NHL Power Rankings: The Sweetest 16
By Kevin Mejia
- Philadelphia Flyers – Stay hot, Philly. Three games in the bubble, three wins in the bubble. Absolutely clocking their opponents in the Bruins, Capitals, and Lightning, the Flyers scored 11 goals in the three games while only allowing three. Carter Hart saved 57 of 59 shots he faced in two games. Depth scoring from players like Nicholas Aubé-Kubel and Scott Laughton has the Flyers set up for a deep playoff run. The young d-core showcasing stud defenseman Ivan Provorov will look to slow down Montreal.
- Vegas Golden Knights – Claiming the one seed in the west, the Golden Knights assured themselves a matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs. Key cogs Mark Stone and Alex Tuch have been lights out in the round robin, playing great two-way hockey. Defenseman like Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore jump into the rush often and are always looking to get involved in the offense. Robin Lehner appears to be the starter for the Knights moving forward.
- Colorado Avalanche – Even with a loss to Vegas, the Avalanche still have the two seed in the western conference. A late goal from Nazem Kadri pushed the Avs over the Blues in round robin play, which gave the team serious momentum. The offense, led by Nathan MacKinnon, packs a serious punch. Calder nominee Cale Makar has proven to be an excellent defenseman, as he’s a minute eating pro already. Watch out for the depth scorers on this team like André Burakovsky and Joonas Donskoi.
- Carolina Hurricanes – Underrated? Overrated? What are the Carolina Hurricanes? Everyone pegged them to lose in the qualifiers to the Rangers, however, the Hurricanes swept the series. Sebastian Aho played smart two-way hockey while Andrei Svechnikov scored a hat trick to secure game two of the series. Jaccob Slavin scored the first goal in qualifying round history and played tremendous defense to boot. The Canes play solid team defense and will do anything to win. Trade deadline acquisition Vinny Trocheck will be key against Boston.
- New York Islanders – Defensively infuriating for opponents, the Isles made light work of the Panthers in four games. Highlighting the defensive side of things, Ryan Pulock shutdown the best Panthers forwards in Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. Anthony Beauvillier’s speed and skill was immaculate in the series, as he scored five points, including three goals. Head coach Barry Trotz has the team deeply invested in a defense first mentality. Mat Barzal and Co. face off against Washington in round one.
- Tampa Bay Lightning – Things had been looking up for the Bolts, until their game against Philadelphia, where they lost not only the game but also Victor Hedman. Previously, the Bolts took down the Capitals 3-2 in a shootout as well as defeating the Bruins 3-2 in regulation. Nikita Kucherov will be the key leader for this team as Steven Stamkos is still out with an injury. Andrei Vasilevskiy must play like he did against Washington and Boston (.933 combined save percent) for Tampa to succeed.
- Washington Capitals – Offense seems to be the issue for the Caps. Only scoring five goals in their three round robin games gives a cause for concern. Braden Holtby must be sturdy in net like he was against Tampa (.929 save percent) and Boston (.968 save percent). Alex Ovechkin was held scoreless in the three games and John Carlson sat out with an injury. Pieces like Tom Wilson and Jakub Vrána must score for the Capitals to defeat the Islanders.
- Dallas Stars – One of the best defensive teams in the league, the Stars gave up 10 goals in their three games. However, in their last game versus the Blues, they only allowed one goal as the team won in a shootout. Denis Gurianov potted the shootout winner. John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen must standout on the blue line for the Stars as they take on the Flames in the first round of the playoffs. Hopefully Ben Bishop will be able to play the series.
- St. Louis Blues – Feeling a bit blue, as the Blues have dropped from their one seed to the four seed, as they will face the Canucks in round one. The defending Stanley Cup Champions rolled over losing all three round robin games. The Blues blew a three-goal lead against the Knights in the third period of that game and blew one-goal leads in their games against the Avs and Stars. Jordan Binnington must be better than his .895 save percent if the Blues want to repeat as champs.
- Vancouver Canucks – It may have taken a bit for the Canucks to warm up against the Wild, but the Canucks seem to have found their stride. Chris Tanev sent Vancouver to the playoffs with an OT winner 11 seconds into the extra frame in game four against Minnesota. Rookie defenseman Quinn Hughes and captain Bo Horvat both tied game four on separate occasions. Superstars Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser will show up in round one for Canucks. Jacob Markström is steady in net.
- Columbus Blue Jackets – Grit. That is the Blue Jackets. Solid defense from the best pairing in the league with Zach Werenski and Seth Jones has the Blue Jackets going. Pierre-Luc Dubois has played himself into a budding star in a small market. Joonas Korpisalo is an elite goalie, as he collected two shutouts versus the Leafs. Head coach John Tortorella believes in his squad and pushes them to the edge mentally. Columbus gets a rematch against Tampa in round one.
- Chicago Blackhawks – Even with veterans abound, the Blackhawks boast one of the youngest lineups in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and Corey Crawford led young guns like Dominik Kubalík, Kirby Dach, and Alex DeBrincat past the Oilers in four games, as the core still has gas left in the tank. Toews put up a heaping seven points, including a late game winner in the critical third matchup. The Hawks take on Vegas to start their final playoff push.
- Arizona Coyotes – The big guns showed out for the Yotes against the Preds as Clayton Keller, Phil Kessel, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Taylor Hall all had four points in the four games. Darcy Kuemper looked like his early season Vezina form, posting a .933 save percentage. The Yotes will go as far as Kuemper can take them. Brad Richardson’s series winner shows the Coyotes forward depth. The defensive core with Ekman-Larsson and Niklas Hjalmarsson is ready for a deep playoff run.
- Boston Bruins – Is it just me, or does Boston look like garbage? The team has scored a total of four goals in their three round robin games. Good on depth forward Chris Wagner for scoring two goals in the round robin. Tuukka Rask playing with a .917 save percent in two games isn’t bad, but it could be better for the Vezina nominee. Great hands on Jake DeBrusk as he broke the shutout bid for D.C. The Bruins have the Canes in round one.
- Calgary Flames – Physical in nature, the Flames bodied the Jets in the qualifying round. Without Patrik Laine and Mark Scheifele the Jets were much easier to take out. To the Flames credit, they did take advantage of the weak Jets defense. Cam Talbot played exceptionally well with a .945 save percent. Expect Sean Monahan to keep the heat on as he had six points in the four games. Matthew Tkachuk will be a physical force to be reckoned with against Dallas.
- Montreal Canadiens – Outworking and wanting it more is what the Habs did in their qualifiers against the Pens. Shea Weber and Jeff Petry played huge roles in pushing the Canadiens through to the playoffs. Carey Price stood on his head against the Penguins, collecting a .947 save percentage and a 1.67 goals against average. Nick Suzuki played extremely well, collecting a goal and assist in the series. Weber and Paul Byron led the way with four points each. The Habs get the Flyers round one.