Another week, and another Rich 10 NHL Power Ranking installment.
“Installment,” however, should probably be plural if we are being super technical. After all, this installment is looking at the past two weeks of NHL play as opposed to the usual one week.
Regardless of whether this installment is singular or plural in nature, one thing is for certain – a good bit has happened in the NHL world since the previous ranking. The usual teams have continued to make noise, while others have slowly but surely pushed their way into the conversation. With the NHL Trade Deadline still a month away (April 12th at 3:00 p.m. EST), teams are beginning to get a firm grasp as to whether they are true buyers or legitimate sellers.
Enough about the future. What about the present? Well, here is an article on where the top teams rank as the middle part of March begins to creep over the horizon. Let’s get to it.
At the edge of the crease: Minnesota Wild (13-8-1, 27 points)
Previous ranking: N/A
Record over past two weeks: 5-2-1
Picking the team to inhabit this position was very tough. The Philadelphia Flyers, Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks all warranted consideration, but at the end of the day, Minnesota took home the cake. Why? Rookie winger Kirill Kaprizov is one reason, as he tallied eight points (three goals, five assists) over the past two weeks while seeing time on the second line. While Kaprizov has definitely taken the hockey world by storm (the forward is the only rookie in franchise history to collect at least 15 points within the first 22 games of his NHL career), so has Minnesota’s goaltending. Kaapo Kahkonen has led the charge between the pipes, as the 24-year-old has been undefeated over the past two weeks and has put together a 1.97 Goals Against Average (GAA) and .932 Save Percentage (Sv%). Add in the likes of Cam Talbot as a veteran presence for the youngster, and you have a scary good Minnesota squad on both sides of the ice.
10. St. Louis Blues (14-8-3, 31 points)
Previous ranking: +1
Record over past two weeks: 4-2-1
Well, St. Louis definitely scored over the past two weeks. Led by David Perron and Ryan O’Reilly (who combined for six goals and 10 assists over the period), the Blues averaged 3.14 (any mathematicians reading this?) goals per game and amassed a 33.3 Power Play Percentage (PP%). The goaltending led by Jordan Binnington still needs improvement, but the team looks primed to stay inside the top four within the Honda West Division. Looking ahead to this week, the Blues will play the San Jose Sharks on March 8 before playing back-to-back home games against the Vegas Golden Knights on March 12 and 13.
9. Winnipeg Jets (15-8-1, 31 points)
Previous ranking: 8
Record over past two weeks: 4-2-0
A deflating 7-1 defeat at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens on March 6 definitely left Winnipeg fans sour in the mouth, but even still, Winnipeg is slowly but surely trending in a positive direction. The usual performers in Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Co. are contributing, even if trade acquisition Pierre-Luc Dubois has not (yet that is). The Connor Hellebuyck-Laurent Brossoit goaltending tandem, while leakier in the rebound department than one would expect, are bending but not breaking. Even still, Winnipeg is sitting nice and pretty as the second-overall seed in the Scotia North Division. Their chance to potentially give the team ahead of them (Toronto Maple Leafs) a run for their money will come this week, as the Jets will face them three times (March 9, 11 and 13) at Scotiabank Arena.
8. Washington Capitals (14-6-4, 32 points)
Previous ranking: N/A
Record over past two weeks: 5-1-1
After elongated sputters here and there, Washington finally put together two solid weeks of hockey. While their success in the win and point department certainly showed itself, the fines and suspensions also left a mark. Although Alex Ovechkin’s spearing of Bruins’ rookie Trent Frederic on March 3 only warranted a $5,000 fine, Tom Wilson collected a seven-game suspension after the 26-year-old forward boarded Boston defenseman Brandon Carlo in Friday’s 5-1 defeat. Wilson additionally forfeited over $300,000 in salary. Washington certainly is a checking team, and, well, it showed a little too much over their last few games.
7. Colorado Avalanche (13-7-2, 28 points)
Previous ranking: 5
Record over past two weeks: 4-3-1
Colorado has been a mixed bag as of late. They have beaten the breaks off of opponents and have picked up exhilarating comeback victories, but on the other side of the coin, they have had the breaks beaten off of them and have let leads slip away, too. Injuries have definitely played a part toward the inconsistencies, as Bowen Byram (upper-body injury), Cale Makar (upper-body injury) and Nathan MacKinnon (upper-body injury) have all missed several games since the previous ranking installment. MacKinnon’s injury, in particular, came after an illegal check via San Jose forward Joachim Blichfeld on March 3. Blichfeld was suspended for two games. Colorado will look to get back to some form of consistency this week when they start off a seven-game homestand against the Arizona Coyotes (two games) and Los Angeles Kings (two games).
6. Florida Panthers (15-5-4, 34 points)
Previous ranking: 4
Record over past two weeks: 4-2-2
Florida has definitely padded together the point totals, and while they currently hold a coveted playoff spot in their hands (or paws?) they will need to improve on their game just a hair when facing the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning, as they are a combined 3-2-2 against them. On top of that, the Panthers will need to take care of business against the fringe clubs. This includes the always stingy Columbus Blue Jackets (who they play twice this week) and surprisingly solid Blackhawks club (who they play once).
5. Toronto Maple Leafs (18-6-2, 38 points)
Previous ranking: 1
Record over past two weeks: 4-3-0
Dropping two straight contests to an underperforming but pesky Vancouver Canucks team certainly puts a damper on Toronto’s last two weeks of action, but even still, Toronto is sitting relatively pretty as the dog days of the season crank it up a notch. For one, their goaltending has been three-deep, as Jack Campbell (one game started), Frederik Andersen (two games started) and Michael Hutchinson (four games started) have combined to average a 1.44 GAA and .951 Sv%. On the offensive side of the ice, William Nylander has started to settle in on the second line, as the 24-year-old forward has a team-high five goals over the past seven games. Turns out Toronto is still pretty good, even if Auston Matthews (wrist) is not at full strength.
4. Carolina Hurricanes (17-6-1, 35 points)
Previous ranking: 2
Record over past two weeks: 5-3-0
Although Carolina started off their two-week span pretty disastrously (they were swept in three games against the Lightning), they quickly rebounded and won three marquee games against a pesky Panthers team hot on their tails (no pun intended). While the Sebastian Aho and Andre Svechnikov skaters of the world have picked up the headlines, Martin Necas has contributed as well. The 22-year-old center has found a home on the second line and has promptly picked up a team-high eight points (two goals, six assists) +4 plus-minus (+/-) and 1.00 point per game played (P/GP) over the last two weeks of action. Necas’s balanced style of play has netted him a career-high +/- of +11 through 21 games played this season. Should Carolina find revenge against the Lightning, Necas and the rest of the supporting cast will need to pull their own weight.
3. New York Islanders (15-6-4, 34 points)
Previous ranking: N/A
Record over past two weeks: 7-0-1
It only makes sense for the Islanders to rocket all the way up to third in this power ranking installment, right? Since Feb. 22, the Islanders have not lost in regulation and have been scoring at explosive levels. Over the stretch, New York averaged 4.00 goals per game, second among all NHL teams. Nine skaters scored at least two goals, including Mathew Barzal, whose seven total points (three goals, four assists) did not do any justice to this highlight reel goal worthy of a rewind. Oh, and just to give the goaltending some love, 25-year-old Ilya Sorokin picked up a 1.33 GAA and .938 Sv% in three games started over the two-week span. Speaking of Sorokin, fun fact – the Russian native is the first Islanders’ goaltender aged 25 or younger to tally two shutouts (Feb. 16 @ Buffalo and Feb. 28 vs. Pittsburgh) within his first 10 games of NHL action. Look out, folks. The Islanders are surging.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning (17-4-2, 36 points)
Previous ranking: 7
Record over past two weeks: 7-0-1
The tenacity of this team has made itself known more than one time already this season. Any goal scored without the likes of Nikita Kucherov is a pretty big feat, even with Tampa Bay’s phenomenal depth. However, we have to give Andrei Vasilevskiy credit. In six games started over the past two weeks, the 26-year-old netminder has picked up six wins and has collected a 1.15 GAA, .959 Sv% and three shutouts. To say Vasilevskiy could be a runaway candidate for his second Vezina Trophy Award as the season progresses would be as obvious as saying the sky is blue (spoiler alert, in case you did not know).
1. Vegas Golden Knights (16-4-1, 33 points)
Previous ranking: 6
Record over past two weeks: 6-0-0
While the Golden Knights have not played the most games in the NHL, they certainly are playing the sharpest in the games they have taken part in. Averaging a league-high 4.17 goals per game over the two-week stretch will certainly get the job done, as will their second-ranked 90.9 Penalty Kill Percentage (PK%). Individually, Mark Stone might be the most underrated forward in the entire sport. Over the past two weeks, the 28-year-old winger has amassed 11 points (two goals, nine assists). The majority of the Stone’s assists over the timeframe came on March 1 against Minnesota, where he collected a career-high five helpers in the contest. To put it bluntly, Vegas is firing on all cylinders.