There’s no doubt that games are more important in March and April than they are in October and November. While the Eastern Conference playoff teams have been decided months ago, seeding will matter. In the Western Conference, the race for the third-place spots in each division and consequently the two final wild-card spots will likely come down to the wire.
Tuesday’s games offered some insight with previews of potential matchups but it’s still tough to gauge which teams will come out on top. The Leafs-Bruins, Canes-Lightning, Rangers-Pens and Avs-Flames matchups have been featured 11 times this season, and seven of them were decided by a single goal.
Teams on the Power Rankings will fluctuate depending on their recent play, which is why the Avs aren’t always first and the Habs aren’t always last. The margin between two teams can be tiny, and a fun exercise is to ask if the higher-ranked team has the advantage in a seven-game series if it were to begin today.
(All fancy stats are 5v5 and courtesy naturalstattrick.com)
1. Colorado Avalanche (47-14-6, +70. CF%: 7th, xGF%: 10th. PR: 2)
Bednar was right; it was a “gutsy win” even though they were outshot by 15 and needed some special teams luck to win a tight game against the Flames on Tuesday. It’s very encouraging to know the Avs can count on Kuemper to steal a game with MacKinnon and Landeskog out of the lineup, especially when goaltending was expected to be the weakest part of their lineup and Kuemper starting the season so slowly.
2. Florida Panthers (42-14-6, +74. CF%: 1st, xGF%: 2nd. PR: 1)
The wins against the Habs and Sens were much closer than they should’ve been. Giroux has yet to score a goal though he’s provided five helpers and Chiarot is minus-2 through four games. Bill Zito addressed the Panthers’ needs and now they just need some time to gel.
3. New York Rangers (40-19-5, +26. CF%: 30th, xGF%: 26th. PR: 3)
They’ve lost only twice in their past nine games despite a tough schedule, and it should be smooth sailing from here. Their remaining games include two each against the Wings, Flyers and Isles, and also the Devils, Sens and Habs.
4. Calgary Flames (40-18-8, +70. CF%: 2nd, xGF%: 3rd. PR: 5)
The Flames couldn’t bury the Avalanche even though they were missing several key players, scoring just once on 45 shots and going 1-for-5 on the power play in a litmus-test game. It felt like the Avs stole the game rather than the Flames squandering an opportunity, and while the Avs win the season series 2-0-1, two of the wins were by just one goal.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs (42-19-5, +44. CF%: 6th, xGF%: 4th. PR: 6)
The Leafs got bailed out by Erik Kallgren once again, and now they’re chewing their fingernails hoping Jack Campbell returns soon. The win against the Bruins on Tuesday showed they can be a pretty resilient group but it was far from convincing after allowing three unanswered goals before time ran out.
6. Tampa Bay Lightning (42-18-6, +34. CF%: 13th, xGF%: 7th. PR: 9)
The Lightning’s special teams were excellent during their two Cup runs, and it was what powered them to a 4-3 overtime win against the Canes. They scored three power-play goals against the league’s best PK to earn their third straight win and have not lost more than three games in a row all season. They are still the most consistent team in the league and a three-peat is definitely possible.
7. Carolina Hurricanes (44-15-8, +64. CF%: 3rd, xGF%: 5th. PR: 8)
The Canes play the Wild this Saturday and that will have a significant impact and how the top-10 will shake out next week. There’s no reason to panic but suddenly the Canes look more vulnerable than they’ve been all season with six losses in their past nine games.
8. Boston Bruins (41-20-5, +24. CF%: 5th, xGF%: 1st. PR: 4)
The Bruins just didn’t look sharp and it’s the second time they’ve lost to the Leafs by at least two goals. More concerning was that the Bruins couldn’t smell the blood in the water after the Leafs lost Lyubushkin and Holl to injury, and Swayman lasted just two periods. It’s a big drop from last week, but considering the opponent and the situation, it was a very disappointing showing.
9. Minnesota Wild (37-20-4, +32. CF%: 11th, xGF%: 9th. PR: 12)
Their seven-game winning streak is the best in the league right now and acquiring Fleury seems like a stroke of genius because he’s been up to the task and also pushed Talbot to play better. It’s their fifth winning streak of four games or more this season, but does their recent success warrant a higher spot on the rankings among the league’s elite? That’s a tough question.
10. Pittsburgh Penguins (39-16-10, +41. CF%: 10th, xGF%: 6th. PR: 7)
Two straight losses to the Rangers, one on the road and one at home, is not a good look. Igor Shesterkin’s 2.38 GAA against the Penguins is the second-lowest among over the past three seasons, trailing only Vasilevskiy’s 2.17 GAA.
11. Nashville Predators (39-24-4, +26. CF%: 18th, xGF%: 16th. PR: 11)
Losses to L.A. and Vegas should drop the Preds a few spots, but who would pick them against the Preds if a seven-game series were to begin today? Roman Josi’s 28 points in March leads the league, making a strong push for the Norris and making sure the Preds don’t lose too much ground.
12. Winnipeg Jets (32-25-10. CF%: 17th, xGF%: 17th. PR: 13)
The Jets have won eight of their past 11 games, and they’re building some serious momentum entering the final month. Hellebuyck’s play has improved and their offense has been virtually unstoppable with six forwards scoring at least 10 points in March. It’s just been difficult to gauge the Jets relative to the competition since they have only two divisional games remaining on their schedule, both of them against the Avs.
13. Dallas Stars (37-25-3, -2. CF%: 19th, xGF%: 14th. PR: 15)
They were robbed by Thatcher Demko last Saturday, otherwise it could’ve easily been a five-game winning streak. Still, winning four of their past five is very good, and after going 4-9-1 on the road in 2021, have since gone 12-7-1 in 2022 with the eighth-best P%.
14. Los Angeles Kings (36-23-9, +2. CF%: 4th, xGF%: 8th. PR: 10)
The Kings are lucky the Pacific is terrible because their recent stretch of play has left a lot to be desired. Over the past week, Petersen and Quick have a combined .883 Sv% and their ice time leader is rookie Sean Durzi.
15. St. Louis Blues (35-18-9, +47. CF%: 22nd, xGF%: 25th. PR: 14)
They’ve lost five of their past seven no thanks to poor goaltending and lackluster efforts. Leading scorer Jordan Kyrou has not scored a goal in 10 games, his longest drought of the season. I can’t figure them out, and it seems like neither can Craig Berube.
16. Vegas Golden Knights (36-28-4, +10. CF%: 9th, xGF%: 11th. PR: 20)
Lehner is inching toward a return so that’s very good news, and Thompson has done a very good job of keeping them competitive. Still, the Knights have the added challenge of having to navigate the cap, having to place Smith on LTIR to active Martinez, and also deal with Dadonov’s awkward situation. To Dadonov’s credit, he’s been playing like he really wants to stay.
17. Edmonton Oilers (37-25-5, +17. CF%: 8th, xGF%: 12th. PR: 16)
There’s no offense in the world that can be built to win games consistently if you allow four goals every night. At this point, we assume the Oilers’ game plan involves only half the ice. They have only one road win in March and have not beaten a Western Conference team currently in playoff position since Feb. 15 against the Kings.
18. Washington Capitals (37-21-10, +28. CF%: 15th, xGF%: 15th. PR: 17)
For the first time in the cap era, the Caps may not have a single goalie with more than 20 wins. Ilya Samsonov sits at 19, but he’s played only in back-to-backs and currently entrenched in a backup role behind Vitek Vanecek. Of the eight playoff-bounds teams in the East, the Caps are the only ones who seem to have no chance of getting past the first round.
19. New York Islanders (29-27-9. CF%: 26th, xGF%: 21st. PR: 18)
Any takers on when we might actually see Cory Schneider in action? With a .921 Sv% in the AHL this season, he’s proven that he can still play, but he has not played a single minute in the NHL since March 6, 2020. Called up to replace the injured Sorokin, the Isles have four back-to-backs in April.
20. Vancouver Canucks (32-27-9, -2. CF%: 16th, xGF%: 18th. PR: 21)
The Canucks are always just on the cusp but they’ll need to win games and get help from the out-of-town scoreboards. They’ve lost seven of their past 10 games but still somehow sit four points out of the final wild-card spot.
21. San Jose Sharks (29-28-8, -31. CF%: 31st, xGF%: 23rd. PR: 22)
Reimer has been very good this season, but it’s also these kinds of surprise performances – Meier being the other one – that keeps the Sharks from committing to a full re-build.
22. Buffalo Sabres (23-33-8, -52. CF%: 24th, xGF%: 30th. PR: 24)
They’re 10 games below .500 yet this might be their most exciting and fun season in recent memory. Tage Thompson and Jeff Skinner are two and three goals away from 30, respectively, which would be the first time since the 2010-11 season the Sabres featured two 30-goal scorers. The dynamic duo in question? Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford.
23. Columbus Blue Jackets (32-30-5, -31. CF%: 25th, xGF%: 28th. PR: 19)
Is Jakub Voracek a poor shooter or just the unluckiest man in the world? Even with three goals, Voracek’s 4.1 S% is the lowest in the cap era among forwards who have scored at least 40 points in a season. In fact, Voracek makes the list twice, also ranking sixth with a 5.2 S% in 2015-16 with 11 goals and 55 points on 213 shots. Oh, the Jackets have also lost five of their past six.
24. Chicago Blackhawks (24-33-10-, -51. CF%: 28th, xGF%: 29th. PR: 25)
Over the past week, the Blackhawks have both the third-best GF/GP and the third-worst GA/GP. If anything, their games are exciting.
25. New Jersey Devils (23-36-5, -36. CF%: 12th, xGF%: 13th. PR: 23)
The Devils went 0-5-0 on their most recent road trip and have not won on the road since Feb. 24. Only three of their forwards have managed to score over the past week: Hughes, Hischier and Bratt.
26. Seattle Kraken (21-39-6, -57. CF%: 14th, xGF%: 20th. PR: 27)
If the Kraken beat the Knights on Wednesday, it would give them five wins in March, tying a franchise record. H-I-S-T-O-R-I-C.
27. Montréal Canadiens (18-38-11, -81. CF%: 23rd, xGF%: 31st. PR: 28)
At least the games are close? Over the past five games, the Habs are 1-2-2 with only one loss that was decided by more than one goal. Even Tuesday’s loss to the Panthers was close, having erased a 4-1 deficit before allowing three more goals in the third period in a 7-4 loss.
28. Ottawa Senators (23-37-6, -46. CF%: 21st, xGF%: 24th. PR: 30)
Eugene Melnyk has his critics, but the Sens have had some incredibly successful seasons under his ownership. Since buying the team in 2003, the Sens have made the playoffs nine times, highlighted by a trip to the 2007 finals.
29. Arizona Coyotes (20-41-5, -72. CF%: 32nd, xGF%: 32nd. PR: 26)
The Coyotes are 0-4-1 since trading Scott Wedgewood while the Stars are 4-1-0. I think Jim Nill might know something the rest of us don’t.
30. Philadelphia Flyers (21-35-11, -65. CF%: 27th, xGF%: 27th. PR: 32)
With all due respect to Hayden Hodgson, when an undrafted 26-year-old rookie is your latest bright spot, it means you’re grasping at anything to stay positive.
31. Detroit Red Wings (26-32-8, -64. CF%: 29th, xGF%: 22nd. PR: 29)
The Wings looked better than expected earlier this season but, uh, what’s the ‘r’ word again? Allowing 11 goals against the Pens set a new low (or is it high?) for the cap era, and it wasn’t even the first time the Wings allowed double-digit goals or voluntarily pulled their goalies twice in the same game.
32. Anaheim Ducks (27-30-11, -30. CF%: 20th, xGF%: 19th. PR: 31)
The Ducks have been both historically good and historically bad this season, a testament to their inconsistency and how much work Pat Verbeek has in front of him. After an eight-game winning streak in November, the third-longest streak in franchise history, they’ve now lost 10 games in a row, the longest losing streak in franchise history.