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NHL Power Rankings: With one month left, what is each team still playing for?


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The GM meetings were held in Florida earlier this week, giving Gary Bettman the perfect opportunity to show how in touch he is with the league he’s been running for three decades.

As always, Bettman just has his finger on the pulse. Nothing wrong here, folks! Actually, it’s good that we’ve known three of the exact playoff matchups in the East since January. It’s good that there isn’t really an enticing playoff race in the West. It’s good that eight teams are playing to lose. Everything is fine! The playoffs are the only thing that matters anyway, who cares about making the regular season exciting?

With a month left in the season don’t let the naysayers distract you from what should be a month full of spectacle and entertainment league-wide. Don’t believe us? Here’s one thing every team is still playing for.

1. Boston Bruins

Last Week: 1
Record: 51-11-5
Sean rank: 1
Dom rank: 1

They’ve already clinched a playoff spot. The division is next. The conference — and home ice throughout the entirety of the playoffs — will come shortly thereafter. No point in pretending otherwise. Aside from that, they need 12 wins in their last 15 games to finish with 63, the most all-time. The 1995-96 Red Wings and 2018-19 Lightning each had 62. The points percentage record (.825, 1976-77 Canadiens) is out of reach.

2. New Jersey Devils

Last Week: 3
Record: 44-17-7
Sean rank: 2
Dom rank: 2

With an overtime loss to Tampa Bay Thursday night it became that much harder for the Devils to catch the Hurricanes for the division lead. Every point matters and though earning a single point isn’t the end of the world, it means the Devils have a lot of ground to make up with little time left to do it. They’re one point back with two extra games played and entered the night with a 30 percent chance. That race is probably over and with the Rangers unlikely to catch New Jersey in second there doesn’t look like much to play for over the team’s final 14 games.

3. Carolina Hurricanes

Last Week: 2
Record: 44-14-8
Sean rank: 3
Dom rank: 3

They’re in the driver’s seat in the Metropolitan Division, which would earn them a matchup against one of the wild-card teams. That’s better than the alternative; the Rangers are a tier above the IslandersPenguins and Panthers, and Carolina hasn’t gotten a point in either of their two games this season. It’s a small sample size, but it’s also instructive. Leave the tougher matchups for the second round.

And hey, in the meantime, they can figure out the best way to replace Andrei Svechnikov. That’ll be about as tough as it sounds.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs

Last Week: 4
Record: 40-18-9
Sean rank: 5
Dom rank: 4

Guys, guys, guys — the meltdown happens seven games into the playoffs. Not in March in a season where the Leafs have been locked into second place for roughly four months. Relax. Right now, the Leafs are playing for nothing but to make sure their fanbase doesn’t implode earlier than they’re supposed to.

5. Dallas Stars

Last Week: 5
Record: 37-18-13
Sean rank: 4
Dom rank: 6

The Stars are pretty firmly in “it would take a meltdown” territory regarding their Central Division lead. The rest of the way, they have one game against the Avalanche and none vs. the Wild. All three teams are playing well, so minimal ground is being lost.

The same principle applies to the larger race. Dallas has a very real shot at winning the West, but the Golden Knights are handling business, too. The Stars can hope their process (third in the league in expected goals percentage since Feb. 13) beats out Vegas’ (20th).

6. Vegas Golden Knights

Last Week: 6
Record: 42-21-6
Sean rank: 6
Dom rank: 7

Same deal as Dallas — the Golden Knights are playing for the division and possibly even the conference title. There’s a huge difference between playing a third seed and a wildcard team in the West so rising to the top is crucial. Having said that, Vegas has a lot more cut out for it at the moment. The Golden Knights have a decent cushion and came into Thursday night’s game with decent odds (64 percent), but their underlying numbers have been pretty putrid over the last month or so.

7. Colorado Avalanche

Last Week: 7
Record: 39-22-6
Sean rank: 7
Dom rank: 8

The Avs are hilarious. They’re closer to being out of a playoff spot than winning the West, but really, which of those two feels more likely? They’ll keep doing what they’ve done all season; hope for health by the postseason (welcome to the Rocky Mountain Hurt Boy Club, Artturi Lehkonen!), and remember what the core of the roster did less than a year ago. No team’s playoff spot is less relevant.

8. Edmonton Oilers

Last Week: 8
Record: 37-23-8
Sean rank: 10
Dom rank: 5

Where the Oilers finish feels less important than how Connor McDavid closes out. Can he hit 50 multipoint games? He’s got 38. Can he become the only NHLer other than Mario Lemieux to score 80 power-play points in a season? He’s at 59. Are 70 goals possible? He just had 10 in five games. Let’s see how this story ends.

9. New York Rangers

Last Week: 9
Record: 39-19-10
Sean rank: 8
Dom rank: 9

No team added more offensive firepower in trade season than the Rangers, and their lines remain a bit of a work in progress. Artemi PanarinVincent TrocheckPatrick Kane wasn’t great (sub-40 expected goals percentage, sub-50 actual goals percentage), so Gerard Gallant switched things up. Kane with Trocheck and Chris Kreider, through a couple games, has fared markedly better. Nothing for the Rangers is more important than figuring out which of their two star right wingers (Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko) goes where.

10. Los Angeles Kings

Last Week: 10
Record: 40-20-9
Sean rank: 9
Dom rank: 11

Going into the All-Star break the Kings looked like the flimsiest paper tiger the playoff race has seen in a while. Their goal differential was minus-13, 22nd in the league! What they’ve done since has been pretty remarkable as they’ve completely flipped the script with the league’s second-best record and a plus-19 goal differential. The reason? Prove Dom “Fake Good” Luszczyszyn wrong once again. Probably. He’s already eaten crow for it, but we can only imagine the rest of the season will be played out of pure spite.

11. Tampa Bay Lightning

Last Week: 11
Record: 41-22-6
Sean rank: 11
Dom rank: 11

Actually, forget what we said about the Avs. It’s not possible to imagine a playoff team with less at stake than the Lightning. They’ve transcended the regular season overall — and beyond that, they’re locked into a matchup against the Leafs. Figure out how to most effectively incorporate Tanner Jeannot into the mix, avoid injury and prep for the premiere series of the first round.

12. Minnesota Wild

Last Week: 12
Record: 39-21-8
Sean rank: 12
Dom rank: 12

With a 14-game point streak in their back pocket, suddenly a division title is in reach for the Wild. That seemed difficult to believe just a month ago, but they’ve been a powerhouse defensively. The odds aren’t in the Wild’s favor with the Avalanche breathing down their necks and Dallas playing strong hockey — but the opportunity is there. Whether they can keep this up without Kirill Kaprizov will be the challenge though, so just playing for home ice is likely the goal here.

13. Seattle Kraken

Last Week: 13
Record: 38-23-7
Sean rank: 13
Dom rank: 13

Just make the playoffs — that’s the goal. After last season, it’s amazing the Kraken are even in this position, but they’ve been legitimately good this season. Their odds are strong at 89 percent, but that’s not a sealed ticket in the West. With how Vegas, Los Angeles and Edmonton are playing right now it would be difficult to ask for much more than a place at the 16-seat table in April.

14. Pittsburgh Penguins

Last Week: 15
Record: 34-24-10
Sean rank: 14
Dom rank: 14

Disastrous as the Penguins’ trade deadline was, they still should make the playoffs. Ideally for them, Tristan Jarry would string together enough good games down the stretch to make a long series against Boston or Carolina feel … realistic, let’s say. Rusty or not, the break-even Goals Saved Above Expected he’s posted so far this season will not be good enough, and that number has dropped precipitously of late. He’s been bad, and Casey DeSmith — strong recent play aside — doesn’t have the juice necessary to vault Pittsburgh past an elite team.

15. New York Islanders

Last Week: 14
Record: 35-27-8
Sean rank: 15
Dom rank: 16

They’re one of the handful of teams still fighting for a playoff spot and the race in the East is actually pretty juicy. The Panthers and Islanders are both right around 50 percent and the race could come down to the wire. The Islanders are in the driver’s seat right now with a .557 points percentage, but will likely need to ramp that up down the stretch to keep the Panthers at bay. Even though they’ve been great without him, doing that without Mathew Barzal won’t be easy.

16. Florida Panthers

Last Week: 17
Record: 34-27-7
Sean rank: 16
Dom rank: 15

A playoff spot is now in coin-flip territory for the Panthers, and they should try their damndest for a couple reasons. They’re close enough to Pittsburgh and the Islanders, and talented enough, to pull it off. Beyond that, they have absolutely no incentive to miss out. Sending a lottery pick to the Canadiens for a couple months of Ben Chiarot, even one that had no shot at landing Connor Bedard, would be psychologically brutal.

17. Winnipeg Jets

Last Week: 16
Record: 38-28-3
Sean rank: 17
Dom rank: 17

We’ve come a long, long way since friend of the rankings Murat Ates waxed poetic about how good the Jets are and many Jets fans complained that The Rankings Boys weren’t doing the team justice. It was around that time that the Jets inched towards a 90 percent chance at the playoffs, but the Jets have gone 20-21-2 (!) since. Now, that spot is a bit more precarious. The Jets were at 69 percent before losing to Boston Thursday night (with Calgary beating Vegas not helping the cause). They’re no playoff lock and will spend the next month fighting for a spot. Two games against Nashville and one against Calgary loom large.

18. Nashville Predators

Last Week: 20
Record: 34-25-7
Sean rank: 20
Dom rank: 19

The Predators were making an improbable push for a playoff spot with a 7-2-1 run heading into Thursday night — and then they lost to the Blackhawks. Ouch. It’s difficult to believe they can make it with what’s left on the roster, but belief in the room can go a long way. At the very least, they’re playing for something, unlike the next several teams on the list.

19. Calgary Flames

Last Week: 18
Record: 31-24-14
Sean rank: 19
Dom rank: 19

Technically they’re playing for a playoff spot. Technically. The Flames are “playing” for a playoff spot in the sense that they’re 8-8-5 since The Pelletier Incident. At the very least, it’s clear they’re not playing for Darryl Sutter.

Maybe they still make it — the Flames do have a soft schedule — but they’ve dug a pretty big hole that will be difficult to get out of. Their odds sat at 17 percent before last night’s game against Vegas.

20. Washington Capitals

Last Week: 23
Record: 33-29-7
Sean rank: 20
Dom rank: 21

They can still hope for a playoff spot, actually. The probability is still in the single-digits, but they’ve hung around to grind out 11 out of a possible 18 points after their six-game skid, and they did enough future-focused work at the deadline to check that box. So sure, go ahead and hope for something wild to happen. That’d be more fun than picking 14th overall, or whatever.

21. Buffalo Sabres

Last Week: 21
Record: 33-28-6
Sean rank: 21
Dom rank: 20

The Sabres have mostly fallen out of the playoff race and barring a miracle will likely be on the outside looking in when all is said and done. Still, this season has been nothing but a success for a team few believed in. The fact they still even have a shot, as low as it may be, is a testament to that. The rest of the season is for the fans who deserve something real to cheer for. Maybe it amounts to something and the hope of that is enough for a fanbase that has felt hopeless for far too long.

22. Detroit Red Wings

Last Week: 22
Record: 30-28-9
Sean rank: 23
Dom rank: 22

Not good enough for the playoffs. Not bad enough for Connor Bedard. The Red Wings simply exist in the ugly middle realm of sadness. The rest of their schedule is the equivalent of 4 p.m. on a Friday. Just get it over with.

23. Ottawa Senators

Last Week: 19
Record: 33-31-4
Sean rank: 22
Dom rank: 23

This stretch of the schedule was always going to be grim for the Senators. Realistically, if they can navigate it without dropping far enough into the lottery to send a gift-wrapped, prime pick to Arizona, they’ll have done fine.

24. Vancouver Canucks

Last Week: 24
Record: 29-33-5
Sean rank: 24
Dom rank: 24

What are the Canucks playing for? Nothing that makes any sense to even the casual hockey fan. The goal is to keep winning in order to further satiate ownership belief that this is a competitive team, wrongly increasing expectations for next season while decreasing their lottery chances this season — all to continue a never-ending cycle of mediocrity. Cool!

25. St. Louis Blues

Last Week: 25
Record: 29-33-5
Sean rank: 25
Dom rank: 25

“It’ll be good. He always wants to fight somebody, ya know?”

That was a mic-d up Marc-Andre Fleury on Wednesday night trying to fight Jordan Binnington and it’s the closest the Blues netminder has gotten to receiving a years-long wish for a scrap. The Blues aren’t playing for anything, but if we’re tuning in at all (unlikely) it’s specifically to see someone finally fight Binnington.

26. Arizona Coyotes

Last Week: 28
Record: 26-32-11
Sean rank: 26
Dom rank: 26

Apparently not Connor Bedard, since they just won five of six.

27. Philadelphia Flyers

Last Week: 27
Record: 24-32-11
Sean rank: 28
Dom rank: 27

Connor Bedard — and they’re doing a fantastic job with a 4-12-4 skid in their last 20.

28. Montreal Canadiens

Last Week: 26
Record: 27-36-6
Sean rank: 27
Dom rank: 28

Connor Bedard — and they’re making a solid late push into the top/bottom five, when the odds really start to get good/bad.

29. Anaheim Ducks

Last Week: 29
Record: 22-36-10
Sean rank: 29
Dom rank: 29

Connor Bedard — and they’ve got a big showdown coming up Friday night against the heavyweight Blue Jackets in the tank division.

30. Chicago Blackhawks

Last Week: 30
Record: 24-38-6
Sean rank: 30
Dom rank: 30

Connor Bedard — and they’re absolutely blowing it with back-to-back wins, including one against the historically great Bruins. That’s awful tank awareness.

31. Columbus Blue Jackets

Last Week: 32
Record: 21-39-7
Sean rank: 31
Dom rank: 31

Connor Bedard — and with a loss to the Kings (and Chicago winning, again) the Blue Jackets now have the best odds. It’s not where Columbus expected to be at the start, but it would be a helluva reward for a lost season.

32. San Jose Sharks

Last Week: 31
Sean rank: 32
Dom rank: 32

Connor Bedard — and they’re really starting to pour it on losing 12 of their last 14. As far as Bedard landing places go, the Sharks have to be up there as one of the better landing spots.

“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

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