NHL Power Rankings: Capitals, Wild soar above the rest

The Washington Capitals and Minnesota Wild are in a league of their own in this week’s NHL power rankings.

With the month of February underway, teams are starting to prepare for the stretch run. Contenders are starting to look for what they need while sellers are starting to gauge the market. In this week’s NHL power rankings, the contenders and pretenders are beginning to separate themselves from each other.

Speaking of which, the Washington Capitals and Minnesota Wild have proven to be far better than their competition. The Caps, at times, have looked like an All-Star team playing against a peewee hockey team. Moreover, the Wild are running rampant in the Western Conference. While the postseason isn’t underway yet, those two teams have to be the Stanley Cup favorites. It would be one heck of a Stanley Cup Final too, with Bruce Boudreau facing his old team.

Games in hand often skew a fan’s view of the standings. Therefore, these rankings focus heavily on the concept of point percentage. In other words, how a team is doing regardless of how many games they’ve played. Suppose a team goes 4-0-1 over a five game period. The most points they could have is 10. Since they got nine, the team’s point percentage would be .900. This helps clear up the issue of games in hand, rewarding teams who are more efficient at getting points.

These power rankings are also based around how a team is performing. A team’s record is important, but there are other factors in evaluating a team. How they’re playing has a lot to do with it. One of the most recent stats that helps measure this is expected goals for. All stats used are courtesy of Corsica. All tats, unless otherwise mentioned, are at even strength and are adjusted for score, venue, and zone.

Without further ado, here are this week’s NHL Power Rankings.

Feb 4, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche Jared Bednar during a timeout called in the second period against the Winnipeg Jets at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 4, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche Jared Bednar during a timeout called in the second period against the Winnipeg Jets at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

30

Colorado Avalanche

(14-33-2)

Last week: 1-2-0 record
Last rank: 30th

The Colorado Avalanche could set history, and not in a good way. They’re challenging some of the most futile non-expansion NHL teams for the worst point percentage in history. Colorado has been done ever since the injury to Erik Johnson. Without him, the Avalanche’s blue line has fallen apart and their offense has been stale. It has been a very rough first year for head coach Jared Bednar, but the blame falls on the front office.

29

Arizona Coyotes

(17-28-6)

Last week: 1-2-0 record
Last rank: 29th

Getting Max Domi back is huge, but the Arizona Coyotes are still tanking. The reward could be Nolan Patrick, who projects to be a number one center in the NHL. That’s precisely what the Coyotes need, as they lack anyone who resembles a franchise center. Martin Hanzal is a decent number two or number three option, but he’ll likely be traded at the trade deadline. Mike Smith has been sneaky good for them, but luckily, not good enough to keep them from tanking.

28

Dallas Stars

(21-22-10)

Last week: 1-2-0
Last rank: 22nd

Just when you think the Dallas Stars could sneak into the playoffs, they have a terrible week. Despite having a point percentage of nearly .500, they’re tied for the third worst point percentage in the league. Tyler Seguin has at times carried the time single handedly. Jamie Benn is having an off year, doing his team no favors. Their goaltending remains a hot mess and their blue line hasn’t been able to overcome losses.

Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

27

Tampa Bay Lightning

(23-24-6)

Last week: 1-2-0
Last rank: 25th

The Tampa Bay Lightning have gone from Stanley Cup contenders to sellers in just a few months. Their issues go much deeper than simply losing their captain Steven Stamkos. His injury shows the Lightning don’t have the forward depth they thought they had. Sure, Nikita Kucherov is one of the NHL’s top wings. But other guys simply haven’t stepped up. They also rely way too heavily on Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman to lead their blue line.

26

Winnipeg Jets

(25-26-4)

Last week: 2-1-0
Last rank: 28th

Despite getting virtually no goaltending, a playoff spot is still feasible for the Winnipeg Jets. Yes, they need a lot of things to go their way, but you could argue a lot already has. Even though the Jets have been terrible at times, so has a good portion of the Western Conference. They have Patrik Laine and an offense capable of dominating. Winnipeg has terrible luck with goalies, but if one of them can get hot, don’t rule out a postseason appearance.

25

Vancouver Canucks

(23-23-6)

Last week: 0-2-0
Last rank: 21st

Few teams are in a worse place than the Vancouver Canucks. They’re a seller and desperately need a rebuild. However, the front office seems completely oblivious to this. Recently, the Canucks made a huge run, but luckily, it’s over. Still, who knows what general manager Jim Benning is going to do. He’s trying to pass off a rusty car (the Canucks) as an antique (a contender). Bo Horvat has been a huge bright spot for the team, giving them a potential franchise cornerstone player.

Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

24

Buffalo Sabres

(21-21-10)

Last week: 1-2-1
Last rank: 27th

Much like the Canucks, the Buffalo Sabres can’t be ruled out of a playoff spot. Just like Vancouver, the Sabres play in a terrible division fully capable of being bad enough to let the Sabres into a top three spot. They’re merely six points out of a top three spot. However, Buffalo is still rebuilding and nothing should change that. Defensively, the Sabres are a mess, as they only have one reliable defenseman (Rasmus Ristolainen). Jake McCabe has been decent, but inconsistent at times. But should they get some much needed additions to the blue line this offseason, it’s not hard to see them contending in 2017-18.

23

Detroit Red Wings

(22-21-9)

Last week: 2-1-0
Last rank: 24th

Unlike the Canucks, the Detroit Red Wings seem to realize how bad they are. They’re sellers and they know it. But here’s the issue. Detroit doesn’t exactly have much to sell, at least as far as what could get them a reasonable return. Trading Mike Green is an option they should consider, as he can be a difference maker. For some reason, they aren’t begging teams to trade for Thomas Vanek, who they could easily get at least a second round pick for. Other than Steve Ott, they don’t have anyone else who teams are going to be interested in. The onus falls on general manager Ken Holland for signing some awful contracts. Whoever replaces him will likely have a heck of a mess to clean up.

22

New Jersey Devils

(23-21-10)

Last week: 3-0-1
Last rank: 23rd

The New Jersey Devils, despite their best efforts, still have an outside shot at making the postseason. Do they deserve it? Judging by their negative 26 goal differential, no. But as always, the Devils, despite actively trying to be boring, have found a way to win games they shouldn’t be winning. Cory Schneider has been huge for them lately. Their playoff chances hinge on him continuing his hot streak.

Feb 1, 2017; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames left wing Micheal Ferland (79) celebrates his goal with teammates against the Minnesota Wild during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. The Flames won 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 1, 2017; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames left wing Micheal Ferland (79) celebrates his goal with teammates against the Minnesota Wild during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. The Flames won 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

21

Boston Bruins

(26-23-6)

Last week: 1-2-0
Last rank: 16th

The Boston Bruins have been playing with fire all season long. Lately, they’ve begun getting deservedly burned for doing so. Patrice Bergeron is in the midst of a career worst season when nothing is going right for him. Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak are almost single handedly carrying the load on offense. David Backes has been a disappointment and while Zdeno Chara is still very good, he’s clearly not the demigod he was in his prime. Tuukka Rask was keeping the team afloat, but now he’s sinking. General manager Don Sweeney should be the guy getting the boot for ignoring obvious needs, but he had a scapegoat in Claude Julien. Now he has no one to blame if the Bruins fail.

20

Calgary Flames

(27-25-3)

Last week: 2-1-0
Last rank: 20th

Of the bubble teams trying to fight their way into the postseason, the Calgary Flames are without a doubt the most fun. This is both a good and bad thing. Johnny Gaudreau, Mikael Backlund, Sean Monahan, Dougie Hamilton, and Matthew Tkachuk lead a high-octane attack. When they’re at their best, few teams are more fun to watch. But here’s the bad part. Their defense has proven to be a bit leaky at times and their offense is highly inconsistent. In a weak Western Conference where no one seems to want the wild card spots, the Flames definitely have a chance.

19

Florida Panthers

(23-19-10)

Last week: 2-0-0
Last rank: 18th

The analytic darlings have awoken. Led by the return of Jonathan Huberdeau, the Florida Panthers have won three straight games. They’re finally starting to get everyone healthy, which should give them a boost in the playoff hunt. Hopefully Huberdeau helps stabilize their offense. So far, he definitely has, though it’s a small sample size. The next few weeks should determine if they’re going to sell or buy. Regardless of what happens, don’t expect a huge trade deadline move.

Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

18

Carolina Hurricanes

(24-20-7)

Last week: 3-0-0
Last rank: 15th

The Carolina Hurricanes are the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Just when people are about to write them off, they go on a huge run. Despite less than stellar goaltending, the Hurricanes have been quite good in a very competitive division. However, February is going to be a tough test for them. They play a ton of road games, and the Hurricanes have been awful away form home. But don’t rule them out because Carolina is refusing to surrender. Head coach Bill Peters is doing a heck of a job down there.

17

New York Islanders

(23-18-10)

Last week: 2-1-1
Last rank: 26th

Don’t look now, but the New York Islanders are making a huge postseason push. They have been much better under head coach Doug Weight, which makes recently fired coach Jack Capuano look awful. Thomas Greiss has been amazing for them, keeping them in a lot of games they had no business being in. Ryan Strome is heating up, as is the rest of their previously stagnant offense. The Islanders dug themselves into one heck of a hole, so credit them for having the heart necessary to climb out of it.

16

Philadelphia Flyers

(26-21-7)

Last week: 1-2-1
Last rank: 16th

It’s almost impressive how inconsistent the Philadelphia Flyers have been this season. At one point, they won 10 straight games. But now, they’re starting to masquerade as a contender and they’re doing a darn bad job at it. Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth have been hot and cold for the entire season. Their offense has grown ice cold and scratching Shayne Gostisbehere certainly isn’t helping. Despite all of this, they’re still in the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. But the Islanders are rising quickly.

Feb 2, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators left wing Austin Watson (51) and right wing James Neal (18) celebrate after their game against the Edmonton Oilers at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators won 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 2, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators left wing Austin Watson (51) and right wing James Neal (18) celebrate after their game against the Edmonton Oilers at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators won 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

15

St. Louis Blues

(26-22-5)

Last week: 2-2-0
Last rank: 13th

Has there been a more inconsistent team in the NHL this season than the St. Louis Blues? Their inconsistency, combined with their league worst goaltending, got head coach Ken Hitchcock fired. Having him and his replacement (Mike Yeo) on the same staff was never a good idea. Yeo was supposed to replace him after this season, but the Blues decided to expedite the process. St. Louis has won their first two games under their new head coach.

14

Los Angeles Kings

(27-22-4)

Last week: 3-1-0
Last rank: 14th

The Los Angeles Kings were having a heck of a week before running into the Washington Capitals. But to be fair, the Caps have destroyed just about everything in their path of destruction. Jeff Carter is having a Hart Trophy caliber season, as he is second in the league in goals on a team that hasn’t scored many. Peter Budaj has been a revelation, leading the league in shutouts while replacing Jonathan Quick. Anze Kopitar hasn’t been producing. That’s quite the cause for concern considering he’s not even a full year into his eight year extension.

13

Nashville Predators

(25-19-8)

Last week: 1-2-0
Last rank: 17th

This is the team everyone thought the Nashville Predators were going to be. After a very rough start to their season, the Preds have fought their way back into the postseason equation. And they’ve done it despite quite a few injuries. If the Predators can get (and stay) healthy and they can solve their very complicated goaltending situation, Nashville could be a Stanley Cup dark horse.

Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

12

Toronto Maple Leafs

(24-17-10)

Last week: 1-2-1
Last rank: 11th

The Toronto Maple Leafs are an extremely fun team. Unfortunately, it’s both good and bad. The good thing is their offense is exciting and fast paced. They can score goals at will and Toronto is led by three impressive rookies. Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner are the NHL’s equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters. But here’s the bad part. Their defense ensures their offense has to score a lot of goals to win. If you love high scoring games, definitely watch the Maple Leafs. They won’t let you down.

11

Edmonton Oilers

(29-18-8)

Last week: 1-3-0
Last rank: 10th

Connor McDavid has been relatively cold as of late. The Edmonton Oilers haven’t been able to counteract this, leading to them having a disappointing week. Cam Talbot is starting to show hints of fatigue, and no one can blame him. The Oilers have to address their blue line because they don’t have any defenseman capable of making plays on offense. Someone like Kevin Shattenkirk could make a lot of sense for them.

10

Ottawa Senators

(27-17-6)

Last week: 1-2-0
Last rank: 12th

The Ottawa Senators continue to amaze everyone by winning games despite getting outshot on a fairly consistent basis. Obviously, this means they’ve gotten darn good goaltending. Mike Condon and Craig Anderson have been outstanding this season. Guy Boucher has them playing good hockey and everything is going their way right now. That’s a good combination to have this time of year.

Feb 5, 2017; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin (74) prepares for a faceoff against the Edmonton Oilers during the third period at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 5, 2017; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin (74) prepares for a faceoff against the Edmonton Oilers during the third period at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

9

Montreal Canadiens

(30-16-8)

Last week: 1-2-1
Last rank: 6th

The Montreal Canadiens are a bit of an enigma. It seems like other than the start of this season, they’ve rarely had their offense and defense clicking at the same time. Montreal’s offense helped them have success while Carey Price was stuck in the middle of a cold streak. Naturally, they can’t buy a goal now that Price is heating up. The Canadiens have the talent to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, but they can’t seem to put everything together. It’s only February, but a run similar to their early season one could do wonders for their confidence.

8

Anaheim Ducks

(28-16-10)

Last week: 1-1-1
Last rank: 8th

Randy Carlyle has implemented his system and the Anaheim Ducks are buying in. It’s not the prettiest strategy, but it’s one that can work with the right players. Luckily, the Ducks have the right players. Ryan Kesler has been huge for them this season, proving age is just a number. They’ve been very strong defensively despite less than stellar goaltending. Credit their impressive blue line for that. Kesler is a legitimate Selke Trophy candidate. He’s scoring and he’s doing while taking on unfavorable situations.

7

Chicago Blackhawks

(32-17-5)

Last week: 2-1-0
Last rank: 7th

Despite having a terrible xGF percentage, the Chicago Blackhawks keep on winning games. Obviously, Corey Crawford and Scott Darling deserve a lot of credit for this. Outside of maybe the Washington Capitals, no team has a tandem like the Blackhawks. Their penalty kill has been slumping, but at least it’s not as bad as it was earlier in the season. Chicago has a lot of guys relying on a high shooting percentage and it’s not like they’re generating a ton of high danger chances. But they have just enough elite talent that you can’t dismiss them as a Stanley Cup contender.

Jan 31, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks center Tomas Hertl (48) celebrates his goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in the third period at SAP Center at San Jose. The Sharks won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 31, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks center Tomas Hertl (48) celebrates his goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in the third period at SAP Center at San Jose. The Sharks won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

6

New York Rangers

(33-18-1)

Last week: 2-1-0
Last rank: 5th

The New York Rangers are starting to put everything together. Their blue line is still questionable, but Henrik Lundqvist has been playing quite well as of late. The Rangers offense is capable of scoring goals in bunches and has a ton of speed. If the blue shirts can upgrade their blue line and Lundqvist can stay hot, the Rangers are going to be a very tough team to face in the playoffs.

5

San Jose Sharks

(33-17-3)

Last week: 2-0-1
Last rank: 9th

Even though the San Jose Sharks offense is still slumping, their defense has been outstanding enough to overcome it. One has to think they’re going to start scoring at some point. They have far too much talent and are getting far too many great chances to not start scoring eventually. Martin Jones has been great for them and so has Aaron Dell. Brent Burns is in the midst of a very special season, one that could end with a Hart Trophy.

4

Columbus Blue Jackets

(33-13-5)

Last week: 1-1-1
Last rank: 3rd

The Columbus Blue Jackets have been ice cold since their epic winning streak came to an end. But they’re still a very good team. Sergei Bobrovsky has been excellent in goal, but he’s starting to show some fatigue. John Tortorella deserves part of the blame for going to him a bit too often during the winning streak. Part of it also goes to the Blue Jackets for perhaps overreacting to a bad game by backup goalie Curtis McElhinney. They put him on waivers hoping Anton Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo could fill the role, but neither has been impressive so far.

Feb 1, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals right wing Brett Connolly (10) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal against the Boston Bruins during the third period at Verizon Center. Washington Capitals won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 1, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals right wing Brett Connolly (10) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal against the Boston Bruins during the third period at Verizon Center. Washington Capitals won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

3

Pittsburgh Penguins

(33-13-5)

Last week: 3-0-0
Last rank: 4th

The Pittsburgh Penguins get some brownie points for being a great team despite not having Evgeni Malkin for the last week or so. They might be the team best suited to take down the Washington Capitals. Few teams can match the Caps’ skill and depth, and the Penguins are one of them. However, they need to form three viable forward lines in order to optimize their chances. The HBK line (Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino, and Phil Kessel) has been poor this season after being the heart of their Stanley Cup winning team last season.

2

Minnesota Wild

(34-12-5)

Last week: 2-1-0
Last rank: 2nd

Bruce Boudreau has turned the Minnesota Wild into the class of the Western Conference. He finally has a very good goaltender in Devan Dubnyk. Boudreau has the Wild playing impressively despite not having a true offensive star. Fans have seen this movie before with him, but he seems to have himself another very good team. Of course, Boudreau’s regular season success isn’t a surprise. He’ll have to convert it into postseason success to be taken seriously by most.

1

Washington Capitals

(36-11-6)

Last week: 3-1-0
Last rank: 1st

The Washington Capitals are in a league of their own right now. They’ve been destroying just about everything in their path so far in 2017. Since the start of the new year, the Caps have scored over 20 goals more than the team in second place. It appears they learned from the Penguins last year, as they are rolling out four forward lines capable of scoring. The third line in particular has been amazing lately. Braden Holtby is playing like a Vezina Trophy winner. We’ve seen this before from the Capitals, but they’re the best team in the NHL right now by a pretty large margin.

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