Monday, March 20, 2023

NHL Power Rankings: Lightning rolling toward another deep playoff run

NHL Power Rankings: Lightning rolling toward another deep playoff run

The Lightning have shown no signs of slowing down after three straight Stanley Cup Final appearances

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The Tampa Bay Lightning are inevitable. Between three straight runs to the Stanley Cup Final and one of the oldest rosters in the NHL, you would think the Bolts would show signs of slowing down, but that is just not the case.

In terms of points percentage, the Lightning have the fourth-best record in the NHL, and it looks like they are poised for yet another deep playoff run. Steven Stamkos is ageless, Nikita Kucherov is on pace to post numbers that rival those of his MVP season in 2018-29, and Mikhail Sergachev is emerging as another bona fide No. 1 defenseman. Those are three elite players, and I haven’t even mentioned Brayden Point, Victor Hedman, or Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Frankly, it can be easy to take the Bolts for granted at this point. We just expect them to be great on a nightly basis, but to do it for this long is something extraordinary. To be able to stay ahead of the pack while also remaining salary cap compliant is a testament to the entire organization.

As the Lightning continue their march toward what could be a fourth straight Stanley Cup Final appearance, here are the updated NHL power rankings.

Biggest Movers

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1

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Bruins

Goal-scoring machine Matt Grzelyck is now on a two-game goal streak. That brings his season total up to three. Jokes aside, Grzelyck has been outstanding for the Bruins this season. With Grzelyck on the ice at five-on-five, Boston is outscoring opponents 35-12, per Natural Stat Trick. That’s the best mark on the team. 39-7-5
2

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Lightning

So much for any kind of change atop the Atlantic Division. The Bruins are the best team in the NHL, and the Bolts look as strong as they have at any point during their recent run. Those two teams may be led by veterans, but there is no slowing them down, and a second-round series between the Lightning and Bruins would be a sight to behold. 3 32-15-1
3

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Hurricanes

Frederik Andersen made his return to the Hurricanes’ net last week, and he didn’t show any signs of rust. In wins over the Blue Jackets and Penguins, Andersen allowed just three goals on 58 shots. There aren’t many concerns about this Carolina roster as long as Andersen is fully healthy the rest of the season. 1 34-9-8
4

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Rangers

K’Andre Miller scored with under a second left in regulation to tie the game against the Stars last week, and he is really coming into his own this year. Miller has already set new career highs in assists (20) and points (25), and he needs three more goals to surpass last year’s total of seven. Adam Fox gets a lot of attention, and for good reason, but Miller has emerged as a budding star too. 2 27-14-8
5

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Devils

After a tough December, the Devils are back where they belong near the top of the Power Rankings. They have won five games in a row, and they are 6-1-1 in January. New Jersey has found its groove on offense again, and Jesper Bratt has a lot to do with that. Since New Year’s Day, Bratt has notched six goals and 11 points in eight games. 9 32-13-4
6

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Kraken

Road trips don’t get much better than the one the Kraken just had. They went 7-0-0 on their road swing across North America, and they outscored their opponents 37-15 in the process. To top it all off, Seattle even handed Boston its first home regulation loss of the season. At this point, the Kraken might lobby the NHL for 82 road games next season. 5 29-15-5
7

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Maple Leafs

Earlier this season, Toronto acquired defenseman Connor Timmins just to have another healthy body on the blue line, and he has been much more than that so far. In his 14 games with the Leafs, Timmins has posted 10 points, and the team has outscored opponents 13-11 with him on the ice at five-on-five, per Natural Stat Trick. 3 31-13-8
8

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Jets

It’s time for me to start giving the Jets more respect. I still have my doubts about this team outside of the crease, but it’s hard to argue with what Winnipeg has done to this point in the season, as well as what the team has done lately. The Jets have won eight of their last 10 as they assert themselves atop the Central Division. 1 32-19-1
9

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Stars

Miro Heiskanen has been an outstanding defenseman for a few years now, but he has elevated his game in 2022-23. Not only is Dallas controlling play with Heiskanen in the game, but he is also getting more involved offensively. Heiskanen has 27 assists and 34 points in 42 games, and he will crush his previous highs in both of those categories by a country mile. 1 28-13-10
10

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Wild

The Wild have signed 21-year-old forward Matt Boldy to a seven-year contract extension worth a total of $49 million. Considering Boldy has 27 goals and 68 points in his first 90 NHL games, that contract could look like a steal for general manager Bill Guerin in just a couple of years. 7 27-17-4
11

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Kings

There is a lot of buzz for Erik Karlsson in San Jose, but Drew Doughty is another veteran defenseman who has turned back the clock on his career. With 27 points in 45 games, Doughty hasn’t posted the same kind of gaudy offensive numbers as Karlsson, but he has been just as impactful. With Doughty on the ice at five-on-five, the Kings have controlled 55.62% of the expected goals at five-on-five, per Natural Stat Trick. 1 28-18-7
12

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Capitals

Erik Gustafsson has been one of the NHL’s most pleasant surprises this year. In the four seasons prior to this one, Gustafsson played just 95 NHL games for four different teams. This season, Gustafsson has been a mainstay for the Capitals and has provided some offensive pop with 26 points in 46 games. Washington also has a plus-8 goal differential with him on the ice at five-on-five. 5 27-20-6
13

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Golden Knights

On the whole this season, Logan Thompson has been very good in net for the Golden Knights. However, his play has dipped a bit in the last month. Since Dec. 17, Thompson has allowed 1.37 goals above average. That’s not terrible, but it is a notable step back from how he was playing prior to this slump. 29-18-4
14

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Oilers

Connor McDavid could fail to record a point in every game for the rest of the season, and he would still average just over a point per game. He is the eighth wonder of the world, and if fans don’t get to see him in the playoffs, it will be a travesty. Luckily, a four-game winning streak has improved the Oilers’ place in the standings. 7 28-18-4
15

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Avalanche

Nathan MacKinnon is back to full health and looks like himself again. In his last seven games, MacKinnon has recorded five goals and 13 points. According to Natural Stat Trick, MacKinnon has a plus-10 goal differential at five-on-five in that stretch too. With MacKinnon rolling, look for Colorado to surge in the Central Division. 27-18-3
16

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Flames

There may be signs that Andrew Mangiapane is getting his scoring touch back. Mangiapane has found the back of the net twice in his last four games after scoring just seven goals in the first half of the season. Mangiapane is one of the players Calgary needs in order to contend for the Stanley Cup, so the team has to hope this is the start of a hot streak for him. 3 24-17-9
17

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Sabres

They say the brightest stars burn out the fastest. After cracking the top-10 last week, the Sabres have started to come back down to Earth. Buffalo has lost five of its last six, and it has lost some ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Let’s hope this team catches fire again because it would be fun to see this Sabres team in the mix down the stretch. 9 26-20-4
18

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Blues

Ivan Barbashev blew his career highs out of the water last season with 26 goals and 60 points. Coming into 2022-23, one of the biggest questions for the Blues was whether he could reproduce that effort. To this point, that hasn’t been the case. Barbashev is on pace for 11 goals and 26 assists, and he is a candidate to be on the trade block over the next six weeks. 23-25-3
19

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Penguins

Due to an injury to Tristan Jarry earlier this month, Casey DeSmith has gotten more starts between the pipes for the Penguins. In that short stretch, DeSmith has allowed 2.02 goals above average. Pittsburgh has more problems than just goaltending right now, but DeSmith hasn’t necessarily been bailing out the players in front of him. 3 24-16-9
20

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Flyers

John Tortorella banned iPads on the bench during games, and Travis Konecny immediately scored a hat trick against the Capitals. Angry Birds is a lot of fun, but it might’ve been holding the Flyers back during the first half of the season. 2 21-21-9
21

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Panthers

Matthew Tkachuk is doing everything in his power to drag the Panthers to the playoffs. He has five goals and 13 points in his last eight games, and Florida has a five-on-five goal differential of plus-15 with him on the ice this season. The Panthers have struggled just to remain in the playoff picture, but Tkachuk is pulling his weight and then some. 2 24-22-6
22

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Predators

Yaroslav Askarov, the No. 11 overall pick in the 2020 draft, got his first start in goal for the Predators last week. The 20-year-old acquitted himself well and made some saves, but unfortunately for him, the Predators opened up a shooting gallery for the Canadiens in a 4-3 loss. 5 24-18-6
23

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Islanders

The Islanders have lost five of their last six games as they struggle to find the back of the net. Ilya Sorokin’s impeccable goaltending has helped keep the Isles in a couple of those games, but the team is fading quickly. In a competitive Eastern Conference, the Islanders have to get back on track quickly or they’ll fall by the wayside. 3 25-22-5
24

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Red Wings

Through 43 games with the Red Wings, Andrew Copp has just four goals. Last season, he had eight goals with the Rangers … in 16 games. In the offseason, Detroit paid Copp to be a key part of the team’s future, but the early returns on that contract are extremely concerning. 21-19-8
25

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Senators

The Senators’ offense has fallen silent as they have been shutout twice in just over a week and managed only one goal in Monday’s loss to the Blues. After getting blown out 7-0 by the Avalanche, captain Brady Tkachuk called the performance “embarrassing,” but the real question is how does Ryan Reynolds feel about all this? 24-23-3
26

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Canucks

On this week’s episode of ‘As the Canucks Turn,’ president Jim Rutherford talked about needing to do “major surgery” on the roster while stating that Bruce Boudreau is the head coach “right now.” It’s never a good sign when someone refers to your job security on a minute-to-minute basis. 20-26-3
27

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Canadiens

The Habs have now won three of their last four, and Sam Montembeault is to thank for their recent mini-surge. In his last four starts, Montembeault has stopped 138 of the 145 shots he’s faced while saving 5.90 goals above average, per Natural Stat Trick. 1 20-27-4
28

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Blue Jackets

If you’re a Blue Jackets fan in search of good news of any kind, Patrik Laine did end his nine-game goal drought with a hat trick against the Detroit Red Wings. The team is more fun to watch when he is letting it rip, so that’s something. 3 15-32-4
29

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Sharks

San Jose has won just one game in its last six tries, and that one win came against a team that has now lost 10 in a row. In net, James Reimer and Kaapo Kahkonen have combined for -24.86 goals saved above average. At least Erik Karlsson is still playing well and keeping that trade value high! 15-25-11
30

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Ducks

Just over halfway through the season, the Ducks have a goal differential of minus-85. That is some impressive work, and they are on pace to finish with one of the worst goal differentials in NHL history. Right now, they are tracking to finish around the 1989-90 Quebec Nordiques, who had a goal differential of minus-167. That number is good for seventh-worst in league history. 3 16-29-5
31

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Blackhawks

The Blackhawks saw the Coyotes’ epic losing streak and decided to stop messing around in the tankathon. On Saturday night, Chicago allowed six first-period goals to the Kraken. Fortunately for us hockey fans, the Coyotes and Blackhawks still have three head-to-head matchups left. 1 15-29-4
32

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Coyotes

The Coyotes have asserted themselves as the NHL’s worst team with a 10-game losing streak. They came close to making it 10 straight losses on Tuesday night, but they did the improbable and engineered a third-period comeback against the Red Wings. 16-28-6

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