NHL 2021-22 Power Rankings: Week 26

Welcome to the 26th 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. Vegas Golden Knights (41-30-5)

Last Week’s Rank: 15

The Golden Knights are on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff picture right now, and they didn’t do themselves a lot of favors in that regard this past week, picking up just three of a possible six points. The one thing going for them is that the Los Angeles Kings, who currently sit third in the Pacific Division, have not been playing well as of late, which means they still have a chance to get in.

Vegas Golden Knights Mark Stone
Vegas Golden Knights right wing Mark Stone (Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

After dealing with injuries all season long, this team is slowly starting to get back to health, as they were able to get Mark Stone back in the lineup. If they do indeed get into the playoffs, they could prove to be a very difficult first round matchup.

15. Vancouver Canucks (37-28-10)

Last Week’s Rank: NA

While the playoffs are extremely unlikely for this Canucks squad, they are doing everything they can to get back into the race, having won five straight games. It is unfortunate that they didn’t have head coach Bruce Boudreau from the get go this season, as they would likely be in a much better position standings wise.

Related: NHL 2021-22 Power Rankings: Week 25

Certain players on this roster, such as Brock Boeser and Nils Hoglander, have disappointed this season, but one who hasn’t at all is J.T. Miller. The 29-year-old is having one of the best, not-talked-about 2021-22 seasons, as he has an extremely impressive 91 points through 73 games.

14. Pittsburgh Penguins (43-23-11)

Last Week’s Rank: 13

After some really good months during the midpoint of the season, the Penguins have really struggled as of late, proven by their 3-6-1 record through their past 10 games. This past week was more of the same, as they won just one of the three games on their schedule.

Making things even worse for this Penguins team is that goaltender Tristan Jarry is being listed as week-to-week with a lower-body injury. If he isn’t able to come back for the playoffs, the Penguins could have a very difficult time getting past the first round.

13. Carolina Hurricanes (48-20-8)

Last Week’s Rank: 10

After being near the top of these rankings all season long, the Hurricanes have fallen in a big way the past few weeks. They haven’t looked like themselves in well over a month, and fell in two of three games this past week, including a 3-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday.

Much like the Penguins, the Hurricanes also have some serious questions surrounding goaltending as Frederik Andersen was helped off the ice in Saturday’s loss to the Colorado Avalanche. He is expected to undergo an MRI in the coming days, and an update should be provided shortly afterward. The silver lining here is that Antti Raanta is one of the league’s best backups, but his health is always a major question mark.

12. Dallas Stars (43-27-5)

Last Week’s Rank: 14

After being on the outside looking in for the playoffs nearly all season, the Stars have really picked up their game as of late and now appear likely to get in. They were able to pick up five of a possible six points this past week, including a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning as well as a tightly contested overtime loss to a very good team in the Minnesota Wild.

Joe Pavelski Dallas Stars
Joe Pavelski, Dallas Stars (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

While players like Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Alex Radulov haven’t been at their best, guys like Joe Pavelski, Jason Robertson and Roope Hintz have really put this team on their backs this season. Whether or not they have what it takes to go on a run in the postseason remains to be seen, but they deserve credit for getting themselves back into a playoff position.

11. Boston Bruins (46-24-5)

Last Week’s Rank: 8

After being one of the league’s hottest teams through the opening three months of 2022, the Bruins are struggling lately. Of course, plenty of that has to do with injuries, as they have been without both David Pastrnak and Hampus Lindholm for a handful of games.

The good news for this Bruins squad is that they have clinched a playoff berth. Now, all they need to focus on is getting healthy, as they will need a full lineup in order to beat either the Hurricanes or the Toronto Maple Leafs, the two teams which they appear most likely to face-off against in the opening round.

10. Tampa Bay Lightning (46-21-8)

Last Week’s Rank: 12

This past week saw the Lightning win two of their three games, perhaps a sign that they are getting things back on track. Their most recent game on Saturday was very promising, as they were able to defeat the Winnipeg Jets by a 7-4 final.

Related: NHL 2021-22 Power Rankings: Week 24

Despite this season not being their strongest, this Lightning team remains one of the favorites when it comes to a Stanley Cup winner. One of the main reasons for that is due to the play of Steven Stamkos, as the 32-year-old has 33 goals and 84 points through 74 games.

9. Washington Capitals (42-23-10)

Last Week’s Rank: 11

The Capitals have been goalscoring machines lately, having put up 35 goals through seven games in the month of April. This past week helped those totals in a big way, as they scored 20 in just three games.

While their offence is looking truly elite, however, their goaltending has been far from. Through those same past three games in which they found the back of the net 20 times, they also gave up 13. Vitek Vanecek has been the better of the two, but he still hasn’t been nearly consistent enough to inspire much confidence.

8. Edmonton Oilers (44-26-6)

Last Week’s Rank: 7

Since the hiring of Jay Woodcroft, the Oilers have been a much better, more consistent team. Their slight drop in this week’s ranking comes as a result of a 5-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night. Despite that, there isn’t much to worry about for their fanbase at the moment, as they responded with 4-0 wins over both the Predators and the Golden Knights.

Mike Smith Edmonton Oilers
Mike Smith, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Picking up each of their shutouts this past week was Mike Smith, who finally appears to be fully healthy and is playing his best hockey of the season. At the age of 40 there is always the chance of another injury, but at this moment he is playing at a level similar to last season, one in which he was much better than often credited for.

7. Calgary Flames (46-20-9)

Last Week’s Rank: 6

The Flames were able to win two of their three games this past week, though their one loss was an ugly one, as they fell to the Golden Knights by a 6-1 final on Thursday night. They were able to respond in a massive way just two nights later however, thumping the Arizona Coyotes 9-1.

With two goals and two assists on Saturday night, Johnny Gaudreau is up to 105 points on the season, and is just five shy of Connor McDavid for the league lead. He, along with his linemates in Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm have been fantastic all season long, and are the main reason as to why this team has turned things around in such dramatic fashion.

6. Minnesota Wild (47-21-7)

Last Week’s Rank: 9

The Wild are perhaps the most underrated team in the entire NHL right now, as they hardly get discussed but have been one of the league’s best all season long. Their great play continued this past week, as they picked up seven of a possible eight points.

Kirill Kaprizov has completely changed this team, as they are no longer the old, boring Wild of the past. The 24-year-old sits at 43 goals and 93 points on the season, but is far from their only offensively gifted talent as both Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Fiala are also having fantastic years.

5. New York Rangers (49-21-6)

Last Week’s Rank: 4

Whether or not they are ready for a long playoff run yet remains to be seen, but there is no denying just how much improved this Rangers squad is from just a season prior. Up front they possess one of the game’s best offensive talents in Artemi Panarin, and in net they have the likely Vezina Trophy winner in Igor Shesterkin.

If there is one disappointment this season for the Rangers, it is that their young players in Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko have yet to find their footing at the NHL level. If they are somehow able to pick up their game come the postseason, this team could go on a bit of a run.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs (50-20-6)

Last Week’s Rank: 3

The Maple Leafs have been one of the league’s best over the past month, though a loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday has resulted in them dropping slightly. They were able to pick things up in their final three games of the week, however, defeating the Capitals, Ottawa Senators, and the Islanders.

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Auston Matthews’ bid for the Hart Trophy has continued to grow, as he is now up to a ridiculous 58 goals in just 70 games on the season. He, along with Mitch Marner, have been two of the game’s top offensive talents this season, and will look to continue their hot play into the playoffs.

3. St. Louis Blues (46-20-10)

Last Week’s Rank: 5

After an ugly month of March, the Blues are absolutely rolling right now, having won nine straight games. It isn’t as if those wins have come against bad teams either, as three of their four victories from this past week came over the Bruins, Wild and the Nashville Predators.

Up front, this team has a ton of offensive weapons who all are being overlooked this season. Guys like Vladimir Tarasenko, Robert Thomas, Pavel Buchnevich, Jordan Kyrou, Brayden Schenn and David Perron are all at, or just slightly below a point-per-game pace. They could prove to be a difficult matchup in the playoffs.

2. Colorado Avalanche (55-14-6)

Last Week’s Rank: 2

The Avalanche have been ridiculous all season long, and are playing perhaps their best hockey right now having won nine straight. What’s even more impressive is that they are doing it without two of their best players in Gabriel Landeskog and Nazem Kadri, neither of which have played in the month of April.

Related: NHL 2021-22 Power Rankings: Week 23

While Nathan MacKinnon receives the majority of the credit, Mikko Rantanen is truly one of the game’s best forwards, and is having the best season of his career with 36 goals and 91 points through 72 games. If they are able to get fully healthy by the playoffs, this could finally be the Avs’ year.

1. Florida Panthers (54-15-6)

Last Week’s Rank: 1

Similar to the Avalanche, the Panthers have been terrific from the get go of 2021-22, and are currently riding a league-best 10-game winning streak. Three of those wins came this past week in wins over the Anaheim Ducks, Winnipeg Jets, and Detroit Red Wings, and their incredible offence continued with 15 goals over that span.

Jonathan Huberdeau Florida Panthers
Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

With 108 points on the season, Huberdeau trails McDavid by just two for the league lead. Whether or not he will be able to catch him remains to be seen, but nonetheless he is having an outstanding season. Himself, along with Aleksander Barkov, are capable of winning this team a Stanley Cup this year if they are at their best.

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