Rich 10 NHL Rankings (Mar. 15-21, 2021)

For some, time seemingly moved ahead by one hour over the weekend. Perhaps it even stayed stagnant. Now, before everyone panics, there was no Dr. Strange-savvy misuse of the Time Stone. Daylight Savings Time just showed itself through the door once more. 

No matter if you had to rewind your clocks or reset your alarms, though, the NHL season has continued to move into the “dog days” of its 56-game campaign. As the field continues to shuffle back and forth, round and round, side to side, north to south and every other direction under the sun, another installment of Rich 10 NHL Power Rankings is in need of reading (or in my case, writing). 

Without further ado, here is the ninth installment of this power ranking, 2021 NHL edition. 

At the edge of the crease: Pittsburgh Penguins (17-9-1, 35 points)

Previous ranking: N/A

Record over past week: 3-0-0

Taking care of business against the New York Rangers on March 9, followed by annihilating the hapless Buffalo Sabres on March 11 and 13, finds Pittsburgh on the cusp of cracking the top 10. While the Jake Guentzel-Sidney Crosby-Bryan Rust top line continues to do what is necessary on the offensive side of the puck (they combined for six goals over the past week), the defense and goaltending took a necessary step forward. Over the past week, the team collectively allowed only four goals in three games played. Disclaimer – playing the youthful Rangers (without Artemi Panarin) and inconsistent Sabres (to put it nicely) will help pad the numbers a little bit. Even still, Pittsburgh is clicking at the right time. 

10. Colorado Avalanche (16-8-2, 34 points) 

Previous ranking: 7

Record over past week: 3-1-0

Although Colorado dropped several positions when compared to the previous ranking, they still remain steady in the top 10, even though they are still attempting to overcome the ever-so-annoying injury bug. Cale Makar (upper-body injury) and Bowen Byram (upper-body injury) continue to be out of action, but nevertheless, the defensive depth led by Devon Toews and Ryan Graves have gotten the job done, even with the offense doing what is needed to compile victories regardless. Colorado will continue its seven-game homestand this week with a matchup against the Anaheim Ducks on March 16 before going head-to-head with the Minnesota Wild on March 18 and 20. Speaking of Minnesota…

9. Minnesota Wild (17-8-1, 35 points)

Previous ranking: +1

Record over past week: 4-0-0

Under normal circumstances, Minnesota would shoot up much more than two spots in this ranking installment. It just so happens that the field is simply that deep (if it sounds like I have said this before, it is because I have). No matter, though. Minnesota is looking scary. After briefly mentioning goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen in last week’s ranking installment, it is necessary to talk about him again, as the 24-year-old former fourth-round pick compiled a 1.51 Goals Against Average (GAA), .943 Save Percentage (Sv%) and one shutout (March 8 against Vegas) in two games started over the past week. All numbers ranked in the top 10 among goaltenders to start a minimum of two games during the stretch. Speaking of numbers, gloss over this a couple of times – Kahkonen is currently the only goaltender in franchise history to start a season with more than 12 games started (14 GS), compile a GAA lower than 2.20 (2.19) and amass a Sv% greater than .920 (.922) before his age-25 season. 

8. Winnipeg Jets (17-8-2, 36 points) 

Previous ranking: 9

Record over past week: 2-0-1

Winnipeg needed a strong showing against Toronto this past week, and a strong showing they most definitely put on display. In all three games against the Maple Leafs, Winnipeg picked up at least one point. The last time Winnipeg picked up at least one point in three straight games or more against Toronto was March 12, 2013 through Feb. 21, 2017 (10 straight). From their collection of high-profile forwards to their reigning Vezina Trophy winner in Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg has the potential to make more noise as the season wears on. This week, the Jets will face off against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell MTS Place for two games before heading to Rogers Place to tackle the Edmonton Oilers for a pair. 

7. Toronto Maple Leafs (19-9-2, 40 points) 

Previous ranking: 5

Record over past week: 1-3-0

After a sub-.500 week, a drop was in order for the Maple Leafs. Even still, Toronto still looks to be the legitimate favorite among all Scotia North clubs. While the likes of William Nylander, Mitchell Marner and Auston Matthews (even with an injured wrist) have been mainstays on the scoring spectrum, defenseman Morgan Rielly tied the team for first in points this past week (Rielly and Marner both tallied five to lead the roster). While the 27-year-old blueliner might not be a constant scorer, he has been a consistent presence on the top defensive unit with T.J. Brodie. Rielly’s importance will only make itself more known as the season progresses. 

6. Washington Capitals (17-6-4, 38 points) 

Previous ranking: 8

Record over past week: 3-0-0

While there might be cracks in Washington’s framework at times, they are still proving to be a tough out for any opponent they face. A collection of scoring in bunches and getting healthier has been the remedy for the Caps, as the team scored 15 total goals and averaged 5.00 goals per game, both first in the entire NHL. One of those goals even held historic value, as Alex Ovechkin picked up his 716th career NHL goal on March 13 against the Philadelphia Flyers to move the 35-year-old winger within one goal of tying Phil Esposito for sixth all-time (717 goals). 

5. Vegas Golden Knights (18-6-1, 37 points)

Previous ranking: 1

Record over past week: 2-2-0

Getting swept by Minnesota in two games stung. No doubt about it. Following up the heartbreak by winning two matches against the St. Louis Blues, however, helped prevent the Vegas ship from capsizing too terribly. The good news? Supplementary skaters, including that of defenseman Dylan Coghlan, picked up three goals over the past week, despite being on the third defensive pairing. The bad news? Coghlan and Co. will need to step it up, as defenseman Alex Pietrangelo will be out for the “foreseeable future” after blocking a shot in last Saturday’s 4-0 shutout win against the San Jose Sharks. 

4. Florida Panthers (18-5-4, 40 points) 

Previous ranking: 6

Record over past week: 3-0-0

Florida continues to prove their potential playoff worth. Defenseman Mackenzie Weegar led the team in total points this past week (zero points, five assists), while first lineman Carter Verhaeghe led the team in plus-minus (+/-) with +6. The key to Florida’s success has not only come from their depth from the roster in its entirety, but from their comeback capabilities – Florida’s 12 comeback wins rank second in the entire NHL (Pittsburgh leads the league with 13). Call them the “Comeback Cats,” if you so wish. The Panthers will kick off a three-game homestand this week by playing Chicago on March 15 and Nashville on March 18 and 20. 

3. Tampa Bay Lightning (19-5-2, 40 points)

Previous ranking: 2

Record over past week: 2-1-0

Although they were handed their first regular season regulation loss against the Detroit Red Wings since 2015 last Thursday, the Lightning are still cruising as a legitimate postseason threat. Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat and Co. are still scoring, and the goaltending led by Andrei Vasilevskiy remains sturdy enough, even on days when he is not as sharp. All in all, Tampa Bay is chilling in the tame Florida weather, and to top it all off, the team raised their 2019-20 Stanley Cup banner in front of their fans this past weekend. 

2. Carolina Hurricanes (20-6-1, 41 points)

Previous ranking: 4

Record over past week: 3-0-0

Greetings, Dougie Hamilton. While the forward lines for Carolina have produced at electric levels, so has the 27-year-old defenseman, who is currently riding an eight-game point streak. Ironically enough, the streak coincides with Carolina’s win streak, which also stands at eight. To keep it short, this team is sneaky, simply based off of the sheer balance they have on offense, defense and goaltending. Regardless of their roster structure, the point remains – the Hurricanes are streaking. Should their level of play continue to move in a positive direction, they could (no, should) be a lockdown Stanley Cup favorite. 

1. New York Islanders (19-6-4, 42 points)

Previous ranking: 3

Record over past week: 4-0-0

Another spotless week in New York’s favor vaults them to the top position in this ranking installment. Some teams win games by coming from behind. Others win by scoring early and often. Then, there are those that find their stride late in games, even if it is beyond regulation. The Islanders have shown the capability to win games each and every way. The key for the Islanders moving forward will be if they can win when adversity hits them harder. They will need to show this right away, as their team captain in Anders Lee was placed on long-term injured reserve before New York’s 3-2 shootout win on Sunday against the New Jersey Devils.

Leave a Reply