Power Rankings: Penguins pick perfect time to get scorching hot

Ken Campbell
Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

If you subscribe to the theory that late-season momentum leads to playoff success, you might want to throw a few dollars down on the Pittsburgh Penguins. The walking birds have won seven games in a row and 13 of their past 14. In their past 20 games, their record is 17-3-0.

Even when they lose a Hart Trophy-caliber player in Evgeni Malkin and their No. 1 goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury, they don’t miss a beat. The Penguins are 12-1-0 since Malkin went down with an upper-body injury and goaltending understudy Matt Murray was named the third star of the week after Fleury sustained a concussion.

All of that has earned the Penguins, who were bottom feeders on this list early in the season, the No. 1 ranking in the last regular-season installment of thn.com’s weekly Power Rankings. (Last week’s rankings in parentheses.)

CREAM OF THE CROP
1. Pittsburgh Penguins (5)
2. St. Louis Blues (1)
3. Florida Panthers (11)
4. Chicago Blackhawks (13)
5. Washington Capitals (3)
6. Anaheim Ducks (6)
7. New York Islanders (10)
8. San Jose Sharks (8)
9. Dallas Stars (2)
10. New York Rangers (7)

The Penguins we all know and love have returned, scoring at least five goals in each of the past five games and in six of their past seven…The injury parade for the resilient Blues continues with Jake Allen and David Backes missing the rest of the regular season…Defenseman Erik Gudbranson was sent home after taking a headshot in Florida’s 4-3 win over Toronto Monday night…Artemi Panarin is the first rookie since Teemu Selanne in 1992-93 to record three straight three-point games…In what could be a preview of the Stanley Cup final, the Capitals will host Anaheim Sunday night to make up for their postponed game in January… Ryan Kesler, who is in the Selke Trophy conversation, scored his 20th goal of the season Sunday night, giving him 20 goals in eight straight non-lockout seasons…With nine points in his past five games and 11 points in his past eight, John Tavares could not have chosen a better time to pick up his game…The Sharks’ 3-0 win over Minnesota Tuesday night was their 28th road win of the season to establish a new franchise record…The Stars have given up a league-high 15 shorthanded goals, including two in a 3-1 loss to Anaheim Sunday night…Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh will miss the rest of the regular season, and likely a couple of playoff games, with a small fracture in his right hand.

THE MUSHY MIDDLE
11. Los Angeles Kings (9)
12. Detroit Red Wings (17)
13. Nashville Predators (15)
14. Philadelphia Flyers (14)
15. Buffalo Sabres (24)
16. Vancouver Canucks (30)
17. Winnipeg Jets (27)
18. Tampa Bay Lightning (12)
19. Boston Bruins (16)
20. Minnesota Wild (4)

The Kings’ 5-4 overtime win over Calgary Tuesday night was their franchise-record 47th of the season. They’ve posted 46 victories four times in their history…The Red Wings hold their playoff destiny in their hands with games tonight at home against Philadelphia and Thursday night in Boston. They’re looking to extend their playoff appearance streak to 25…Filip Forsberg has 18 goals since the all-star break, which is second in the league only to Alex Ovechkin. With 32 this season, he’s just one away from tying the franchise record…Flyers goaltender Michal Neuvirth is a longshot to return before the playoffs…Loser points have taken the luster off the accomplishment to be sure, but the Sabres could actually finish this season as a .500 team. They’re 7-2-2 in their past 11…Goaltending prospect Thatcher Demko is expected to sign with the Canucks sometime after he plays in the Frozen Four with Boston College this weekend…Blake Wheeler scored to give the Jets a 2-1 overtime victory over Anaheim Tuesday night, giving him a nine-game point streak in which he’s posted 6-6-12 totals…Jonathan Drouin is expected back in the Syracuse Crunch lineup by the weekend, heightening expectation he’ll be called up by the Lightning…With only two games remaining and losses in three of their past four, the Bruins are the favorite to be on the outside of the playoffs looking in when the dust settles…The Wild, losers of four in a row, backed into a playoff spot when Nashville beat Colorado Tuesday night.

VYING FOR THE PARTICIPATION BADGE
21. Carolina Hurricanes (22)
22. Colorado Avalanche (19)
23. Ottawa Senators (23)
24. Montreal Canadiens (20)
25. New Jersey Devils (18)
26. Calgary Flames (25)
27. Arizona Coyotes (21)
28. Columbus Blue Jackets (28)
29. Toronto Maple Leafs (26)
30. Edmonton Oilers (29)

Hurricanes coach Bill Peters will not see his season end this weekend. He was named head coach of Canada’s team for the World Championship…Matt Duchene and coach Patrick Roy claimed they cleared the air concerning Roy criticizing Duchene for celebrating his 30th goal of the season in a 5-1 loss to St. Louis Sunday…Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson scored his 100th career goal in Ottawa’s 5-3 loss to Pittsburgh Tuesday night. The goal also gave him 80 points on the season, making him the first defenseman to hit that mark in 19 seasons…Brendan Gallagher returned to the Canadiens lineup, but it’s still unclear whether Carey Price will play in one of the two final games of the season…Patrik Elias played for the first time since having knee surgery in December in the Devils’ 3-1 loss to Buffalo Tuesday night…The early reviews on Hunter Shinkaruk, the 2013 first-rounder acquired at the trade deadline for Markus Granlund, have been positive. He has three points in five games…Coyotes coach Dave Tippett was blunt about his team’s performance in a 6-2 loss to Chicago Tuesday night: “That was a combination of really poor execution by our team and really below-average goaltending. That’s what you get.”…Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella will hear no talk of tanking going into tonight’s game against the Maple Leafs. So if the Blue Jackets lose, it’s because they’re just really bad…Speaking of tanking, Frederik Gauthier, who has six goals in the American League this season, centered the top line in the Maple Leafs’ 4-3 loss to Florida Monday night…Given the way they’ve played the last decade, will tonight’s last game at Rexall Place be a fond farewell for today’s Oilers or a case of ‘Good riddance’?

 

Power Rankings: Elliott and his band of stingy Blues lead the pack

Ken Campbell
St. Louis Blues (Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)

When Mikhail Grigorenko of the Colorado Avalanche scored in the first period of their game against the St. Louis Blues scored in the first period Tuesday night, the sellout crowd at the Scottrade Center burst into a standing ovation.

They were not cheering Grigorenko. Instead, they were showing their appreciation to their hometown Blues, whose shutout streak of 258:29 had finally come to an end. It turns out the St. Louis Blues couldn’t go forever without giving up a goal. But they way they and their goaltender Brian Elliott were playing, things were looking a little dicey there for a while.

The Blues have outscored their opponents by a 15-1 margin in the past five games and have won 11 of their past 13 games. Elliott has not lost in regulation in his last 11 starts. Put it all together and the Blues are more than deserving of the No. 1 spot in this week’s thn.com Power Rankings. (Last week’s rankings in parentheses).

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Power Rankings: Are Penguins channeling their inner 2008-09?

Ken Campbell
Sidney Crosby (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

In 2008-09, the Pittsburgh Penguins were out of a playoff spot in mid-February. In 2015-16, the Penguins were also out of a playoff spot in mid-February. In 2008-09, the Penguins fired their coach mid-season. In 2015-16, they fired their coach mid-season. In 2008-09, they went on a massive tear down the stretch. In 2015-16, they’re the hottest team in the NHL down the stretch.

In 2008-09, the Penguins won the Stanley Cup. And while it might be a little early to start planning the parade route just yet, the Penguins are giving notice they could be a major force late in the season and into the playoffs. And with six straight wins, the Penguins find themselves at the top of thn.com’s weekly Power Rankings for the first time this season. (Last week’s rankings in parentheses.)

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Power Rankings: Kings win big over Blackhawks, Stars as chase for third crown continues

Jared Clinton
Vincent Lecavalier, Alec Martinez, Tanner Pearson and Trevor Lewis (L-to-R) (Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Kings are fighting tooth and nail with the Anaheim Ducks and, to a lesser extent, the San Jose Sharks for the Pacific Division lead. And when the Kings came up against one of their toughest opponents they have remaining on their schedule, Los Angeles came out flying, scored two goals in 18 seconds in the first frame and took control of the game the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks could even get settled.

The next night, the Central Division-leading Dallas Stars were the target, and again the Kings posted five goals against top competition. Jonathan Quick is on top of his game, the offense is clicking and scoring has been deep and Los Angeles is as smothering defensively as always. Come the post-season, Los Angeles will likely get Marian Gaborik back in the fold, too. That won’t hurt their chances at chasing three Stanley Cups in five seasons.

After two months of mediocrity, the Kings are heating up at the right time and find themselves atop THN.com’s power rankings. (Last week’s ranking in parentheses.) Read more

Power Rankings: Holtby and Capitals putting together a season for the ages

Ken Campbell
Ryan Getzlaf (left) and Braden Holtby (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

Just how dominant have the Washington Capitals been this season? Well, consider the fact that goalie Braden Holtby has 41 wins this season. That total is more than any other team with the exception of the Chicago Blackhawks, who are tied with Holtby’s total.

The Capitals are on pace to finish the season with 127 points and with the Blackhawks and Dallas Stars on pace to finish with 106 each, the Capitals point total and margin of victory for the Presidents’ Trophy would be the highest recorded in exactly 20 years. The last time a team was this dominant in the regular season was 1995-96, when the Detroit Red Wings finished with 131 points, 27 ahead of the Colorado Avalanche.

And by virtue of the fact that they knocked off the league’s hottest team, albeit by a razor-thin margin in a shootout, the Capitals find themselves perched atop thn.com’s weekly Power Rankings once again. (Last week’s ranking in parentheses.)

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Power Rankings: Once dead Ducks, Anaheim could win Pacific Division

Ken Campbell
Jakob Silfverberg  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Left for dead at the beginning of the season and at one point in January 16 points behind the Los Angeles Kings, the Anaheim Ducks caught their crosstown rival for a share of first place in the Pacific Division with a shootout win over the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday night.

It’s a massive achievement for the Ducks, who have been the NHL’s best team in 2016. With nine straight wins and points in 17 of their past 18 games, the Ducks have an opportunity to make an enormous statement when they visit the Kings for an afternoon game on Saturday. First place in the Pacific will be on the line if the Ducks can win in Arizona tonight and the Kings can take care of business at home against the Canadiens – or if the two teams get the same result. The Ducks defeated the Kings 4-2 last weekend and face them two more times before the end of the season.

The Ducks may not be alone atop the Pacific Division yet, but their play of late puts them without peer in thn.com’s weekly Power Rankings. (Last week’s rankings in parentheses.)

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Power Rankings: Caps are great, but how much better would they be with Andrew Ladd?

Ken Campbell
Mike Richards Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

Considering the fact that the Washington Capitals have to clear cap space to get Jay Beagle back in the lineup, they’d have a lot of work to do to get their hands on Andrew Ladd before the trade deadline.

The Capitals, among a lot of other contenders, have been mentioned as a possible destination for Ladd. And even though the Capitals are humming along nicely, how would they look going into the playoffs with a battle-proven Stanley Cup winner who has a penchant for scoring big goals?

Ladd would tick off all the boxes the Capitals have when it comes to their playoff needs. He’d look great in that lineup, if only GM Brian MacLellan could find a way to do it. The Capitals, meanwhile, are back at the top of thn.com’s weekly Power Rankings. (Last week’s ranking in parentheses.)

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Power Rankings: Blues making things interesting in Central Division

Ken Campbell
Kevin Shattenkirk (left) and some guy in a dog suit (Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)

Well, things are getting a little interesting in the Central Division these days, aren’t they? First, it’s home to the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 teams in the NHL, with the St. Louis Blues making a late-season charge and giving the Dallas Stars and Chicago Blackhawks reason to sweat.

The Blues 2-1 overtime victory over the Stars Tuesday night moved them to within five points of the division leaders and four of the Blackhawks. The Blues have picked up points in each of their past five games and have knocked off Florida, Tampa Bay and Dallas in their past three.

For that reason, they also find themselves atop thn.com’s Power Rankings for this week. Last week’s rankings are in parentheses.

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