads in four out of its last five games, including Wednesday night's loss to the Rangers.              

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

    It's four straight and six of seven for the Lightning, who have blitzed foes 19-8 during the win streak. A 6-4 win over Los Angeles on Tuesday came with just 16 skaters suited up thanks to injuries. "I was just really proud of the guys," coach Jon Cooper said. "It just says we didn't want to use any excuses."


    3. Florida Panthers (Last Week: 2nd)

    A run of four straight wins and eight in nine games was rudely interrupted by an out-of-character 5-1 loss in Calgary for the Panthers, who scored 54 goals and conceded 24 in the run preceding that defeat. "As nice as it would be to go 82-0, you have ups and downs throughout the season, and it's all about how you respond,” forward Ryan Lomberg said.


    2. Carolina Hurricanes (Last Week: 1st)

    A 6-0 loss to Columbus clearly didn't sit well with the Hurricanes, who responded with defeats of Vancouver and Boston in which they scored 11 goals and allowed two. "You're going to have one of these nights every once in a while where everything we shoot goes in," coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "It happened against us against Columbus, where every chance we gave up was all of a sudden in the net."


    1. Colorado Avalanche (Last Week: 4th)

    The Avs skipped up three positions on the strength of a three-win week heading into Wednesday's 2-0 victory in Anaheim, during which they beat Arizona twice and Minnesota in a shootout. A concern: Goalie Darcy Kuemper left the game with the Wild after a collision with Jordan Greenway, who was not penalized by the league. "On this one, I'm a little baffled," coach Jared Bednar told Altitude Sports Radio.