In this edition of THW’s Power Rankings, the St. Louis Blues falter and give up the top spot. The Tampa Bay Lightning meanwhile surge into the top five and the Carolina Hurricanes and Arizona Coyotes plummet with their playoff hopes hanging in the balance.
Taking into account recent trends, the respective season outlooks for each team and, most importantly where they place in the standings right now, here are THW’s Power Rankings for February 2020:
1. Washington Capitals (35-12-5) – Last month: No. 2
The Washington Capitals take over top spot in our February Power Rankings with the best record in the league. Led by Alex Ovechkin, who continues to make history by passing Mark Messier on the all-time goal list, the Caps have won five of their last six games and continue to be a Stanley Cup threat.
2. Boston Bruins (31-10-12) – Last month: No. 3
David Pastnak may not be Alex Ovechkin – he’s got a long way to go before catching the eventual Hall of Famer. However, Pastrnak’s 38 goals lead the league and give him one of the best cases to win the Hart Memorial Trophy as league MVP.
The Boston Bruins’ three straight wins (four out of their last five) aren’t too shabby in that regard, either.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins (32-14-5) – Las month: No. 4
The Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t just survive Sidney Crosby’s injury. They thrived. Now that he’s healthy (and producing with 11 points in six games since his return), the entire league should be put on notice.
4. St. Louis Blues (31-14-8) – Last month: No. 1
The Blues obviously owned 2019, by winning the Stanley Cup and earning 123 points during the calendar year to lead the league. They’ve somewhat stumbled to start 2020 though, especially lately.
The Blues have a single win in their last six (a shootout victory), having been outscored 25-15 in that span. Three of those losses have come since their bye week and the All-Star Game they hosted, so time will tell if it’s just rust or something more about which to be worried.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning (32-15-5) – Last month: No. 7
The Lightning are officially back as Stanley Cup contenders. If you need convincing, they suffered just two regulation losses in January, earning 21 out of a possible 26 points during the month.
What’s scarier? Starter Andrei Vasilevskiy wasn’t in net for either of them, as he has gone 13-0-2 since last losing in regulation on Dec. 14. In that span, he’s also earned a save percentage of .930.
It may not be mind-blowingly high, but it is elite and something he’s maintained for a month and half. Needless to say, he’s also back as a Vezina Trophy candidate.
6. Colorado Avalanche (28-16-6) – Las month: No. 6
The Colorado Avalanche admittedly just lost decisively 6-3 to the Philadelphia Flyers to start February. Seeing as it was their first game after their bye week and they had earned three straight wins (by a combined 15-6 score) leading into it and points in five straight, chances are good it was just rink rust.
7. Vegas Golden Knights (27-20-7) – Last month: No. 5
Since Peter DeBoer replaced Gerard Gallant as head coach, the Vegas Golden Knights have gone a decent 3-1-1. It’s hardly the earth-shattering change management may have expected, though.
Granted, the Knights had lost four straight heading into the coaching change, but they had won four straight immediately beforehand. Needless to say, there’s a chance the firing was unjustified and unnecessary.
8. Vancouver Canucks (30-18-4) – Last month: No. 13
It’s been a good month for the Vancouver Canucks, who now lead the Pacific Division. Granted, it’s far from a death grip with the Edmonton Oilers just two points back. However, when you go 8-3, people are going to take notice. Sure, those three losses were all fairly convincing, including a 9-2 rout at the hands of the Lightning. Nevertheless, the Canucks are largely rolling with five straight wins.
9. Dallas Stars (29-18-4) – Last month: No. 11
For a team whose top-paid players have struggled to put the puck in the net, the injury to forward Roope Hintz is especially worrisome.
The co-leading goal-scorer on the team (15) Hintz has arguably been the brightest spot on the Dallas Stars, which is saying something as it as a whole has proven to be better than the sum of its parts. Still, seeing as their last three wins have all come in overtime, they need one of their top difference-makers back sooner rather than later.
10. Toronto Maple Leafs (28-17-7) – Last month: No. 10
All is right in Leafs land, with three straight victories out of the All-Star break. The Toronto Maple Leafs had lost five of six heading in, so good news all around, with even back-up Michael Hutchinson getting in on the action. Hutchinson is 4-2 in his last six, hinting at the Leafs’ back-up woes finally being over. Hopefully that leads to some consistency on the part of starter Frederik Andersen, who had been pulled twice to start last month.
11. New York Islanders (29-15-6) – Last month: No. 8
Mathew Barzal’s benching was probably more of a news item than it deserved to be, but it served as a great metaphor for the New York Islanders’ struggles as a whole. Expectations had grown, perhaps to unrealistically high levels.
While the Islanders did win the game in question (4-2 vs. the New York Rangers), they had lost five of their last six up to that point. Maybe a correction in the standings is in order, but for now they are still in the thick of it, in third place in the Metropolitan Division.
12 Edmonton Oilers (28-18-6) – Last month: No. 19
The Edmonton Oilers are the fastest risers this month, impressively jumping seven rankings to No. 12. With one regulation loss in their last six (but two overall to the Calgary Flames in that span), during which they’ve outscored opponents 29-17, it’s well earned. The stretch was also punctuated by a measure of revenge, an 8-3 statement win over their provincial rivals this past Saturday.
13. Columbus Blue Jackets (27-16-9) – Last month: No. 16
Goaltending has been the name of the game for the Columbus Blue Jackets, which is ironic, seeing as few can so much as pronounce the names of their netminders. Both Elvis Merzlikins and Matiss Kivlenieks continue to impress in starter Joonas Korpisalo’s absence. Since he got injured prior to the start of 2020, the Latvian duo has gone a combined 10-2-1 to help bring them into a wild-card spot.
14. Philadelphia Flyers (28-17-7) – Last month: No. 14
To their credit, the Flyers have slipped into a wild-card spot, with victories over the Capitals, Penguins, Blues, Bruins and Avalanche in recent weeks. The re-emergence of Sean Couturier, who has 16 points in 12 games since the start of the calendar year cannot be understated as a reason for the success.
15. Calgary Flames (27-20-6) – Last month: No. 17
The Battle of Alberta has taken on a new life over the last few weeks, in large part care of Matthew Tkachuk. While the Oilers got the last laugh with an 8-3 win, the Flames had won two skirmishes of their own in January, which might understandably have gotten overshadowed by all the funny business. Their rather impressive 7-2-1 month overall might have similarly gone unnoticed.
16. Florida Panthers (28-17-5) – Last month: No. 15
Florida Panthers superstar Jonathan Huberdeau has cooled off somewhat, with “just” 12 points in his last 12 games. No matter.
Prior to a disappointing 4-0 shutout loss to the Montreal Canadiens to start February, the Panthers had won six straight by a combined 30-17 score, hinting at the kind of scoring depth of which Stanley Cup contenders are made. If they could only get some consistency out of starter Sergei Bobrovsky, though.
17. Carolina Hurricanes (29-19-3) – Last month: No. 9
The Hurricanes dropped a rankings-high eight spots since last month. Surprisingly it isn’t due to the loss of defenseman Dougie Hamilton. Since he broke his leg, the Canes have gone an unimpressive 2-2-1, but they were a just-as-mediocre 3-3 immediately beforehand. They unfortunately need more than a returning Justin Williams to get back on track.
18. Chicago Blackhawks (25-21-6) – Last month: No. 24
The Chicago Blackhawks have jumped back into the Western Conference playoff race following a 6-1 stretch. It has become apparent at they shouldn’t become sellers at the trade deadline, with names like Erik Gustafsson likely staying put. It remains to be seen if they should become outright buyers, though.
19. Arizona Coyotes (26-21-7) – Last month: No. 12
The Coyotes remain in the playoff hunt, just barely, though. They’re hanging on to the second wild-card spot by a hair. Goalie Antti Raanta has largely disappointed in starter Darcy Kuemper’s absence. Since mid-December, Raanta has gone 4-6-1 with a .905 save percentage.
Adin Hill has been better with a 2-2-2 record in that span (.920). Needless to say, even if Hill has been great, you likely won’t find success if your playoff hopes rest on the shoulders of your third-stringer.
20. New York Rangers (25-21-4) – Last month: No. 21
The talk of the town has generally been youngsters Tony DeAngelo and Igor Shesterkin, the latter of whom has gone 3-1 since debuting in January.
However impressive the start to his career has been, that’s just four games since the last rankings came out, over which the New York Rangers have played 10 (and gone a relatively successful 6-4). That’s been the Rangers’ season in a nutshell, as the focus must now shift to the future, as they remain longshots to make the playoffs.
21. Nashville Predators (24-20-7) – Last month: No. 22
The Nashville Predators simply need to be better to make the playoffs. Assuming last season’s conservative cut-off of 90 points holds true, they would need 35 points over their last 31 games. That’s definitely possible, but there are no guarantees for the team that won the Central Division last season with 100 points. Case in point, with their season on the line, they’ve played barely .500 hockey over the last month.
22. Winnipeg Jets (26-23-4) – Last month: No. 18
The Winnipeg Jets are in a downward spiral with five straight losses immediately prior to their 5-2 upset victory over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.
On the plus side, they redeemed themselves somewhat by beating a Stanley Cup contender after losing 7-1 to the Lightning to start that losing streak. On the negative? Goalie Connor Hellebuyck had to be brilliant, making 38 saves.
That’s the fourth time he’s faced 40 or more shots since Dec. 31. In those games, the Jets are 3-0-1, with Hellebuyck posting a .946 save percentage. The rest of the time in that span, Hellebuyck has gone 2-5 with an .878 save percentage. If the Jets need to allow as many shots as they have to win, they just won’t find long-term success.
23. Montreal Canadiens (24-22-7) – Last month: 25
The Montreal Canadiens may have won six of their last eight games. However, it’s too little too late for a team that by all accounts isn’t sure if they’re rebuilding or trying to make the playoffs. Seeing as they need a miracle to, spoiler alert: They won’t.
With exception to leading-scorer Tomas Tatar, the Habs continue to be led by the usual suspects. Defenseman Shea Weber has 33 points on the season and goalie Carey Price has finally found a groove, going 6-1 in his last seven with a .958 save percentage. Seeing as his mark on the season is just .911, that too won’t be enough.
24. Buffalo Sabres (23-22-7) – Last month: 23
Buffalo Sabres superstar Jack Eichel continues to put up the points and enjoy a breakout campaign, which is saying something. Since Dec. 29, he has 14 points in 13 games.
However, he can’t do it alone. Injuries have limited the Sabres’ ability to get back in the race, with key contributors like Victor Olofsson out (since the start of the calendar year).
25. Minnesota Wild (23-22-6) – Last month: 20
The Wild may have made a race of it after a 1-6 start to the season. The fact that they now have a record above .500 is a testament to that assessment.
However, a four-game losing steak at the start of the calendar year has effectively sealed their fate, seven points out of the last wild-card spot. They do have three games in hand on the Coyotes, but the fact that they are in last place in the Central Division and 10 points back of the third-place Stars (same number of games played) is sobering. They don’t have what it takes.
26. New Jersey Devils (18-24-9) – Last month: 28
The Devils started off life post-Taylor Hall at 5-2-1. The lack of their best player to start the season has caught up with them, though. Since then, they are 3-5-3.
27. Anaheim Ducks (21-26-5) – Last month: 30
When one of your goals should be to finish the season at .500, the playoffs are far from realistic. In their defense, the Anaheim Ducks are 4-2 over their last six, but only one of those wins has come against supposed playoff competition in the struggling Coyotes. One of those losses meanwhile came against the San Jose Sharks (who haven’t event been ranked on this list yet). The Ducks are meanwhile where you’d expect.
28. Ottawa Senators (18-24-10) – Last month: 26
Players like Anthony Duclair, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Mark Borowiecki should be no team’s idea of game-breaking talent. Such is the sad state of affairs with the Ottawa Senators, though.
Each are in the midst of admittedly impressive seasons. None of the pending free agents are guaranteed to stay into the long-term, with only Duclair being restricted.
29. San Jose Sharks (22-27-4) – Last month: 29
This was supposed to be Joe Thornton’s last run at a Stanley Cup. It may very well be, but, if so, it won’t be with the Sharks, who should consider doing the classy thing by trading him away to a contender. All the Sharks are contending for these days is a decent position in the draft lottery.
30. Los Angeles Kings (19-29-5) – Last month: 27
Los Angeles Kings forward Alex Iafallo’s first career hat trick in a 3-2 overtime win over the Coyotes in late January was a nice reprieve. However, the Kings are right back in the loss column and 1-5-1 in their last seven games.
It’s come to the point where serious questions need to be asked. For example, how telling is it that Ilya Kovalchuk could have his contract terminated after a less-than-stellar run with the Kings only to immediately find success with the similarly non-playoff-bound Canadiens? In a word, “very.”
31. Detroit Red Wings (12-37-4) – Last month: 31
The Detroit Red Wings followed up a two-game winning streak in early January with their current eight-game losing streak. The only place they’re headed is the draft lottery. General manager Steve Yzerman has his work cut out for him.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has written for such publications as the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently covers the Habs for THW as a columnist.