NHL Power Rankings: Rangers cling to No. 1 as Wild make run at top

1:30 | NHL
NHL Power Rankings: Rangers on top for 4th straight week
Tuesday March 31st, 2015

Welcome to the newest installment of our 2014–15 NHL Power Rankings. Though they’ve hit a bit of a rough patch of late the Rangers steadfastly remain our top team for the fourth week in row, but there is a new challenger on their heels. The Wild continue their dramatic revival and are now No. 2, their highest ranking of the season. Alas last week's surprise team, the Senators with their cagey Hamburglar, proved to be a flash in the pan.

Capitals coach Barry Trotz: I was wrong about Alex Ovechkin

A word or four 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 albeit under some duress. The final results were oven roasted in a brick kiln and heavily seasoned with on-ice performance, strength of schedule, assorted aches and pains, general outlook and how high each club came in on our writers’ ballots. In some cases another inexplicable and entirely inexcusable formula involving hat pins and coins was used to break ties, rank teams that were chosen by only one or two writers and inspire you, gentle reader, to mutter "what a joke" and "watch some hockey, you clowns" under your radish-scented breath while you furiously hammer out snide remarks in the 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 by colorful little arrows. So without further ado, unleash your cracks 'n scorn.

  • 1
    1New York Rangers
    last week: 1
    record: 47-21-7
    MUIR (2): It’s been a long time since this team looked as overmatched as it did on Saturday against the Bruins …and with Henrik Lundqvist making his return between the pipes, no less. Cause for concern? Not at all. Consider it a market correction, the inevitable dip after a team plays as well and for as long as New York has of late. One question, though: Wasn’t Keith Yandle supposed to help their power play? It looks as lost as it ever did.
    KWAK (3): The King has returned to the building, as they say. Lundqvist returned for the first time since taking a puck to the neck last month, and though New York lost the game, having its undisputed No. 1 netminder back is still a win. He’ll have a few weeks to regain his top form, which is good news for the Rangers, who have already secured their postseason berth.
    PAGE (1): I’m running out of things to say about these top teams, so I’m going to write about prospective playoff matchups this week. The Rangers are currently lined up to face the Capitals (wild card No. 1) but have a really good shot at the Presidents’ Trophy and wild card No. 2, given their games in hand. Assuming the wild cards stay Washington and Boston, I almost feel like the Caps are the team that New York should want to face. Barry Trotz has had little playoff success and Washington has little scoring depth. Boston’s Tuukka Rask, however, is still scary.
    Last week: 1-3-0

  • 2
    2Minnesota Wild
    last week: 7
    record: 44-25-7
    MUIR (1): I can’t imagine what more my esteemed colleagues need to see before they finally elevate the Wild to the top spot on their ballots. Minnesota has won five straight and is now 24-5-1 since the All-Star break. It’s time to drop the preconceptions and recognize that there has not been a better team in hockey during the second half. With six games left in the season, including a beauty on Thursday night against the Rangers, the Wild could wind up with home ice for the playoffs. You betta recognize.
    KWAK (4): The Wild show no signs of cooling their torrid second-half pace. Winning five straight, this team could shoot up and out of wild card position and maybe even win home-ice advantage. With five points in his last three games, Mikko Koivu has also helped boost Nino Niederreiter, who scored twice against L.A. on Saturday.
    Last week: 3-0-0

  • 3
    3Anaheim Ducks
    last week: 6
    record: 49-22-7
    MUIR (4): After opening their five-game road trip by allowing 12 goals in losses to the Rangers and Blue Jackets, the Ducks conceded just five in the final three tilts. That’s a nice bit of regrouping there. I still have my concerns about their ability to maintain that defensive commitment, but when they focus on the details the way they have lately this team can be a handful. Oh, and that 2–1 win over New Jersey on Sunday? That was their 32nd one-goal victory of the season, the most since the 2006-07 Devils.
    KWAK (1): Clinching their playoff spot this week, the Ducks have really all but secured the Pacific Division, too, holding a 12-point lead on Vancouver. With just four games left, all against non-playoff teams, Anaheim has the time to breathe and get any hobbled players back to full strength. That’s important because for the Ducks to make a run, they’ll have to play a strong brand of hockey that intimidates their foes.
    PAGE (5): I see an upset brewing in the distance, like a dark storm cloud. Winnipeg ranks sixth in the league in score-adjusted Corsi rating. Anaheim ranks fifteenth. Possession wins playoff series.
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 4
    4Nashville Predators
    last week: 10
    record: 47-22-8
    MUIR (5): You can toss out that streak-snapping loss to the Flames and focus on the four wins that came before it. Now only did the Predators’ run include a measuring stick win over Carey Price and the Canadiens, but the offense that failed them earlier this month seems to be back in gear. Just have to hope that Shea Weber (lower body) can return to action soon.
    KWAK (5):  The Preds look like they’ve come out of their slump relatively unscathed. That big psychological win over Montreal helps, as does scoring 15 goals in their last five games.
    PAGE (3): The Preds are destined to play either Chicago or Minnesota, which is a shockingly tough choice. Just a few months ago, no one would have preferred playing the Blackhawks, but here we are. Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk is the hottest goalie on the planet, and the Wild play stiflingly defense, lead by Pred-defector Ryan Suter. Preds fans still boo Suter every time he touches the puck in Nashville, so imagine the playoff-time jeers.
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 5
    5Tampa Bay Lightning
    last week: 2
    record: 47-23-7
    MUIR (3): It gets tossed with the wash when the playoffs start in a couple of weeks, but the Bolts have to be feeling pretty good about their 5–0 season sweep of the Canadiens that they completed on Monday night. They also have to be impressed with the offensive contributions of Ben Bishop. With two assists in that win he now has four points on the season … precisely one more than Cory Conacher, the forward the Bolts sent to Ottawa in exchange for Bishop two years ago.
    KWAK (6): Their pair of losses to Nashville and Detroit may have been disheartening, but that win over Montreal was a statement. Still, what stands out was the power play’s 1-for-16 effort in those three games. For a team with sniper Steven Stamkos patrolling the ice, Tampa Bay’s PP should be better than 17.7% (20th in the league).
    PAGE (4): If the idea of Steve Yzerman’s team crushing the Red Wings doesn’t make you happy, we have nothing to talk about. Tampa-Detroit is one of two of my dream opening-round series that could still happen.
    Last week: 2-2-0

  • 6
    6Montreal Canadiens
    last week: 3
    record: 47-22-8
    MUIR (6): I keep discounting the Habs and yet there they are at the top of the Atlantic standings every time I take a look. Obviously there’s more to this team than Carey Price, but how much more? I couldn’t have been the only one who thought they were toast when P.K. Subban took his keeper out with a low hit from behind on Saturday.
    KWAK (2): The Canadiens are doing just enough to keep the lead in the Eastern Conference. But they’ll be focused on building momentum into April. Feisty winger Brendan Gallagher is helping with his scoring touch, netting four goals in his last five games.
    PAGE (7): I mentioned Bolts-Wings as one of two dream first-round match-ups. Here's the other: Montreal-Boston! My real dream is that Malcolm Subban comes in after the Bruins go down 3–0 and wins four in a row to eliminate his brother. But I won’t press my luck.
    Last week: 1-2-1

  • 7
    7Chicago Blackhawks
    last week: 5
    record: 46-24-6
    MUIR (8): Just when you think they’re going under, the Hawks bob back to the surface with a pair of impressive wins over desperate teams. That was a nice effort by backup Scott Darling against the Kings. In four starts since being recalled from AHL Rockford on Feb. 23, he’s 3–1 with a 1.72 GAA and .943 save percentage, including a 1–0 win at Madison Square Garden on March 18 in his previous start. Outside of the Rangers, does any contending team have a better contingency plan if their No. 1 goaltender goes down?
    KWAK (7): A last-minute win over Winnipeg saved the Blackhawks from a dismal week and the danger of slipping into wild card position. And who better to win it for Chicago than captain Jonathan Toews? With Patrick Kane out, Toews has been diligently picking up the slack, scoring 14 points in his last 15 games.
    PAGE (6): Here is a sleeping giant of antebellum-America proportions. They just need a first-round upset to galvanize them. To that end, I think they would want to face the Predators, who they’ve had plenty of success against this season.
    Last week: 2-2-0

  • 8
    8St. Louis Blues
    last week: 4
    record: 46-23-7
    MUIR (7): Kevin Shattenkirk’s back after having abdominal surgery on Feb. 1 and he returned and not a moment too soon. A Norris Trophy contender earlier this season, he changes everything for this team. They Blues will now be better in terms of matchups, their transition game and their power play. Once he gets his feet under him, watch out.
    KWAK (8): They certainly put Shattenkirk to work, as he logged 21:34 on Saturday against Columbus, more than all but two Blues, and 20:06 vs. Vancouver on Monday. His return should boost a power play that dropped from 24.6% to 18% in his absence.
    PAGE (8): The Blues are in between the same rock and hard place as the Preds. It’s a shame that two of the four great Central Division teams have to go in the first round. That’s a failing of the new playoff system. Nobody [in the U.S. or Eastern Canada] wants to see Vancouver or Calgary make a run.
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 9
    9Pittsburgh Penguins
    last week: 14
    record: 42-23-11
    MUIR (13)
    KWAK (10): The bad news: defenseman Kris Letang suffered a concussion in a game on Saturday. If they lose him for an extended time, that would be even worse given how well he’s played this season, averaging 25:29 of ice time per game and ranking fourth among defensemen with 54 points. The good news, however, is that Sidney Crosby has leapt into the league lead with 79 points after collecting five in three games this week.
    PAGE (9): The Pens barely got by the Islanders in the first round two years ago, largely thanks to New York’s Evgeni Nabokov being the only bigger sieve in that round than Marc André-Fleury. This year, their likely first round opponents from Uniondale are much tougher to score on, though the Isles are wheezing into the playoffs.
    Last week: 2-1-1

  • 10
    10Washington Capitals
    last week: 15
    record: 41-25-10
    MUIR (9): The biggest concern about the Caps—a lack of secondary scoring—was pushed to the background last week thanks to goals from depth forwards Marcus Johansson, Troy Brouwer, Eric Fehr and Jason Chimera. Good thing, too, what with Nicklas Backstrom cooling off and Alex Ovechkin continuing to struggle at five-on-five.
    KWAK (9): Their gutsy 5–2 win over the Rangers was a good morale booster for the Caps as they fight for playoff positioning during the last two weeks. They could meet their familiar postseason foes for the fifth time in seven years, having split those series 2–2.
    PAGE: 14
    Last week: 2-1-0


Surprising Flames boast NHL’s hottest line by far

I keep waiting for a Big Statistically Ordained Comeuppance but it hasn’t happened yet for the surprising Flames. And it might not. Despite their propensity for ceding possession to their opponents, Calgary keeps finding ways to win hockey games. The Flames block a ton of shots, they’re getting solid goaltending, and their top line is remarkably proficient (55 points this month alone). That they’re even in the race at this point is one of the season’s best stories. After a year of not including them in his top 10, Sam Page wanted to throw them a deserved bone for their unlikely run for a wild card spot. He still doesn’t think they’re very good—especially without captain Mark Giordano—but they’re young and fun and dramatically better than he gave them credit for during the preseason.

Has the Hamburglar’s magic run out? After dropping three straight, including losses to Toronto and Florida, two teams below Ottawa in the standings, the Senators now sit three points out of eighth place with a game in hand on the Bruins. This race will go down to the wire, but if Ottawa has a fighting chance to steal that last playoff spot, the Sens will need a better effort across the board, not just from their netminders. 

  • 11
    11Calgary Flames
    last week: 16
    record: 42-28-7
    MUIR: 10
    KWAK: 16
    PAGE: 10
    Last week: 2-1-1

  • 12
    12Winnipeg Jets
    last week: 12
    record: 39-25-12
    MUIR: 11
    KWAK: 14
    PAGE: 12
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 13
    13New York Islanders
    last week: 9
    record: 45-27-5
    MUIR: 14
    KWAK: 12
    PAGE: 11
    Last week: 1-2-1

  • 14
    14Vancouver Canucks
    last week: 11
    record: 44-27-5
    MUIR: 12
    KWAK: 11
    PAGE: 16
    Last week: 2-1-1

  • 15
    15Detroit Red Wings
    last week: 13
    record: 40-23-12
    MUIR: 18
    KWAK: 13
    PAGE: 13
    Last week: 1-2-1

  • 16
    16Boston Bruins
    last week: 19
    record: 38-25-13
    MUIR: 15
    KWAK: 15
    PAGE: 15
    Last week: 2-0-1

  • 17
    17Ottawa Senators
    last week: 8
    record: 37-26-12
    MUIR: 16
    KWAK: 17
    PAGE: 17
    Last week: 0-2-1

  • 18
    18Los Angeles Kings
    last week: 17
    record: 37-25-14
    MUIR: 19
    KWAK: 18
    PAGE: 19
    Last week: 2-2-0

  • 19
    19Dallas Stars
    last week: 20
    record: 37-30-10
    MUIR: 21
    KWAK: 19
    PAGE: 20
    Last week: 2-2-0

  • 20
    20Florida Panthers
    last week: 18
    record: 35-26-15
    MUIR: 20
    KWAK: 23
    PAGE: 18
    Last week: 2-1-1

After a really dismal season, hand it to the Blue Jackets not to pack things in and to go on a run to show that the bones of this team do give fans in Columbus some reason to hope. Cam Atkinson, with four goals and seven points in three games this week, earned second star honors from the league, and helped the Blue Jackets win their eighth straight on the road, a franchise record. 

  • 21
    21Columbus Blue Jackets
    last week: 23
    record: 36-35-4
    MUIR: 17
    KWAK: 22
    PAGE: 22
    Last week: 3-0-0

  • 22
    22San Jose Sharks
    last week: 22
    record: 37-30-9
    MUIR: 23
    KWAK: 24
    PAGE: 21
    Last week: 2-0-1

  • 23
    23Colorado Avalanche
    last week: 21
    record: 35-29-12
    MUIR: 24
    KWAK: 20
    PAGE: 24
    Last week: 2-2-0

  • 24
    24Philadelphia Flyers
    last week: 24
    record: 30-29-17
    MUIR: 25
    KWAK: 21
    PAGE: 23
    Last week: 1-0-1

  • 25
    25New Jersey Devils
    last week: 25
    record: 31-33-12
    MUIR: 22
    KWAK: 25
    PAGE: 25
    Last week: 0-2-1

  • 26
    26Toronto Maple Leafs
    last week: 29
    record: 28-42-6
    MUIR: 28
    KWAK: 27
    PAGE: 27
    Last week: 1-1-0

  • 27
    27Carolina Hurricanes
    last week: 26
    record: 28-36-11
    MUIR: 26
    KWAK: 26
    PAGE: 26
    Last week: 2-0-1

  • 28
    28Edmonton Oilers
    last week: 27
    record: 23-40-13
    MUIR: 27
    KWAK: 28
    PAGE: 28
    Last week: 3-0-0

  • 29
    arizona Coyotes
    last week: 30
    record: 23-46-8
    MUIR: 30
    KWAK: 29
    PAGE: 29
    Last week: 2-2-0

  • 30
    30Buffalo Sabres
    last week: 28
    record: 21-47-8
    MUIR: 29
    KWAK: 30
    PAGE: 30
    Last week: 1-1-1

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