Welcome to the 20th edition of my weekly NHL Power Rankings for The Hockey Writers, where the league’s top half is evaluated. These rankings will focus on how teams have performed in the past week of play and will significantly factor in their overall strength and where they are at the time in the standings. With that said, here’s a look at the top 16 teams in the league at this moment.
16. Dallas Stars (32-22-3)
Last Week’s Rank: 10
Though the Dallas Stars have picked up their play as of late, this past week was not a good one for them. They lost a very important game on Tuesday night to a team they are battling for a wild card position with in the Nashville Predators and fell in their second and final game of the week as well at the hands of the New York Rangers.
As good as things have been going for this Stars club in recent months, they received some brutal news this past week, as it was announced defenceman Miro Heiskanen will be out indefinitely with mononucleosis. Losing him for any significant period of time would be a serious blow to their playoff chances.
15. Minnesota Wild (34-20-4)
Last Week’s Rank: 15
Few teams in the NHL have struggled as much as the Wild lately, and this week was more of the same. Things appeared to be on the right track after a win on Tuesday against the New York Rangers. Nights later, however, they struggled to get past the Detroit Red Wings and then went on to lose to both the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Predators.
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Goaltending continues to be a huge issue for this team, as both Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen aren’t doing enough to rack up wins. With the deadline soon approaching, it will be interesting to see if general manager Bill Guerin looks for help in that department.
14. Edmonton Oilers (32-23-4)
Last Week’s Rank: NA
There have been few teams that have gone through as many highs and lows as the Edmonton Oilers this season. It seems you never know what to expect from them on a nightly basis, as their play has been extremely inconsistent in 2021-22.
The good news for the organization and its fans is that this past week was a good one. Despite losing Monday night to the Calgary Flames, they were able to pick up wins against both the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning. With the big week, they have found their way back into a playoff position, though whether or not they are able to hold onto it remains to be seen.
13. Nashville Predators (34-21-4)
Last Week’s Rank: 16
After a great start to the season, the Predators’ play has been average at best over the past few months, though they do still hold the top wild card position in the Western Conference. This past week helped a ton in that regard, as they were able to pick up six of a possible eight points, with their only loss coming to a strong team in the St. Louis Blues.
One of the biggest reasons for the Predators being in a playoff position right now is the play of Matt Duchene. After two disappointing seasons in a row, he has turned things around in a big way in 2021-22 with 31 goals and 59 points.
12. L.A. Kings
Last Week’s Rank: 13
What was shaping up to be an ugly week after back-to-back losses to the San Jose Sharks was quickly turned around after a huge win against the Florida Panthers on Sunday night. Trailing 2-1, Martin Frk was able to beat Spencer Knight with just 32 seconds remaining to send the game to extra time, and the Kings went on to win in a shootout.
The Kings continue to be the biggest surprise in the NHL this season. With their win on Sunday, they now have a comfy six-point lead over the Oilers for second place in the Pacific Division.
11. Toronto Maple Leafs (37-17-5)
Last Week’s Rank: 12
Though the Toronto Maple Leafs were able to pick up points in three of their four games this past week, it was anything but pretty. Petr Mrazek was given a chance to take over the number one position in goal with the injury to Jack Campbell, but has blown that opportunity in a big way to this point, allowing four or more goals over his past four starts.
If this team doesn’t find a way to acquire a goaltender ahead of the trade deadline, they could be in big trouble. Even worse for the short term is that Auston Matthews may be forced to miss a game or two as a result of a high cross-check on Buffalo Sabres defenceman Rasmus Sandin on Sunday night.
10. Washington Capitals (32-18-10)
Last Week’s Rank: 14
It was a solid Western Canadian swing for the Capitals this past week, as they were able to pick up five of a possible six points in games against the Flames, Oilers, and Vancouver Canucks. This team has finally gotten healthy and has picked things up as of late, going 6-3-1 over their last 10.
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Many had their attention focused on Alex Ovechkin this past week as he was able to tie Jaromir Jagr for third on the NHL’s all-time goal-scoring list. As a result, Nicklas Backstrom’s 1000th career point, which he recorded on Wednesday versus the Oilers, was somewhat overshadowed. That has often been the case for the continuously underrated 34-year-old, but Capitals fans can vouch for just how important he is to this team’s lineup.
9. St. Louis Blues (34-17-8)
Last Week’s Rank: 9
It was another so-so week for the Blues, who have been somewhat inconsistent as of late. They were able to pick up big wins against solid teams in the Rangers and Predators but fell to teams they should be beating in the Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets.
One player the Blues really need to get going is Ryan O’Reilly, who has just 39 points through 55 games this season. For many, those numbers would be solid. However, the 31-year-old has proven over the years that he is capable of much more.
8. New York Rangers (37-17-5)
Last Week’s Rank: 5
This past week started off in very frustrating fashion for the Rangers, as they were outscored 11-4 in losses to the Wild and Blues. They were able to pick up a win in their final game of the week against the Stars, though they still gave up four against.
It was a rare off week for Igor Shesterkin, a goalie who many believe could win the Hart Trophy this season. While his numbers did take a bit of a hit, he still owns an incredibly impressive 2.07 goals-against average (GAA) along with a .938 save percentage (SV%). He should be able to bounce back this next week.
7. Pittsburgh Penguins (36-15-9)
Last Week’s Rank: 8
This past week was a tough one schedule-wise for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who faced off against the Panthers, Vegas Golden Knights and the Hurricanes. While they did fall 4-3 on Tuesday against the Panthers, they were able to win the next two, and are continuing to show why they are a top team in the NHL.
Sidney Crosby has been on fire as of late and is currently riding a nine-game point streak. He has 13 points over that span and is now up to 58 in just 48 games this season. The 34-year-old remains one of the game’s elite players and doesn’t appear he will be slowing down anytime soon.
6. Tampa Bay Lightning (37-15-6)
Last Week’s Rank: 2
This past week was an ugly one for the Lightning, as they dropped games to the Jets, Flames and Oilers before finally picking up a win against the Canucks on Sunday. As a result of this tough stretch, they have taken a big hit in this week’s ranking, but are talented enough to rise back to the top in no time.
When speaking about this Lightning roster, most are quick to point out the many star talents they possess. One player who is flying under the radar and deserves some credit, however, is Corey Perry. The 36-year-old has been a terrific depth scorer this season with 16 goals and 32 points through 58 games and is the type of player that could really help this team win their third straight Stanley Cup later this year.
5. Boston Bruins (36-18-5)
Last Week’s Ranking: 7
After a slow start to the season, the Bruins have been really feeling it lately. They were able to pick up five of a possible six points this past week, and are now 8-1-1 over their past 10. With their recent surge, they are now just two points behind the Maple Leafs for third in the Atlantic Division.
Perhaps the biggest reason why they have picked things up in such a major way lately is the play of rookie goaltender Jeremy Swayman. The 23-year-old has been outstanding as of late and now owns a 2.06 GAA along with a .926 SV% in 28 games.
4. Calgary Flames (36-16-7)
Last Week’s Ranking: 6
This past week was jam-packed for the Flames, as they had a ridiculous five games scheduled in just seven days. Despite that, they were still able to play quite well, picking up three wins in that span, and remain one of the hottest teams in the entire league.
Jacob Markstrom was able to pick up a shutout on Saturday night against the Detroit Red Wings and now has a league-leading nine on the season. Though the Vezina is Shesterkin’s to lose as of right now, Markstrom is worthy of being in the conversation.
3. Colorado Avalanche (42-13-5)
Last Week’s Ranking: 3
After losses to the New Jersey Devils and Hurricanes, the Avalanche were able to take down the Flames 3-0 on Sunday night. With the win, they managed to reclaim the top spot in the NHL standings with 89 points, and are as scary of a team as any heading down the stretch.
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One tough blow for the Avalanche this past week was the loss of Gabriel Landeskog. Their captain, who has 30 goals and 59 points in just 51 games this season, will undergo ACL surgery on Monday and is expected to miss a significant chunk of time. Lucky for the Avs, they have plenty of other scoring forwards to step up in his absence, but this is a very tough loss nonetheless.
2. Florida Panthers (40-13-6)
Last Week’s Ranking: 2
The Panthers looked like they were about to win their fourth straight on Sunday night, but gave up a late lead to the Kings and went on to lose in a shootout. Their three wins on the week, however, came in typical Panther fashion, as they were able to score a combined 16 goals in wins over the Buffalo Sabres, Penguins and Flyers.
While players like Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov tend to get most of the credit, there are several other forwards who are having fantastic offensive years. Guys like Sam Reinhart, Anthony Duclair, Carter Verhaeghe, Sam Bennett and Mason Marchment are all having career seasons and are a big reason why this team has become such an offensive powerhouse.
1. Carolina Hurricanes (41-13-5)
Last Week’s Rank: 1
This past week was another extremely impressive one for this elite Hurricanes team. They started it off with a win over the Avalanche on Thursday and were then able to defeat the Philadelphia Flyers two nights later. They did end up falling to the Penguins to finish off the week, though it was on the second half of a back-to-back.
After missing a short period of time with an undisclosed injury, Frederik Andersen returned to the crease on Saturday night and looked no worse for the wear, kicking aside 28 of the 29 shots he faced. Leafs management would certainly like a do-over on last year’s free agency, as letting Andersen walk appears to have been a major mistake. In 40 games he now owns a 2.06 GAA and a .929 SV%.
Changes to Come
These rankings will continue to change each week throughout the season, as all teams go through highs and lows. Of course, the true contenders will always remain on the list, but where they are ranked could change each and every week. Tune in at this time next week to see the changes.