Thursday, January 20, 2022

NHL Power Rankings: Avalanche rounding into form as playoff picture takes shape

NHL Power Rankings: Avalanche rounding into form as playoff picture takes shape

The Colorado Avalanche are heating up with the playoff picture becoming clearer by the day.

nhl-power-rankings-jan-12 Cale Makar
Getty Images

The NHL playoff picture is starting to take shape, and we’re getting a clearer picture of the teams will be in the mix until the end and which ones will fall by the wayside. The only question now is which teams are real contenders for the Stanley Cup.

One team that has really come alive is the new No. 1, the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs are steamrolling opponents with regularity, which is what most people expected before the regular season began. Colorado is now 9-1 in its last 10 games and are in prime position to take the top spot in the Central Division.

Over in the Eastern Conference, the eight playoff teams may have already been decided. The trouble there is figuring out which of those clubs is for real. The Panthers, Hurricanes, Maple Leafs, and Lightning are all legitimate Cup contenders, but how many teams could surprise them in the postseason?

As the playoff race comes into focus, here are the updated NHL Power Rankings:

Biggest Movers

4 Lightning

6 Golden Knights







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The Avs have now won five in a row and nine of their last 10, and young defenseman Cale Makar is hitting another level. He makes highlight reel plays, like putting Chicago’s Kirby Dach in a blender on an overtime goal, but Colorado also controls 57.47% of the expected goals at five-on-five with him on the ice. 2 22-8-3

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Jonathan Huberdeau is on a tear right now. He has a whopping 13 points in his last five games, and Huberdeau’s 46 points on the season have him tied with Nazem Kadri for fourth in the NHL. 1 24-7-5

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Carolina had a tough pair of games with a back-to-back set against the Flames and the Panthers. They managed to pick up three of a possible four points with an impressive win over Calgary and a tough overtime loss to Florida. 2 24-7-2

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Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs really had the chance to assert themselves last week, and it looked like they were about to when they held a 4-1 lead over the Avalanche. However, Toronto left the door open, and Colorado stormed back for an overtime win. That was a missed opportunity for the Leafs. 2 23-8-3

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Pittsburgh just had its 10-game winning streak snapped, and it is still only fourth in the Metropolitan Division. However, the Penguins still have games in hand over the Rangers and Capitals, and they have put a 12-point gap between themselves and the next closest teams. 1 21-9-5

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Victor Hedman is now second on the Lightning in points behind only Steven Stamkos, and he has been dominant all season long. Hedman has been playing big minutes for Tampa, and he has been effective against everyone. The Lightning control an absurd 58.0% of the expected goals when Hedman is on the ice at five-on-five. 4 24-9-5

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The Predators have another winning streak going, but unlike the last one, Juuse Saros has done the bulk of the work recently. Nashville has been outplayed at five-on-five in its last few games, but Saros has been exceptional. He is now second in the NHL in goals saved above average with 17.61. 4 24-11-2

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The Blues pulled off one of the most exhilarating wins of the season by scoring a pair of power play goals in the last minute of regulation to take down the Stars. This may come as a surprise, but it was Jordan Kyrou who came up clutch with the winning goal at 19:31 of the third period. 21-10-5

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Like many other teams, the Rangers are battling some lineup issues due to COVID-19 protocols. Most notably, goaltender Igor Shesterkin hasn’t played since Jan. 2. In relief, Alexandar Georgiev allowed five goals on 35 shots against the Golden Knights. 23-10-4

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Golden Knights

Vegas got a little but unlucky last week. It went 1-2, and even dropped a game against the Blackhawks, but the team controlled a high percentage of the expected goals at five-on-five in each contest. If the bounces had gone their way, it could have been a much better weekend for the Golden Knights. 6 23-14-2

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Minnesota has had trouble getting into any kind of rhythm recently. The Wild have played three games in the last three weeks, but the good news is that they went 2-0 last week. This is one of the better teams in the league when it’s rolling, but Minnesota hasn’t been on the ice enough to make that happen. 1 21-10-2

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Last week, I made the case that David Pastrnak was due for a hot streak, but I didn’t realize it would happen so soon. In the Bruins’ four games last week, Pastrnak netted five goals. Unsurprisingly, Boston went 3-1-0 in that stretch. 2 19-11-2

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If there is one major question about this Capitals team, it’s whether the goaltending can hold up enough to take them deep into the playoffs. Washington is 0-2-2 in January, and the goaltending has been poor in that stretch. Will the Caps find an answer in the trio of Ilya Samsonov, Vitek Vanacek, and Zach Fucale? 6 20-8-9

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Los Angeles is 6-3-1 in its last 10 games, and the team is now just four points behind the Anaheim Ducks with two games in hand. With the Flames and Oilers slipping, that has opened the door for the Kings, and they have taken full advantage of that opportunity. 1 18-13-5

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Sonny Milano has been a pleasant surprise for the Ducks this year. Not only has he already set a career high in points, but the team has been highly successful with him on the ice. The Ducks control 59.86% of the expected goals when Milano is on the ice, which is the best mark of any player on the team with more than one game played. 1 19-13-7

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Rick Bowness’ pockets will be a little light for a while. The Stars saw a key divisional game slip through their hands when the Blues scored a pair of power play goals in the final minute of the game to win 2-1, and Bowness reacted by mercilessly beating the bench with a hockey stick. That earned him a $25,000 fine. 3 17-13-2

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The Jets continue to be plagued by inconsistency, and that is killing the team’s postseason chances. If Winnipeg is really going to make a strong playoff push in a competitive Western Conference, it can’t afford to keep taking one step forward and one step back. 1 16-12-5

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The Flames have lost three straight games and are 3-6-1 in their last 10. Goaltender Jacob Markstrom has faltered a bit in that time. Backup Dan Vladar has even started the team’s last two games, but he allowed a combined 10 goals in those contests. Based on his history, Markstrom should be fine, but it is something to keep an eye on. 5 17-10-6

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Vancouver hasn’t played a game since New Year’s Day, which is unfortunate because the team was on a roll prior to that interruption. Will the Canucks be able to get that momentum back when they resume against the Panthers on Tuesday night? 2 16-16-3

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The Islanders are in the same boat as the Canucks, but they will be an incredibly busy team in the coming weeks with some games getting rescheduled. The Isles might be the only team that can make the Eastern Conference playoff race interesting, but they have a ton of work to do in order to make that happen. 2 10-12-6

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Timo Meier has seven points in his last four games and is well ahead of the pace necessary to set a career high in points. The 25-year-old has one year left on his current contract, and he will be in line for a major payday if this keeps up. 2 20-16-1

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Philadelphia has lost five games in a row. With the playoffs becoming more of a pipe dream with every passing day, it’s fair to wonder what the team will do before the trade deadline. Claude Giroux is an unrestricted free agent this summer, so the longtime Flyer could be on the move in the coming months. 1 13-15-7

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Don’t look now, but the Oilers are sitting outside the playoff picture. That would have seemed impossible after the team’s hot start, but Edmonton hasn’t won a game since Dec. 18. To make matters worse, COVID-19 has decimated the Oilers’ lineup. If things don’t change soon, the team will waste another with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisitl on the roster. 3 18-14-2

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Blue Jackets

Columbus has fallen way behind in the playoff race, and it’s probably because they are one of the worst defensive teams in the NHL. The Blue Jackets are 28th in the league in expected goals against per 60 minutes. 16-17-1

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The Senators haven’t played a game since getting drubbed 6-0 at the hands of the Maple Leafs, but based on how much of the season has gone, the fan base may not be complaining. 1 9-18-2

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Chicago will be on highlight reels for a long time after Cale Makar undressed Kirby Dach to win in overtime. The Blackhawks followed that game up by losing to the anemic Coyotes. They did close out the week with a win over the Golden Knights though. Hockey is a weird game sometimes. 1 13-18-5

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The Kraken went from a decent team getting horrific goaltending at the start of the year to being a horrific team getting horrific goaltending in the last month. Over that span, Seattle has controlled just 42.30% of the expected goals at five-on-five. 2 10-20-4

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Red Wings

Detroit is quickly falling out of the playoff race, but Lucas Raymond is still leading all rookies in points with 30. He has cooled off a bit of late, but Raymond still looks like a player that the fan base should be fired up about moving forward. 1 16-16-5

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Due to an injury to Jonathan Bernier, Mackenzie Blackwood has started the last six games for the Devils. In that time, Blackwood has really struggled. He’s given up at least three goals in five of those games. 1 14-17-5

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There are already rumblings that defenseman Jacob Chychrun is on the trade block with Arizona asking for a fortune in return. He hasn’t played since Dec. 10 due to injury and the COVID-19 protocol, but the Coyotes may be selling low on Chychrun. After a big year in 2020-21, Chychrun has just seven points in 26 games, and his underlying numbers are rather discouraging. 7-23-3

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It’s really hard to find a bright spot in Buffalo these days, and former No. 1 overall pick Rasmus Dahlin looks lost. His 22 points are second on the team, but the Sabres are getting rolled with him on the ice at five-on-five. The team owns just 43.82% of the expected goals with him on the ice. 10-19-6

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The Canadiens have played just one game in January, and it was a loss to the Panthers. It’s hard to get out of the basement if you’re not able to pick up any points at all. 7-23-4

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