NHL Power Rankings: Ottawa Senators make meteoric rise

1:27 | NHL
Rangers sit atop NHL Power Rankings for 3rd straight week
Tuesday March 24th, 2015

Welcome to the newest installment of our 2014–15 NHL Power Rankings. While the Rangers continue to roost comfortably at No. 1 with goalie Henrik Lundqvist on the verge of returning from his vascular injury, the sensational Hamburglar and the red hot Senators have stolen into the Top 10 for the first time this season. Ottawa’s success is making life tough for the Bruins, who fell from No. 12 to No. 19 this week and will have to claw their way back into the East’s last wild-card playoff spot.

College free agent season yields occasional gems for NHL teams

A word or three about these rankings: Our sage scribes—Allan Muir, Sarah Kwak and Sam Page—submitted their detailed choices for the top 10 and dutifully ranked all 30 teams. The final results were hand crafted using only the finest barley, selected hops and Artesian water filtered through the prism of on-ice performance, strength of schedule, dents and dings, general outlook and how high each club came in on our writers’ ballots. In some cases another purely capricious and utterly loathsome method was used to break ties, rank teams that were chosen by only one or two writers and inspire you, gentle reader, to sue for emotional distress.

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 by colorful little arrows. So without further ado, commence to boo!

  • 1
    1New York Rangers
    last week: 1
    record: 46-18-7
    MUIR (2): I certainly won’t complain that my cohorts voted them into the top spot, especially after a dominant 7–2 win over the Ducks moved the Blueshirts to 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. What a terrific run for Cam Talbot, who’ll be stepping back into the shadows later this week despite a .961 save percentage in his last nine appearances. I know Henrik Lundqvist is the man in New York, but good luck topping what Talbot just did, bud.
    KWAK (1): The energetic win over Anaheim on Sunday, in which New York opened the scoring just 84 seconds into the game, gave the Rangers a leg up in the Presidents’ Trophy race. With at least two games in hand on the other contenders, New York could finish with the league’s best record for the first time since its legendary Cup-winning season of 1994.
    PAGE (1): Should we formally anoint Alain Vigneault hockey’s best coach? Under his direction, the Canucks were perennial contenders for the Presidents’ Trophy. Now he’s done the same with a Rangers team that is a pair of Sedin twins shy of an absolute powerhouse. If he wins the Cup this year, does he challenge Mike Babcock’s throne? Should he even have to wait that long?
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 2
    2Tampa Bay Lightning
    last week: 4
    record: 45-21-7
    MUIR (4): If the Lightning are going deep in the playoffs, they’ll have to fight their way through the Atlantic Division first. They proved they were up to the task last week by knocking off the Canadiens, the Red Wings and Boston. Big Ben Bishop looked righteous in net, but every time I watch this team I’m transfixed by the play of Victor Hedman. Five years after being taken second in the NHL draft, he’s finally living up to his hype. There’s value in patience, people.
    KWAK (2): Bishop’s intra-divisional wins this week earned him Third Star honors from the league. His 5–3 win over the Bruins snapped Tampa Bay’s 10-game losing streak against Boston, which dated back to the 2011–12 season.
    PAGE (4): First in goals, first in memes, third in the Eastern Conference.
    Last week: 2-0-0

  • 3
    3Montreal Canadiens
    last week: 7
    record: 46-20-7
    MUIR (6): More congrats to Carey Price for the back-to-back shutouts he pitched last week to set a new career high (nine). And more concern for the Canadiens, who are 1-4-1 in the last six games in which Price has failed to hold the opposition to a single goal or less. Sure, defense wins championships, but you have to mix in a goal every now and then, boys.
    KWAK (4): Price moved into a tie with the PenguinsMarc-André Fleury for the league lead in whitewashes. His case for the Hart Trophy continues to grow.
    PAGE (3): Price should win the Hart. But he’ll have to win the Conn Smythe too if Montreal wants anything more than a regular season to remember.
    Last week: 3-0-0

  • 4
    4St. Louis Blues
    last week: 3
    record: 45-21-7
    MUIR (7): A six-game road trip that began with a pair of shutout victories could end with the Blues having dropped the final four contests if they flop in Pittsburgh. Their offense has dried up, their penalty kill is sagging and their goaltending has too often been an adventure. They really need to get blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk back in the lineup.
    KWAK (6): St. Louis has scored first in 42 of its 73 games this season, a big reason for the Blues’ success given that they win 76.2% of the games in which they get on the board first. While Vladimir Tarasenko has carried the lion’s share of the offense, exploding for 70 points this season, Alexander Steen (61) and Jaden Schwartz (55) are both just a point off of career highs, too.
    PAGE (2): St. Louis has lost three in a row, but the Predators haven’t been much better, so the Blues hang on to first in hockey’s toughest division—for now. Maybe more encouraging than their recent record is how they’ve won and lost. Their last three wins have been shutouts. Two of their last three losses were by 2–1 scores in overtime or the shootout. Hockey’s tightest-checking team is tightening up for playoff time.
    Last week: 1-1-2

  • 5
    5Chicago Blackhawks
    last week: 6
    record: 44-22-6
    MUIR (5): Congrats to Joel Quenneville for his 750th career win on Monday night. He’s now just the third NHL coach to hit that milestone, trailing only Scotty Bowman and Al Arbour. Quite the achievement. He owes that one, and several others of recent vintage, to the excellent play of Corey Crawford. The Blackhawks’ No. 1 netminder may be a target of fan abuse, but with the offense flickering off and on he’s the only reason Chicago has pulled to within three points of the Central Division lead.
    KWAK (5): Winning seven of the last 10, Chicago has stayed optimistic about its chances, and why not? Injured winger Patrick Kane, recovering from a broken collarbone, began skating last week. He’s still not expected back until mid- to late-May, but if the Blackhawks can tap into that postseason magic they have, then there’s a chance that they’ll still be playing when he returns.
    PAGE (5): Put away your “Start Raanta” T-shirts. We tried to figure out which Crawford would show up this season, and we see it’s the good one. Hockey’s most underrated goalie has been totally dominant this month, to the tune of a .953 save percentage.
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 6
    6Anaheim Ducks
    last week: 2
    record: 46-21-7
    MUIR (8): You gotta feel for Bruce Boudreau these days. The guy has 18 skaters who are capable of competing for the Stanley Cup and of a pair of goalies who are better suited for the AHL’s Calder Cup playoffs. Frederik Andersen was lit up by the Rangers and now has posted a save percentage of .879 or lower in six of his last nine starts. That’s a recipe for something, but it ain’t success. Backup John Gibson, 21, has all of four games worth of postseason experience (2-2-0, 2.70 goals-against average).
    KWAK (3): Aside from the drubbing in New York, the Ducks are working on their resiliency, putting up two overtime wins this week. That improved their record in games that go past regulation to 15–7 (they’ve lost only twice in overtime, five times in shootouts) perhaps an auspicious sign for tight playoff games to come.
    PAGE (6): Who ya got in the playoffs—Andersen or Gibson? I flipped a coin and it came up Gibson.
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 7
    7Minnesota Wild
    last week: 5
    record: 41-25-7
    MUIR (3): Devan Dubnyk now has played in 31 straight games since joining the Wild and won 23 of them, a new career high. Again, that’s 23 wins since being traded to Minnesota ... in the middle of January. Amazing. And while he continues to defy logic and science, this team’s offensive depth is starting to pop. That third line—with Charlie Coyle between Thomas Vanek and Justin Fontaine—has been a handful lately.
    KWAK (9): The hottest team since the All-Star break, the Wild picked up their 40th win of the season on Saturday against St. Louis—also their 22nd W since Jan. 15. Of course Dubnyk has been seen as the great catalyst to the comeback of the season, but how about the effort of winger Zach Parise? He has 26 points in his last 30 games, including 14 goals—half of his season total.
    PAGE (8): Minnesota seems destined for a playoff spot and a first-round upset win. The only concern left for this team is whether coach Mike Yeo is wearing out Dubnyk by relying on him too much down the stretch.
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 8
    8Ottawa Senators
    last week: 15
    record: 37-24-11
    MUIR (1): The Senators may not be the best team in hockey, but with a 15-1-1 record in their last 17 games they’re the best team right now. Ottawa is finding different ways to win. How about that four-goal, third-period comeback on Monday night? Coach Dave Cameron is pushing all the right buttons—he looks like a genius for moving Mika Zibanejad to the first line—and that Hamburglar guy is making opposing shooters grimace. And now the Sens are in playoff position, something that was utterly unimaginable just a couple of weeks ago. Starting to smell like a team of destiny, eh? Or maybe it’s just the pickles and onions ...
    KWAK (15): The Bruins better be sweating because Ottawa’s run is real. The Senators have climbed out of a 14-point hole to seize the eighth spot in the East, thanks to the stellar play of 27-year-old goalie Andrew Hammond, who has still not lost a game in regulation. Is this lightning in a bottle? Or is he the real thing? We all should find out soon enough.
    PAGE (10): This is amazing. The Ottawa faithful are probably having more fun than any other fans this season.
    Last week: 4-0-0

  • 9
    9New York Islanders
    last week: 8
    record: 44-25-4
    MUIR (14) 
    KWAK (8): Another team that seems to be losing its footing at the wrong time, the Islanders lost four straight before beating the Devils 3–0 on Saturday. Kyle Okposo scored his first goal since returning from a detached retina. It’s imperative to get the winger back into top form if New York wants to make a playoff push.
    PAGE (9): The Isles have looked bad lately, but injuries to Nick Leddy and Jaroslav Halak were factors, and the metrics still point to a fundamentally good team. Will the Coliseum farewell festivities give them much-needed motivation or only serve to distract?
    Last week: 1-1-0

  • 10
    10Nashville Predators
    last week: 9
    record: 44-21-8
    MUIR (17) 
    KWAK (7): Ignoring two wins over the tanking Coyotes (on March 9) and Sabres (March 21), Nashville has only one win since February 24, which is troublesome for a team that many were beginning to consider legit Cup contenders. The Preds have just nine games left to regain some of the confidence they built earlier this season.
    PAGE (7): Their ability to do the bare minimum and beat Buffalo has put them in a position to reclaim their division lead with a good stretch run. Is the key to the Central how Harvard’s hockey team performs? It is if you believe that Jimmy Vesey is this year’s Alexander Radulov.
    Last week: 1-0-1


Listless Bruins failing to respond in playoff race heat

Back-to-Back road wins over the Kings and Arizona were important not only because they solidified Vancouver’s playoff standing, but it also kept potentially dangerous L.A. out of their first-round picture. 

What’s not to love about the Jets? While other clubs are folding under pressure, Winnipeg has won five straight to tighten its grip on a postseason berth. And how about Ondrej Pavelec? He’s rebounded brilliantly from the heartbreaking center-ice floater that cost the Jets a point in St. Louis, allowing just five goals in his last five appearances.

You had to hate that the Flames gave away a crucial OT point at home to the Blue Jackets, but this ragged band of upstarts is still 7-2-2 in March and staying in the hunt despite the loss of captain Mark Giordano. Now if only Calgary could squeeze some offense from someone other than Sean Monahan, Jiri Hudler or Johnny Gaudreau it would really be cooking with gas.

  • 11
    11Vancouver Canucks
    last week: 14
    record: 42-26-4
    MUIR: 11
    KWAK: 10
    PAGE: 15
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 12
    12Winnipeg Jets
    last week: 18
    record: 38-23-12
    MUIR: 9
    KWAK: 14
    PAGE: 13
    Last week: 4-0-0

  • 13
    13Detroit Red Wings
    last week: 10
    record: 39-21-11
    MUIR: 12
    KWAK: 12
    PAGE: 12
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 14
    14Pittsburgh Penguins
    last week: 11
    record: 40-22-10
    MUIR: 16
    KWAK: 11
    PAGE: 11
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 15
    15Washington Capitals
    last week: 13
    record: 39-24-10
    MUIR: 13
    KWAK: 13
    PAGE: 14
    Last week: 1-1-0

  • 16
    16Calgary Flames
    last week: 17
    record: 40-27-6
    MUIR: 10
    KWAK: 17
    PAGE: 17
    Last week: 2-1-1

  • 17
    17Los Angeles Kings
    last week: 16
    record: 35-23-14
    MUIR: 19
    KWAK: 18
    PAGE: 16
    Last week: 1-1-1

  • 18
    18Florida Panthers
    last week: 20
    record: 33-25-14
    MUIR: 18
    KWAK: 20
    PAGE: 19
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 19
    19Boston Bruins
    last week: 12
    record: 36-25-12
    MUIR: 20
    KWAK: 16
    PAGE: 20
    Last week: 0-2-2

  • 20
    20Dallas Stars
    last week: 22
    record: 35-28-10
    MUIR: 15
    KWAK: 24
    PAGE: 18
    Last week: 3-0-0

Without a regulation win since February 2, the Coyotes are in it to lose it. Could they challenge the Sabres’ grasp on the NHL’s basement? Well, the two face each other twice this week, which will play out like the anti-Stanley Cup finals. Maybe call it the McDavid-Eichel Cup. 

  • 21
    21Colorado Avalanche
    last week: 21
    record: 33-27-12
    MUIR: 21
    KWAK: 19
    PAGE: 22
    Last week: 1-1-1

  • 22
    22San Jose Sharks
    last week: 19
    record: 35-30-8
    MUIR: 23
    KWAK: 22
    PAGE: 21
    Last week: 1-3-0

  • 23
    23Columbus Blue Jackets
    last week: 26
    record: 33-35-4
    MUIR: 22
    KWAK: 25
    PAGE: 23
    Last week: 3-0-0

  • 24
    24Philadelphia Flyers
    last week: 24
    record: 29-29-16
    MUIR: 26
    KWAK: 21
    PAGE: 24
    Last week: 0-2-1

  • 25
    25New Jersey Devils
    last week: 23
    record: 31-31-11
    MUIR: 25
    KWAK: 23
    PAGE: 25
    Last week: 2-2-0

  • 26
    26Carolina Hurricanes
    last week: 25
    record: 26-36-10
    MUIR: 24
    KWAK: 26
    PAGE: 26
    Last week: 0-2-2

  • 27
    27Edmonton Oilers
    last week: 28
    record: 20-40-13
    MUIR: 27
    KWAK: 28
    PAGE: 28
    Last week: 1-1-1

  • 28
    28Buffalo Sabres
    last week: 30
    record: 20-46-7
    MUIR: 29
    KWAK: 29
    PAGE: 30
    Last week: 1-3-0

  • 29
    29Toronto Maple Leafs
    last week: 27
    record: 27-41-6
    MUIR: 28
    KWAK: 27
    PAGE: 27
    Last week: 0-3-0

  • 30
    30Phoenix Coyotes
    last week: 29
    record: 21-44-8
    MUIR: 30
    KWAK: 30
    PAGE: 29
    Last week: 0-3-0

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