Got to love the drama in the Atlantic Division! The Boston Bruins have looked like a new new under interim Bruce Cassidy and have jumped back into the top 15 of the NHL Power Rankings. The bad news is their former coach Claude Julien is the new boss behind Montreal’s bench after Michel Therrien was let go this week. It is about to get ugly the the old rivalry again.
1. Washington Capitals (84 points)
Previously 1 (80 points)
Washington is on their bye week, but they go into Saturday looking to defend another six-game winning streak. Minnesota is hot on their heels for the Presidents Trophy, just like Dallas was last year, but there is little the Wild can do but hope for a lengthy stumble in the US capital. The Capitals scored six times in each of their two games this week, with Nicklas Backstrom providing a goal and two assists in each of the wins. He also reached 700 career points in Saturday’s 6-4 win over Anaheim and is currently fourth in the NHL in total points and second in assists. Andre Burakovsky is out for at least one month with a hand injury.
2. Minnesota Wild (80 points)
Previously 2 (76 points)
The biggest headline in Minnesota’s win over Detroit on Sunday was Gustav Nyquist‘s spear to Jared Spurgeon‘s face, but the offense also came up big on NBC. Zach Parise helped Minnesota pull away with two goals in the third period, and Gustav Olofsson added two assists for his first points in the NHL. The offense, however, struggled in its win over Tampa Bay and in its 1-0 loss to Anaheim on Tuesday.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins (77 points)
Previously 3 (72 points)
An inevitable milestone is coming up this week. Sidney Crosby‘s give-and-go to Jake Guentzel on Tuesday gave the Kid 999 career points. Considering Crosby’s consistent season – he has not gone three straight games without a point all season – he will become the third player this season to reach 1,000 career points, with Alex Ovechkin and Henrik Sedin already hitting four digits this season. He certainly has a great chance at hitting the milestone on Thursday with the defense-flawed Jets coming to the Steel City. Matt Murray allowed just one goal in his two starts this week and now has three shutouts in a rookie season that could be worthy of the Calder Trophy with a sharp finish to the season.
4. Columbus Blue Jackets (77 points)
Previously 4 (73 points)
It was not a flashy week for a team that is trying to stay afloat in the top five, but they made a statement in Wednesday’s home win over Toronto. The Leafs had come in looking hot, but Columbus threw a hunk of depth at them and were not seriously challenged after the first period. Oliver Bjorkstrand returned to the NHL for his first game since December 10 and scored his first goal of the season on a breakaway, and Joonas Korpisalo stopped 31 of 33 shots to pick up his fourth win in six starts. He would get a hefty amount of playing time if Sergei Bobrovsky had not recovered his Vezina-like play this season.
5. Chicago Blackhawks (75 points)
Previously 5 (71 points)
It would not be unheard of to label Patrick Kane‘s season as underwhelming. After all, he seemingly held the title of the Hart Trophy wire-to-wire last season. This season, he is “only” at 58 total points, which is tied for fifth in the NHL. His February has been outstanding with four goals and eight assists in a five-game point streak on the road. This includes a three-point night in an easy 5-1 victory in Edmonton, including a goal behind the net off the skate of Cam Talbot.
6. New York Rangers (75 points)
Previously 6 (69 points)
I got the chance to take in the MSG atmosphere on Thursday. Thankfully, there was no Charles Oakley drama in the air, but there was some magic in goal. I got to see Henrik Lundqvist‘s 399th career win against Nashville, and the King reached the 400-win plateau on Saturday. I will admit the goal music and fan interaction is as special as it sounds on TV. J.T. Miller now has points in 16 of his last 18 games, and he scored twice in New York’s rally against the Predators.
7. San Jose Sharks (74 points)
Previously 7 (70 points)
Clearly the road did more harm than good for the Sharks. They got their only win of the trip on Sunday in New Jersey. They then pulled off a late comeback on Florida to force overtime before falling in the extra period. Brent Burns continues to run away with the Norris Trophy, and scored twice to help the Sharks pull away from the Devils before getting two more points in the first period against the Panthers.
8. Montreal Canadiens (70 points)
Previously 8 (68 points)
Losing to two teams with interim coaches was bad enough, but Ottawa is now within striking distance in the Atlantic Division. Because of this, Michel Therrien is gone and former Bruins coach (whoa!) Claude Julien is in. A Habs-B’s match-up in the postseason would be highly anticipated. Max Pacioretty continues to do all the work for the Montreal offense with a goal and an assist in the loss to the Blues on Saturday.
9. Anaheim Ducks (70 points)
Previously 9 (66 points)
It is hard to blame the Ducks for a horrendous night in Washington. Their road-heavy schedule featured the top two teams in the NHL this week, and they finished the road trip with a stunning 1-0 victory in Minnesota. John Gibson was only average this week before taking on the Wild for the second time in three weeks, but he had his best outing of the season by shutting out Minnesota on 37 shots while holding a one-goal lead from the first period. Their offense took a hit, however. Antoine Vermette, who had a tip-in goal in the win over Buffalo on Thursday, was suspended 10 games for slashing a referee on Tuesday.
10. Edmonton Oilers (68 points)
Previously 9 (64 points)
Their light schedule to begin February is going to pick up, and they face Philadelphia at home before going on a six-game road trip. After getting stomped by the Blackhawks, the Oilers took care of the suddenly hot Coyotes with two third period goals. Oscar Klefbom contributed to both of those goals, including a breakaway netter, and had a goal and two assists in the win. He currently leads the revamped Oiler defense with nine goals this season after just seven combined goals in his first three seasons in the NHL.
11. Ottawa Senators (64 points)
Previously 11 (60 points)
The Canadiens continue to lose, and the Senators continue to inch closer in the Atlantic Division. They again won without flash, with Mark Stone leading the smooth offensive charge in their wins over the Stars and Islanders. Craig Anderson returned to the club on Saturday to once again registered an emotional shutout. He has four shutouts in just 21 starts this season.
12. St. Louis Blues (65 points)
Previously 19 (59 points)
The Blues are now 6-1-0 with Mike Yeo running the team and have re-grasped third place in the Central Division. Everything is clicking again, from both Carter Hutton, who got his third shutout in four starts on Wednesday, and Jake Allen looking like top options to the offense getting production from everywhere. Patrik Berglund locked up the hat trick in St. Louis’s win in Montreal on Saturday to cap off a stretch of five goals in three games.
13. Nashville Predators (62 points)
Previously 12 (60 points)
After falling short in New York and having a defensive meltdown against Florida, the Predators scored five unanswered goals to stun Dallas and get their bye week started on a positive note. That could be a momentum killer since several teams have looked rusty coming out of their bye week. Victor Arvidsson recorded a hat trick in the loss to the Panthers, but Roman Josi was the key weapon on offense. He has a four-game point streak and ignited the comeback on the Stars with the first two goals.
14. Boston Bruins (64 points)
Previously 16 (58 points)
Here we go again! Another team has benefitted from a new coach. This time, the more offensive-minded Bruce Cassidy has driven the B’s to three straight wins. We will see if his success can continue in California following their bye week. David Pastrnak has points in eight of his last nine games and was the driving force in the three wins this week. He charged Boston’s blitz on San Jose with two goals in the first two periods and scored the game-winner to defeat Vancouver on Saturday.
15. Toronto Maple Leafs (63 points)
Previously 13 (60 points)
The Leafs still have a slight game advantage on the third place Bruins, but that gap is narrowing quickly, and the youngest team is hitting a wall at an awful team. They lost three of four this week and are sandwiched between solid ground and elimination. Will they keep their composure? For a team flooded with rookies, Toronto got some swagger from another young skater who has yet to fully stick on the roster. Josh Leivo, who has played just 34 games over a span of four seasons, has a goal and four assists in his last two games and could be sticking around a little longer.
16. Los Angeles Kings (60 points)
Previously 14 (58 points)
After being shut out in their last two road games, they finished their road trip with a rare offensive explosion in South Florida. With the Kings currently out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference, it will be difficult for Jeff Carter to get the credit he deserves for the Hart Trophy. His 51 points this season are 19 more than any other King, and he had two goals and two assists on Thursday. He will go for 30 goals in LA’s first home game against the Coyotes this season.
17. Calgary Flames (61 points)
Previously 19 (59 points)
Monday was a disaster, and Wednesday was only slightly better. Fortunately, slightly better was enough to get the Flames back into the second wild card spot. Now they have to figure out what to do with “paper wall” Dennis Wideman and spearing culprit Alex Chiasson. The league’s most penalized team need to clean things up if they want to reach the playoffs. Brian Elliott continues to catch fire at a crucial time. He stopped 33 shots against Philadelphia to give Calgary the win in a defensive affair.
18. Philadelphia Flyers (61 points)
Previously 15 (59 points)
Philadelphia’s offense has taken a tumble in February. After just three goals in their three games last week, the Flyers could only muster four this week. The result? Just two points in what were reachable games with better offense. Now they are on the outside looking in with a defense that might not be sustainable. Wayne Simmonds scored two of Philly’s goals this week, including the breakaway goal to sink the Sharks in overtime.
19. Florida Panthers (60 points)
Previously 18 (56 points)
After a bad loss against the Kings, the Panthers knew their five-game road trip was important. It has shown with their play. They have scored 13 times in their first two games and won a thrilling overtime game in San Jose for their only national televised game. Continuing their dominance on the offensive end will be a challenge in Southern California, and they might be without Roberto Luongo after getting hurt on Wednesday. Jonathan Huberdeau was sorely missed during the first half of the season, and it is clear why. He has points in all four games since his return, including five points on the road trip and the overtime goal in San Jose. Also, Jaromir Jagr celebrated his 45th birthday with his 1,900th career point.
20. New York Islanders (60 points)
Previously 21 (56 points)
After a key win in Philadelphia on Thursday, the Islanders had nightmares on the road. After being shut out in Ottawa on Saturday, the Leafs put up a seven-spot on Thomas Greiss and Jean-Francois Berube on Tuesday. At least they got an easy win against the Avalanche this week. Anders Lee had two of his three goals this week in the third period of that win.
21. Tampa Bay Lightning (57 points)
Previously 25 (54 points)
Tampa Bay is entering what looks to be a soft part of their schedule, and they took advantage of some must-win scenarios before their bye week. They salvaged one point in treacherous Minnesota before sticking it to the Jets. They visit fading Dallas and Colorado before hosting both Alberta teams. Andrei Vasilevskiy badly needed a huge game in St. Paul, and he got it in the form of 37 saves on 38 shots, albeit in a shootout loss. Brayden Point provided the lone goal on a tip-in in Friday’s game and added another one in Winnipeg on another Jonathan Drouin dazzler handling the puck.
22. Carolina Hurricanes (55 points)
Previously 20 (55 points)
Sebastian Aho continues to take the league by storm (no pun intended). He scored in Carolina’s lone game against the Stars on Saturday, but the Canes fell flat on the defensive end. With Pittsburgh and Ottawa coming up on the schedule, it will be an uphill climb in the Metropolitan Division for Carolina.
23. Vancouver Canucks (56 points)
Previously 27 (52 points)
This week had a bit of everything for Vancouver, from a thrilling shutout to a heartbreaking loss, and from a throwdown in Buffalo to a domination from Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, the Canucks could fall further down a hole in the Western Conference if they cannot defeat Calgary at home. Former Springfield Falcon Michael Chaput scored twice in Upstate New York in a battle between teams trying to get back in the playoff picture.
24. New Jersey Devils (58 points)
Previously 22 (51 points)
Somehow, the Devils have yet to play the Islanders this season. That will change this week, when the two play a home-and-home over the weekend. Following their bye week, New Jersey was lifeless against San Jose before holding on against Colorado. Pavel Zacha began the scoring in that win and he now has goals in three of his last five games.
25. Buffalo Sabres (58 points)
Previously 24 (54 points)
The Sabres once again needed someone to call the team out for motivation. This time, it was Robin Lehner that expressed his frustrations after Buffalo’s loss to Vancouver. They hung on to beat Ottawa on the road on Tuesday, but these frequent hash sessions have been glaring for a young team that is looking to get out of the rebuilding process. Despite just two wins in his last five games, Lehner has a .934 save percentage in that span.
26. Winnipeg Jets (56 points)
Previously 26 (54 points)
The Jets mercifully ended their four-game losing streak to the Stars on Tuesday, and they used another big night from their prized rookie. Patrik Laine notched his third career hat trick on a empty netter, and the only non-empty net goal of the third period came on another link-up from Mark Scheifele to Laine with five minutes remaining. Their defense will need to get its act together if Winnipeg wants any chance at a wild card.
27. Detroit Red Wings (54 points)
Previously 23 (54 points)
The elimination pool in the Eastern Conference may have claimed its first victim. Detroit has now lost five straight and are now nine points behind Toronto in the wild card race. In fact, the week was bad all around for Detroit. Owner Mike Ilitch died this week and Gustav Nyquist was suspended six games for a vicious stick spear to Jared Spurgeon‘s face. Not good. Andreas Athanasiou more than doubled his goal total from October-December in January, and he added three more goals this week. He ripped two past Braden Holtby in the first period before the Washington offense broke through.
28. Dallas Stars (54 points)
Previously 28 (52 points)
All the parody in the NHL this season has resulted in very few distinct sellers. The Stars have only won once in their seven February games, and their 29th-ranked defense has likely caused them to join the Coyotes and Avalanche as the only realistically eliminated teams in the Western Conference. Playing in Minnesota on Thursday should not improve their odds for a comeback. Jamie Benn had a huge week, with three goals and four assists in Dallas’s four games.
29. Arizona Coyotes (45 points)
Previously 29 (40 points)
Arizona deserves a lot of credit for their recent play. They are likely playing spoiler for the rest of the season, but they are looking like a playoff contender in February. They forced overtime on Montreal and Pittsburgh, in which they salvaged three points, and clobbered Calgary on the road. Even their loss in Edmonton was not as bad as the final score indicated. Christian Dvorak led the charge with two goals each against the Canadiens and Flames, and Mike Smith stopped 36 shots on Monday for his franchise-tying 32nd shutout.
30. Colorado Avalanche (32 points)
Previously 30 (32 points)
Colorado lost all of their “momentum” this week and have become a speed bump on their recent road trip. Okay, they almost came back in New Jersey, but it seems like the Avalanche has become a perfect spot for goalie auditions. Calvin Pickard has been middling, and Spencer Martin has been abysmal, so Jeremy Smith made his NHL debut on Tuesday. The 27-year-old rookie stopped 37 of the Devils’s 40 shots in a tight loss and should get some more looks in a low-pressure stretch.
Patrick Eaves tallies a hat trick against Carolina on Saturday. He got two, but he couldn’t complete the hatty in the third period. Dallas still won easily.
Calgary defeats Arizona by at least four goals on Monday. Instead, they were knocked out by five goals. Not impressive.
Carolina scored at least five times on Colorado on Friday.
Arizona scores at least two power play goals against Anaheim on Monday.