NHL Power Rankings: New York Rangers still No. 1 in final regular season edition.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.