THW Power Rankings: Lightning Are Unanimous No. 1 Pick

Welcome to The Hockey Writers’ Power Rankings, the top-13 teams in the NHL this week as ranked by members of The Hockey Writers. This week’s panel is Greg Boysen (Chicago Blackhawks), Jeff Morris (Ottawa Senators), Kevin Armstrong (Toronto Maple Leafs), Louis Pannone (Arizona Coyotes), Shaun Filippelli (Chicago Blackhawks), Pete Bauer (Columbus Blue Jackets), Dean Plunkett, Kyle Gipe, Greg Tysowski (Calgary Flames), Hannah Garfield (Boston Bruins), Mariah Holland (Minnesota Wild), Patrick Brown (Detroit Red Wings), and Rob Staggenborg (St. Louis Blues)

The Tampa Bay Lightning remained on top in The Hockey Writers’ weekly NHL power ratings — and this time, they were the unanimous choice.

The Lightning, who lead the NHL in points (50) and points percentage (.781) after going 4-0-0 last week, were named No. 1 by all 13 voters on the THW panel after they defeated the Chicago Blackhawks twice and the Florida Panthers once at home before beginning a road trip by holding off the Dallas Stars 2-1 on Tuesday.

Steven Stamkos Tampa Bay Lightning
Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning lead the NHL in points and points percentage. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Vegas Golden Knights, who lead the West Division, jumped from sixth place to second. They are followed by the Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders and Washington Capitals, who retained their positions from last week. The Colorado Avalanche were the other big gainers from last week, moving three spots to sixth place.

For the first time this season, there was no turnover in the rankings; the top 13 teams last week are in this week’s rankings.

To create the Baker’s Dozen power rankings, 13 members of The Hockey Writers staff rank their top 13 teams. The team picked first by a voter receives 13 points, a second-place selection is worth 12, a third-place vote gets 11, and so on down to No. 13, which is worth one point.

Here are this week’s rankings:

1. Tampa Bay Lightning (24-6-2)

Points: 169
Last week: 1

Upswing: The Lightning passed their biggest test of the week on Sunday with a 5-3 win against the Panthers in a matchup of two of the NHL’s best teams. More impressive was that they did it with backup goalie Curtis McElhinney after head coach Jon Cooper opted to play starter Andrei Vasilevskiy in a 4-1 win against the Blackhawks on Saturday. Vasilevskiy also got the win in Dallas on Tuesday, giving him a franchise-record 12-game winning streak and an NHL-best 21 wins.

Andrei Vasilevskiy Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy leads all NHL goalies with 21 wins. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Downturn: The Lightning are 6-1-0 in their past seven games despite struggling to kill penalties. They have surrendered eight power-play goals in 24 opportunities (66.7 percent) during that seven-game stretch.

2. Vegas Golden Knights (22-7-1)

Points: 147
Last week: 6

Upswing: No team is better at putting away opponents than the Golden Knights. They are 14-0-0 when leading after two periods, largely because they’ve scored an NHL-high 43 goals in the third period. Their plus-19 differential in the final 20 minutes is also the best in the league.

Downturn: Vegas will be without defenseman Alex Pietrangelo for their trip to Denver for key games against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday and Saturday. He hasn’t played since March 6 and is on long-term injured reserve with an upper-body injury.

3. Carolina Hurricanes (21-7-3)

Points: 130
Last week: 3

Upswing: Luckily for the Hurricanes, goalie Alex Nedeljkovic went unclaimed when he was placed on waivers in January. Nedeljkovic was the No. 3 goalie before Petr Mrazek broke his thumb in early February but has made the most of his opportunity, going 7-2-2 with a 1.96 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage. That includes a 3-0 road win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday. The second-round pick (No. 37) in the 2014 NHL Draft is making the case that he’s the Hurricanes’ goalie of the future.

Alex Nedeljkovic Carolina Hurricanes
Alex Nedeljkovic has given the Carolina Hurricanes a boost. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Downturn: Carolina left points on the table against the Blue Jackets, losing two home games after regulation. That included a shootout loss when Columbus scored a goal with the extra attacker in the final minute of the third period and won the tiebreaker after Carolina scored first (teams that score first in the shootout win about 80 percent of the time).

4. New York Islanders (21-8-4)

Points: 128
Last week: 4

Upswing: Ilya Sorokin is showing why GM Lou Lamoriello was so eager to bring him over from Russia. The Islanders were outshot 37-19 by the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday but won 2-1 in overtime because Sorokin made 36 saves. The 25-year-old has won eight in a row after starting 0-2-1.

Ilya Sorokin New York Islanders
Ilya Sorokin has won eight consecutive starts for the New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Downturn: The Islanders are 10-2-0 this month even though their power play is 3-for-21 after going 9-for-22 in February.

5. Washington Capitals (20-7-4)

Points: 113
Last week: 5

Upswing: No team has been more dangerous in any period this season than the Capitals in the second period. Washington’s 45 goals in the middle frame are the most by any team in any period this season. Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Jakub Vrana share the team lead with five second-period goals apiece. The Capitals have allowed 31 goals in the second period for a plus-14 differential.

Downturn:
Washington’s power play is superb at home (16-for-40, NHL-best 40.0 percent), but on the road is another story. They are 29th in the league at 10.5 percent (4-for-38) away from Capital One Arena; the NHL average for road teams is 20.1 percent.

6. Colorado Avalanche (20-8-3)

Points: 101
Last week: 9

Upswing: Nathan MacKinnon has been making life miserable for opponents since he returned from an injury earlier this month. Colorado’s No. 1 center has 13 points (five goals, eight assists) during a seven-game point streak that has coincided with Colorado’s surge toward the top of the West Division. He has 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in the past four games. MacKinnon, who scored his 200th NHL goal on Monday, is sixth in the league in points per game (1.30; 35 points in 27 games) and fifth in plus-minus at plus-17.

Downturn: The Avs acquired goalie Jonas Johansson from the Buffalo Sabres in hopes that he could be a more useful backup to starter Philipp Grubauer than Hunter Miska has been. But Johansson’s debut had to make management worried: he couldn’t hold a 4-2 lead in the third period against the Arizona Coyotes, then allowed all three shooters to score in the shootout. The 5-4 loss ended Colorado’s seven-game winning streak.

7. Florida Panthers (20-8-4)

Points: 81
Last week: 2

Upswing: The Panthers continue to get more than they could have dreamed of from forward Carter Verhaeghe, who signed as a free agent after playing a bottom-six role in the Lightning’s run to the Stanley Cup. Verhaeghe has 24 points (12 goals, 12 assists) and is a team-best plus-14 in 32 games this season.

Downturn: Aleksander Barkov, Florida’s No. 1 center and best player, is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury. He skated a few laps in warmup before a 3-2 loss in Chicago on Tuesday but left the ice and didn’t play.

8. Toronto Maple Leafs (20-10-2)

Points: 69
Last week: 10

Upswing: Goalie Jack Campbell told the Leafs Report podcast that when he came to Toronto in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings 13 months ago, his goal was “being not just the No. 1, but a top No. 1.” If Campbell, a career backup, can stay healthy, he figures to get the chance. The 29-year-old has missed much of this season with injuries but is 4-0-0 after shutting out the Calgary Flames 2-0 last Saturday. He’s allowed four goals on 113 shots in his four starts, and with Frederik Andersen battling injuries and inconsistency, Campbell will get the chance to be the starter.

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell has won all four of his starts for the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Downturn: Andersen, Toronto’s starter since he arrived in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks in June 2016, has lost five of his past six starts and allowed 22 goals. He missed some time with a lower-body injury and hasn’t been the same since returning in early March, leaving the question of whether he came back too soon unanswered. Andersen went 5-1-1 with a .925 save percentage in his seven starts before the injury. Since his return, he’s 2-5-0 with a .876 save percentage.

9. Minnesota Wild (20-10-1)

Points: 63
Last week: 7

Upswing: The Wild extended their team-record home winning streak to 10 games this week with 2-1 and 3-2 victories over the Ducks at Xcel Energy Center. Defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who went into the second game against the Ducks with one goal in 29 games, scored twice in the first period before rookie Nico Sturm got the game-winner. The Wild have outscored their opponents 33-14 during the streak.

Downturn: The Wild won’t be in a hurry to play the Avalanche any time soon after they were blitzed 5-1 and 6-0 in Denver. Minnesota was outshot 55-20 and 42-31 and did not score an even-strength goal during the two-game series.

10. Edmonton Oilers (21-13-0)

Points: 58
Last week: 13

Upswing: The Oilers swept a two-game series against the Winnipeg Jets last weekend, winning 2-1 and 4-2 as their defensive play continues to improve; they’ve allowed 19 goals in their past nine games — a big reason why they’re 7-2-0 in that span. Edmonton is tied with the Lightning for the league lead with 20 wins in regulation, the first tiebreaker if teams end up with the same number of points at the end of the season.

Connor McDavid,Mikko Koskinen
The Edmonton Oilers are 7-2-0 in their past nine games. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Downturn: Edmonton had high hopes that signing free agent Kyle Turris would provide a solid No. 3 center behind Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. To say that he’s been a disappointment would be putting it mildly. Turris has one goal and four points in 21 games. He hasn’t played since March 8 and is trying to get back into the lineup after spending a week on the COVID protocol list.

11. Pittsburgh Penguins (20-11-2)

Points: 47
Last week: 8

Upswing: What could be better than a home game against the worst team in the NHL? How about back-to-back home games? That’s what the Penguins face after their 5-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres, the league’s worst team, at PPG Paints Arena on Wednesday. It was the 15th consecutive loss (0-13-2) for the Sabres, the longest such streak in the shootout era — and the Penguins will try to extend that slide when they host Buffalo on Thursday.

Downturn: The Penguins lost forward Kasperi Kapanen in the second period of the win against Buffalo after he took a puck off his ankle. They’re already without centers Evgeni Malkin (lower body) and Teddy Blueger (lower body) as well as forwards Brandon Tanev (upper body) and Jason Zucker (lower body). Malkin hasn’t taken the ice since he was injured on March 16.

12. Winnipeg Jets (20-11-2)

Points: 42
Last week: 11

Upswing: The Jets moved into a three-way tie for most points in the North Division by extending their winning streak in Vancouver to eight games. Winnipeg won 4-0 on Monday behind Connor Hellebuyck’s 22-save shutout and 5-1 on Wednesday thanks to four goals by Andrew Copp, who entered the game with six in Winnipeg’s first 32 games. The Jets, Maple Leafs and Oilers all have 42 points; the Maple Leafs have one game in hand on Winnipeg and two on Edmonton.

Andrew Copp Winnipeg Jets
Andrew Copp scored four goals for the Winnipeg Jets on March 24. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Downturn: The back-to-back wins in Vancouver came after the Jets lost consecutive games in Edmonton, dropping them to 2-4-0 against the Oilers this season. A 4-2 loss last Saturday was especially painful; the Jets scored the game’s first two goals and led 2-1 after two periods but allowed three goals in the final 20 minutes.

13. Boston Bruins (16-8-4)

Points: 21
Last week: 12

Upswing: Boston continues to have the NHL’s best penalty kill at 89.4 percent (10 goals allowed in 94 opportunities), and they have scored five shorthanded goals. They’ve killed off 29 of 31 opposition power plays in the past 10 games.

Downturn: The Bruins have been on a COVID-enforced schedule break since defeating Buffalo 4-1 last Thursday. That means they now have games in hand on everyone they’re chasing in the East — but the Bruins will face the grind of playing 28 games in less than seven weeks. That’s a daunting task for any team, let alone one that has two players over 30 (35-year-old Patrice Bergeron and 32-year-old Brad Marchand) on their top line

Also receiving points: Vancouver Canucks (4), Los Angeles Kings (2)

Dropped out: None


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