NHL Power Rankings: Can Minnesota Make a Dark Horse Wild-Card Push?

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The Flyers are streaking. The Bruins and Lightning are fighting. The Wild are mounting the league’s leading dark horse wild-card push. The NHL’s award races are heating up and there’s less than a month to go in the 2019–20 season. All that being said, here’s how we see teams stacking up this week:

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31. Detroit Red Wings | 17-49-5 | Previous Ranking: 31

With less than a month left in the season, the Red Wings have not only been eliminated from the playoffs, but also clinched the worst overall record in the league. There’s nothing Detroit can do to change that, so it’s all up from here, right?

30. Ottawa Senators | 25-33-12 | Previous Ranking: 29

The Senators traded away Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and then beat Pageau’s Islanders in his first return to Ottawa. That’s … not how it’s supposed to work. With goaltender Craig Anderson turning back the clock to his early years in Ottawa, the Senators will wrap up their tour-de-tank with games against the Blackhawks and Kings this week. They’ve gone 3-0-0 in games against the Red Wings, Sharks and Ducks in the last 11 days.

29. Los Angeles Kings | 28-35-6 | Previous Ranking: 30

Spoilers! The Kings have racked up victories against the Penguins, Golden Knights, Leafs, Wild and Avalanche in the last two weeks, spurring a six-game win streak. Jonathan Quick, after another down year, has compiled a 4-0-1 record, .957 save percentage and 1.29 goals against average in his last five starts and has been reliable since Jack Campbell’s departure.

28. San Jose Sharks | 29-35-5 | Previous Ranking: 27

In a race to the bottom, San Jose stemmed the tide of its recent three-game winning streak and lost in overtime to the Senators. With former Sharks like Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Justin Braun playing for contenders elsewhere, San Jose fans at least have the opportunity to take on temporary allegiances come April.

27. Anaheim Ducks | 29-32-9 | Previous Ranking: 28

Even without four startable defensemen (Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Erik Gudbranson and Josh Manson), the Ducks have come away with 12 points in their last eight games. There’s not much left for Anaheim this season, aside from keeping an eye on prospects and AHL affiliate San Diego Gulls’ fight to reach the Calder Cup.

26. New Jersey Devils | 28-29-12 | Previous Ranking: 26

Someone stripped “tanking” from the Devils’ dictionary at the onset of 2020. New Jersey beat both the Blues and the Rangers, halting St. Louis’s run of eight consecutive wins and spoiling Igor Shesterkin’s first game back since sustaining a rib injury in a car accident. The Devils had a .500 record for the first time since Nov. 21, 2018, before losing 5-–2 to the Penguins.

25. Buffalo Sabres | 30-31-8 | Previous Ranking: 24

Wayne Simmonds waived his no-trade clause, for this? The Sabres lost six straight since the trade deadline, failing to score more than two goals or any on the power play (0–14), before snapping its slide against the Caps on a Dominik Kahun shootout winner. First-year coach Ralph Krueger has stirred some defensive improvements year-over-year, but Buffalo has been stuck in rebuild mode for almost a decade.

24. Montreal Canadiens | 31-31-9 | Previous Ranking: 23

With leading goal-scorer Tomas Tatar sidelined with an upper-body injury, the Canadiens managed to score just once in games against the Lightning and Panthers. Montreal has nearly double the number of road contests than home games remaining but, on the positive side, GM Marc Bergevin should have upwards of $20 million to spend this offseason.

23. Chicago Blackhawks | 31-30-8 | Previous Ranking: 25

After nearly knocking themselves out of the postseason with a 2-7-2 stretch, the Blackhawks put their playoff hopes back on life support following a four-game winning streak. Then Chicago took it back off, falling flat against the Red Wings and losing to the Blues. The Blackhawks have the second-worst odds of any non-eliminated team to make the postseason, but there’s nothing stopping winger Dominik Kubalik from becoming the first Chicago rookie to score more than 31 goals since 1983 and ending the year on a high note.

22. New York Rangers | 37-28-4 | Previous Ranking: 22

In one fell swoop, Mika Zibanejad’s five-goal outburst moved the Rangers within two points of a wild-card spot and dropped the Caps into a tie for the Metropolitan Division lead. New York stumbled against the Devils two nights later, but Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin have continued their stellar seasons. They’re on pace to become New York’s first duo to tally over 80 points each since Jaromir Jagr and Michael Nylander did it 13 years ago. Luckily for the Rangers’ rebuild, their two current stars are a bit younger than their previous counterparts.

21. Arizona Coyotes | 33-29-8 | Previous Ranking: 20

While not the final death knell of Arizona’s season, losing 4–2 to the Jets and falling three points out of a playoff spot without games in hand isn’t the path the Coyotes are looking to follow. Darcy Kuemper’s return hasn’t been enough to lift Arizona and the team’s up-and-down offense is now without leading goal-scorer Conor Garland, who’s out week-to-week with a lower-body injury.

20. Winnipeg Jets | 36-28-6 | Previous Ranking: 19

As Connor Hellebuyck goes, so do the Jets. Hellebuyck has saved a league-leading 12.49 goals above expectation, according to Charting Hockey, and is the primary reason why Winnipeg is sticking around the playoff hunt. At close to full health, the Jets have zero remaining games against teams eliminated from postseason contention and have an upcoming three-game trip against the Oilers, Flames and Canucks to try and prove they aren’t a pretender heading down the stretch.

19. Vancouver Canucks | 36-27-6 | Previous Ranking: 14

Since Jacob Markstrom went down with a lower-body injury on Feb. 22, the Canucks have lost five of their last eight games. The blue line has failed to provide much support, surrendering the second-most scoring chances per 60 minutes in that stretch. As such, Vancouver has nearly tumbled out of the West’s last wild-card spot with make-or-break contests ahead against the Coyotes, Avalanche and Jets.

18. Calgary Flames | 36-27-7 | Previous Ranking: 17

Team A: 3.52 goals per game, 19.27% power play, 53.9% corsi for
Team B: 3.43 goals per game, 25.7% power play, 50.5% corsi for

Team A was the 2018–19 Flames, and Team B is the Flames since the New Year. Calgary isn’t all the way there yet—the Flames lost their third game this season to the Pacific-leading Golden Knights—but it’s inching closer to looking like last season’s team.

17. Nashville Predators | 35-26-8 | Previous Ranking: 18

In two consecutive games against the Stars, Juuse Saros stopped a combined 70 of 70 shot, blanking Dallas twice and helping the Predators wiggle back into a playoff position. Nashville will need continued excellence from Saros, as the team’s offense has scored the third-fewest goals per 60 minutes since the beginning of February behind an ailing power play.

16. Columbus Blue Jackets | 33-21-15 | Previous Ranking: 16

With defenseman Ryan Murray and goaltender Elvis Merzlikins back from injury, the Blue Jackets ended their three-game Canada trip with a win against the Canucks and kept their bid for an Eastern Conference playoff spot alive. However, with a bottom-six offense and power play since the New Year along with the second-toughest remaining schedule, Columbus’s injury-plagued February could prove to be too much to overcome.

15. Minnesota Wild | 35-27-7 | Previous Ranking: 21

There’s a lot that went wrong under ex-GM Paul Fenton’s tenure, but acquiring Kevin Fiala was Fenton’s greatest parting gift. Fiala scored twice, including the overtime winner, in a 5–4 defeat of the Ducks on the second night of an away back-to-back, while Devan Dubynk returned and picked up his first win since Feb. 19. The Wild are coming together at the right time, but face a gauntlet of playoff opponents in the Golden Knights, Flyers and Predators in the next week.

14. Florida Panthers | 35-26-8 | Previous Ranking: 15

After losing four straight, the Panthers stopped the bleeding with consecutive wins against the Canadiens and recently red-hot Blues. With Sergei Bobrovsky sidelined with a lower-body injury, backup Chris Driedger has steadied Florida with a .955 save percentage and 1.31 goals against average in his last three starts, while Alexsander Barkov rides a six-game pointless streak.

13. New York Islanders | 35-23-10 | Previous Ranking: 11

Not even the Senators could alleviate the Islanders’ woes. Since Feb. 13, the Isles have a 2-7-4 record, dropped seven in a row and lost at least four consecutive games, twice. Their odds to make the playoffs have fallen by over 30% while their once-steadfast goaltending tandem bottoms out.

12. Edmonton Oilers | 37-24-9 | Previous Ranking: 13

For the rest of the season, Connor McDavid’s existence will be wielded as a cudgel against Leon Draisaitl’s Hart candidacy. The Oilers’ power play, which features both players, is on pace to finish as the fourth-best extra-man unit since 1977 and Draisaitl is on pace to become the first player to notch 50-plus power-play points since the 2006–07 season. Back at five-on-five, Draisaitl’s numbers are better when he’s separated from McDavid than without. Award banter aside, Edmonton has stayed afloat despite getting outshot by 16.5 attempts per game. Even with the league’s second-best penalty kill, the Oilers can’t sustain that come April.

11. Toronto Maple Leafs | 36-25-9 | Previous Ranking: 12

The Leafs are still holding onto the Atlantic’s final playoff spot, but only because the Panthers have mounted almost no late-season pressure until this past weekend. Toronto took a trip out West and lost three in a row to the cellar-dwelling Sharks, Kings and Ducks and, if that wasn’t bad enough, were outscored 8–3 and went 0–9 on the power play in the process. With the typical caveat that the Leafs are as talented as any team in the league, Toronto hasn’t convinced anyone that they’re among the East’s top tier of contenders.

10. Carolina Hurricanes | 38-25-5 | Previous Ranking: 10

The Hurricanes weathered a flurry of injuries through March—add recent acquisition Sami Vatanen’s setback to the list—but there’s some hope. Goaltender Petr Mrazek is nearing return. Rookie Morgan Geekie notched a three-point night in his NHL debut, piling on top of 19-year veteran Justin William’s two goals to take a win against the Penguins. After treading water in February, Carolina is positioned to gear up for a playoff push the rest of the way.

9. Dallas Stars | 37-24-8 | Previous Ranking: 8

Maybe luck will catch up with the Stars before mid-April but that’s not the case now. Despite outshooting its opponents by 12 attempts per game, Dallas dropped five in a row while shooting a paltry 3.9%. On one hand, while not much is going right, the Stars have breathing room in the Central and a soft-ish schedule to end the season. On the other, Dallas will most likely face either the Blues or Avs in the first round. The Stars won’t get far if their struggles persist.

8. Pittsburgh Penguins | 40-23-6 | Previous Ranking: 6

The Penguins are close to full health … and they’re also in the middle of a stretch where they’ve won three of their last 11 games. Both Teddy Blueger and Justin Schultz criticized the team’s compete level after a recent 6–2 loss to the Hurricanes. While Pittsburgh isn’t getting dominated in terms of scoring chances, goaltenders Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry have combined for the worst team save percentage since Feb. 20. More than anything, remaining healthy should be the Penguins’ biggest goal down the stretch.

7. Philadelphia Flyers | 41-21-7 | Previous Ranking: 9

If the Flyers were anything during the first half of the season, it was streaky. Philadelphia had seven streaks of three-plus wins or losses through the its first 40 games, but it never had anything approaching the run it’s on now. Keyed by Claude Giroux’s return to superstardom, the Flyers reeled off nine straight wins as a part of a 18-4-1 stretch where they owned the league’s second-best expected goal share. Greeting Philly’s recent excellence will be seven consecutive games against potential postseason teams.

6. Washington Capitals | 41-20-8 | Previous Ranking: 3

The Capitals haven’t been bad since the All-Star break—they have the ninth-best corsi for percentage (51.28) and have scored the sixth-most goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five (2.79) despite an 8-9-3 record—but below-average goaltending has left the last seven weeks with something to be desired. If Holtby returns to form and the power play picks up, Washington will start to look like the team it was earlier in the season.

5. Vegas Golden Knights | 39-24-8 | Previous Ranking: 7

Since Pete DeBoer took over, no team has allowed fewer shot attempts against per 60 minutes and only the Wild have surrendered fewer high danger attempts. The Golden Knights are back to playing as a dominant possession team and head into their final 11 games with the West’s best goaltending situation.

4. Colorado Avalanche | 41-20-8 | Previous Ranking: 5

The Avs’ top line has outscored opponents 6–1 since sliding Vladislav Namestnikov next to Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. Not like Colorado has desperately needed it, as the team reached 90 points at the earliest point in the season since 2001 and MacKinnon’s Hart campaign powers forward.

3. St. Louis Blues | 41-19-10 | Previous Ranking: 4

After winning eight straight, the Blues cooled off in losses to the Devils and Panthers. There’s not a ton to be concerned about: Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz and Ryan O’Reilly have averaged a goal per game in the team’s last 11 contests while St. Louis’s defense has done its part in front of Jordan Binnington and Jake Allen. That’s all without sniper Vladimir Tarasenko, who’s inching closer to return.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning | 43-21-6 | Previous Ranking: 2

Even without Steven Stamkos, the Lightning topped the Bruins 5–3 as a line brawl erupted during Saturday night’s game. Everyone wants to see these two teams duke it out in a best-of-seven, second-round series, right?

1. Boston Bruins | 44-14-12 | Previous Ranking: 1

In a loss that mostly drummed up excitement for a potential playoff matchup and featured absurdities from announcer Jack Edwards, David Pastrnak scored and jumped back ahead of Alex Ovechkin in the Rocket Richard race before falling back into a tie after Monday night’s games. Pastrnak will likely become the first Bruin to eclipse 50 goals in almost three decades. Meanwhile, the Bruins are marching toward their first division title since the 2013–14 season while defensemen Brandon Carlo and Torey Krug recover from upper-body injuries.