THW Power Rankings: Avalanche Stay No. 1

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, Alec Rudolph (Boston Bruins), Julian Mongillo (Edmonton Oilers), Matt Rothman (New York Islanders), Melissa Boyd (Montreal Canadiens), and Sam Nestler (Dallas Stars)

The Colorado Avalanche remained on top of The Hockey Writers’ weekly NHL power rankings after a perfect week.

The Avalanche rebounded with four straight wins after the Minnesota Wild smashed their 15-game point streak with an 8-3 win on April 7. Colorado is 17-1-2 in its last 20 games and leads the NHL in points (64) and points percentage (.744).

Colorado received 12 of the 13 first-place votes from the THW panel. The Tampa Bay Lightning, who spent three straight weeks atop the rankings earlier in the season, got the other one with the Avs coming in second. Despite the first-place vote, the defending Stanley Cup champs ended up tied for sixth with the New York Islanders.

Capitals on a Roll

The biggest mover this week was the Washington Capitals, who jumped six spots to second place. The Capitals lead the East Division by two points on the Islanders and are four points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Toronto Maple Leafs, Vegas Golden Knights and Carolina Hurricanes complete the top five.

The Nashville Predators, one of the NHL’s best teams during the past month after a slow start, are the lone newcomer to the rankings. The 13th-place Predators bumped the Boston Bruins, who acquired perhaps the biggest name to move prior to the NHL Trade Deadline on Monday when they landed forward Taylor Hall from the Buffalo Sabres.

To create the THW 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. Colorado Avalanche (30-9-4)

Points: 168
Last week: 1

Upswing: Devan Dubnyk was Colorado’s big acquisition prior to the NHL Trade Deadline, and his Avalanche debut showed why general manager Joe Sakic wanted the 34-year-old goalie. Dubnyk made 31 saves in his debut with the Avs on Wednesday, helping them survive a third-period barrage by the St. Louis Blues to earn a 4-3 road win that kept Colorado four points ahead of the Golden Knights for first place in the West Division.

Philipp Grubauer Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche will be without goalie Philipp Grubauer for at least two weeks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Downturn: Dubnyk had better be up to the task. He was scheduled to back up Philipp Grubauer in St. Louis but got the call when Grubauer went on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol earlier in the day. Grubauer is expected to miss at least two weeks. “It’ll be at least 14 days before his next game,” coach Jared Bednar said, adding that “when you’ve got to lean on guys, you want to lean in on your veteran players, and that’s what [Dubnyk] was brought in to do.”

2. Washington Capitals (28-11-4)

Points: 137
Last week: 8

Upswing: Capitals GM Brian MacLellan is going for it all. MacLellan traded forwards Jakub Vanek and Richard Panik — plus his first-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft and a second-rounder next year — to the Detroit Red Wings for Anthony Mantha, a big, talented forward who never turned into the player the Wings expected him to be. If Mantha’s debut is any indication, MacLellan made a good move: Mantha scored a goal in his first game with Washington, contributing to a 6-1 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers for their third straight win.

Downturn: The Capitals will try to win the Stanley Cup with an inexperienced goaltending duo — Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov, neither of whom has played in a playoff game. Any hopes that Henrik Lundqvist might return from the heart issues that have sidelined him all season were doused last week when Lundqvist ruled himself out because of post-operative inflammation following open-heart surgery. Lundqvist had signed with Washington in October after 15 seasons with the New York Rangers.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs (28-11-4)

Points: 132
Last week: 3

Upswing: Toronto GM Kyle Dubas also indicated he’s going for it all (not a bad idea for a team that hasn’t won it all since 1967) by bringing in six players before the NHL Trade Deadline. The most notable was forward Nick Foligno, who came from the Columbus Blue Jackets in a deal that cost Toronto its first-round pick this year and two fourth-rounders. The son of Mike Foligno, a forward who played three seasons with Toronto in the early 1990s, can play up and down the lineup and gives Toronto another playoff-ready veteran who can fit into a number of roles.

Toronto got Nick Foligno from Columbus before the NHL Trade Deadline (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Downturn: Goalie David Rittich, another of Dubas’ deadline acquisitions, lost his first game with the Leafs – 4-3 in overtime to the Calgary Flames, the team that traded him. It came two nights after Jack Campbell’s NHL-record 11-0-0 start to the season ended with a 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens. Campbell has missed much of the season with injury and Frederik Andersen is also hurt, so Toronto needs Rittich to live up to his nickname of “Big Save Dave.”

4. Vegas Golden Knights (29-11-2)

Points: 128
Last week: 7

Upswing: The Golden Knights aren’t letting the Avalanche run away with the West. Their 6-2 road win against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday was their fourth in a row and kept them within four points of Colorado with a game in hand. The victory gave them a two-game sweep in L.A. — Vegas spotted the Kings a two-goal lead on Monday before scoring four in a row for a 4-2 win. The best news was that captain Mark Stone, who’d had no goals and four assists in 10 games before the Golden Knights came to Los Angeles, had a goal and an assist in each game.

Downturn: Center Reilly Smith continues to struggle offensively. He has nine goals in 41 games, none in the past three, and two in the past nine (both against the Arizona Coyotes on April 9. Smith played a season-low 14:28 against the Kings on Wednesday and was not credited with a shot on goal.

5. Carolina Hurricanes (27-10-4)

Points: 113
Last week: 2

Upswing: Defenseman Dougie Hamilton is a big reason Carolina is first in the Central Division and third in points percentage. The defenseman, who can become a free agent this summer, has scored at least one point in 18 of his past 22 games since Feb. 27 (22 points; five goals, 17 assists). He leads the Hurricanes with 27 assists.

Dougie Hamilton Carolina Hurricanes
Dougie Hamilton has excelled for the Carolina Hurricanes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Downturn: The Hurricanes made only a minor move before the trade deadline, sending lefty-shooting depth defenseman Haydn Fleury to the Anaheim Ducks for defenseman Jani Hakanpaa, a depth defenseman who shoots right (and a sixth-round draft pick). That stand-pat strategy didn’t look good a few hours later when the last-place Detroit Red Wings completed a two-game sweep in Raleigh with a 3-1 loss.

T6. Tampa Bay Lightning (28-12-2)

Points: 98
Last week: 5

Upswing: GM Julien BriseBois was one of the stars of the trade wars, landing coveted defenseman David Savard from the Columbus Blue Jackets despite having almost no room against the salary cap. Savard cost the Lightning a first-round pick in this year’s draft (and some lower picks to get teams to retain salary) but brought back a solid defender who’s likely to be partnered with Victor Hedman.

Downturn: Forward Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay’s captain, has missed the past two games with an undisclosed injury sustained in a 6-4 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets last Thursday. The Lightning has yet to release any details about the injury.

T6. New York Islanders (27-11-4)

Points: 98
Last week: 6

Upswing: The Islanders have won seven consecutive games decided after regulation, including five of their seven victories since March 22. That includes a 4-1 mark in shootouts, with rookie Ilya Sorokin going 3-0 in the tiebreaker and getting the win Sunday when defenseman Ryan Pulock’s first goal of the season gave the Islanders a 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

Downturn: Many of the post-regulation wins have come after the Islanders have failed to hold leads. Each of their two 3-2 shootout victories against the Philadelphia Flyers came after they couldn’t hold a 2-0 lead, and Pulock’s OT goal gave the Isles the win after they wasted another two-goal lead.

8. Florida Panthers (27-12-4)

Points: 89
Last week: 4

Upswing: Aleksander Barkov has scored five goals in six games since returning to the lineup on April 3 after missing six games with an injury. Florida’s captain and No. 1 center leads the Panthers with 18 goals and 44 points. 

Aleksander Barkov Florida Panthers
Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Downturn: The Panthers still have no answer for the Hurricanes in their three-way battle (along with Tampa Bay) for first place in the Central Division. The Hurricanes were swept in two games at Carolina last week, including a 3-0 loss on Thursday, and have just one win in six games against the ’Canes.

9. Pittsburgh Penguins (27-13-2)

Points: 76
Last week: 9

Upswing: The Penguins have won their past three games and are 9-2-1 since March 20. They have scored a power-play goal in five straight games, going 6-for-15 in that span (6-for-15), and are 11-for-27 in their past nine games.

Downturn: Evgeni Malkin has missed the past 13 games with a lower-body injury, and though he started skating last week there’s no date set for his return. The Penguins acquired center Jeff Carter from the Los Angeles Kings before the trade deadline to fill in.

10. Winnipeg Jets (26-14-3)

Points: 42
Last week: 12

Upswing: The Jets are 3-2-0 on a six-game road trip after holding off the Ottawa Senators 3-2 on Wednesday. The trip finishes with a game at Toronto on Thursday before the Jets get their reward: a six-game homestand that begins Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers and includes three straight games next week against the first-place Maple Leafs, who lead Winnipeg by five points with 13 games remaining.

Downturn: The Jets have a talented group of forwards, but their defense has been rickety at times — and adding Jordie Benn from the Vancouver Canucks before the trade deadline won’t help a lot. Winnipeg needed a top-four defenseman, but Benn is a third-pair guy at best.

11. Edmonton Oilers (25-12-2)

Points: 31
Last week: 13

Upswing: Mike Smith has given the Oilers more than they had a right to expect in goal. Though he allowed five goals on 32 shots in a 5-0 loss to the Calgary Flames last Saturday, ending an 8-1-2 run, he’s 14-4-2 in 22 games (21 starts) with a 2.47 goals-against average, a .918 save percentage and two shutouts – pretty good for a guy who turned 39 last month.

Mike Smith Edmonton Oilers
Mike Smith has taken the No. 1 goalie job with the Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Downturn: The Oilers are another team that did little before the trade deadline; their only addition was defenseman Dmitry Kulikov from the New Jersey Devils. That leaves Edmonton in the same situation it’s been in all season — counting on its stars, especially Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, to carry the load without a lot of help from the depth players.

12. Minnesota Wild (25-13-3)

Points: 29
Last week: 10

Upswing: The Wild, owners of the worst power play in the NHL for much of the season, have rocketed up to 25th (17.1 percent) by going 14-for-35 (40.0 percent) in the past 12 games. That includes an 11-for-24 (45.8 percent) run in the past seven games.

Downturn: Zach Parise has dropped to the fourth line, with no time on special teams or in overtime. The 36-year-old forward scored his fifth goal of the season — but just his second in 17 games — and had an assist in a 5-2 win against Arizona at Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday.

13. Nashville Predators (24-19-1)

Points: 23
Last week: Not ranked

Upswing: The Predators have taken over fourth place in the Central Division by going 13-3-0 since March 15, including a 7-2 win against the Lightning on Tuesday. They’ve been on a tear despite the absence of center Matt Duchene (upper body) for all 16 of those games and forward Filip Forsberg (upper body) for the past 10. Defenseman Ryan Ellis (upper body) missed the first 13 of the 16 games.

Downturn: Duchene and Forsberg are among two of nine injured Predators — none of whom, according to GM David Poile, will return this week. That could be bad news as Nashville prepares for back-to-back road games against the Hurricanes, a team the Predators haven’t defeated this season.

Also receiving points: Boston Bruins (17), St. Louis Blues (2) 

Dropped out: Bruins


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