NHL Power Rankings: A ‘dramatic’ question for all 32 teams


Another week, another new No. 1 team atop the Power Rankings!

Beyond the rankings, we’ve noticed a lot of drama around the NHL this week, from all the takes regarding William Nylander’s contract extension to everyone having an opinion on the circumstances of Cutter Gauthier’s trade from the Flyers to the Ducks. So along with our updated rankings, we’re asking a “dramatic” question for each team heading into the second half.

How we rank: A panel of ESPN hockey commentators, analysts, reporters and editors each send in a 1-32 poll based on the games through Wednesday, which generates our master list here.

Note: Previous ranking for each team refers to the previous edition, published Jan. 5. Points percentages are through Thursday’s games.

Previous ranking: 5
Points percentage: 73.17%
Next seven days: vs. PHI (Jan. 13), vs. NYI (Jan. 16)

Can the Jets maintain their defensive excellence? Winnipeg soared atop the standings last week in typical under-the-radar fashion. Make no mistake, though; these Jets are defensive-minded demons on a mission. They’ve been airtight since early November with a league-leading 2.00 goals-against per game, and are stifling teams off the rush. Winnipeg honing those habits into the second half could have them primed for a long spring.

Previous ranking: 3
Points percentage: 70.24%
Next seven days: @ BUF (Jan. 13), @ CBJ (Jan. 15), vs. ARI (Jan. 18)

When (and for how much and how long) should the Canucks re-sign Elias Pettersson? Vancouver is having a season for the ages. So that leaves room to focus on what superstar Elias Pettersson’s next contract should look like, and when the Canucks might get it done. The pending restricted free agent is playing his way into a big-time payday, and the better Petterson’s second half is, the greater chance that average annual value climbs. Strategy is everything here for Vancouver.

Previous ranking: 1
Points percentage: 69.51%
Next seven days: @ STL (Jan. 13), vs. NJ (Jan. 15), vs. COL (Jan. 18)

Can the Bruins quit blowing late leads? Boston’s first half was strong in many categories. It was easy to overlook the Bruins’ tie for a league lead in overtime losses (five) after leading opponents through two periods. Coach Jim Montgomery has chalked that discrepancy up to a learning curve for the Bruins’ personnel discovering how to manage 6-on-5 scenarios, but suffice it to say, Boston can’t afford to regularly let points slip away.

Previous ranking: 4
Points percentage: 67.86%
Next seven days: @ TOR (Jan. 13), @ MTL (Jan. 15), @ OTT (Jan. 16), @ BOS (Jan. 18)

Will goaltending break the Avalanche? Colorado is excellent in most areas but inconsistent in net. Alexandar Georgiev had a strong start that rapidly unraveled, right up until he blanked Vegas this week in what coach Jared Bednar deemed a “perfect” performance. Huh. Can the Avalanche rely on Georgiev to stay on track from here? Because backup Ivan Prosvetov hasn’t been steady, either. If the Avalanche expect to go far this spring, they’ll need a goalie tandem up to the task.

Previous ranking: 8
Points percentage: 68.29%
Next seven days: vs. NJ (Jan. 13), vs. ANA (Jan. 15), vs. DET (Jan. 17)

Is Matthew Tkachuk finally back? Florida’s sensational first half could be topped by only a Matthew Tkachuk resurgence. The feisty forward had a fine opening act coming off his broken sternum, and Tkachuk appears to be finding more juice the deeper Florida gets into its season, including a hat trick this week. A revitalized Tkachuk would make the Panthers only more dangerous — a scary prospect for the league’s other 31 teams.

Previous ranking: 2
Points percentage: 67.50%
Next seven days: @ WSH (Jan. 13), vs. WSH (Jan. 14), vs. SEA (Jan. 16), @ VGK (Jan. 18)

Will the Rangers’ defense be its downfall? New York can score goals. The problem is how many it gives up. The Rangers have allowed four or more goals in nine games since Dec. 1, and they average nearly 30 shots against in that stretch. It’s impossible to continuously outscore such issues, particularly in the postseason. New York has to batten down the back end to make the most of its offensive prowess.

Previous ranking: 10
Points percentage: 64.10%
Next seven days: vs. COL (Jan. 13), vs. DET (Jan. 14), @ EDM (Jan. 16), @ CGY (Jan. 18)

Are the Maple Leafs dialed in enough on defense? Toronto has offensive talent to spare. Its defense — and, by proxy, goaltending — is under the microscope. The Leafs’ ambitions for this season won’t easily come to fruition while averaging more than three goals against and clinging to veteran Martin Jones carrying a heavy workload in net. The Leafs might need to explore blue-line upgrades before the March 8 trade deadline.

Previous ranking: 6
Points percentage: 66.25%
Next seven days: vs. NSH (Jan. 12), @ CHI (Jan. 13), vs. LA (Jan. 16), @ PHI (Jan. 18)

How will the Stars manage without Miro Heiskanen? Dallas bore the brunt of losing starting goaltender Jake Oettinger by having Scott Wedgewood stepping up in his stead. Who will do the same while star defenseman Heiskanen is week-to-week because of a lower-body injury? The Stars have options, but Heiskanen’s role is vast — he plays over 25 minutes per game, and seemingly everywhere at that — so it will require a collective effort on Dallas’ part to fill the void while staying competitive until Heiskanen is back.

Previous ranking: 11
Points percentage: 62.20%
Next seven days: vs. PIT (Jan. 13), vs. LA (Jan. 15)

Do the Hurricanes need a goalie upgrade? Carolina has the makings of a top-tier team — aside from one looming grey cloud around goaltending depth. Rookie Pyotr Kochetkov has done well taking over as the Hurricanes’ No. 1 after Frederik Andersen was sidelined by blood clots. Antti Raanta has performed poorly behind Kochetkov, though, and if Andersen can’t return, will Carolina pin its playoff hopes on a rookie goalie? The trade deadline might loom large here.

Previous ranking: 9
Points percentage: 63.10%
Next seven days: vs. CGY (Jan. 13), vs. NSH (Jan. 15), vs. NYR (Jan. 18)

Are the Golden Knights burnt out? Vegas started the first half strong following its Stanley Cup win. Slowly, the Golden Knights have begun to show cracks. They went on a recent 3-7-0 streak, and got shutout at the NHL’s marquee Winter Classic to open 2024. It could be a sign that, after a short summer, Vegas is feeling the fatigue. If that’s the case, what rejuvenation tactics can the Golden Knights explore for the second half?

Previous ranking: 7
Points percentage: 63.16%
Next seven days: @ DET (Jan. 13), @ CAR (Jan. 15), @ DAL (Jan. 16), vs. NSH (Jan. 18)

How will the Kings handle adversity? Los Angeles enjoyed a smooth ride through the first half — only to lately encounter some speedbumps. The Kings are losing leads, dropping tight games and winding up on the wrong side of previously right outcomes. And so, L.A. enters this second half with some trepidation and likely a new appreciation for how quickly things can swing out of favor. The Kings’ response to their waves of hardship will define the next few months.

Previous ranking: 15
Points percentage: 59.21%
Next seven days: @ MTL (Jan. 13), vs. TOR (Jan. 16), vs. SEA (Jan. 18)

Can the Oilers’ keep this up? Edmonton went from basement dweller in October to producing the NHL’s second-best record (by points percentage) since Kris Knoblauch replaced Jay Woodcroft as head coach on Nov. 12. Connor McDavid? Unstoppable again. Leon Draisaitl? Finding his groove. Edmonton overall? Vastly improved. The second half is where Edmonton shows whether this is a flash-in-the-pan response to turnover — or it has actually tapped back into the team’s full power.

Previous ranking: 16
Points percentage: 58.54%
Next seven days: @ MIN (Jan. 12), @ WPG (Jan. 13), @ STL (Jan. 15), vs. DAL (Jan. 18)

Are the Flyers good enough to make the playoffs? Philadelphia finished its first half holding the Eastern Conference’s first wild-card spot — something few pundits could have predicted. The Flyers have a chance to prove it’s no fluke by staying the course and, instead of dealing away players at the trade deadline, maybe even adding somewhere to give themselves a true run toward the postseason.

Previous ranking: 12
Points percentage: 58.54%
Next seven days: @ NSH (Jan. 13), @ MIN (Jan. 15), @ WPG (Jan. 16)

Can the Islanders sharpen up? New York is in a precarious place with its goaltending. Semyon Varlamov is on injured reserve, so Ilya Sorokin has been playing every game. The Islanders aren’t helping Sorokin bear that burden, giving up the second-most shots on net this season. That can be helped by a recommitment to defensive excellence in the second half, giving Sorokin a better chance of keeping New York afloat in net.

Previous ranking: 13
Points percentage: 57.69%
Next seven days: @ FLA (Jan. 13), @ BOS (Jan. 15), vs. MTL (Jan. 17)

Can the Devils survive — and thrive — without Jack Hughes? New Jersey is lacking its superstar for the foreseeable future, as Hughes nurses a lower-body injury. That’s going to make the second half even tougher on these Devils, who are already mired in the mushy middle of the wild-card race. How New Jersey rises — or deflates — during Hughes’ absence could define its whole campaign.

Previous ranking: 14
Points percentage: 56.41%
Next seven days: vs. NYR (Jan. 13), @ NYR (Jan. 14), vs. ANA (Jan. 16), vs. STL (Jan. 18)

Should the Capitals go all-in toward the playoffs? Washington deserves credit for fighting through early-season adversity to remain in the postseason mix. Now we’ll see if that correlates to GM Brian MacLellan upping the ante with trade deadline acquisitions to help the Capitals’ chances of staying there. Washington is poised to become healthier, too, with Charlie Lindgren and T.J. Oshie returning — and oh yeah, Alex Ovechkin is rolling again, too. This could be the Capitals’ time to push forward.

Previous ranking: 20
Points percentage: 56.25%
Next seven days: @ CAR (Jan. 13), vs. SEA (Jan. 15)

Can the Penguins claw their way into the playoffs? Pittsburgh has a playmaker any team would covet in Sidney Crosby. He plays like a Hart Trophy finalist and will carry the Penguins on his back, but Crosby alone won’t get Pittsburgh to the postseason. The Penguins have embraced a more physical approach that has generated momentum. If Pittsburgh keeps leaning into that winning mindset, it could still push past the competition into a wild-card slot.

Previous ranking: 18
Points percentage: 54.88%
Next seven days: @ DAL (Jan. 12), vs. NYI (Jan. 13), @ VGK (Jan. 15), @ LA (Jan. 18)

Can Juuse Saros find elite form again? Nashville has relied on its No. 1 goaltender too heavily in the past. This season, it has been the Predators at large (particularly the forward group) helping to prop the team up against Juuse Saros’ waning numbers in net. Nashville’s workhorse hasn’t been his usually stunning self — the Predators’ defensive lapses don’t help — but seeing Saros soar again would take pressure off Nashville’s offense in a potentially stronger second half.

Previous ranking: 22
Points percentage: 54.88%
Next seven days: @ CBJ (Jan. 13), @ PIT (Jan. 15), @ NYR (Jan. 16), @ EDM (Jan. 18)

Is Joey Daccord the real deal? Seattle’s biggest hurdle has been finding a reliable goaltender. And then appeared one Joey Daccord. He shut Vegas out in the Winter Classic to put the league on notice of his arrival, and Daccord has only continued to ascend right past the Kraken’s other goalies. If Daccord’s trajectory keeps up, he gives Seattle higher hopes for their second-half prospects in the standings.

Previous ranking: 21
Points percentage: 54.88%
Next seven days: vs. LA (Jan. 13), @ TOR (Jan. 14), @ FLA (Jan. 17)

What’s the Red Wings’ biggest problem defensively? Detroit has its issues keeping pucks out of the net. The Red Wings are eighth worst in goals-against per game (3.40), and no amount of rotating defensemen or other tinkering by coach Derek Lalonde has produced the desired improvements. Identifying — and fixing — whatever is causing the Red Wings’ defensive woes will be paramount to their second-half success.

Previous ranking: 17
Points percentage: 52.50%
Next seven days: @ MIN (Jan. 13), @ CGY (Jan. 16), @ VAN (Jan. 18)

Will the Coyotes’ offense ignite again? Arizona has surprised this season with some solid runs of good hockey. Lately, the Coyotes’ offense has sputtered, and they need that to change — fast. Arizona has scored two goals or fewer in 10 games since early December, and it is giving up over 31 shots per game. That’s a poor combination. Adding some firepower back up front will help tip the scales back in their direction.

Previous ranking: 19
Points percentage: 54.65%
Next seven days: vs. ANA (Jan. 13), vs. MIN (Jan. 18)

Will the Lightning miss the playoffs? Tampa Bay had two Stanley Cup wins and one Cup Final appearance during six consecutive postseasons. But the Lightning left this first half on the outside looking in. It’s a tight race (at the moment) for the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference wild-card spots. The Lightning’s streaky season to date has to stabilize fast — into stretches of sustained success — to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Previous ranking: 23
Points percentage: 51.19%
Next seven days: @ VGK (Jan. 13), vs. ARI (Jan. 16), vs. TOR (Jan. 18)

Is it time to explore a rebuild? Calgary hasn’t established a real identity this season. Will that signal the start of a new chapter? Pending free agents including Elias Lindholm, Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev haven’t re-signed yet, and GM Craig Conroy must decide whether the Flames’ next step involves keeping those veterans or prioritizing draft position and prospects to put Calgary on a different path for the future.

Previous ranking: 24
Points percentage: 53.75%
Next seven days: vs. BOS (Jan. 13), vs. PHI (Jan. 15), @ WSH (Jan. 18)

Will the Blues bloom with confidence under their new coach? St. Louis pulled off its Stanley Cup run in 2019 following a coaching change. Well, now Craig Berube is out and Drew Bannister is in, and the Blues have, once again, shown some real life. Can they sustain that growth into the second half? St. Louis is still in the playoff hunt, and with Jordan Binnington excelling and his teammates beginning to thrive, it’s reasonable to believe in the Blues making strides.

Previous ranking: 27
Points percentage: 48.78%
Next seven days: vs. EDM (Jan. 13), vs. COL (Jan. 15), @ NJ (Jan. 17), @ OTT (Jan. 18)

Can Nick Suzuki win the Selke Trophy? Montreal won’t be making the playoffs, but there’s a chance one of its top players takes home some hardware based off this second half. Nick Suzuki has emerged as a front-runner for the league’s award honoring a top defensive forward, and it would be a real feather in the Canadiens’ cap to see their captain have that type of finish to his campaign.

Previous ranking: 25
Points percentage: 47.50%
Next seven days: vs. PHI (Jan. 12), vs. ARI (Jan. 13), vs. NYI (Jan. 15), @ TB (Jan. 18)

What can the Wild do at full strength? Minnesota is oh-so-close to having all of Kirill Kaprizov, Jonas Brodin and Filip Gustavsson back from injury (as for Jared Spurgeon, well, he’s out a little longer). It has been a difficult season injury-wise for the Wild, but having a healthy-ish roster at last? Music to their ears — and a potential signal to their Central Division foes that the battle-tested Wild are ready to make a move up the standings.

Previous ranking: 26
Points percentage: 47.62%
Next seven days: vs. VAN (Jan. 13), vs. SJ (Jan. 15), vs. CHI (Jan. 17)

Is Don Granato in the hot seat? Buffalo was meant to make playoffs this season. That’s not happening without a miraculous surge up the standings. If the Sabres fail to get there, will it spell the end for head coach Don Granato? It’s not entirely on Granato that Buffalo has failed to reach expectations, but that situation hasn’t saved other coaches’ jobs in years past.

Previous ranking: 28
Points percentage: 41.67%
Next seven days: vs. SEA (Jan. 13), vs. VAN (Jan. 15)

Is it time to move Elvis Merzlikins? Columbus has waited to see the best of the netminder. And while he has improved since last season, it’s still not the perfect partnership of player and team that the Blue Jackets hoped for when they signed him. There could be an opportunity ahead of the deadline, with a number of teams looking to add goalies to their rotation. Columbus should take a long, hard look at whether there’s a suitor out there with a solid return to give them — and Merzlikins — a fresh start.

Previous ranking: 29
Points percentage: 37.84%
Next seven days: vs. SJ (Jan. 13), vs. COL (Jan. 16), vs. MTL (Jan. 18)

Will the Senators add or subtract during trade season? Ottawa has undergone enormous change in the first half — and it might not be done yet. The Senators are pivoting in a new direction, and that could include trading off some organizational stalwarts in favor of adding new players to the lineup. Expect GM Steve Staios to start really putting his fingerprints on the team.

Previous ranking: 30
Points percentage: 35.37%
Next seven days: @ TB (Jan. 13), @ FLA (Jan. 15), @ WSH (Jan. 16)

Should the Ducks trade Trevor Zegras? Anaheim has a way to go in its rebuild. It’s possible that moving Zegras, who is currently injured, would help speed the process along. GM Pat Verbeek’s vision for the Ducks might not fit with Zegras’ style in the long term, and if that’s a concern, then Verbeek might well explore options for a mutually beneficial parting with Anaheim’s rising star.

Previous ranking: 31
Points percentage: 30.95%
Next seven days: vs. DAL (Jan. 13), vs. SJ (Jan. 16), @ BUF (Jan. 17)

Will the Blackhawks crumble without Connor Bedard? Chicago did score a victory over Calgary in its first outing since the rookie phenom broke his jaw. It remains to be seen how great an impact losing Bedard has on the Blackhawks long term, though. Will it push them closer to another draft lottery win or be a rallying point for the team to build around?

Previous ranking: 32
Points percentage: 27.38%
Next seven days: @ OTT (Jan. 13), @ BUF (Jan. 15), @ CHI (Jan. 16)

Will the Sharks remain bad enough to get the first pick? San Jose is the only team not to hit 10 wins by the halfway point. So, the Sharks are certainly on track for a 32nd-place finish. Perhaps a victory in the upcoming draft lottery would cushion the blow of losses continuing to pile up.

Source link
Las Vegas News Magazine

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More