Rich 10 NHL Rankings (Apr. 5-11, 2021)

This sport just continues to impress, doesn’t it? 

The superb quality. The surprising quantity. Up to this juncture of the season, both could perfectly sum up the 2021 NHL season. Think about it – one could easily make a postseason case for over half of the entire league. Some say there is possibly too much parity. The majority of NHL fans, however, would probably say there can never be enough of it. 

Something else NHL fans can never get enough of is trade banter, and boy, oh boy are we reaching the pinnacle of the trade rumor period. Yes, the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline is approximately one week away, and from now until then, anything can happen, from depth moves all the way up to go-for-it blockbusters. 

Until the final hour is reached, another Rich 10 NHL Power Ranking installment is in order. That should hold everyone over, right? 

Right? 

At the edge of the crease: Boston Bruins (19-10-5, 43 points) 

Previous ranking: N/A

Record over past week: 2-1-0

Yes, you read it correctly. Boston is back in this ranking installment. Although goaltender Tuukka Rask (upper-body injury) has only been between the pipes for 20 minutes since Mar. 7 (he played one period on Mar. 25 against the New York Islanders before being pulled), Boston has started to find a steady offensive streak. Brad Marchand led the charge this past week, as the 32-year-old winger tallied seven points (five goals, two assists). His hat trick against Pittsburgh on Apr. 3 was certainly impressive, as was the sheer flexibility of the entire offense during the 7-5 slugfest. Top-three forward David Pastrnak was placed on the second line in order to create more scoring chances for the forwards around him, and it paid off – Pastrnak scored two goals and opened up the ice to provide more clean looks for David Krejci and Nick Ritchie, among others. The “Perfection Line” might not be whole at times, but maybe this is for the better. 

10. Pittsburgh Penguins (24-12-2, 50 points)

Previous ranking: 9

Record over past week: 2-1-0

A 4-1 victory over the Boston Bruins on Apr. 1 was soured two days later, as the Steel City skaters were trounced, 7-5 by the same Boston squad. Over their three games played this past week, three Penguins tallied four points (Jake Guentzel, Mike Matheson and Sidney Crosby). While the offense has certainly carried its weight, the goaltending and blueline tandems have also been strong – since Mar. 1. Pittsburgh has allowed 2.06 goals per game, which is tied for first in the entire NHL (Carolina). Tristan Jarry, despite not playing over the past pair of games (upper-body injury), has led Pittsburgh’s goaltending. Since Mar. 1, Jarry is 8-2-1 with a 2.33 Goals Against Average (GAA) and .928 Save Percentage (Sv%). Pittsburgh might have taken a slight dip in this ranking installment, but health permitting, they will be just fine. 

9. Minnesota Wild (23-11-2, 48 points) 

Previous ranking: 10

Record over past week: 2-1-1

Minnesota continues to be one of the marquee surprises in the entire league. No one certainly doubted their capabilities – however, many might have shown more pessimism in regard to the team clicking on all cylinders as much as they have been. Such was the case (again) this past week, as the Wild travelled to T-Mobile Arena and swept the Vegas Golden Knights in two games (3-2 in the shootout on Apr. 1 and 2-1 on Apr. 3). Rookie Kirill Kaprizov’s sneaky power-play goal at the doorstep of the Vegas crease on Apr. 3 summed up the obvious – he is good. So good, in fact, that he is still finding his way into the history books. Per NHL Public Relations, Kaprizov’s current streak with a goal scored (three) is the first for a Wild rookie since Pascal Dupuis (2001-02 season). 

8. Vegas Golden Knights (24-10-2, 50 points) 

Previous ranking: 2

Record over past week: 1-2-1

Vegas simply cannot crack the Minnesota code. Since their inaugural season (2017-18), Vegas has gone 4-9-1 against the Wild. This .321 Points Percentage (P%) is the second-lowest P% Vegas has among all opponents faced (the team’s .250 P% against Boston ranks first). Their 3.07 goals allowed average against Minnesota also made itself apparent during the two-game set, even if the goal differential was not insanely skewed. Minnesota was simply able to capitalize on a couple costly rebounds. Nevertheless, the Golden Knights’ roster depth and experience in the stretch gives them the edge over Minnesota…for now. Vegas will attempt to bounce back on the road against the struggling St. Louis Blues for two games (Apr. 5 and 7) before battling at home against the Arizona Coyotes for a pair (Apr. 9 and 11). 

7. Carolina Hurricanes (25-9-3, 53 points) 

Previous ranking: 4

Record over past week: 2-2-0

Petr Mrazek’s last taste of NHL action came on Jan. 30 against the Dallas Stars, but only for a very, very brief stint – the goaltender was pulled 2:47 into the game after the then-28-year-old suffered a thumb injury. The netminder, who led the entire NHL in GAA at that stage of the season (.99), then had to undergo thumb surgery. On Apr. 4, Mrazek made his return to the rink and promptly tallied a 28-save shutout against the very same Dallas team. With the dazzling performance, Mrazek has now compiled three shutouts in five games started this season. In fact, per NHL Public Relations, Mrazek is one of only six goaltenders in the modern era (since 1943-44) to post a shutout in each of his first three wins of a season, and the first to do so since Philadelphia’s Michal Neuvirth did it during the 2015-16 season. Carolina might have dropped in this ranking installment, but with Mrazek back in the fold, this team could shoot up in future installments. Quick.

6. Washington Capitals (25-9-4, 54 points) 

Previous ranking: 1

Record over past week: 2-2-0

Getting shellacked by the New York Islanders, 8-4 on Apr. 1 definitely hurt, but Washington was able to rebound and take two close games against the New Jersey Devils on Apr. 2 and 4, respectively. Regardless of the team’s margin of victory, Washington is dangerous and has been dangerous – since Mar. 1, Washington has averaged 3.41 goals per game, which is tied for fifth in the entire NHL. When combining their scoring prowess with their checking capabilities, it is no wonder why they are still near the top of the NHL food chain, even though their roster is on the older side of the age spectrum. Washington will need everything working this week, as they will look to exact revenge on Apr. 6 when they play the Islanders once more. Get your popcorn ready. 

5. Toronto Maple Leafs (25-10-3, 53 points) 

Previous ranking: 7

Record over past week: 3-0-1

After Toronto lost to the Edmonton Oilers in overtime, 3-2 on Mar. 29, Toronto then rebounded and took down the Winnipeg Jets, 3-1 on Mar. 31. Their Apr. 2 game against Winnipeg for round two, however, was arguably a more significant game. Could Toronto win back-to-back grind-it-out contests against a fellow playoff contender? As it turns out, they can. After Winnipeg forward Andrew Copp tied the game, 1-1 midway through the second period, the two teams held each other scoreless all the way through overtime. During the ensuing shootout, 37-year-old Jason Spezza provided the late-game heroics to net Toronto the victory. It was Toronto’s first game (and with it, first win) in the shootout this season. Should Toronto succeed come playoff time, their tenacity in the latter parts of the game will need to show itself, even in back-to-back games. 

4. New York Islanders (24-10-4, 52 points)

Previous ranking: 6

Record over past week: 2-1-0

New York’s P% and W-L record might not be the best, but their overall team balance certainly could make a case. This season’s rendition of the team has not only shown the capability to be station-to-station and zone-oriented as head coach Barry Trotz has emphasized, but also fast in zone transitioning and efficient in puck management. Such was the case on Apr. 1 when the Islanders torched the Capitals, 8-4. It was New York’s first game where they scored at least eight goals, attempted at least 30 shots and scored zero goals on the man-advantage since Dec. 17, 1992 (9-0 win against Ottawa). Mathew Barzal also tallied his third career hat trick and his first since Dec. 29, 2018 (vs. Toronto). On one hand, this team can be very static but successful. On the other, they can be electric and swift. The adaptability of this squad needs to be taken seriously. 

3. Florida Panthers (26-9-4, 56 points)

Previous ranking: 8

Record over past week: 4-0-0

After Aleksander Barkov and Patric Hornqvist returned to the lineup over the weekend, the pair instantly made a scoring impact in Sunday’s 3-0 shutout win against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The pair even combined to score the first goal of the game. With the Sunday dub, Florida is now on a six-game winning streak, their longest since Jan. 9-21, 2020 (also six games). Their 56 points also rank first among all NHL teams heading into Apr. 5 action. This team continues to show its raw formidability on all sides of the ice. 

2. Tampa Bay Lightning (26-10-2, 54 points) 

Previous ranking: 3

Record over past week: 2-2-0

Even the cream of the crop gets punched in the mouth every now and then. Tampa Bay is certainly no exception. A four-goal margin of defeat in their 5-1 Easter Sunday loss against the Detroit Red Wings at Amalie Arena was Tampa Bay’s largest margin of defeat against them since Apr. 25, 2015 during the Eastern Conference First Round (they lost 4-0). At this point, everyone knows what Tampa Bay is in regard to their immense depth. Even with a loss against the rebuilding Red Wings, Tampa Bay’s repeat course remains on track. The Lightning will look to lean on their depth this week when they begin a four-game road trip against Columbus and Nashville (two games apiece). 

1. Colorado Avalanche (25-8-4, 54 points) 

Previous ranking: 5

Record over past week: 4-0-0

This should come to no one’s surprise. Since Colorado’s disappointing 3-2 loss against the Coyotes on Mar. 8, they have practically been perfect by all stretches of the imagination. In their 14 games since, Colorado has collected a point in each game (12-0-2). Their .929 P% ranks first in the entire NHL. The next highest? Washington (.786). When Colorado puts it all together, there are few (if any) teams that can match their firepower and goaltending at the same time. Whether it be Nathan MacKinnon, the recently acquired Jonas Johansson (who picked up his first victory with the team on Apr. 2) or everyone in-between, this team is stacked, and they are starting to show it in spades. Watch out. 

Leave a Reply