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NHL Power Rankings: Nathan MacKinnon leads Avalanche to seven straight wins, No. 1 spot

NHL Power Rankings: Nathan MacKinnon leads Avalanche to seven straight wins, No. 1 spot

MacKinnon and the Avs are peaking at the right time

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Sometimes success in the playoffs is less about having the best roster and more about playing your best hockey at the right time. In the case of the Colorado Avalanche, they check both of those boxes.

Colorado is loaded with talent, and the team has been flattening opponents over the last couple of weeks. The Avs have now won seven games in a row, and they’re led by Hart Trophy frontrunner Nathan MacKinnon. He might be playing the best hockey of his career, and that’s saying something for a player who has finished in the top five of MVP voting four times.

As much work as MacKinnon has been doing, he’s gotten plenty of help from the supporting cast around him. Mikko Rantanen is on pace for roughly 44 goals and 110 points. Cale Makar is still burning opponents with his elite offensive ability on the blue line. New additions Casey Mittelstadt and Sean Walker have fit like a glove. It’s all clicking for the Avalanche down the stretch.

In goal, things have started to stabilize for Alexandar Georgiev and Justus Annunen. Those two have struggled at times this season, but like the rest of the team, they’re rounding into form.

With the Avs trending upward at the perfect time of year, here are the updated NHL Power Rankings.

All expected goals and goals saved above average data courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.

Biggest Movers

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Teams

 

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1

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Avalanche

It’s wholly unoriginal to talk about Nathan MacKinnon when the topic of the Avalanche comes up, but I’m going to do it anyway. MacKinnon’s point streak has hit 16 games, and he has 10 goals and 22 assists in that span. With all due respect to Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews and Nikita Kucherov, no one else in this league is quite on MacKinnon’s level at the moment. 6 44-20-5
2

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Rangers

The Rangers are rolling toward the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference — and perhaps the Presidents’ Trophy. It’s probably not much of a coincidence that Igor Shesterkin is back to being a mutant between the pipes. In the last month, Shesterkin has saved 13.6 goals above average and posted a .943 save percentage. The Rangers are a terrifying team when Shesterkin is at his best. 45-20-4
3

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Hurricanes

Evgeny Kuznetsov looked like he was nearing the end of his NHL career in his final days with the Capitals, but a trade to the Hurricanes seems to have completely revitalized him. In his first seven games with Carolina, Kuznetsov has notched five points, and the team is outscoring opponents 5-2 with him on the ice at five-on-five. If the Canes can get anything close to peak Kuznetsov, their Stanley Cup chances will only continue to rise. 43-20-6
4

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Panthers

For the first time in weeks, the Panthers no longer occupy the No. 1 spot. That’s less about them faltering and more about the teams ahead of them playing exceptional hockey. If there is somewhat of a nitpick, it’s that Florida’s five-on-five expected goals share has plummeted over the last couple weeks. Of course, that is a minuscule sample size, and the Panthers have proven that they are an elite five-on-five team all season. 3 45-19-4
5

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Oilers

Edmonton has stumbled a bit over the last couple weeks, but I doubt this team is actually in jeopardy of stumbling over the finish line. It is worth noting, however, that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has gone cold in the goal-scoring department. His drought now sits at 10 games, and he has just one in his last 15 games. Considering Nugent-Hopkins found the back of the net 37 times last season, he has taken a step back in that area this year. 1 41-21-4
6

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Jets

The Jets are still rolling toward the playoffs, and they’re still in a tight battle for the Central Division crown. Under the hood, things have started to slip lately with their middling five-on-five numbers being proof of that. On the positive side of things, Winnipeg’s power play is tied for first since Feb. 20 (with the Sharks!), and Connor Hellebuyck has been a brick wall. Even if those even-strength numbers stay in the middle of the pack, the Jets have a couple key areas going strong as the postseason nears. 1 44-19-5
7

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Stars

Let’s have a very tough discussion, Stars fans. As good as Jake Oettinger has proven he can be, he has not been very good this year. Oettinger’s -8.95 goals saved above average ranks 82nd. His .896 save percentage ranks 64th. His .768 high-danger save percentage ranks 74th. That’s rough, and it could sink an elite roster if Oettinger’s struggles bleed over into the playoffs. 3 41-19-9
8

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Bruins

Pavel Zacha has quietly been producing for the Bruins lately. He is riding an eight-game point streak, and Zacha has totaled 11 points in that stretch. Boston doesn’t necessarily have the strongest group of centers among playoff teams, so it’s essential that players like Zacha are able to elevate their game at the right time of year. So far, it looks like Zacha has been able to do just that. 2 41-14-15
9

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Canucks

Thatcher Demko is out week-to-week with a lower-body injury, and that is bad news for the Canucks. Demko has been stellar for Vancouver, and he is a big reason why the team has a nice cushion atop the Pacific Division. While Casey DeSmith has been a serviceable backup, he is leaps and bounds below Demko in any number of categories. Down the stretch, it will be interesting to see how well the Canucks hold up without their safety net in goal. 43-18-8
10

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Predators

The Norris Trophy race probably consists of Quinn Hughes at the top and a race for second place below him, but Roman Josi is doing his best to make things interesting. After a bit of a slow start, Josi is playing some of the best hockey of his career. In the last month, Josi has seven goals and 13 assists in 14 games, making him a point-per-game player. Oh yeah, he also owns an absurd 66.5% expected goals share in that span. 1 40-25-4
11

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Maple Leafs

Auston Matthews has gotten most of the attention in Toronto this season, and that’s more than fair. Scoring a boatload of goals and being a Hart Trophy contender will do that. I do want to give a nod to Mitch Marner, who is currently playing at a 100-point pace and crushing his minutes at five-on-five. With Marner on the ice in those situations, the Leafs have a plus-20 goal differential this season. 3 38-20-9
12

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Lightning

It may not always be pretty, but the Lightning are finding a way to win these days. Case in point: Saturday’s win over the rival Panthers. The Bolts got outshot 50-16 in that contest, but they won by a score of 5-3. It might be a tense fight to the finish for a playoff spot, but if Tampa gets in, you have to think a division winner wouldn’t be thrilled about that matchup in the first round. 3 37-25-6
13

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Kings

The Kings have been somewhat inconsistent over the last month, but there is a clear bright spot on the team. Kevin Fiala has really started to find his scoring touch with nine goals in his last 15 games. A former 30-goal scorer, Fiala has the ability to fill the net, and a Los Angeles squad that has struggled to light the lamp this season will need more of that to go on a deep playoff run. 1 35-22-11
14

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Golden Knights

Injuries have hit the Golden Knights hard this season, but Jonathan Marchessault is doing his part to hold the offense together while players like Jack Eichel and Mark Stone have missed significant time. Marchessault already has 38 tallies on the season, the highest mark of his career by a comfortable margin, and there are still 14 games left. The 2023 Conn Smythe Trophy winner is only growing his legend in Vegas. 1 36-25-7
15

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Capitals

What the Capitals are doing right now is nothing less than mind-bending. They traded some key players ahead of the deadline, and they seem to have less firepower than their opponents on a nightly basis. Yet, Washington has won three straight and sits in a playoff spot with a minus-27 goal differential. Netminder Charlie Lindgren has a lot to do with the Caps’ success, but the entire team has been grinding out wins lately. 6 33-25-9
16

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Wild

The Wild are still trying to claw their way into a playoff spot, but their penalty kill isn’t helping them. That unit has killed off just 73.2% of the power plays it has faced in the last month. That ranks 27th in that stretch. Minnesota has actually been pretty solid at even strength, but that penalty kill erases the hard work the team does in other situations. At this point, the Wild just have to hope Marc-Andre Fleury or Filip Gustavsson can get hot while shorthanded. 2 34-27-8
17

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Flyers

For better or worse, John Tortorella has the exact same standards for every player on his team. On Tuesday, Tortorella made the decision to scratch captain Sean Couturier, who has had his ups and downs after coming back from injury this season. Couturier does have just one point in his last nine games, but it’s still highly unusual for a team to scratch a captain. Tortorella has pushed all the right buttons for Philly so far, and it worked again as the Flyers topped the Leafs for a huge win. 1 35-26-8
18

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Blues

The worse the Blues get at five-on-five, the better they seem to get on the scoreboard. They now rank 30th in expected goals share at a dismal 43.3%. Despite that, the Blues just rattled off four wins in a row to remain in the playoff race. Much like the Capitals, the Blues can attribute a lot of their success to goaltending. Jordan Binnington has been bailing out the team in front of him left and right this season. 5 36-30-3
19

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Islanders

Jean-Gabriel Pageau has the fifth-most five-on-five ice time of any Islanders forwards, and the team has not fared well in those minutes. Pageau is really struggling this season, posting a 43.5% expected goals shared and minus-11 goal differential in those situations. He also has one goal and three assists in his last 12 games. That kind of underlines the depth issues the Isles have had this year. 5 29-24-15
20

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Red Wings

The Red Wings have just barely been able to throw the brakes on their plummet to the bottom of the standings. On Tuesday night, it took everything Detroit had to beat the Blue Jackets after getting outplayed for most of the game. Since Jan. 1, Alex DeBrincat has a whopping three five-on-five goals in 32 games. The Wings may very well get a wild card spot, but they would be cannon fodder for their first-round opponent. 3 35-28-6
21

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Sabres

Ukko-Pekka Luukonen is in the midst of a breakout season in goal. Through 44 appearances, Luukonen has saved 13.6 goals above average (seventh) and owns a strong .915 save percentage. His .839 high-danger save percentage is also among the best in the NHL. Luukonen has completely seized the crease in Buffalo, and he has given the team an outside shot of creeping into the second wild card spot. 1 33-32-5
22

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Flames

Dustin Wolf, a highly-touted goaltending prospect for the Flames, has taken over the crease while Jacob Markstrom recovers from an injury. Thus far, it’s been a bit of a mixed bag for Wolf. In 10 appearances this season, Wolf has allowed 1.64 goals above average, but he has had a couple spectacular games. With Markstrom likely on the trade block this offseason, Wolf should be the No. 1 goalie for Calgary in 2024-25. 2 33-30-5
23

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Devils

On Tuesday night, the Devils won the End This Season Already Bowl against the Penguins. Dawson Mercer and Timo Meier both notched a pair of goals, but their surges are a little too late to save New Jersey’s season. Maybe they can build some confidence going into the 2024-25 season because New Jersey will need them both to bounce back and compete for a Cup. 1 33-32-4
24

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Kraken

When it comes to five-on-five play, the Kraken have been one of the best teams in the NHL at preventing goals against. Their 121 goals allowed rank sixth in the league. Unfortunately for Seattle, its offense has been as bad as the defense and goaltending has been good. Their 122 five-on-five goals rank 27th, and the Kraken are on pace to finish the season with just two 20-goal scorers. Adding more skill to the forward group has to be a priority in the offseason. 5 28-27-12
25

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Penguins

Rickard Rakell’s struggles have to be discouraging for the Penguins. After tallying 28 goals and 32 assists in 82 games last season, Rakell has just 10 goals and 19 assists in 56 games this season. Rakell has battled injury, but he is also on the wrong side of 30 at this point in his career. It’s fair to wonder what the final four years of his contract ($5 million per season) will look like. 30-29-9
26

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Senators

With Ottawa already looking toward next season, will Josh Norris be with the team beyond the 2022-23 season? Norris recently underwent season-ending shoulder surgery, and even when he was in the lineup, the results weren’t great. Will a team be willing to take on a $7.95 million contract for a talented player who has missed significant time due to multiple surgeries in recent years? That will be something to watch this summer. 4 28-35-4
27

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Coyotes

Dylan Guenther, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, has played 30 NHL games this season. In that time, his career has gotten off to a promising start. Guenther has 10 goals and 10 assists in 2023-24, and his underlying numbers are pretty solid too. He’s another exciting young player in Arizona’s organization. Now if only the team could figure out everything off the ice. 2 28-35-5
28

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Blue Jackets

In just two years’ time Johnny Gaudreau has gone from scoring 40 goals to being on pace for 13. That’s a steep fall from grace for Gaudreau, who has shown the ability to be a high-end playmaker in this league. Columbus can only hope that, once it rebuilds this roster under a new GM, Gaudreau is able to find some magic in an improved environment. 1 23-34-12
29

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Blackhawks

Connor Bedard, playing on a shockingly bad roster, has somehow managed to put up 10 points in his last four games. Bedard is now up to 21 goals and 33 assists in 55 games, and any questions about Calder Trophy competition have been all but silenced by now. Bedard has lived up to the hype this season, and the idea of Chicago adding Macklin Celebrini to its lineup is just probably sickening for the rest of the league. 1 19-45-5
30

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Canadiens

Kaiden Guhle, the No. 16 overall pick in the 2020 draft, is another young player the Canadiens are banking on to build the team back into a contender. Thus far, the results have been just okay. Guhle owns a 48.0% expected goals share at five-on-five, and Montreal has a minus-15 goal differential with him on the ice in those situations. Guhle has had some nice moments in 2023-24, but the Habs need him to take a clear step forward next year. 4 25-31-12
31

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Ducks

The Ducks have now lost seven straight games in regulation, and they’re making a strong push for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NHL Draft. The big test for Anaheim will be whether it can keep its losing ways going in a very winnable game against the Blackhawks on Thursday. 23-43-3
32

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Sharks

Since the trade deadline, the Sharks have been a punching bag for any team hoping to increase its playoff chances. San Jose is 1-5-0 in that span, and it has been outscored 27-13. Only 14 games left, Sharks fans! 16-45-7

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