NHL power rankings: Avalanche roll to top spot, Predators crash the party(3)

21. New York Rangers (Previous Ranking: 24)

NHL power rankings: New York Rangers
Mar 10, 2020; Dallas, Texas, USA; New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (10) in action during the game between the Rangers and the Stars at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

It seems the Tony DeAngelo drama really affected the Rangers’ locker room in the early going. More adversity struck when Artemi Panarin took a hiatus from the team, and the Blueshirts lost defenseman Jacob Trouba to a long-term injury. Goalie Igor Shesterkin has seen much of his stellar play in net go to waste, as he’s posted an excellent 2.32 GAA but only has a 8-8-1 record to show for it. Shesterkin came back from injured reserve recently, however, and the Rangers are 4-2 in their last six.

22. Vancouver Canucks (Previous Ranking: 18)

NHL power rankings: Vancouver Canucks
Sep 1, 2020; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson (left) celebrates his goal against the Vegas Golden Knights with defenseman Brogan Rafferty (3) during the third period in game five of the second round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. The Vancouver Canucks won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Gerry Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

A root cause for Vancouver’s down season to date: The Canucks are allowing the second-most shots per game to opponents with a 33.8 average. It’s an unforgiving North Division — even for a team as talented as Vancouver. However, the Nucks won seven of eight to get back into the playoff mix before dropping their last three. Vancouver is running out of time, because despite decent position in the standings, Montreal leads by four points for fourth place and has five games in hand.

23. Los Angeles Kings (Previous Ranking: 22)

NHL power rankings: Los Angeles Kings
Feb 11, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Kings goaltender Calvin Petersen (40) and the Kings celebrate the 6-2 victory against the San Jose Sharks at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Kings were among the most surprising teams in the league when they rattled off six straight W’s a while back. Unfortunately, they gave it all back almost right away, losing seven of nine contests, with all but two of those defeats coming by merely one goal. Closing games out is going to be key if Los Angeles wants to remain in the thick of the playoff race, but the club is really struggling of late amid a three-game slide. It’s not the most difficult schedule down the stretch, though, so maybe the Kings can make a run.

NHL power rankings: Teams that need 2nd-half Cinderella run

24. Calgary Flames (Previous Ranking: 17)

NHL power rankings: Calgary Flames
Mar 8, 2020; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames left wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) skates with the puck against the Vegas Golden Knights during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Jacob Markstrom had an impressive start to his maiden season in Calgary with a 5-3-1 record, a 2.55 GAA and a .915 save percentage. That’s what the Flames were looking for when they signed the former Vancouver netminder to a lucrative, long-term free agent contract this past offseason. Unfortunately, Markstrom missed significant time due to injury, causing Calgary to slump. He’s been inconsistent since his return, and the Flames have lost fix of six to fall four points behind Montreal for fourth in the North. Bad news? The Habs have five games in hand.

25. New Jersey Devils (Previous Ranking: 26)

NHL power rankings: New Jersey Devils
Mar 10, 2020; Newark, New Jersey, USA; New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes (86) skates with the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

New Jersey was very much in limbo for a period of time due to its lengthy hiatus brought on by COVID-19. Promising goalie Mackenzie Blackwood led the charge in the Devils’ return to the ice after almost a month away, though, making 37 saves on 39 shots as New Jersey defeated the New York Rangers 5-2 on February 16, then followed that with a win over Boston. Things have gone south in Newark, as the Devils have lost 12 of their next 14 games, but even with the tail end of that unsavory run included, they’re 5-3-2 in their last 10.

26. Dallas Stars (Previous Ranking: 26)

NHL power rankings: Dallas Stars
Sep 14, 2020; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Dallas Stars right wing Corey Perry (10) celebrates the game winning goal scored by Dallas Stars right wing Denis Gurianov (34, not pictured) during the overtime period against the Vegas Golden Knights in game five of the second round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Gerry Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas’ bad scheduling luck plagued the club early, leading to postponed games amid the winter storm in Texas. John Klingberg, Alexander Radulov and Joe Pavelski are leading this team. Roope Hintz has been an exciting addition to the club, but unfortunately, the Stars just haven’t been able to find a rhythm despite an impressive collection of talent and depth. Their drop in the NHL power rankings is reflective of five defeats in their last six outings, and an NHL-high 10 overtime losses.

NHL power rankings: Worst teams in pro hockey

27. San Jose Sharks (Previous Ranking: 27)

NHL power rankings: San Jose Sharks
Mar 5, 2020; San Jose, California, USA; San Jose Sharks goaltender Martin Jones (31) makes a save against the San Jose Sharks during the first period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Marc-Edouard Vlasic has only five points and holds a -4 rating through 34 games. The Sharks’ play has been inconsistent at best and dreadful at worst. Netminder Martin Jones has a goals against average of 3.29. What’s strange is, Jones actually has an 11-7-2 record as starter, as the offense has bailed him out. Devan Dubnyk has a 3-9-2 mark and a 3.18 GAA in 17 games, allowing 12 goals over his past three starts. An unsavory goalie situation has proven too much for San Jose to overcome all season long.

28. Ottawa Senators (Previous Ranking: 28)

NHL power rankings: Ottawa Senators
Dec 23, 2019; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators head coach D. J. Smith questions a missed call with referee Marc Joannette (25) in the third period against the Buffalo Sabres at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Despite having the league’s second-worst goal differential deficit as of this writing, the Sens are at least flashing indications of better form. Other teams are playing worse hockey than them, and not having their top goalie available shouldn’t count too much against them either. The offseason addition of former Penguins goalie Matt Murray didn’t made too much of a difference, however, as he logged a 3.84 GAA in 20 starts (22 games total) before going on injured reserve. Ottawa has a long way to go before it has a competitive roster again, its recent, decent run notwithstanding.

29. Detroit Red Wings (Previous Ranking: 30)

NHL power rankings: Detroit Red Wings
Feb 23, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin (71) handles the puck during the third period against the Calgary Flames at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The indubitable worst team in the NHL from last season was showing signs of improvement early on, but as Detroit legend Steve Yzerman continues his grand undertaking as GM to rebuild this roster, it became clear the Red Wings are far away from competing for the playoffs when they went on an eight-game losing streak. Such a setback ensured Detroit remained among the NHL’s worst teams. The only reason the Wings aren’t last in our NHL power rankings this week is due to Buffalo’s epic losing streak and Detroit’s recent back-to-back wins over Columbus.

30. Anaheim Ducks (Previous Ranking: 29)

NHL power rankings: Anaheim Ducks
Mar 4, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Anaheim Ducks left wing Nicolas Deslauriers (20) and Colorado Avalanche center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (41) fight in the first period at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Poaching defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk from the Lightning probably wasn’t going to be enough to ignite hopes of a playoff season in Anaheim, yet it was a step in the right direction. The bigger red flag is the lack of weapons the Ducks have at forward, and with 83 goals through 37 games, their anemic offense is costing them dearly. Anaheim’s attack has just not been enough to sustain any kind of momentum. The Ducks have lost nine of 11, with a combined goal differential in that span of -20.

31. Buffalo Sabres (Previous Ranking: 31)

NHL power rankings: Buffalo Sabres
Mar 5, 2020; Buffalo, New York, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (9) takes to the ice before a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

And that brings us to the Sabres, losers of 18 straight. Jack Eichel has been injured, and losing a captain is never easy, particularly on a team that’s already lacking for high-end scoring like Buffalo. Unfortunately, COVID-19 knocked the Sabres out of action for a time, and the club’s return was against a red-hot Islanders outfit that handed the Sabres consecutive defeats in which the total score has was 6-1. Buffalo’s perpetual skid has caused the club to be a mainstay all the way to the bottom of the NHL power rankings.

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