Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: Halfway home
Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: Halfway home
The NHL Power Rankings hit the halfway mark and we can make some observations about the league and the 30 teams battling it out in it.
*The Minnesota Wild might be the best team in the Western Conference and are much better than sneaky good this season. Nobody could have guessed a reborn Eric Staal would be leading Minnesota with 13 goals and 35 points this season, and that’s been a big factor in the Wild’s journey toward the top.
*Canada will be represented this season. After getting no playoff teams last year, four Canadian NHL teams (Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton and Calgary) are in the playoffs as of now, with Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver also well within striking distance.
*It sounds like Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog could both be out in Colorado and that could have a really big impact on the playoff races if both talented young players are dealt ahead of the NHL trade deadline.
*The Metro Division is where all the power resides. Columbus has been amazing, but the fact Pittsburgh, Washington and the Rangers have all kept pace with the Blue Jackets tells you that is going to be the playoff bracket to watch this spring.
Without further ado, here are this week’s power rankings:
1. Columbus Blue Jackets (28-7-4, previous ranking: 1)
The Blue Jackets couldn’t stare in the eye of immortality by matching the record 17 wins in a row from the Pittsburgh Penguins back in the day, but they’re still at the top of the heap. They’ve done great things this season, but this still feels like a first-round playoff casualty in the making for me.
2. Washington Capitals (26-9-5, PR: 6)
The Capitals have won six games in a row and have kept pace with the Blue Jackets and the Penguins and continue to show that the Metro Division is best this season. Alex Ovechkin is in the middle of another Hart Trophy-worthy campaign as he sits one point away from 1,000 career points.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins (26-8-5, PR: 2)
The Penguins are doing it the old fashioned way this season. They’re beating down opponents with veteran superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin scoring at a point-per-game clip. It feels like they have another run in them this postseason.
4. Minnesota Wild (25-9-5, PR: 4)
Even though their long winning streak is over, the Wild have taken points in 16 out of the last 17 games as they march toward the top of the Central Division. Could this be the year they finally make a move once the playoffs arrive, or is this just another Bruce Boudreau good regular season/bad playoff team.
5. Montreal Canadiens (25-10-6, PR: 3)
Backup goaltender Al Montoya was rewarded with a contract extension midseason proving that it sometimes is worth to catch a beating for Carey Price.
6. New York Rangers (28-13-1, previous rank: 5)
The Rangers round out the power quartet in the Metro Division as they continue to hang around with the big dogs while dealing with injuries and a roster that’s been in a bit of a transition this season.
7. Chicago Blackhawks (26-12-5, PR: 7)
Jonathan Toews is starting to heat up just as around the same time he was forced to wear a Team USA jersey after the World Junior tournament. Coincidence? I think not.
8. San Jose Sharks (24-14-2, PR: 8)
The Sharks continue to be the best team in the Pacific Division, which in past seasons was an impressive accomplishment. This year it simply means they’re the best team among a fairly weak field.
9. St. Louis Blues (21-14-5, PR: 9)
The 5-10-1 record on the road is atrocious for the Blues, but they’re still looking pretty solid in the Central Division. They’re not as consistent as they used to be, but they still have a guy named Tarasenko.
10. Anaheim Ducks (21-13-8, PR: 10)
The Ducks are a pretty average team getting an amazing season out of Ryan Kesler. Randy Carlyle has started to crack the whip a bit, so that will be interesting to see how it all plays out.
11. Ottawa Senators (21-14-4, PR: 13)
The plot thickens behind the Bobby Ryan mystery as we have no idea why he was scratched last weekend. But maybe the intrigue works for the Sens as they continue to hold down a stable playoff spot.
12. Philadelphia Flyers (21-15-6, PR: 12)
The Flyers are 2-5-3 in the 10 games following their 10-game winning streak and simply trying to hang in as a wild card playoff team. It’s going to be a dog fight for this team because of the heavy reliance on offense.
13. Edmonton Oilers (21-14-7, PR: 11)
The Oilers rolled into Boston last week and won with far less than the Oil’s “A-game”. I’m not sure what that says about the Bruins, but it’s a good sign that Edmonton is figuring out how to grind their way into the playoffs.
14. Toronto Maple Leafs (18-13-8, PR: 15)
The Maple Leafs have pushed their way into the playoff picture and Auston Matthews has 21 goals and 35 points in 39 games as the franchise guy Toronto has been missing all this time.
15. Boston Bruins (21-17-5, PR: 16)
The Bruins are in second place in the Atlantic Division, but Ottawa and Toronto both have four games in hand on the B’s while sitting right behind them in the standings. This is not a great situation for the B’s presently.
16. Calgary Flames (22-19-2, PR: 18)
Calgary is in a playoff spot and goaltender Brian Elliott appears to finally be finding his footing. The Flames look like they might actually have enough to get into the tournament this year, and that’s a good thing for hockey.
17. Los Angeles Kings (20-17-4, PR: 14)
The Kings are hanging in there amid the injuries, but the 8-11-3 record on the road and the minus-3 goal differential are not working in their favor. Darryl Sutter remains appropriately grouchy as always, so that’s a good thing.
18. Florida Panthers (18-16-8, PR: 20)
Roberto Luongo is fighting some injury issues. Ruh-Roh, Raggy. That’s exactly the kind of injury that could really sink a Panthers team that already looks like they’re in trouble.
19. Carolina Hurricanes (18-15-7, PR: 21)
What a find that Sebastian Aho has been for the Hurricanes this season. Carolina has a long way to go to get into the playoff picture considering their division, but they’re making a go of it.
20. Tampa Bay Lightning (19-19-4, PR: 16)
The Lightning have lost four in a row and continue to look like a team that’s completely lost right now. Certainly they miss Steve Stamkos, but there’s something bigger than that going on here.
21. Vancouver Canucks (20-19-3, PR: 24)
Seven wins in the last 10 games for the Canucks is another good stretch of hockey above people’s expectations, and that’s good enough to keep you sniffing for something better in the Pacific Division.
22. Dallas Stars (17-16-8, PR: 22)
Now, even the team charter plane is having difficulties as it needed to make an emergency landing over the weekend. That feels the story for the entire season for an underperforming Stars group.
23. Winnipeg Jets (20-20-3, PR: 25)
When you’re that cocky and that skilled, it’s only a matter of time until somebody takes a big run at you. That’s probably the lesson for this week for Patrik Laine, who has been so good for the Jets this season.
24. Nashville Predators (17-16-7, PR: 19)
The Predators haven’t won more than two in a row since the middle of November and continue to struggle while missing their big offseason acquisition: PK Subban. They’re not out of it in the West, but they will be soon if they can’t turn it around.
25. New Jersey Devils (16-18-8, PR: 23)
The Devils have lost three games in a row and are sinking back down in the Eastern Conference. The losing streak makes that shutout win over the Bruins all the more embarrassing for the Black and Gold.
26. Buffalo Sabres (15-15-9, PR: 26)
The Sabres need a big move upward if they’re going to make a playoff push, and it hasn’t happened yet. The 3-4-3 record in their last 10 games isn’t much to write home about.
27. Detroit Red Wings (17-18-5, PR: 27)
I’ve mentioned it before in this space, but the 7-10-3 record at Joe Louis Arena in their final season there is an embarrassment. What a bad hockey team in Hockeytown this season.
28. New York Islanders (15-15-8, PR: 28)
Garth Snow is seeking out answers for the Isles, but they’ll need something bigger than shipping Jaroslav Halak down to the minor leagues. It’s getting to the now-or-never stage for John Tavares’ crew.
29. Arizona Coyotes (12-22-6, PR: 29)
The 1-8-1 in their past 10 games is gross, the eight regulation or overtime wins is gross and the minus-42 goal differential is gross. Yup, the Coyotes are gross.
30. Colorado Avalanche (13-25-1, PR: 30)
The Avs are all done this year and Joe Sakic is talking trade with some of his core group like Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog. It’s time for the core to be broken up and rebuilt because what they have hasn’t worked over the last three years.