Canadiens bump Predators out of top spot in Power Rankings

0:56 | NHL
Does Keith Yandle make the Rangers the Eastern Conference favorites?
Tuesday March 3rd, 2015

Welcome to the newest installment of our 2014–15 NHL Power Rankings. After three weeks at No. 1, the Predators have been replaced by the Canadiens, who held the top spot for a week back in early January. Meanwhile, a surprise team has shown up in the top 10 for the first time this season.

Our three sage scribes—Allan Muir, Sarah Kwak and Sam Page—submitted their detailed choices for the top 10 and ranked all 30 teams. Our final order has been carefully weighted according to results on the ice during the week, strength of competition, a quick glimpse at the tea leaves (future schedule, injuries), trade deadline acquisitions and losses, our ouija board's otherworldly pronouncements and how high each club came in on each of our writers’ ballots. In some cases another purely intuitive, wholly unscientific and certifiably insane method was used to break ties, rank teams that were chosen by only one or two writers, and inspire you, gentle reader, to leave hoary oaths and epithets in comments section below.

We’ve presented the 30 teams in groups, with the Top 10 receiving the most trenchant commentary. Overview paragraphs precede both the Middle 10 and Bottom 10. Weekly movement up or down has been duly noted. So without further ado, commence to stew!

  • 1
    1Montreal Canadiens
    last week: 3
    record: 41-17-5
    MUIR (3): Their four-game winning streak was snapped on Monday night in San Jose, but the Habs still look like a very dangerous team. I would have liked to see them be more aggressive ahead of the deadline, but I like the additions of Devante Smith-Pelly and Jeff Petry. Both address specific holes in the lineup and were acquired at minimal cost. GM Marc Bergevin is pretty good at this whole management thing.
    KWAK (2): Leading the Eastern Conference, the Canadiens also beefed up their depth by acquiring winger Torrey Mitchell at the deadline to go along with Smith-Pelly and Petry. And with the offensive boost they’ve gotten from Brendan Gallagher (two goals, three assists this week), the Habs looks confident to go forward with the core they hab, er have.
    PAGE (1): There are two courses of action a GM can take when his coach is dragging the team down: A) fire the coach; or B) take away all the coach's favorite bad players—basically make the roster fool proof. By adding Petry,Marc Bergevin has opted for the latter. Good luck.
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 2
    2Nashville Predators
    last week: 1
    record: 41-16-7
    MUIR (4): Funny how expectations have changed in Nashville. Used to be that making the playoffs was reward enough. Now the fans expect a conference title, and a three-game losing streak has them in a panic. Fair enough—the Preds have played lousy of late, especially up front where a lack of creativity has stymied their offense. They need someone other than James Neal or Filip Forsberg to step up.
    KWAK (1): Though they dropped back-to-back games at Bridgestone Arena for the first time all season this week, the Preds still have the best home record in the league (26-5-1). Not enough is said about Mike Fisher, who missed the first two months of the season with a ruptured Achilles. That’s a serious injury that can lead to big question marks, but Fisher has been all exclamation points since his return. And he’s got eight points in his last nine games.
    PAGE (2): They've looked bad lately, but their three-game losing streak is their worst of the season by two games. Pekka Rinne hasn't looked sharp in net and the defense has given too many free looks in the slot. The defensive talent here, though, is too good for those trends to continue. 
    Last week: 1-3-0

  • 3
    3New York Rangers
    last week: 4
    record: 39-17-6
    MUIR (2): The Rangers should have been staggered by the loss of starter Henrik Lundqvist. Instead, they've rallied around backup Cam Talbot, upping their scoring to cover for his occasional slips, and running up an 8-1-1 mark in their past 10 games.  I love that they were able to re-sign Mats Zuccarello, who was on the verge of being dealt on Monday, and the addition of James Sheppard for depth down the middle. The Keith Yandle deal will draw some criticism (four years in a row without a first-round pick? Yeesh.) but he should make them a more dangerous offensive team and improve a power play that struggled last spring.
    KWAK (4): Huge deadline deals (locking up Zuccarello with a four-year, $18 million extension and then acquiring Yandle are signs that the Rangers are confident and intend to try to one-up their close-but-no-Cup finish of last season. And looking at their recent 8-1-1 run (sans All-Star goalie Lundqvist), it’s easy to see why.
    PAGE (4): The Rangers picked up the best player who was moved at this year's deadline in Yandle. Unfortunately, the Rangers' biggest problem might be the defensemen that Yandle won't be taking ice time from: Marc Staal and Dan Girardi. That's more of a long-term concern, though. But in the wide-open East, the Blueshirts are now firmly in the race. 
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 4
    4St. Louis Blues
    last week: 2
    record: 40-18-5
    MUIR (7): The Blues just haven't been the same team without Kevin Shattenkirk, and the addition of Zbynek Michalek doesn't really change that. It does, however, give them a purely defensive defenseman who can flatten a few bodies, block a few shots and generally settle down their bottom four—a real source of concern during the past few weeks. The other notable add, Robert Bortuzzo from Pittsburgh, won't likely sniff the ice, but you can never have too many defensemen come playoff time.
    KWAK (3): They turned a potential slump around with a couple of close road wins this week, and though they lost in a shootout against Vancouver, St. Louis can see the silver lining in coming back from a 5-2 third period deficit to force overtime.
    PAGE (3): How deep is their roster? All three of their deadline deals amounted to "why not?" trades. Olli Jokinen is still a savy, versatile player, and Zbynek Michalek is one of the better shot blockers in the game. Coach Ken Hitchcock is playing with a stacked deck now, so there's no excuse for a short playoff run.
    Last week: 2-1-1

  • 5
    5Anaheim Ducks
    last week: 5
    record: 40-17-7
    MUIR (5): Winners of five of their past six, the Ducks are running away with the Pacific Division. Of course, they've done that the past two years. The goal now is to get to the Stanley Cup finals, and the moves made by GM Bob Murray during the past few days situate them well for down the stretch. James Wisniewski adds a veteran presence to a defense that's a little green. Jiri Sekac and Simon Despres both have high upsides. Can they contribute now though?
    KWAK (6):  The Ducks are again looking like true contenders. Though they may be prone to slow starts, they have been deadly in third periods during the last month, scoring 21 of their 41 goals in final frames since February 1. Corey Perry, Anaheim’s leading goal-scorer, unsurprisingly scored five of those tallies.
    PAGE (7): They got a lot better on the blueline without giving up very much. Whether or not James Wisniewski and Simon Despres are better than Sami Vatanen and Ben Lovejoy is debatable. But Anaheim's in better shape for the playoffs and beyond. 
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 6
    6Tampa Bay Lightning
    last week: 6
    record: 38-20-6
    MUIR (10): On the ice the Bolts are moving sideways, going 4-4-1 in their past nine. Off the ice, though, they're doing just fine. GM Steve Yzerman reminded us that he's one of the best in the business, turning failed first rounder Brett Connolly into a pair of second rounders then using that cushion to overpay slightly to acquire Braydon Coburn. The veteran defensive defenseman is exactly what he coveted to stabilize his top-four. Nice work.
    KWAK (7): The Lightning, having fallen five points behind Montreal, picked up Coburn from the Flyers to give them the rugged, physical depth on the back end that they need to balance their prolific attack. Can they catch the Canadiens for the top spot in the division? The two teams still have two more meetings before season’s end.
    PAGE (5): The Predators, Rangers, and Blues' defense corps may get all the press, but with the addition of Coburn, the Bolts may have the best group 1–6. What they lack in a star power they make up for in steady, puck-moving dependability. And with the fire power up front, steady is all they really need.   
    Last week: 1-1-0

  • 7
    7Detroit Red Wings
    last week: 13
    record: 35-15-11
    MUIR (6): Have to admire the ruthless efficiency of the Red Wings on a 4-1-1 road trip that included wins in Chicago and Nashville. Also have to admire the work of GM Ken Holland ahead of the deadline. Erik Cole could be the Marian Gaborik of this year's deadline. He's quick, goes hard to the net, and knows how to finish. Marek Zidlicky is more of a risk, but we've seen washed-up defenders rediscover their games in Detroit. Definitely a team to watch down the stretch.
    KWAK (8): The Dion Phaneuf trade never materialized, but the Wings still added a veteran depth blueliner in Zidlicky from the Devils. Winger Cole, a Cup winner in Carolina, adds some grit to a lineup that has plenty of finesse. With a playoff spot all but secured (for the 24th straight season), the Wings look like they’re preparing for the trenches of postseason hockey.
    PAGE (8): Cole and Zidlicky may very well be two of the most underrated players of the past decade, but I'm not sure how much either has left in his tank. This team certainly isn't lacking for playoff experience, though, which may pay off during a year in which a new crop of young teams has joined the NHL's elite.
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 8
    8New York Islanders
    last week: 8
    record: 41-21-2
    MUIR (13)
    KWAK (4): With 41 wins this season, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Islanders could finish with 108 points, which would be the best mark since their dynasty years. With Patrick Kane out with a broken collarbone, could John Tavares vault himself to the league scoring title? He has 14 points in his last nine games and is currently tied for the league lead with 65.
    PAGE (6): The Isles used the trade deadline to grab the one thing their stars needed the most: some much-needed rest. Michael Neuvirth can ably spell Jarolsav Halak, and Tyler Kennedy can play anywhere in the lineup until Kyle Okposo returns. 
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 9
    9Pittsburgh Penguins
    last week: 11
    record: 36-17-9
    MUIR (8): Four straight wins keep them within hailing distance of the Rangers and Islanders in the Metropolitan Division, but will Monday's acquisitions help them bridge the gap? Ben Lovejoy and Ian Cole seem like new versions of players the Pens already have, but as Dejan Kovacevic says this is about Pittsburgh looking to do more of what it does best. We'll see how that works out for the Pens.
    KWAK (9): With three points in each of his last three games, Evgeni Malkin has seemed to switch his game to "on"—and not a moment too soon. The Pens, who have won four straight, will be in a tight race for playoff positioning in the Metro. That should mean something for them. Since 2005-06, they are 9-5 in postseason series when they had home ice advantage, and 2-2 in series where they did not.
    PAGE (10): Simon Despres for Ben Lovejoy?!
    Last week: 2-0-0

  • 10
    10Minnesota Wild
    last week: 12
    record: 33-22-7
    MUIR (1): Do I think they're the best team in hockey? No, but there's no denying that the Wild have been the best team lately, rolling up a 15-3-2 mark that is unmatched since Jan. 15. I think they're maybe being underestimated by some who see them as the beneficiaries of unsustainable goaltending, but this team is more than Devan Dubnyk—who, for the record, is now a legitimate Hart and Vezina candidate. Some savvy line juggling by coach Mike Yeo and some quiet but solid deadline adds by GM Chuck Fletcher make Minnesota a team worthy of respect.
    KWAK (14)
    PAGE (14)
    Last week: 2-1-0



Losing Patrick Kane, their leading scorer, for the rest of the regular season is tough news, but that didn’t stop the Blackhawks from making trades to go for the Stanley Cup. They picked up centers Antoine Vermette, Andrew Desjardins and defenseman Kimmo Timonen in separate deals. Their ranking this week seems harsh, but it more reflects the wide-open Cup race, with no core group of dominant teams to fear, e.g. the Kings, Bruins, and Hawks of old. And, hey, we had to bump them pretty considerably for the loss of Kane. 

Not a great start to the Andrej Sekera era in SoCal, but no need to panic just yet. The veteran blueliner just needs a few more games under his belt to get fully adjusted both to a new system and a new conference. Given time, he could be the piece that not only solidifies the blueline but helps spark another long postseason run.

Defenseman Mark Giodano’s season is over, as the Flames' leading scorer suffered from a torn biceps tendon that will require surgery. And with him, so too may go the their postseason hopes. It seems hard to believe that Calgary, teetering on the playoff bubble, will be able to hold off the Kings or Sharks.

  • 11
    11Chicago Blackhawks
    last week: 7
    record: 38-21-5
    MUIR: 11
    KWAK: 10
    PAGE: 9
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 12
    12Vancouver Canucks
    last week: 14
    record: 36-23-3
    MUIR: 12
    KWAK: 11
    PAGE: 13
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 13
    13Winnipeg Jets
    last week: 15
    record: 32-20-12
    MUIR: 14
    KWAK: 12
    PAGE: 12
    Last week: 2-0-1

  • 14
    14Los Angeles Kings
    last week: 9
    record: 29-21-12
    MUIR: 9
    KWAK: 15
    PAGE: 15
    Last week: 1-3-0

  • 15
    15Washington Capitals
    last week: 10
    record: 34-20-10
    MUIR: 17
    KWAK: 13
    PAGE: 11
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 16
    16Boston Bruins
    last week: 19
    record: 31-22-9
    MUIR: 18
    KWAK: 16
    PAGE: 17
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 17
    17Ottawa Senators
    last week: 24
    record: 27-23-10
    MUIR: 15
    KWAK: 21
    PAGE: 18
    Last week: 3-0-0

  • 18
    18Florida Panthers
    last week: 20
    record: 28-22-13
    MUIR: 19
    KWAK: 17
    PAGE: 19
    Last week: 2-1-1

  • 19
    19Calgary Flames
    last week: 16
    record: 33-25-4
    MUIR: 16
    KWAK: 19
    PAGE: 20
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 20
    20San Jose Sharks
    last week: 17
    record: 31-25-8
    MUIR: 21
    KWAK: 20
    PAGE: 16
    Last week: 1-2-0

The Coyotes have lost nine straight, but you could argue they may have won trade deadline day. Playing aggressive sellers, they got some nice assets to keep in their coffers, including prospect Anthony DuClair and an extra second-rounder (from New York), plus a first-round pick (from Chicago) and promising prospect Maxim Letunov from St. Louis to boot. 

  • 21
    21Philadelphia Flyers
    last week: 18
    record: 27-25-11
    MUIR: 20
    KWAK: 22
    PAGE: 21
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 22
    22Dallas Stars
    last week: 22
    record: 27-26-10
    MUIR: 25
    KWAK: 18
    PAGE: 24
    Last week: 0-2-1

  • 23
    23Colorado Avalanche
    last week: 21
    record: 27-25-11
    MUIR: 24
    KWAK: 23
    PAGE: 22
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 24
    24New Jersey Devils
    last week: 23
    record: 26-27-10
    MUIR: 22
    KWAK: 24
    PAGE: 23
    Last week: 1-1-1

  • 25
    25Carolina Hurricanes
    last week: 26
    record: 24-31-7
    MUIR: 23
    KWAK: 25
    PAGE: 25
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 26
    26Columbus Blue Jackets
    last week: 25
    record: 26-32-4
    MUIR: 26
    KWAK: 26
    PAGE: 27
    Last week: 0-4-0

  • 27
    27Toronto Maple Leafs
    last week: 27
    record: 25-33-5
    MUIR: 28
    KWAK: 27
    PAGE: 26
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 28
    28Edmonton Oilers
    last week: 29
    record: 18-35-10
    MUIR: 27
    KWAK: 28
    PAGE: 28
    Last week: 1-1-0

  • 29
    29Phoenix Coyotes
    last week: 28
    record: 20-36-7
    MUIR: 30
    KWAK: 29
    PAGE: 29
    Last week: 0-3-0

  • 30
    30Buffalo Sabres
    last week: 30
    record: 19-39-5
    MUIR: 29
    KWAK: 30
    PAGE: 30
    Last week: 2-1-0

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