NHL Power Rankings: Rangers finish No. 1 as playoffs loom

1:46 | NHL
NHL Power Rankings: Rangers No. 1 for fifth straight week
Tuesday April 7th, 2015

Welcome to the final regular season edition of our NHL Power Rankings. For 26 weeks we've been harshing your mellow with our deluded pronouncements, but you (and we) have survived. And so, as the schedule dwindles into its final small handful of games, we bow down and crown the Rangers, who have held the top spot since March 10. Clearly the beasts of the east, the Broadway Blueshirts may want to keep a wary eye out for Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals, who have been on a steady rise for three weeks and ended up with their highest ranking of the season. Next week our own Al Muir will survey the playoff field and give you fresh reasons to grind the enamel off your molars.

NHL Playoff Race: Projected matchups if season ended today

As per custom, a few choice words about these rankings: Our sage scribes—Mr. Muir, Sarah Kwak and Sam Page—submitted their detailed choices for the top 10 and dutifully ranked all 30 teams according to the order in which they were drawn out of a large stovepipe "sorting hat." The final results were stirred, not shaken, with a dash of on-ice performance, strength of schedule, number of disabled bodies, general outlook on life and how high each club came in on our writers’ ballots. In some cases another reprehensible and utterly mystifying (even to us) formula involving darts, coins, dice and goat entrails was used to break ties, rank teams that were chosen by only one or two writers and inspire you, gentle reader, to call for an avalanche of pink slips if not outright criminal charges.

We’ve lovingly 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 hoary oaths and epithets.

  • 1
    1New York Rangers
    last week: 1
    record: 51-21-7
    MUIR (1): Saturday’s 6–1 thumping of the Devils was the 50th win of the season for the Rangers, marking just the fourth time in franchise history that they’ve reached that milestone. Add in Monday’s OT victory over the Blue Jackets and New York is in position with two games remaining to top its all-time record of 52, set in 1993-94, the last time it won the chalice.
    KWAK (2): After giving up four goals during his return from injury, goalie Henrik Lundqvist has returned to form, stringing together three wins, including a 35-save performance in that win over New Jersey. The Rangers, winners of the Metropolitan Division, also grabbed their first Presidents’ Trophy since ’94.

    PAGE (1): Lundqvist has been a shot in the arm for a team that really didn’t need one in the first place. It seems that everything is coming into place at the perfect time for the Rangers, again. The only difference between this season's team and last year’s may be a less formidable Western Conference opponent waiting for them in the Cup finals. 

  • 2
    2Minnesota Wild
    last week: 2
    record: 44-27-8
    MUIR (2): After dropping three straight at home, the Wild are probably thrilled to get out on the road for their final three games of the season. Minnesota has won 10 straight away from Xcel but  faces a murderers row this week: Chicago, Nashville and St. Louis. The Wild will likely need to claim at least three points to clinch their spot in the postseason.
    KWAK (3): Though they dropped two this week against Eastern Conference competition, they showed some resilience by coming from behind in the third period in both games and forcing overtime against Detroit. With a playoff berth all but secure for Minnesota, all eyes will be on Devan Dubnyk to see if the hot goalie can maintain his excellence during his postseason debut.
    PAGE (2): The Dubnyk Wild are mortal after all. While they still haven’t lost a back-to-back regulation games since acquiring their savior, they’re skidding a bit. If any three games ever had “playoff implications” it’s their final three. 
    Last week: 0-2-1

  • 3
    3Anaheim Ducks
    last week: 3
    record: 50-23-7
    MUIR (3): I’m still trying to figure out how the Ducks have won 50 games this season but are carrying a goal differential of only +13. What will define this team in the postseason: the Ducks’ ability to win the close ones or their inability to put their boot on the throat of an opponent when they have them down? 
    KWAK (1): Despite a power play that has gone a woeful 3-for-43 (seven percent) in their last 20 games, the Ducks have been able to string together some success down the stretch, winning four of their last five games and clinching the Pacific Division this week. As they turn to the postseason, their depth will become even more important, so the emergence of Jakob Silfverberg (11 points since March 1) should be a boon.
    PAGE (8): So will the Kings or Jets upset them in the first round? 
    Last week: 1-1-0

  • 4
    4St. Louis Blues
    last week: 8
    record: 49-23-7
    MUIR (6): They may not have identified their starting goalie for the playoffs, but they’ve got two solid options. St. Louis is one of just three teams in the NHL that boasts two goaltenders with 20-plus wins. Brian Elliott looked like a lock just two weeks ago but Jake Allen, who is 3-0-1 with a 1.74 GAA and .933 save percentage in his past four starts, looks to be the hot hand after piloting St. Louis past Chicago with a brilliant 38-save effort on Sunday. He could be the man come crunch time.
    KWAK (6): The Blues have left behind a mediocre March (6-5-3) and entered a flawless April. Much of their 3-0-0 start to the month is because of winger Jaden Schwartz, who scored six points this week, including a hat trick against Dallas on Friday. There isn’t a better time to get hot than April.
    PAGE (3): There should be a special trophy for winning the Central Division, one for which the Blues would now be in the driver’s seat. Their two latest wins (7–5 over the Stars and 2–1 over the Blackhawks) typify their mercurial season. If they draw the Wild in the first round, they’ll need both their offense and defense working to full potential. 
    Last week: 3-0-0

  • 5
    5Washington Capitals
    last week: 10
    record: 44-25-11
    MUIR (8): With a big road win in Detroit on Sunday, the Capitals clinched a spot in the postseason for the seventh time in the last eight seasons. Braden Holtby was the star of the game, posting 35 saves to become just the second goaltender in the team’s history to record 40 or more wins in one season. With two games remaining, Washington’s real MVP has a chance to break Olaf Kolzig’s record of 41 victories set back in 1999-2000.
    KWAK (4): Raise your hand if you thought the Caps would clinch a playoff spot before the Islanders or Penguins this season. [My hand’s down.] But with their 2–1 win over the Red Wings on Sunday, the Caps did just that. Ovechkin has 52 goals (I did think he’d break 50) and defenseman John Carlson is quietly having a career year with 53 points, sixth among NHL blueliners.
    PAGE (4): The Capitals are back in the postseason and so begins the most interesting experiment of the season: What can a Barry Trotz team do with a few game-breakers on offense? The old answer was suspend them. The new answer could be “win.” But the Islanders, a possible first round foe if they manage to get in, have the exact type of possession-oriented attack that Trotz always struggled to beat in Nashville.
    Last week: 3-0-1

  • 6
    6Tampa Bay Lightning
    last week: 5
    record: 48-24-8
    MUIR (4): Full marks to the Bolts, who will go in the books as the only team not to suffer a losing streak of more than two games all season long. That ability to pull themselves up when other clubs went into a nose dive has them in position to capture the Atlantic Division and secure home ice through the first two rounds. 
    KWAK (8): Injuries going into the postseason have haunted the Lightning before (see: last spring), so the recent spate that hit defensemen Victor Hedman, Jason Garrison, Braydon Coburn and Andrej Sustr could be troubling. 
    PAGE (6): I’m sticking with my preseason Stanley Cup pick. While nearly ever other contender seems to have had a dramatic hot streak (Wild, Bruins) or an awful slump (Penguins, Islanders) of late, the Lightning have been consistent.
    Last week: 1-1-1

  • 7
    7Montreal Canadiens
    last week: 6
    record: 48-22-10
    MUIR (5): The good news: With his 42nd win of the season on Sunday, Carey Price moved into a tie with Jacques Plante and Ken Dryden for the franchise’s single-season victories record, and with two games (and one likely start) remaining, he has a chance to make the mark his own. The bad news: Max Pacioretty’s hard tumble into the boards after being hit by Florida’s Dmitry Kulikov forced him out of that game with what is being termed an upper-body injury. It will be impossible for this team to replace Pacioretty’s offense, so Montreal’s fingers are crossed for good news from the team’s doctors.
    KWAK (5): The Canadiens lost a pair of shootouts this week, but that’s nothing compared to the prospect of losing Pacioretty, their leading scorer. 
    PAGE (11): You can't hide coaching in the playoffs. 
    Last week: 1-0-2

  • 8
    8Chicago Blackhawks
    last week: 7
    record: 48-25-6
    MUIR (7): The Blackhawks allowed a power play goal to David Backes in Sunday's 2–1 loss to the Blues, which would be no big deal if not for the fact that Chicago has now allowed seven goals in its last 21 shorthanded situations. Maybe a sign that the team’s top four defensemen are feeling a bit fatigued from being overworked down the stretch? 
    KWAK (9): Captain Jonathan Toews finally overtook injured winger Patrick Kane for the team scoring lead this week with two goals against Buffalo on Friday. Averaging a point per game in his last six, the center helped Chicago clinch a playoff spot, but in the tight Central, the all-important home ice advantage is still yet to be determined. 
    PAGE (5): Chicago probably lost its chance to win the division by losing to the Blues, but did the Hawks really want to draw Minnesota in the first round? 
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 9
    9Nashville Predators
    last week: 4
    record: 47-22-10
    MUIR (11)
    KWAK (7): In a light week, the Predators dropped two overtime games, but the silver lining may be that they forced OT in both with goals that came in the last six minutes of regulation. Have they fully recovered from their six-game slide in February and March? They have just three games left before the heat is turned up.
    PAGE (7): Nashville’s finding some goals lately thanks to a healthy James Neal and a resurgent Filip Forsberg. Pekka Rinne hasn’t been quite himself, though. From the desk of Captain Obvious: The Preds will live and die by their goaltending and defense in the playoffs, so both need to get set soon. 
    Last week: 0-0-2

  • 10
    10Boston Bruins
    last week: 16
    record: 41-25-13
    MUIR (9): They’ve gotten hot at the right time, winning five straight, but they’re just as likely to finish out of the money as grab the third spot in the Atlantic Division. The uncertainty over Zdeno Chara’s health is a concern, but Tuukka Rask should help smooth out the rough spots. The veteran keeper is back in Vezina Trophy form, allowing just six goals in his past five games while posting a gaudy .955 save percentage. 
    KWAK (10): With their backs against the ropes, the Bruins have again responded by winning their last five games. But injuries, which have plagued the team all season, continue to be a thorn in their side. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton is day-to-day, as is captain Chara. Center David Krejci’s return, though, has been key, as Boston has gone 5-0-1 since he latest comeback.
    PAGE (12)
    Last week: 3-0-0


They’re limping, but we still like the Islanders in the playoffs. O.K.—they weren’t used to a stretch drive in which they were one of the leaders. But the playoffs will give this young team a jolt. Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk know about how to win in the postseason, which is good, as they’ll have to be the best Islanders on the ice in order to repeat their successes with Chicago and Boston respectively.  If the Isles make it in, they’re likely to be every pundit’s dark horse pick. Sam Page is just ahead of the curve by a week. 

Reeling Penguins look like cannon fodder for playoffs if they get in

Al Muir says his flint-hearted colleagues will scoff at his pick, but the never-say-die Blue Jackets have earned a top 10 nod from him. Before dropping an OT heartbreaker to the top-ranked Rangers on Monday night, Columbus had won a franchise-record nine consecutive games while playing for nothing but pride. It’s easy to get caught up in what might have been for this team if not for nearly 500 man games lost to injury, but a lot more fun to imagine what lies ahead for this promising group.

As the final week begain, the Senators sat on the outside of the playoff bubble, two points behind eighth place in the East, but it still feels like a big uphill battle as they trail in the tiebreaking category of regulation and overtime wins. Ottawa will likely need a flawless finish to qualify. But thanks to rookie Mark Stone and center Kyle Turris, who combined for 16 points in their last six games, the Senators actually could pull off a dramatic finish.

Stars netminder Kari Lehtonen started two must-win games at home last week ... and failed to finish both of them. When Dallas looks back at what went wrong this season, there’s no doubt where the fingers will be pointing. Lehtonen’s been a decent placeholder during the past few years but he’s not the guy who can get this team where it wants to go.


  • 11
    11Vancouver Canucks
    last week: 14
    record: 46-29-5
    MUIR: 15
    KWAK: 11
    PAGE: 13
    Last week: 2-2-0

  • 12
    12New York Islanders
    last week: 13
    record: 46-27-6
    MUIR: 17
    KWAK: 13
    PAGE: 9
    Last week: 1-0-1

  • 13
    13Los Angeles Kings
    last week: 18
    record: 39-25-13
    MUIR: 16
    KWAK: 16
    PAGE: 10
    Last week: 2-0-1

  • 14
    14Winnipeg Jets
    last week: 12
    record: 41-26-12
    MUIR: 12
    KWAK: 17
    PAGE: 14
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 15
    15Detroit Red Wings
    last week: 15
    record: 41-25-13
    MUIR: 18
    KWAK: 14
    PAGE: 15
    Last week: 1-2-1

  • 16
    16Pittsburgh Penguins
    last week: 9
    record: 42-26-11
    MUIR: 20
    KWAK: 12
    PAGE: 16
    Last week: 0-3-0

  • 17
    17Ottawa Senators
    last week: 17
    record: 40-26-13
    MUIR: 13
    KWAK: 18
    PAGE: 17
    Last week: 3-0-1

  • 18
    18Calgary Flames
    last week: 11
    record: 43-29-7
    MUIR: 14
    KWAK: 15
    PAGE: 20
    Last week: 1-1-0

  • 19
    19Columbus Blue Jackets
    last week: 21
    record: 39-35-5
    MUIR: 10
    KWAK: 19
    PAGE: 18
    Last week: 3-0-1

  • 20
    20Dallas Stars
    last week: 19
    record: 39-31-10
    MUIR: 19
    KWAK: 20
    PAGE: 21
    Last week: 2-1-0

Toxic offense dooms Flyers' playoff chances, and change won't be easy

Amazing that on a team as bad as this season’s Flyers Steve Mason could set a franchise record for save percentage (.929). The guy has no hope of breaking into a crowded field of Vezina contenders but what he’s done for Philly is award-worthy.

Though the Avalanche have been eliminated from postseason, this team still has some power over the playoffs. With games against Nashville, Winnipeg and Chicago this week, Colorado could wreak some havoc on the seedings—or in the case of the Jets, be a death blow to playoff hopes. 

Congratulations to the Sabres for securing the basement in our rankings after mudwrestling with the Coyotes, Oilers and Leafs. Too bad it doesn’t guarantee at least the No. 2 in the draft.

  • 21
    21Florida Panthers
    last week: 20
    record: 36-29-15
    MUIR: 21
    KWAK: 21
    PAGE: 19
    Last week: 1-3-0

  • 22
    22San Jose Sharks
    last week: 22
    record: 39-32-9
    MUIR: 23
    KWAK: 22
    PAGE: 22
    Last week: 2-2-0

  • 23
    23Philadelphia Flyers
    last week: 24
    record: 32-29-18
    MUIR: 22
    KWAK: 24
    PAGE: 24
    Last week: 2-0-1

  • 24
    24Colorado Avalanche
    last week: 23
    record: 36-31-12
    MUIR: 24
    KWAK: 23
    PAGE: 23
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 25
    25New Jersey Devils
    last week: 25
    record: 32-34-13
    MUIR: 25
    KWAK: 25
    PAGE: 25
    Last week: 1-1-1

  • 26
    26Carolina Hurricanes
    last week: 27
    record: 29-39-11
    MUIR: 26
    KWAK: 26
    PAGE: 26
    Last week: 1-3-0

  • 27
    27Toronto Maple Leafs
    last week: 26
    record: 30-43-7
    MUIR: 28
    KWAK: 27
    PAGE: 27
    Last week: 2-1-1

  • 28
    28Edmonton Oilers
    last week: 28
    record: 23-43-13
    MUIR: 27
    KWAK: 28
    PAGE: 28
    Last week: 0-3-0

  • 29
    arizona Coyotes
    last week: 29
    record: 23-49-8
    MUIR: 29
    KWAK: 29
    PAGE: 29
    Last week: 1-1-0

  • 30
    30Buffalo Sabres
    last week: 30
    record: 23-49-8
    MUIR: 30
    KWAK: 30
    PAGE: 30
    Last week: 2-2-0

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