THW Power Rankings: Golden Knights Pass Lightning for 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 Vegas Golden Knights moved past the Tampa Bay Lightning to take first place in The Hockey Writers’ weekly NHL power rankings.

Despite losing 4-2 to the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday, the Golden Knights finished with 154 points, ending Tampa Bay’s three-week reign atop the rankings. The Lightning actually got more first-place votes than Vegas (6-3) but fell one spot after losing three in a row because the Golden Knights were among the top three on 12 of the 13 ballots.

Marc-Andre Fleury Vegas Golden Knights
Marc-Andre Fleury and the Vegas Golden Knights are tied for the NHL’s best points percentage. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The NHL’s hottest team, the Colorado Avalanche, jumped three places to third. Colorado is on a 10-0-2 roll that includes a 9-3 demolition of the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday. The Avalanche received four first-place votes and finished with 139 points, nine ahead of the fourth-place Washington Capitals.

The Carolina Hurricanes (127 points), who are tied with Vegas for the NHL’s best points percentage (.721), round out the top five.

For the third consecutive week, THW’s rankings are comprised of the same 13 teams. The Nashville Predators and New York Rangers were the only other teams to receive any support in the voting this week.

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. Vegas Golden Knights (24-9-1)

Points: 154
Last week: 2

Upswing: Max Pacioretty is tops on the Golden Knights with 18 goals in 32 games, but he leads the entire league with four overtime goals – no one else has more than two. Pacioretty is on pace to score 30 goals for the seventh time in his NHL career, even though the season has been reduced to 56 games.

Max Pacioretty #67, Vegas Golden Knights
Max Pacioretty leads the NHL with four overtime goals. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Downturn: The loss to the Kings on Wednesday notwithstanding, the Golden Knights have fattened up on the lesser teams in the West. Vegas is 5-5-0 against the Avalanche and Minnesota Wild, the other two teams from the division in the THW rankings — and 19-4-1 against the Arizona Coyotes, St. Louis Blues, and the three California teams.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning (24-9-2)

Points: 146
Last week: 1

Upswing: The 4,000 fans at Amalie Arena collectively held their breath Tuesday when defenseman Victor Hedman had to be helped off the ice following a collision with Mikko Lehtonen of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Happily for the Lightning, he wound up missing just four minutes of game time and finished with a career-high 10 shots on goal while playing 24:33.

Downturn: The 3-1 home loss to the Blue Jackets was Tampa Bay’s third in a row, the first time the Lightning have lost three straight games since February 2020. Each of the first two losses came after the Lightning failed to hold an early two-goal lead.

3. Colorado Avalanche (23-8-4)

Points: 139
Last week: 6

Upswing: Colorado’s top line, led by Nathan MacKinnon, gets most of the attention in Denver. But the Avs are getting offense up and down the lineup, most notably from depth forward Joonas Donskoi, who had a hat trick in a 3:27 span during Colorado’s five-goal first period in their victory against Arizona at Ball Arena on Wednesday. Donskoi has scored 15 goals, one short of his career-high, and he’s done it on just 50 shots – a 30.0 shooting percentage.

Downturn: It’s hard to find anything wrong on a team that’s 10-0-2 in its past 12 games. The one thing GM Joe Sakic might shop for before the NHL trade deadline on April 12 is a reliable backup goalie — Philipp Grubauer earned his 22nd win on Wednesday but has played 30 of Colorado’s 35 games. The last thing the Avs need is to burn out their No. 1 goalie before the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which will likely feature a second-round showdown with Vegas.

4. Washington Capitals (23-8-4)

Points: 130
Last week: 5

Upswing: Washington is getting offense from an unexpected source. Center Nic Dowd scored his seventh goal of the season in Washington’s 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Monday, matching his total for all of last season. After 35 games, Dowd is one shy goal of his NHL single-season high of eight, set in 2018-19 — when he played 64 games.

Downturn: The Capitals went 10-2-0 in their last 12 games in March, but they did so despite the third-period problems that saw them lose 5-2 to the New York Rangers after taking a 2-1 lead into the locker room after two periods. The Capitals allowed 29 goals during their surge, but 19 of those came in the third period.

5. Carolina Hurricanes (23-8-3)

Points: 127
Last week: 3

Upswing: The Hurricanes’ patience with 2017 first-round pick Martin Necas is being rewarded. The 22-year-old forward has 28 points (nine goals, 19 assists) in 31 games this season and capped a four-point performance by scoring his second goal of the game with 3:53 remaining to give Carolina a 4-3 win against the Lightning. He had 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 14 games during March.

Martin Necas Carolina Hurricanes
Martin Necas is a big reason for the success of the Carolina Hurricanes .(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Downturn: There’s still no timetable for the return of top-line left-wing Teuvo Teravainen, who’s sidelined with a concussion and has played just one game since taking a big hit from Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Nikita Zadorov on Feb. 19.

6. Florida Panthers (23-9-4)

Points: 106
Last week: 7

Upswing: The signing of free-agent forward Carter Verhaeghe continues to be one of the best under-the-radar moves in the NHL. Verhaeghe, a bit player during the Lightning’s run to the Stanley Cup last summer, leads the Panthers with 17 goals, 15 of them at even strength. He had his first NHL hat trick against the Dallas Stars last Saturday, scoring three goals and setting up Aaron Ekblad’s OT winner in a 4-3 victory.

Downturn: The Panthers will be without Ekblad, their best defenseman, for the rest of the season after he sustained a leg injury against Dallas on Sunday that required surgery. Ekblad is expected to miss at least 12 weeks, meaning the only way he has a chance to play again this season is if the Panthers go on a very long playoff run. GM Bill Zito will likely shop for help on the blue line before the trade deadline.

7. Toronto Maple Leafs (23-10-3)

Points: 77
Last week: 8

Upswing: Auston Matthews says his sore right wrist is “progressing — it’s feeling a lot better.” That’s not good news for the rest of the North Division. The wrist problem had been affecting Matthews’ shot, but he looked more like himself on Wednesday when he scored one goal and set up another in Toronto’s 3-1 road win against the Winnipeg Jets. Despite the wrist problems, Matthews leads the NHL with 24 goals.

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs leads the NHL with 24 goals./ (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Downturn: The Leafs are having trouble keeping their top two goaltenders healthy. Frederik Andersen has struggled with inconsistency and is out with a lower-body injury that has hampered him for much of the season. Jack Campbell is 7-0-0 but has been dealing with a persistent leg injury that has forced the coaching staff to manage his ice time carefully.

8. New York Islanders (22-10-4)

Points: 76
Last week: 4

Upswing: Defenseman Nick Leddy continues to pile up assists. He leads New York with 24, including seven in the past six games. Leddy’s speed also makes him the best puck transporter on the Islanders whose name isn’t Mathew Barzal.

Downturn: The loss of captain Anders Lee, who’s out for the season after knee surgery, is really starting to be felt. Without Lee, the Islanders have lacked a net-front presence on their first line to go along with Barzal and Jordan Eberle; coach Barry Trotz even used fourth-liner Matt Martin in Lee’s role during a few power plays. The Isles are 5-4-0 since Lee’s injury, so look for general manager Lou Lamoriello to go shopping for help soon.

9. Pittsburgh Penguins (23-11-2)

Points: 75
Last week: 11

Upswing: The Penguins are starting to get some of their injured forwards back. Jason Zucker returned to the lineup Monday after missing 18 games with a lower-body injury, and Brandon Tanev was a full participant at practice Wednesday after missing six games with an upper-body injury.

Jason Zucker Pittsburgh Penguins
Jason Zucker returned for the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Downturn: No. 1 goalie Tristan Jarry is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. He left after the first period of Pittsburgh’s 2-1 win against the Islanders on Monday and didn’t skate at practice on Wednesday. Fortunately for the Penguins, backup Casey DeSmith (8-3-0, 1.91 goals-against average, .929 save percentage) has been superb.

10. Minnesota Wild (21-11-2)

Points: 52
Last week: 9

Upswing: The Wild have turned Xcel Energy Center into one of the toughest places in the NHL for visiting teams. Minnesota went 8-0-0 at home in March and has won 11 in a row in St. Paul. Beginning Monday, they play six of their next eight games at home.

Downturn: Minnesota was one of the NHL’s best road teams in January and February, but that success didn’t carry over into March. The Wild went 0-4-1 in their last five road games, including back-to-back losses at San Jose, to complete a 1-5-2 month on the road.

11. Edmonton Oilers (22-14-1)

Points: 36
Last week: 10

Upswing: On a team with superstar forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, defenseman Darnell Nurse often gets overlooked. But Nurse is third on the Oilers and first among all NHL defensemen with 12 goals. He’s second on the Oilers and among NHL defensemen with a plus-20 rating. His 12th goal came in overtime on Monday and gave Edmonton a 3-2 road win against the Maple Leafs.

Edmonton’s Darnell Nurse leads all NHL defensemen with 12 goals. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Downturn: Scoring depth is still a concern. McDavid leads the NHL with 63 points and has factored on 52 percent of Edmonton’s 122 goals, and Draisaitl (54 points, second in the NHL) has scored or assisted on 44 percent. No other forward has more than 12 goals or 27 points.

12. Winnipeg Jets (22-13-2)

Points: 34
Last week: 12

Upswing: The Jets have helped themselves a great deal with their success in 3-on-3 overtime. Winnipeg is 6-1 in seven games decided in overtime and share the league lead for OT wins with Vegas.

Downturn: Center Mark Scheifele is fifth in the NHL scoring race with 44 points (15 goals, 29 assists). But coach Paul Maurice would like to see him pay a little more attention to the other end of the ice. Scheifele is the only player among the NHL’s top 15 scorers who doesn’t have a positive plus-minus rating — he’s minus-5.

13. Boston Bruins (18-9-5)

Points: 19
Last week: 13

Upswing: Boston continues to have the best penalty-killing in the NHL. The Bruins finished March having allowed 11 power-play goals on 105 attempts (89.5 percent) in 32 games — and they’ve scored five shorthanded goals. Boston killed 36 of 39 opposition power plays (92.3 percent) in March.

Downturn: The Bruins are 30th in the NHL in 5-on-5 scoring with 51 goals (in 32 games). Brad Marchand (nine) and David Pastrnak (eight) are the only players who’ve scored more than six goals at even strength.

Also receiving points: Nashville Predators (11), New York Rangers (1)

Dropped out: None

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