NHL power rankings: Avalanche roll to top spot, Predators crash the party(2)

11. Boston Bruins (Previous Ranking: 12)

NHL power rankings: Boston Bruins
Aug 29, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak (88) passes the puck against the Tampa Bay Lightning in game four of the second round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

While the Bruins still have the best penalty kill in the league, they’ve gone 4-4-2 in their last ten games and now on shaky ground for the last spot in the East Division. Just one point ahead of the struggling Philadelphia Flyers, likely because Brad Marchand missed this weekend’s contest because of Covid protocols. With a handful of players still on the Covid list and injuries mounting, the Bs seem to be struggling through these few weeks. 

NHL power rankings: Second-tier contenders with problematic flaws

12. Florida Panthers (Previous Ranking: 9)

NHL power rankings: Florida Panthers
Mar 9, 2020; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Florida Panthers goaltender Chris Driedger (60) looks on during the second period against the St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Even more bad news in the Sunshine State: Aleksander Barkov and Patric Hornqvist still have not returned to the lineup, and now another man has gone down. Aaron Ekblad fractured his left leg and will be out for the remainder of the season after being taken out on a stretcher in the club’s Sunday contest against the Dallas Stars. Ekblad, Hornqvist and Barkov are all power play staples and, though Barkov is nearing a return, the club’s solid power play has suffered as a result. But, they still sit third in the Central Division, and should climb the NHL power rankings again when Barkov and Hornqvist return. 

13. Nashville Predators (Previous Ranking: 21)

NHL power rankings: Nashville Predators
Mar 3, 2020; Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi (59) makes a pass in the third period of a game with the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

Winners of their last five contests, the Preds have surged to overtake both the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Chicago Blackhawks for the final spot in the Central Division. They’re 7-3-0 in their last ten games and, even with a minor injury, goaltender Juuse Saros was recognized as the NHL’s third star of the week. He’s playing the best hockey of his career, and the league noted that “Saros stopped 80 of the 82 shots he faced, compiling a 3-0-0 record, 0.67 goals-against average, .976 save percentage and one shutout to help the Predators (18-17-1, 37 points) win all four of their games.”

14. Toronto Maple Leafs (Previous Ranking: 14)

NHL power rankings: Toronto Maple Leafs
Aug 7, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews (34) and goaltender Frederik Andersen (31) celebrate a win over the Columbus Blue Jackets during overtime of game four of the Eastern Conference qualifications at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

For a team that was once first in the NHL, a 4-5-1 record in their last 10 games is a bit of a shock. Their throne seems to be crumbling, and they’re struggling to win games, often winning by minimal margins and losing by one goal. This is likely a direct result of Auston Matthews’ production decrease, though in the five days the Leafs had off he seemed to recollect his thoughts, and has once again recorded points in his last three games. They’ll need him to play like he did before his injury if they’re going to climb the NHL power rankings, and hold onto their first-place title. 

15. Montreal Canadiens (Previous Ranking: 16)

NHL power rankings: Montreal Canadiens
Aug 19, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) blocks a shot against the Philadelphia Flyers during the first period in game five of the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Canadiens’ form was slipping for some time, but after a three-game hiatus due to COVID-19 protocols, they came back strong with a 4-0 shutout of Edmonton. Boasting the league’s third-highest shots per game (33.1), this team has proven that they can create offense on command. Montreal should still be a considered a Stanley Cup contender. A goaltender tandem as strong as Carey Price and Jake Allen makes anything seem possible, and the Habs should benefit from that enviable backstop depth chart come playoff time.

NHL power rankings: Teams on the playoff picture border

16. Philadelphia Flyers (Previous Ranking: 15)

NHL power rankings: Philadelphia Flyers
Sep 3, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart (79) stops a shot by New York Islanders left wing Anders Lee (27) as defenseman Travis Sanheim (6) defends during the overtime period in game six of the second round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Goaltending issues have become extremely apparent in Philadelphia, which certainly contributes to the team’s struggles of late. Both Brian Elliott and Carter Hart have under a .900 save percentage, (Elliott’s is .893 and Hart’s .869), and Hart was even scratched for Philly’s 4-3 comeback win over the Buffalo Sabres. What’s worse, the club got manhandled by Mika Zibanejad and the New York Rangers yet again. While Joel Farabee and James van Riemsdyk are still putting up respectable point totals (31 for van Riemsdyk and 27 for Farabee), their offensive production can’t seem to overpower the netminding struggles.

17. St. Louis Blues (Previous Ranking: 13)

NHL power rankings: St. Louis Blues
Aug 17, 2020; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; St. Louis against the Vancouver Canucks: Blues center Ryan O’Reilly (90) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the first period in game four of the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Gerry Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

With David Perron and captain Ryan O’Reilly leading the charge, the Blues have been putting up a strong fight in the West Division all season long, where the competition for the top four playoff spots is fierce between five clubs. As we’ll get to in a moment, against all odds, the Arizona Coyotes are suddenly pushing St. Louis for the West’s fourth and final playoff spot. Combine that with a four consecutive L’s, and the Blues are hitting a sour note at an inopportune time, hence their drop in this NHL power rankings update. 

18. Arizona Coyotes (Previous Ranking: 23)

NHL power rankings: Arizona Coyotes
Mar 8, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper (35) is tended to by a trainer following an injury in the third period against the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Darcy Kuemper could only do so much. The star goalie has been out for Arizona due to a lower-body injury. That seemed to suggest the Coyotes’ postseason hopes were dashed, since the club struggled to generate scoring chances and routinely squandered Kuemper’s brilliant play between the pipes. Lo and behold, since losing its first five contests sans Kuemper, Arizona has enjoyed a 4-1 stretch to get right back into the playoff conversation. We’ll see if this momentum continues

19. Chicago Blackhawks (Previous Ranking: 20)

NHL power rankings: Chicago Blackhawks
Mar 8, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith (2) skates with the puck against the St. Louis Blues during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Jonathan Toews’ absence loomed large in Chicago at the start of the season, as the team looked like an undisciplined mess for a time without their captain, who’s dealing with an illness and is out indefinitely. It was surprising to see a team with multiple Stanley Cup champions like Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith come out so sluggish in 2021. Since that rocky opening, though, the Blackhawks are playing better, boasting the NHL’s No. 2 power play unit with a ridiculous 27.4% success rate. Their aggressive style of play is high-risk, high-reward. It’ll be interesting to see how it holds up amid the push for the playoffs.

20. Columbus Blue Jackets (Previous Ranking: 19)

NHL power rankings: Columbus Blue Jackets
Aug 11, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella gestures as he speaks to his players in game one of the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs against Tampa Bay Lightning at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

A wildly inconsistent and disappointing first half of the season has led the Jackets to a 14-15-8 mark. It’s almost impossible to trust Columbus’ offense to produce at a steady rate, yet it’s been the defense that’s been most disappointing. Typically a stout defensive club under coach John Tortorella, the Blue Jackets are conceding goals at an alarming rate. That’s not ideal, especially with a goalie tandem of Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo. Even worse, Merzlikins went on injured reserve for several weeks, and has been uneven in net since then. Columbus’ slight drop in the NHL power rankings would be greater if CBJ hadn’t followed two embarrassing losses to Detroit with a win over the Lightning.

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