NHL Top 10 Power Rankings for Week 17

10. Dallas Stars

Slow starts really have caught up to Dallas late, which has happened a lot, even during a streak of success earlier this month. The Buffalo Sabres made them pay for their lethargy. Jack Eichel did not score on the night, but he gained his thirty-fourth NHL assist on the game’s opening goal. Left-winger Jimmy Vesey put the biscuit in the basket just over seven minutes into play. Dallas got back level on an even-strength wrist shot by Jamie Benn. Tyler Seguin picked up his twenty-fifth helper, but Linus Ullmark stood tall the rest of the way, and Buffalo rewarded his efforts on the other end of the ice thanks to Rasmus Dahlin, and two empty-betters from Michael Frolik and Zemgus Girgensons on Thursday.

Things did not get any better on Saturday in Saint Paul. Anton Khudobin gave up four goals and was pulled for Ben Bishop, who conceded three against the Minnesota Wild. They have a lot of time before they play their forty-ninth game. Dallas sits third in a strong division, and despite their recent form are still a good side. The Stars power play was unsuccessful in four attempts.

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Dallas looks to start another winning streak Monday as they host the Lightning. 

9. Florida Panthers

Thursday, Florida hosted Los Angeles and it was a wild game. Evgenii Dadonov, the seventy-first pick of the 2007 NHL Draft put the Panthers ahead. On the goal, Aleksander Barkov picked you his thirty-sixth assist. The lead was increased when twenty-five-year-old Frank Vatrano’s slap shot got past Jack Campbell. Mike Matheson and Brian Boyle gave them four unanswered goals. Florida conceded one with just over eight minutes left, then special teams aided Los Angeles twice to make the score 4-3. Sam Montembeault came in after Chris Driedger played ten minutes, but did just enough to get his side over the line. The wave of momentum continued as Dadonov and Barkov continued to rack up points as both players lit the lamp.

Sergei Bobrovsky, in his first year with the team after playing seven years in Columbus, stopped twenty-seven of twenty-eight attempts to beat a Red Wings team that has found wins to be difficult this season. The final score Saturday was 4-1, giving the Panthers their fourth straight NHL victory.

They kept the puck rolling in Minnesota. Aside from Dadonov and Barkov continuing their recent form, Keith Yandle, the former Coyote scored. Still, Minnesota led Florida 4-3 late in the third when Yandle set up Vincent Trocheck to tie the game up. Noel Acciari notched the game-winner and the Sunrise, Florida-based team added two points Monday.

They had to get back on the ice quickly for a date with the Chicago Blackhawks. Like the Los Angeles and Detroit games, they were able to play in front. Vatrano struck thrice to get to fourteen on the season. Dadonov had Florida’s first goal, which was set up by Barkov. Bobrovsky was busy, but he was ultimately about to hush the Chicago crowd in a 4-3 result.

The Panthers, winners of five straight, will return to the ice on February 1st to play in Montreal. 

8. Vancouver Canucks

Vancouver was back in the rink Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes. After going behind on a goal by Christian Dvorak, Brandon Sutter was hooked by Ilya Lyubushkin, which put the Canucks on the power play. With time winding down on the five on four, Bo Horvat scored to tie the game. Then, late in the second period, Jake Virtanen struck his fourteenth on a wrap-around shot. The twenty-nine-year-old NHL goaltender Jacob Markstrom made the necessary stops. He made thirty-four in total, and Tanner Pearson’s empty-net goal sealed a 3-1 win for the home team.

The Sharks were Vancouver’s foe on Saturday. Vancouver kept firing at Aaron Dell but did not find a breakthrough until there were less than six minutes remaining in the middle frame. Loui Eriksson, formerly of Dallas and Boston, scored his fifth of the season. In the third period, special teams got Vancouver a second tally. Tanner Pearson, who spent six seasons with the Los Angeles Kings beat the Sharks netminder. After San Jose pulled a goal back, defenseman Quinn Hughes restored the Canucks’ two-shot advantage. J.T. Miller put the game out of reach nearly eight minutes later.

Vancouver is locked in a tight battle for first place in the NHL Pacific Division.

The next game for the Canucks takes place on Monday against the Blues. 

7. Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning was in the Twin Cities Thursday before a national audience. They could not get on the front foot against Minnesota despite a great effort by Nikita Kucherov who tickled the twine twice for nineteen and twenty of the campaign. Brayden Point’s tripping penalty was costly as Zach Parise made the most of his opportunity. Goals by Joel Eriksson Ek and Suter in a span of over two minutes propelled the Wild to the lead which helped decide the outcome in Tampa Bay’s 3-2 defeat.

They took out their frustrations out on the Winnipeg Jets in their next outing. Kucherov added two more goals. The second one was assisted by Steven Stamkos, but neither player had the biggest impact of the game. That belonged to Anthony Cirelli. The native of Etobicoke, Ontario scored at 9:27 and 19:07 of the first period, then picked up the hat trick with 7:48 elapsed of the third. Two more Lightning goals by Carter Verhaeghe and Alex Killorn totaled up to a 7-1 win Friday night.

After the festivities in Saint Louis, Tampa will come to the Lone Star State Monday night to resume their campaign with a mark of 29-15-4. 

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6. Colorado Avalanche

Colorado had a business-like performance in front of their partisan fans against the Sharks. Twenty-eight-year-old Philipp Grubauer had a perfect night between the pipes. He turned aside twenty-seven San Jose attempts on frame. His teammate, Valeri Nichushkin of Chelyabinsk, Russia opened the lid on the scoring forty-five seconds after the opening face-off. Cale Makar doubled the lead with seconds left before the first intermission. Both second-period goals were scored in the middle stages. Ryan Graves made it 3-0, and Matt Calvert’s twelfth came shorthanded.

Thursday’s effort carried over against the Blues two nights later. Nathan MacKinnon gave the Denver-based side an early lead, but the NHL Stanley Cup holders responded and turned the game on its head. Colorado restored parity on the first of two Andre Burakovsky goals. Makar’s go-ahead goal was unassisted with under four minutes left in the second period. Twenty-two seconds later, Burakovsky gave his side some insurance prior to the second dressing room break. The visiting team put real game pressure back on towards the middles stages of period three. The Avalanche secured the win on Gabriel Landeskog’s goal on a vacant net-cage. The regular-season series has one more chapter on April 4th in the Rocky Mountains, which will be a rubber match.

Against Detroit Monday, Colorado trailed after a period from the stick of Tyler Bertuzzi. He went to the penalty box late in the said period for a high-sticking double-minor infraction. That was the cause, and the effect was Nazem Kadri picking up NHL goal number sixteen on the man advantage to square the game at one barely a minute passed in the second. It was not long after that MacKinnon hit a wrister to change the score. Everything unhinged in the last twenty minutes as the Avalanche scored four times. Kadri picked up his second goal in a game in which he had 18:36 of ice time. Matt Nieto and Ryan Graves also had the goal fever. Finally, MacKinnon finished the rash of goals in the Avs 6-3 win.

Colorado, second in the Central gets back to work on the first of February for a road game against the Flyers. 

5. New York Islanders

The Islanders faced their nearby rivals, the New York Rangers with the weekend beckoning. Josh Bailey’s tenth got the Islanders in the ascendency as the first period wound down. Scott Mayfield went into the sin-bin past the mid-point of the second period, which set the stage for Mika Zibanejad to light the lamp. After five foot eleven inch Tony DeAngelo scored, the Isles were behind 2-1. The home team got off the deck and twenty-two year old Anthony Beauvillier solved Alexandar Georgiev. However, they would not get any points in the standings on Thursday because Chris Kreider took advantage of Casey Cizikas’ hooking penalty, and the Rangers won 3-2.

The next game was Washington, and the New York Islanders looked like they were going to get a big win against the points leaders. They got scoring by committee thanks to Brock Nelson and Cizikas in the initial period. Then Jordan Eberle on the power play and Devon Toews at even strength gave them a 4-1 lead, but the Capitals star power woke up in the third, scoring five unanswered goals to hand the Isles a tough defeat Saturday afternoon.

Tuesday, the Islanders got their revenge at Madison Square Garden, despite being sloppy towards the end, giving up two power-play goals. The reason the away side had the luxury of relaxing late was that their man advantage unit came through as Josh Bailey scored a goal and set up Beauvillier for a two-goal first. Anders Lee and Nelson each got the better of Georgiev. The Islanders got four goals on eighteen shots in this game and held on 4-2.

The next time the Isles take the ice will be an early afternoon contest against Vancouver on the second month’s first day. They come in with sixty-three points. 

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4. Pittsburgh Penguins (check Philadelphia game)

The Penguins started out the week with a loss in Boston on Thursday. The high point came early when Sidney Crosby found the net, but everything snowballed against them in a 4-1 defeat. It would not be their last encounter as the two sides would play three days later.

First, the Pens had to grind out a win against the team they beat for the NHL Stanley Cup in 2009, the Detroit Red Wings. Matt Murray did give up a power-play goal to Filip Zadina in the second but kept his side in the game. Finally, the offense clicked when they needed to. Bryan Rust earned his twentieth on the man advantage early in the third period. Crosby won the game with his stick on a tip-in in the extra five-minute session and Pittsburgh got back in the win column.

The Penguins were flat in the first fifteen-plus minutes Sunday, falling behind by three goals to the Boston Bruins. Goalie Matt Murray ended up staying in the game despite the color analysts on television that suggested that Pittsburgh at the time should have switched goaltenders going into the second. Murray made thirty-five saves in this sixty-minute contest. As it turned out, the home side picked up a late goal in the opening frame by Dominik Simon. It generated some belief on the bench and after the Zamboni freshened the ice, Teddy Blueger made it a one-goal game less than a minute into period two. The score stayed that way for a while, but early in the third, a slap shot by Jack Johnson short-handed leveled the score at three. The comeback was completed only after Evgeni Malkin’s thirty-fifth NHL assist set up Rust’s twenty-first tally. Pittsburgh saw out the last 7:25 for an unlikely win 4-3.

The streak did not go to three as the Philadelphia Flyers imposed their will on them to the tune of 3-0. The damage was done in the second period on goals by Jakub Voracek and James Van Riemsdyk, both came in a five-on-five situation. The third goal came because Pittsburgh vacated their net.

The Penguins will try to kindle more wins as they will begin the rest of their season at home against Philadelphia one week from Friday. 

3. Saint Louis Blues

Saint Louis played host to the Philadelphia Flyers this past Wednesday in search of ten consecutive wins in Missouri. The team started well and were successful on a five on four situations late in the opening stanza on a Justin Faulk wrist shot. The game looked like it would slip after Scott Laughton, Michael Raffl, and Travis Konecny put the road team up two. The resilience summoned up by the Blues as they did several months ago showed up once again in the third period. The goal horn sounded twice in reaction to Ryan O’Reilly and Alexander Steen both beating Brian Elliott 3:04 apart. The effort did not come empty-handed as it forced overtime, meaning a guaranteed point. Saint Louis could not get the additional one because Jakub Voracek found space in front of the goal to get the better of goalie Jordan Binnington.

Saint Louis looked to dust themselves off in Colorado. After being behind by one, the Blues responded by scoring on the power play. David Perron was assisted by Alex Pietrangelo. The run of play continued in the second period because Oskar Sundqvist beat Philipp Grubauer. The Avalanche hit back with three straight goals in nine minutes which pulled Binnington from the game. Pietrangelo made it 4-3, but the equalizer never came in the remaining 12:37, which meant two defeats in a row, but certainly not without the effort.

After the NHL All-Star break, the Saint Louis Blues will board a plane to British Columbia and skate against the Canucks this upcoming Monday. 

2. Boston Bruins

Boston hosted Pittsburgh on Thursday but started on the back foot as Sidney Crosby broke the scoring seal less than half a minute in. The Bruins found scoring, but not from the prolific scorers in the rest of the period as Sean Kuraly and Par Lindholm put the home team a goal to the good. Jaroslav Halak out-dueled Tristan Jarry on this night. Both players put a zero by the second-period column. Then in the final frame, the household names took over for the B’s. Patrice Bergeron produced his twentieth while Marchand had an easy empty-net goal for his twenty-first. The Bruins won 4-1.

The two sides met again in Pittsburgh for a Sunday matinee encounter. The game could not have started any better as Bergeron got one past Matt Murray eleven seconds in. It didn’t take long before Anders Bjork recorded his eighth goal of the season. Marchand and Torey Krug assisted David Pastrnak for Boston’s third. They did give the Penguins some life prior to the first intermission with a late goal, and they overcame the deficit which included giving up a short-handed goal early in the third. Pittsburgh would eventually get four answered goals to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

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Fortunately for the Bruins, they did not have much time to think about it. They hosted Vegas on Tuesday. Jeremy Lauzon got his first goal of the year to cancel out Mark Stone’s tally. Brandon Carlo was penalized in the second and it led to a Golden Knights goal, but on this occasion, Boston would rally in the third period. Halak and Charlie Coyle assisted Jake DeBrusk to get the team level. David Krejci’s twelfth twine-tickler allowed the B’s to get a regulation win prior to an extended recess.

The Bruins will resume play against the Jets in Winnipeg on the final day of January. Those two teams were involved in a nine-goal thriller earlier this month. 

1. Washington Capitals

The Capitals looked very good against New Jersey, beating the Devils 5-2. Alex Ovechkin was the man of the hour for the umpteenth time. He recorded a hat trick in front of the home supporters. Carl Hagelin and Jakub Vrana also made it on the NHL scoresheet. Ilya Samsonov was fairly busy with thirty-two saves on Thursday.

On Saturday, Ovechkin once again opened the scoring, but his team appeared down and out after Braden Holtby was rocked for four goals. He was replaced in the third by Samsonov, but all of a sudden, things changed. Washington showed how dangerous they have been this season. Hagelin found his way past Semyon Varlamov, then Ovechkin made it a one-goal game on his thirty-third of the year. He was assisted by John Carlson, who later had his forty-seventh helper which tied the game at four as Tom Wilson finished the play. Finally, Vrana put the Caps ahead with 2:30 remaining. The man affectionately known in some circles as ”The Great 8,” fired home an empty-netter to give himself another hat trick.

Washington will be in Quebec to square off against the Canadiens. They will enter their fiftieth game with seventy-one points. 

How would you rank the NHL Top 10 power teams? Leave a comment below.

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Works cited: NBC, NBCSN, NHL app, ESPN bottom line, sports scoreboard on Twitter

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