Jump to content

NHL Power Rankings: As the playoffs approach, some movement in the top-10


Recommended Posts

There are NHL teams out there with fewer than 10 games remaining on their schedules. Did you realize that? Can you believe it?

Thusly, it’s time for Power Rankings HQ to shift into playoff mode. We don’t have time for a gimmick this week — just meaningful nuggets attached to a list of hockey teams, numbered in order of how good we believe them to be.

No joke, the regular season ends in three weeks. Look alive out there.

1. Boston Bruins

Last Week: 1
Record: 55-11-5
Sean rank: 1
Dom rank: 1

For the 700th week in a row, the Bruins rank first. There’s no argument to be made for any other team, no one else is close. How not close? Their goal differential of plus-116 is more than twice as much as the next best team — New Jersey a plus-54. If they win eight of their final 11 games they set the NHL record for wins. No big deal.

2. New Jersey Devils

Last Week: 2
Record: 45-18-8
Sean rank: 2
Dom rank: 2

You know the Devils can score goals. Jack Hughes has a whole bunch himself, for example (26 at five-on-five alone, tied for third in the NHL heading into Thursday). It still feels like they don’t get the credit they deserve for their team defense, though; they’re fifth in the league in all-situations expected goals again/60 (2.91) and fourth in actual goals against/60 (2.62).

3. Carolina Hurricanes

Last Week: 3
Record: 46-16-8
Sean rank: 3
Dom rank: 3

When Andrei Svechnikov tore his ACL, how the Hurricanes would replace his production was an open question. In the six games since, Jesperi Kotkaniemi has put up five points after having 30 in his first 64, and his expected goals percentage at five-on-five is fourth on the team. That’s a legitimate reason for optimism for a team that could use one, despite the fact that they clinched a playoff berth on Thursday.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs

Last Week: 4
Record: 43-19-9
Sean rank: 4
Dom rank: 4

Thursday night’s game was a solid return to form for Toronto after a brutal 7-2 loss to the Islanders and a game where the team gave up 52 shots to a non-playoff team. The Leafs are 5-3-1 since the trade deadline, but have also had the league’s 27th-best xG rate going into their game against Florida at 43 percent. It’ll take time for chemistry to form with a lot of new faces in the lineup, but Toronto’s decisive 6-2 win was a step in the right direction.

5. New York Rangers

Last Week: 9
Record: 42-20-10
Sean rank: 5
Dom rank: 6

The Rangers are starting to show why they’re a big threat in the East, highlighted by dominant back-to-back wins over the weekend: 6-0 against Pittsburgh and 7-0 against Nashville. The biggest reason to be afraid though is the return of Igor Shesterkin. After giving up four goals or more in four straight contests in late February, Shesterkin has been on fire. In his last 10 games, Shesterkin has a .931 save percentage and has saved 7.5 goals above expected.

6. Edmonton Oilers

Last Week: 8
Record: 41-23-8
Sean rank: 6
Dom rank: 5

One of us, who shall remain nameless, wanted to see another week’s worth of strong post-deadline five-on-five results. The Oilers delivered; they’re fifth in the league in expected goals percentage (56.8) and 11th in actual goals percentage (53.5) since March 3. That’ll do, especially with Mr. 60 Goals In 72 Games leading the way. Yes, Connor McDavid’s new nickname needs some work.

7. Vegas Golden Knights

Last Week: 6
Record: 45-21-6 
Sean rank: 7
Dom rank: 7

The simplest solution to the Golden Knights’ glut of goaltenders was always going to be Logan Thompson returning from injury and picking up where he left off in early February. Thompson started against Calgary on Thursday and, lo and behold, he was outstanding, stopping 37 of 39 shots and saving more than a goal above expected. He put a gigantic dent in Calgary’s playoff hopes, too. Not bad. If that’s what Vegas gets from Thompson come the postseason, they’ll play for a long time.

8. Colorado Avalanche

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

Lars Eller went 32 games without a goal before finally scoring one last week. He didn’t have to wait long for the next one either, scoring again the following week. Colorado didn’t pick up Eller for his scoring touch — the Avs give up just 1.99 expected goals against per 60 with him on the ice — but he still needs to provide some offense if he’s playing 14-to-15 minutes per night. That’ll make a big difference come playoff time.

9. Dallas Stars

Last Week: 5
Record: 39-19-14 
Sean rank: 9
Dom rank: 9

Remember when Jason Robertson scored 23 goals and 41 points in his first 25 games, looking like a bonafide Hart Trophy threat? It’s been a lot quieter for him since with 18 goals and 48 points over his last 46 games. He looked like a lock for 50 goals once, but it’s going to be really tough getting there now. The Stars won 56 percent of their games during that first stretch and that’s down to 53 percent since. Still a strong team — but not quite contender quality unless Robertson is at MVP-level.

10. Los Angeles Kings

Last Week: 10
Record: 41-20-10
Sean rank: 10
Dom rank: 10

We mentioned the Oilers’ five-on-five upswing since the deadline. The Kings’ has been even more drastic; they’re first in expected goals percentage (62.45) and actual goals percentage (74.24). In four starts apiece since March 4, Pheonix Copley (.940 save percentage, 4.23 GSAx) and Joonas Korpisalo (.921, 2.31) have both been fantastic.

11. Minnesota Wild

Last Week: 12
Record: 41-22-9
Sean rank: 11
Dom rank: 12

The Wild generally seemed to come out flat on Thursday against the Flyers and lost 5-4 in overtime, but Matt Boldy’s Kirill Kaprizov-less goal bonanza continued. He scored twice, giving him eight in seven games since Kaprizov’s injury. Not coincidentally, Minnesota has scored five goals or more five times and gone 4-1-2.

12. Tampa Bay Lightning

Last Week: 11
Record: 42-25-6
Sean rank: 12
Dom rank: 11

Three straight losses, one of which was to the lowly Canadiens and another a 7-2 defeat against Ottawa, says all you need to know about how much these games mean to the Lightning: They don’t care. Don’t read into any of it.

Do perhaps read into this: Victor Hedman’s average ice-time dropped by about three minutes over the last month to roughly 21.5 minutes per night. During that stretch, the Lightning have been outchanced and outscored with Hedman on the ice. Maybe he’s hurt, maybe he’ll flip the switch for the playoffs — either way, his play has been notably off.

13. New York Islanders

Last Week: 15
Record: 37-27-8
Sean rank: 13
Dom rank: 13

The Islanders are 12-5-3 since the Bo Horvat trade, the league’s ninth-best record, and have surged into a very cozy playoff position as a result. The best part for them is that they haven’t even seen the best that Horvat has to offer. As expected, Horvat has regressed a bit as an Islander with just five goals and nine points in 20 games, but at five-on-five the Islanders are half an xG better per 60 minutes with him on the ice. His luck will turn around soon and should make the Islanders a very feisty wildcard foe.

14. Seattle Kraken

Last Week: 13
Record: 39-24-8 
Sean rank: 14
Dom rank: 14

The top five in goals at five-on-five this year is almost exactly who you might expect: Connor McDavid, Mikko RantanenDavid Pastrnak, Jack Hughes. And then there’s Jared McCann who’s showing last year was no fluke. Something worth noting is how much he’s feasted on non-playoff teams this year. In 33 games he has 22 goals and 35 points against the league’s worst. In the other 34 games, he has 12 goals and 21 points. Food for thought for the playoffs where Seattle’s lack of starpower is a big concern.

15. Pittsburgh Penguins

Last Week: 14
Record: 35-27-10 
Sean rank: 15
Dom rank: 15

Conventional wisdom has been that the Penguins’ best hope for winning relevant games — or making the playoffs at all —  has been for Tristan Jarry to be a) healthy enough to play and b) good. At the moment, he’s neither; Jarry is out, yet again, with a lower-body issue. He’d put up an .887 and was 80th in GSAx in 15 games since his most recent return from injury. Casey DeSmith, meanwhile, has gone .910 and 16th in that same span, but struggles with a starter’s workload. Tough situation for Mike Sullivan.

16. Florida Panthers

Last Week: 16
Record: 36-29-7
Sean rank: 16
Dom rank: 16

All apologies to Flames fans, but this feels like something we should’ve been tracking all season long: With 97 points, Matthew Tkachuk has 24 more than Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar … combined. His average Game Score of 1.78 nearly has them beat, as well. If Florida makes the playoffs, he may well end up as a Hart Trophy finalist — and he probably deserves it regardless.

17. Winnipeg Jets

Last Week: 17
Record: 41-29-3
Sean rank: 17
Dom rank: 17

Prior to this season, Kyle Connor had scored 178 goals off of 144 expected goals, scoring more than expected every single season. That’s, well, what you’d expected out of one of the league’s premier snipers. What you wouldn’t expect is Connor scoring only 27 goals this year despite earning 30 expected goals. Going into Thursday’s game Connor had zero goals in 11 straight and three goals in his last 24 games — a goal-scoring binge is coming.

And lo and behold, there it is. Sometimes it just takes one game against the Ducks to get things going again.

18. Nashville Predators

Last Week: 18
Record: 36-26-8
Sean rank: 18
Dom rank: 18

The Preds’ playoff chances are in the low 20s, thanks to Thursday’s win over Seattle and the Flames’ loss to Vegas. That’s more an indictment of the rest of the Western Conference than anything else, given that Nashville sold at the deadline and has only won five of 10 games since, but still! Weird!

19. Calgary Flames

Last Week: 19
Record: 32-26-15
Sean rank: 19
Dom rank: 19

Is this good?

20. Ottawa Senators

Last Week: 23
Record: 35-32-5
Sean rank: 20
Dom rank: 20

Things we didn’t expect: Jakob Chychrun to have a lower goal and expected goal rate in Ottawa. He’s down to 45 percent in both regards with the Senators doing significantly better with him on the bench compared to on the ice. Maybe they’re growing pains on a new team, but it’s not the hot start fans likely hoped for from the big addition.

21. Washington Capitals

Last Week: 20
Record: 34-31-8
Sean rank: 21
Dom rank: 21

Shoutout to Sharks writer Corey Masisak for this one. While confirming that San Jose was indeed the league’s worst team in the 2023 calendar year, he noticed just how far down the list the Capitals were, too. They’re tied with Montreal for the third-worst points percentage in the league since Jan. 1. They’re 13-18-3, worse than Philadelphia, Chicago, Anaheim … you get it.

22. Buffalo Sabres

Last Week: 21
Record: 33-31-6
Sean rank: 22
Dom rank: 22

Since January 26 when there were reasonable questions regarding why Buffalo’s playoff chances weren’t any higher the Sabres have the league’s fifth-worst record at 8-12-3. In that time they have allowed the most goals against, and have seen their scoring dry up to below-average rates. The Sabres were fun while they lasted, but also a nice lesson to not abandon your priors.

23. Vancouver Canucks

Last Week: 24
Record: 32-34-5
Sean rank: 23
Dom rank: 23

For as much of a mess as the Canucks season has been and may yet bet, it’s worth reiterating just how good Elias Pettersson has been. He started Thursday tied for eighth in the league with 89 five-on-five points, then added his 90th against the Sharks. Same goes for Quinn Hughes, who’s about to set a new career high in points. Not bad for a guy who had 68 last season. That 8-2-0 run has been nice. Probably about time to lose a few, though.

24. St. Louis Blues

Last Week: 25
Record: 32-33-6
Sean rank: 24
Dom rank: 25

In four games, 22-year-old Joel Hofer has saved 3.3 goals above expected and is rocking a .944 save percentage for the Blues. It’s too little too late for them this season obviously, but Hofer’s late-season tryout is going better than expected and that offers a glimmer of hope for a quick turnaround next year. Especially with Jordan Binnington’s own play falling off so precipitously the last two seasons. His 20 goals allowed above expected ranks sixth last over that stretch.

25. Detroit Red Wings

Last Week: 22
Record: 31-31-9
Sean rank: 25
Dom rank: 24

The Red Wings might wind up with a decent shot at Connor Bedard after all. They won’t win the lottery because they’re the Red Wings, but they’re making a run. Remember those post-Jan. 1 standings we brought up for the Caps? Detroit is 28th (.444 points percentage), 3-7-0 in its last 10 and just lost in regulation to St. Louis, the team directly ahead of them in the reverse standings.

26. Philadelphia Flyers

Last Week: 27
Record: 27-32-12
Sean rank: 26
Dom rank: 26

You’re forgiven if you haven’t paid much or any attention to the Flyers this year, but one underrated storyline for them this season is that Owen Tippet is actually good. That wasn’t a guarantee when he was the centerpiece of the Claude Giroux trade, but he’s quietly put up a nice breakout season with 21 goals and 39 points in 66 games. The Flyers are still a long way away, but Tippett is looking like a decent piece for that future.

27. Arizona Coyotes

Last Week: 26
Record: 27-33-12
Sean rank: 27
Dom rank: 27

Before dropping a pair, the Coyotes had gone on a 6-0-1 run in which they outscored opponents 28-17 overall and won the five-on-five battle. Andre Tourigny: Good coach.

28. Montreal Canadiens

Last Week: 28
Record: 28-38-6
Sean rank: 29
Dom rank: 28

Jonathan Drouin was benched for Saturday’s game for missing a team meeting, but that shouldn’t obscure his recent run of productivity. He’s got seven points in his last nine games, second only to Nick Suzuki, and some decent five-on-five impacts, given his environment. Drouin is still only 27 and a pending UFA, so a strong finish would make him an interesting option in a brutal free-agent class.

29. Anaheim Ducks

Last Week: 29
Record: 23-39-10
Sean rank: 28
Dom rank: 29

Since the trade deadline, the Ducks are 16th in goals against per 60 at five-on-five at 2.57 and 21st in expected goals against per 60 at 2.91. Before the deadline, they were dead last in both at around 3.5 in both regards. It turns out that giving a lot of minutes to Dmitry Kulikov and John Klingberg was a bad idea — who knew?!

30. Chicago Blackhawks

Last Week: 30
Record: 24-41-6
Sean rank: 30
Dom rank: 30

31. Columbus Blue Jackets

Last Week: 31
Record: 22-41-7 
Sean rank: 31
Dom rank: 31

If you want a reference point to how bad Elvis Merzlikins has been this season look no further than the fact that he’s being outplayed by Michael Hutchinson. In six games Hutchinson has a terrible .875 save percentage and has allowed 0.32 goals above expected per game. Merzlikins has allowed 0.78. This Blue Jackets team wasn’t ready for primetime and this surprise tank is the best thing for them long-term — especially if they get Connor Bedard. They have Merzlikins to thank for that, first and foremost.

32. San Jose Sharks

Last Week: 32
Record: 19-38-15
Sean rank: 32
Dom rank: 32

The Sharks have done some decent work in the past week. First, they handled the James Reimer/Pride jersey mess about as well as any team could’ve — and then they kept on losing games. The Tank is rolling through the Bay Area, baby. They’re 31st in points percentage and falling. Guaranteeing a top-three pick would be a major, major win.

“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.”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...