NHL Power Rankings: Bruins claw their way to the top
The NHL is going with a unique 24-team playoff format when the season resumes sometime in late July or early August. Here are our power rankings for the clubs that will fight it out for the Stanley Cup.
1. Boston Bruins
The Bruins had 100 points, six more than the second-place Blues, when the season was suspended. Right winger David Pastrnak earned a share of the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy with Alex Ovechkin, as they tied for the league lead in goals at 48.
2. St. Louis Blues
The defending Stanley Cup champs have most of the core from last year’s run intact. The Blues won eight of their last 10 games before the season was suspended.
3. Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche have been battling the injury bug all season, but everyone will finally be healthy when the season resumes. Nathan MacKinnon leads the West’s most potent offense.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lighting caught fire from Dec. 23 to Feb. 17, going 23-2-1. But, partially due to an injury to Steven Stamkos, Tampa limped to a 3-6-1 finish to the regular season. They’ll try to wash the bad taste out of their mouths from last year’s quarterfinal sweep at the hands of the Blue Jackets.
5. Washington Capitals
The Capitals can count on Ovechkin to supply the offense, but goaltender Braden Holtby has a mediocre .897 save % and 3.11 GAA on the year. Will they turn to promising rookie Ilya Samsonov (.913 save %, 2.55 GAA) instead?
6. Philadelphia Flyers
Flyers fans had to be irked when the season was suspended, as Philly went 9-1 over their last 10 games. Goalie Carter Hart should benefit from a lack of fans in the stands, as his road splits were dreadful this year (.857 save %, 3.81 GAA).
7. Dallas Stars
The Stars are tied for the fewest goals for (180) of any team in the playoffs with Columbus. But not having to play a best-of-five play-in series is a significant advantage.
8. Vegas Golden Knights
The Golden Knights had the fewest points of any division leader (86) when the season was suspended. But they were buyers at the deadline (defenseman Alec Martinez and goalie Robin Lehner) and went 8-2 down the stretch.
9. Pittsburgh Penguins
A 3-7 record over their last 10 games doomed the Penguins to a five-game play-in series. However, they’ll match up with the 12-seed Canadiens that sold off Ilya Kovalchuk at the deadline. Pittsburgh could also get Jake Guentzel back from what was supposed to be a season-ending shoulder injury.
10. Vancouver Canucks
It’s probably too much to ask 21-year-old Elias Pettersson and 20-year-old Quinn Hughes to carry their club to the conference finals, but the Canucks made what looked like a solid deadline deal for Tyler Toffoli (10 points in 10 games). Jacob Markstrom (.918 save %, 2.75 GAA) is capable of stealing some games between the pipes too.
11. Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes were flagging in the second half, but getting Dougie Hamilton back for the postseason is a shot in the arm.
12. Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers added Andreas Athanasiou to provide scoring depth at the deadline, but two points in nine games is hardly what Edmonton was hoping for. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl will have to do some heavy lifting just to get past Chicago.
13. Winnipeg Jets
Consensus Vezina Trophy frontrunner Connor Hellebuyck (.922 save %, 2.55 GAA) will take the Jets as far as he can.
14. Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs’ No. 1 offense, led by Auston Matthews (47 goals), will have to guard against getting upset by Elvis Merzlikins and the giant-slaying Blue Jackets in the play-in round.
15. New York Rangers
Artemi Panarin, who will get Hart Trophy consideration if Nathan MacKinnon has anything to say about it, and Mika Zibanejad lead a top-heavy, but talented, Rangers attack. If the Rangers go with rookie Igor Shesterkin between the pipes (.932 save %, 2.52 GAA), they could make a run.
16. New York Islanders
The Islanders were winless in their last seven before the break, and deadline acquisition Jean-Gabriel Pageau accounted for just two goals in that span. Their series with the Panthers looks like a coin-flip outcome.
17. Arizona Coyotes
Taylor Hall is hoping for more than just a five-game appearance in his second go at postseason hockey. This is a contract year for him.
18. Calgary Flames
Can Johnny Gaudreau and company flip the script on a modest start to the season on offense? They were 20th in goals (204).
19. Florida Panthers
This could be an important postseason for Mike Hoffman and Evgeni Dadonov, who are looking for new contracts this offseason.
20. Chicago Blackhawks
One more Stanley Cup run for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews? Probably not, but the Blackhawks are always a fun watch.
21. Nashville Predators
With all due respect to Filip Forsberg, a team with a leading goal-scorer at 21 tallies through 63 games will probably not go very far.
22. Columbus Blue Jackets
Elvis Merzlikins and company could get overwhelmed by Toronto, but they were also supposed to get overwhelmed by the Lightning last year.
23. Montreal Canadiens
At 4-8-2 over their final 14 games, the Habs are fortunate just to be in the postseason.
24. Minnesota Wild
It’s not been a great season for the Wild, as they parted ways with fan favorite Jason Zucker and fired respected head coach Bruce Boudreau. Their motivation is suspect at best.