March came in like a lion, and we come out of this point of the NHL season with a clear view of what’s going on. Or did we?
This week might be the strangest week the season has had thus far, at least from a power rankings perspective. Teams have leaped up in the rankings to change their trade deadline statuses, the top two teams from last week tumble after rough patches, and a new leader has emerged not just as the top team in the rankings, but my current favorite to go all the way and skate around with the Stanley Cup come late May/early June.
Of course, with the deadline coming up, it’s not too late for the NHL landscape to shift dramatically. The top teams could load up and land a major piece to push them over the top, while the lower-tier playoff teams could land a couple key acquisitions to make themselves more competitive. It’s going to be an interesting week, and I intend to go through the deadline dealings in due time.
For now, though, it’s time to get to the rankings. Where did an insane week push your favorite team in the rankings this time? Let’s find out.
Disclaimer: These rankings are reflective of games played and statistics recorded on or prior to April 3.
1. Colorado Avalanche (+4): The Avalanche are riding a 14-game point streak, including 12 wins in that span. Do I need to justify their spot any further?
2. Carolina Hurricanes (+1): Congratulations to Dougie Hamilton for being only the 102nd defenseman in NHL history to score 100 career goals. Another reason for the Canes to celebrate as they safely add Martin Necas and Alex Nedeljkovic as key pieces to their young core.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning (-2): It’s been a rough stretch for the Lightning, just breaking a three-game skid with close wins against Columbus and Detroit. Tampa is now averaging the second-most penalty minutes per game, something that will have to change (especially given Carolina has the league’s best power play).
4. Washington Capitals (Even): The Capitals have the lineup to make a deep run, but goaltending has been a major issue lately as their team save percentage hovers just above the bottom five. Jonathan Bernier or Jonathan Quick might be packing their bags for the nation’s capital within the week.
5. Minnesota Wild (+2): Minnesota has proven they have no problem dealing with Vegas, but if they can make a statement in this upcoming series against Colorado? That could push the Wild into dark-horse Cup candidate territory.
6. Vegas Golden Knights (-4): Forget getting swept by the Wild for a second: the Golden Knights now hold a 4-9-1 all-time record against their likely playoff opponent (only the Bruins hold a better mark). Not saying that’s a recipe for a first-round upset, but…
7. Toronto Maple Leafs (+1): Sweeping the Jets and riding a six-game point streak has put some distance between the Leafs and their North Division rivals. With a perfect 8-0 record and a strong stat line, can Jack Campbell earn himself an opportunity to siphon more starts from Frederik Andersen?
8. Florida Panthers (+1): After losing three straight, the Panthers have rattled off five consecutive wins to keep pace with the Lightning atop the Central Division. Signing the top college free agent in Matt Kiersted was a solid move for the future, but Aaron Ekblad’s injury still looms large over the Panthers.
9. Pittsburgh Penguins (+4): A tough-luck loss to the Bruins put an end to the Penguins’ five-game win and seven-game point streaks. They finally seem to have shaken off the inconsistent beginning of their season, but it appears Ron Hextall will target a center at the deadline to fill in for Evgeni Malkin (Scott Laughton, maybe?)
10. New York Islanders (-4): The Islanders have a very similar problem to the Golden Knights: they do great against the lower-end teams in their division, but struggle against their likely playoff opponents like Washington and Pittsburgh. Unlike their western counterparts, however, the Islanders will be able to use the deadline to do something about their situation.
11. Edmonton Oilers (Even): It’s been an inconsistent week for the Oilers, splitting their last four games. If you need proof about how reliant Edmonton is on Connor McDavid, he currently doubles up every other Oiler skater not named Leon Draisaitl in points.
12. Winnipeg Jets (-2): Despite the emergence of Logan Stanley, the Jets still could use some blueline reinforcements to push them past their Canadian rivals in the playoffs. Expect them to be in the mix for every top defenseman at the deadline.
13. Boston Bruins (-1): Splitting with the Devils and Penguins is fine, but the Bruins still need to look over their shoulders for the Flyers and Rangers. Expect them to be one of the deadline’s most aggressive buyers as they hunt for secondary scoring and defensive reinforcements.
14. Montreal Canadiens (+1): An embarrassing loss to Ottawa on Saturday put a damper on what was otherwise a solid week for the Canadiens. Eric Staal will finally make his debut for the Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge this week, and I would be shocked if he’s the only piece on their way to Quebec.
15. Arizona Coyotes (+8): Colorado still poses a major problem for Arizona, but a sweep of San Jose and a bounce-back win over Anaheim has pushed the Coyotes over the Blues for the last playoff spot in the West. There’s still some serious questions regarding the Coyotes, but it looks like they might be a good candidate to pull a hockey trade.
16. Nashville Predators (+9): Talk about coming back from the dead. After victories in seven of their last eight, the Predators must now decide whether to stay the course and rebuild or go for one last push before a still-necessary retool.
17. New York Rangers (Even): A shootout loss to the Sabres is a tough pill to swallow, but the Rangers are still in striking distance for a playoff spot. They certainly hope another top prospect in Vitali Kravtsov doesn’t show the same inconsistency that Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere have endured.
18. St. Louis Blues (-4): A six-game losing streak has pushed the Blues to the brink, with playoffs no longer a sure thing. With all but four games remaining being against the Avalanche, Golden Knights, and Wild, they might have to be an aggressive buyer just to get into the postseason again.
19. Chicago Blackhawks (-3): Losing all but one of their last five has the Blackhawks behind the Predators for the last playoff spot in the Central (ironically enough, the Predators have beaten Chicago three times in that span). They’ve still been well above expectations, but missing out on the postseason could still be considered a disappointment.
20. Vancouver Canucks (Even): It took about three months, but the Canucks may finally be going through the worst COVID outbreak of any NHL team so far. With most of the players and coaches testing positive and showing symptoms, it may be a long time before we see them take the ice again.
21. Columbus Blue Jackets (Even): It’s been eleven games since Patrik Laine has found the back of the net, and the Jackets have been an uneven 4-5-2 in that span. It’s clear he doesn’t fit John Tortorella’s hard-nosed style of coaching, so the question begins: who leaves Columbus first?
22. San Jose Sharks (+2): Don’t look now, but four straight victories has the Sharks tied with the Blues and one point away from the last playoff spot in the West. Patrick Marleau might be allowed to head to a legitimate contender for one last Cup run, but being so tantalizingly close to the postseason might steer Doug Wilson away from a total rebuild.
23. Philadelphia Flyers (-5): Publicly lambasting your young star goaltender, waiving one of the team’s better-performing defensemen, and getting blown out by a team that was tied for the longest losing streak in the 21st century? Remember this week if Alain Vigneault is sent packing in the offseason.
24. Calgary Flames (-2): Losing six of your last seven to douse the Flames’ playoff hopes is bad enough, but Darryl Sutter publicly calling out Johnny Gaudreau? It won’t happen at the deadline, but I’d be willing to bet on Gaudreau wearing a different team’s sweater next season.
25. Los Angeles Kings (-6): They’ve stolen two games from Vegas, but they have been the only victories the Kings have enjoyed in their last eight games. Selling high on Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick to get out of at least most of their contracts might be the best option for them.
26. Dallas Stars (-2): They’ve gotten points in five of their last six games, but it’s still looking like the Stars will go from Western Conference winner last season to out of the playoffs entirely this time around. Their final hope lies in the return of Tyler Seguin.
27. New Jersey Devils (Even): They have points in their last three games, but have won only once in their last five. With Kyle Palmieri being a healthy scratch and the organization waiving the white flag on Nikita Gusev, it seems the Devils are ready to call it for this year.
28. Ottawa Senators (Even): They have points in four of their last five, but the Senators have likely fallen too far behind to make any real noise in the North Division. Christian Wolanin was a small move, but it’s very likely the beginning of Ottawa’s latest deadline sale.
29. Detroit Red Wings (Even): Losing six of their last eight games is unsurprising for a Wings team that is all but officially eliminated from postseason contention. Jonathan Bernier, Bobby Ryan, Luke Glendening, Marc Staal, and Jon Merrill are all amongst the Detroit players who could be moved in the next week.
30. Anaheim Ducks (Even): Losing five of their last seven puts the Ducks out of the playoff hunt, despite the struggles some of the teams above them are enduring right now. Moving Rickard Rakell and Josh Manson for decent packages should be the priority, as the Ducks could come out of the deadline as a winner.
31. Buffalo Sabres (Even): They finally won games and have points in every game this week. This feels like the equivalent of winning the Stanley Cup, with how awful the Sabres have been this past month.