NHL Top 10 Power Rankings for the Week of 3/2/2020
10. Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs return to the NHL top ten this week. They came into Tuesday’s game winners of three in a row and a plus fifteen goal difference on the season. They may not be a good shootout team, but thankfully for them, shootouts will not factor into the outcome of games in April should they qualify for the postseason. They have played many high-scoring games, but are in a good spot as every team has less than twenty games left in the regular season.
In Sunrise, Florida Thursday, the Leafs showed their ability to get off the deck. Just over a minute after Mark Pysyk put the Panthers in front, Zach Hyman equalized not four minutes into the first period. Mike Hoffman and Noel Acciari put pucks past Frederik Andersen and Toronto was down 3-1. A snapshot by the stick of Kasperi Kapanen and a slap shot Auston Matthews finished off a six-goal opening frame. Andersen and Sergei Bobrovsky settled down in the second twenty minutes. Finally, there was a breakthrough with exactly eleven minutes left in regulation. William Nylander wristed the puck into the net, which went down as the game-winning goal. Justin Holl put the game beyond doubt in the final seconds of the third to cap off a 5-3 victory.
Toronto was not done with multi-goal opening NHL periods. They hosted Vancouver Saturday night and started on the front foot. Frederik Gauthier of Laval, Quebec had the ice-breaker 2:45 into proceedings. After Tyler Motte put the Canucks level less than six minutes into the contest, Matthews answered fifty-seven seconds later. Tanner Pearson of the away side became the fourth goal-scorer of the game, as all of them came at even strength. Like Thursday, it was a clean second period for both goaltenders. To continue the pattern, the Leafs went ahead in the final stanza. Defenseman Martin Marincin notched his first goal of the 2019-20 season not even twenty seconds of game time since the Zamboni drivers cleansed the ice during the second intermission. Hyman’s twenty-first came with Vancouver pressing for a game-tying goal. The empty-net goal made it 4-2, a match in which there was a combined total of fifty-seven shots on goal.
Toronto commenced the month of March in San Jose Tuesday. After the conclusion of that game, the Leafs are featured as a free game on the NHL’s official app for a west coast game in Los Angeles Thursday. The Ducks game is to be contested the next night to complete the California swing. After a well-deserved rest, Tampa Bay will be in the province of Ontario on the tenth of March.
9. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins have been on a tailspin entering their game against the Ottawa Senators Tuesday. In their prior ten games, they went 3-6-1. Their last win was February 18th against the Maple Leafs, so they are searching to regain the form that put fear in the rest of the competition.
In Los Angeles, Calvin Petersen got the better of Tristan Jarry Wednesday. The native of Waterloo, Iowa stopped thirty-six attempts by players in Penguins sweaters. Jarry stopped twenty but conceded to Blake Lizotte in the first period and Trevor Lewis in the next frame. Pontiac, Michigan’s Bryan Rust offered some hope 13:18 from time. The Pittsburgh power play could not find the net in three tries. They were physical by delivering twenty-four hits, but it was not enough to alter the outcome on the scoreboard, 2-1.
In Anaheim Friday, Pittsburgh was forced to chase as Danton Heinen put the Ducks up one-nil on his eighth twine-tickler. Jason Zucker who was born not far from where the game was played put the game back level as he made Ryan Getzlaf pay for his penalty by scoring early in the second period. There were a total of thirty penalty minutes between the two sides. Getzlaf atoned for his mistake after he was the victim of a Justin Schultz high-stick which resulted in a double-minor. Ryan tallied in his thirteenth to make the score 2-1 to the home team. Brendan Guhle of Edmonton increased Anaheim’s lead to two. It would be too much to overcome despite a second strike by Zucker with 1:21 left. Matt Murray was not called into action very much. Two of the three goals yielded came in five-on-five situations. Pittsburgh peppered John Gibson for thirty attempts, but the win would have to wait another day.
Against the Sharks on Saturday, the Pens were outplayed on the ice. Five different San Jose players solved Jarry. The power play could not find the proper traction once again, and they were outshot in the first and third periods. They were outshot by eight. The only major NHL statistical category they were successful in was winning restarts as Pittsburgh was 56.5 on face-offs.
Pittsburgh returned home versus the Senators Tuesday. The Penguins broke out in a big way, snapping out of their funk. Bryan Rust had the right touch as he lit the lamp three times as his side put a seven-spot against Ottawa. Production was there to be found from John Marino, Conor Sheary, Sidney Crosby, and Jason Zucker. Matt Murray was not asleep at the other end. He knocked aside twenty-three of twenty-six attempts. Also not lost on this performance was Evgeni Malkin, whose four assists were as much a part of the story as anything.
The Penguins are away to Buffalo on March 5th. The team gets to see their supporters on consecutive days on the weekend versus NHL Metropolitan rivals Washington and Carolina. Both are early afternoon starts.
8. Dallas Stars
Dallas went up against the NHL Stanley Cup finalists from last season to find out where they stood in the NHL pecking order. The team entered Tuesday as one of nine teams with at least eighty points. They came in having won six of their last ten going into their sixty-sixth game against Edmonton.
Jame Benn picked up the game’s first goal in Boston Thursday not long after Matt Grzelcyk was called for hooking Radek Faksa. Turnabout was fair play and the Bruins evened the contest on a power play in the closing seconds of period one. Dallas gave up two goals in the second but pulled one back courtesy of Denis Gurianov less than ninety seconds into the final twenty. After Ben Bishop could not stop David Pastrnak from scoring his forty-sixth goal of the year, it looked like the game was beyond the Stars. However, Miro Heiskanen made it a one-shot hockey game with less than 2:30 left. Still, they were unable to find their fourth goal and Boston held on. Looking at the stats, Dallas had a slight edge in shots on goal, face-offs, and hits.
In Saint Louis, there was more grit shown Saturday. Tyler Seguin opened up with the game’s first goal as he was set up by John Klingberg. Still, the Blues championship qualities were on display as they came up with three unanswered by the latter stages of the second period. Exactly two minutes after the home team went two up, Gurianov lit the lamp for a twentieth time, which came unassisted. With time winding down in the third period, the Stars still needed one more puck to cross through the blue paint of the crease. Benn and Corey Perry moved the puck to set up Klingberg, who scored with less than twenty seconds left. Neither team found a winner during the five minutes of the three-on-three session. Seguin, Joe Pavelski, Alexander Radulov were unable to past the puck past Jake Allen. Anton Khudobin turned aside David Perron and Tyler Bozak, but the second skater for Saint Louis, Ryan O’Reilly converted his attempt and that was the difference in the shootout.
Against the Oilers Tuesday, the game was a goaltender’s duel between Khudobin and Mikko Koskinen. Both gave up nothing in terms of goals when it was five-on-five, but special teams had a major hand in the outcome. All three tallies were on the man advantage. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins opened the scoring in Dallas approaching the middle stages of the middle frame. John Klingberg restored parity 6:42 into the final regulation period. Both sides earned a precious point, but after Esa Lindell caused Nugent-Hopkins to stumble, the Oilers had a four on three. With the open ice, ex-Star Alex Chiasson netted the winner almost four minutes into overtime and Dallas could not wrest away the second point.
Upcoming for Dallas is the Nashville Predators for a home-and-home series Thursday and Saturday. The Stars will stay home after the latter meeting to play out of conference for the New York Rangers’s only visit to North Texas.
7. Vegas Golden Knights
The Knights have been playing great hockey in a tight NHL Pacific Division, one in which they sit tied on eighty-points with Edmonton. Going into Tuesday’s game, twenty-eight of their thirty-six victories have been won in regulation. They have held serve in their own barn, winning twenty-one NHL games.
The Golden Knights welcomed the Edmonton Oilers this past Wednesday. Max Pacioretty earned his thirtieth tally which was assisted by William Karlsson for a first period lead. Early in the third, Ethan Bear went to the penalty box for tripping Chandler Stephenson. One minute and forty-two seconds later, Nick Cousins found the net for his tenth of the campaign. More than four minutes left, Shea Theodore also scored his tenth, and Vegas got the clean sheet thanks to twenty-nine saves by Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Sabres were Vegas’s next opponents on Friday. Dominik Kahun silenced the fans in Nevada 2:16 into proceedings. They had to wait almost nine minutes later to break into bedlam when Nicolas Roy tied it. After a scoreless second period, Karlsson notched his fourteenth goal as Pacioretty got credit for his thirty-third assist. Later Reilly Smith beat Carter Hutton not once, but twice. The Golden Knights did give up a goal late to Jeff Skinner in the final seconds but did enough to earn another NHL win.
Against the Kings Sunday, it was not sunshine and daffodils. The visitors gave a rude awakening to their counterparts. Anze Kopitar recorded a double with goals 5:38 apart. The second came on a numerical advantage. Trevor Lewis added Los Angeles’s third in the middle frame before Shea Theodore provided a lifeline thanks to special teams. Alex Iafallo finished the scoring with a power-play goal. The loss was not without effort as Vegas put a total of forty-three attempts in the direction of Calvin Petersen, and the Kings blocked twenty-four shots. Los Angeles went two for two on power plays and it added up to a Vegas defeat by the score of 4-1.
After the Knights complete their contest at home versus New Jersey, they seek to keep their recent run of form up in Winnipeg on Friday evening. They will then make the trip to Calgary for a late Sunday afternoon encounter. Edmonton follows a night later for Vegas.
6. Washington Capitals
For much of the season, Washington has had the league’s best record. They still have control of the NHL Metropolitan Division, but the hard-charging Flyers are on their heels. The Capitals have been up and down at 4-5-1 in their last ten games. They have been a very good team when at home, but especially impressive when not in D.C. with a record of 22-10-1.
In Winnipeg, the Caps were blanked on Thursday as Connor Hellebuyck outshined Ilya Samsonov. Ovechkin had four shots in almost nineteen minutes of ice time. The Jets received scoring from Dmitry Kulikov, Kyle Connor, and Mark Scheifele, the last of which came with Washington’s net vacated. The Capitals were good on the dots but were foiled whenever they were a man up in three tries.
Sunday, Washington took on the Minnesota Wild in Saint Paul. The first period was littered with goals. Ryan Donato lit the lamp first and the Capitals played from behind, but only for more than four minutes. Greg Pateryn and Marcus Foligno each sat in solitary confinement for Minnesota which created a five and three for the visiting team. Alex Ovechkin struck his forty-fourth goal of the year. John Carlson gained his fifty-eighth assist while Nicklas Backstrom has helped number forty. Later with the boxes empty, Richard Panik recorded just his eighth twine-tickler. It gave his side the lead for good. Later, Ovechkin added another one with almost eleven minutes elapsed. Kevin Fiala took advantage of Backstrom’s slashing minor after he was the victim of said penalty. Washington has the odd goal in five through twenty minutes. The scoreboard operator did not have to worry about changing the score in the middle twenty minutes, but on a fresh sheet of ice in the third, Tom Wilson connected on goal number twenty-one. The Capitals still had to sweat to see out the game because Zach Parise found his way past Braden Holtby. The final score was 4-3 despite Washington getting outshot and outhit. They committed nineteen penalty minutes and won just thirty-eight percent of the face-offs, so they won while not at their best.
The Caps will be showcased for the nation to see Wednesday versus their fierce rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers. They go right back to work to play Original Six members, the New York Rangers for a road game Thursday. A familiar foe awaits them Saturday as Washington will be in hostile territory against Pittsburgh in a matinee game. Buffalo, New York is the site on the ninth for an early evening game Monday.
5. Philadelphia Flyers
Philadelphia has been dominant at home and has won six straight NHL games. They own a plus thirty goal differential with seventeen games left in the season. After passing Pittsburgh for second in the Metropolitan Division, they have a great chance of catching the Washington Capitals for the top spot in their division. The Flyers were once sitting in the wild-card spots, and now no team wants to play them.
Philadelphia began a home-and-home against the Rangers Friday. It did not start well as Jesper Fast earned his twelfth goal of the season which put New York ahead. Late in the first period, Sean Couturier reached his twentieth tally to get his team level. James Van Riemsdyk put the home team ahead past the midway point of the game. Just over two minutes later, Claude Giroux extended the Flyers lead. He would add another one on the power play in the opening minutes of the third. Though Jakub Voracek did not score, he had a four-point game as he assisted on all but one goal to reach thirty-eight helpers. His last one led to Kevin Hayes’s twenty-second lamp-lighter. Travis Konecny added his thirty-sixth assist on Giroux’s second. The Flyers won the face-off circle by a wide margin as well as the shot total. It reflected on the scoresheet by a final of 5-2.
In the second meeting in three days, Philadelphia beat the Rangers Sunday 5-3, but the score was closer than the game really felt. It was a real team effort as four different goal scorers put the biscuit in the basket. Matt Niskanen, Couturier, Michael Raffl, and Derek Grant helped keep the crowd quiet after more than twenty-minutes of game action. The Flyers kept committing penalties, which is how the Rangers finished with three. Mika Zibanejad ended the shutout which got the game to 4-1. Philadelphia needed just five seconds to make New York pay for their slashing infraction by the stick of Ryan Strome. Konecny restored the four-goal disparity with less than 4:30 remaining in the period. Pavel Buchnevich and Zibanejad finished off the scoring in this game in the third. Many team stats were a push, but the Flyers’ strong first period made the difference.
Philadelphia continues to be in the spotlight as they will be on NHL Wednesday Night Hockey. The Flyers are the visiting team against the Capitals. They return for home games against Carolina on Thursday and Buffalo on Saturday. Their next game after that won’t be until Tuesday against Boston.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning has cooled off following an extended NHL winning streak, but are still in a prosperous position with thirty-three wins in sixty minutes, good enough for second in the Atlantic. They have a sizable lead on third place Toronto, so those two teams might be meeting each other in the conference quarterfinals next month.
Thursday against Chicago, things were going well as Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov gave Tampa Bay a two-goal lead in the opening minutes of the third period. Curtis McElhinney was very good, but he had a third period to forget between the pipes. The opposite was true for forward Dominik Kubalik of Plzen, Czech Republic. He scored three for Chicago as the team erupted for five in less than a thirteen-minute span. Brandon Saad had the first while Slater Koekkoek struck the go-ahead goal. Tampa Bay racked up thirty-four penalty minutes and were 0 for 5 on the power play.
The Bolts got it right against the Flames Saturday. twenty-nine-year-old Tyler Johnson scored as Kucherov on the same play notched his forty-eighth tally for the first period’s only goal. Things ratchet up in the second. Ondrej Palat used a wrist shot to get the better of David Rittich for another power-play goal. Calgary then got their turn with an advantage but Yanni Gourde had other ideas. His tenth gave Tampa a 3-0 lead. Calgary did not blink as Andrew Mangiapane and Elias Lindholm asked questions of Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Lightning defense. Some of the pressure was taken away when Alex Killorn backhanded the puck into the net. It just got the team across the line because Sean Monahan reduced the Flames deficit to one so Tampa Bay survives to get the win 4-3.
The Bruins were in town Tuesday. Andrei Vasilevskiy did all he could to keep his side afloat. He did yield two goals, but he got some help late when Mitchell Stephens scored shorthanded with 2:32 left. In the end, the Lightning found out the hard way that penalties against a power-play unit like Boston are hard to overcome. 2-1 was the final score in Florida.
The home-stand for the Bolts resumes Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens. After the Habs will be an NHL Atlantic Division showdown in Boston two nights later. Win or lose, there will be no time to relax because late Sunday afternoon, they visit the Red Wings in Hockeytown. Fortunately for them, they will not have to travel far for Tuesday’s fixture in Toronto.
3. Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche sit second in a strong crop of teams in the NHL Central Division. They have won seven straight games. The team has an excellent record when they leave the state. As one might expect, they enjoy a high goal difference margin. Colorado is in breathing distance of Saint Louis.
The winning streak has not been without resistance from the opposition. Colorado hosted the Buffalo Sabres Wednesday before the nation. The Avs took the lead courtesy of Gabriel Landeskog on the man advantage. The goal came late in the first period. The Sabres countered with Zemgus Girgensons, whose tip-in squared the game at one before the first intermission. Martin Kaut was credited with his first career goal to restore the Avalanche lead. Henri Jokiharju got a tripping penalty for Buffalo which led to Colorado’s first goal. The second was set up when Rasmus Dahlin was called for a slash. The visitors remain unfazed, getting back on equal footing on Curtis Lazar’s tip-in. J.T. Compher gave the Avs the decisive strike as the player from Northbrook, Illinois wristed the puck past goalie Carter Hutton. The Avalanche put the boat by the dock from there.
Colorado went to the East coast for a game in Raleigh Friday. The Avalanche hit the front foot as Tyson Jost scored twice. They could not hold the lead in the final frame as Teuvo Teravainen replied with two in 121 seconds north of twelve minutes left. Defenseman Samuel Girard was the man of the hour. The twenty-one-year-old directed a snapshot past Anton Forsberg with under three minutes remaining, meaning another one-goal victory, this time in hostile territory.
Colorado showed their stamina in Nashville Saturday as they got it done on consecutive days. They never trailed in this one. Landeskog and Kaut each beat the goalie in the latter stages of the second period. The Predators did chop the deficit in half on Viktor Arvidsson’s fifteenth with more than five minutes left. Erik Johnson of Bloomington, Minnesota sealed the deal on an empty-net goal and the Avalanche surrendered a late goal but did what was required, 3-2. Pavel Francouz stopped forty-five Friday, only had to repel thirty for the victory.
In Detroit, they found themselves behind for the first time in a while as Anthony Mantha, not six minutes in. It turned out to be the only blemish on Mitchell Hutchinson’s night in goal. He would stop seventeen in total against the Red Wings. Vladislav Namestnikov of Zhukovskiy, Russia made it one-all. The score held up until the second period as Logan O’Connor, who plays at right-wing out of Missouri City, Texas gave Colorado the final lead change Monday.
The Avs host the Ducks for a nationally televised game Wednesday. Friday, the team travels to British Columbia to meet the Canucks. Two nights after that, the Sharks will be the opposition in San Jose for another coast to coast broadcast. Colorado finishes with a third game in four days in Southern California versus the Kings.
2. Saint Louis Blues
After winning Tuesday in New York City, Saint Louis has now won eight consecutive games as they are still on top of the Western Conference standings. They have been slightly better than average away from home, and with fifteen games to spare already have forty wins. Still, the Avalanche are lurking as they also keep winning. If the Blues want home ice for what they hope will be at least the first three rounds of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, provided they get results, they cannot let off the gas pedal.
The Blues hosted the Islanders Thursday and found a way to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Jordan Eberle both sent the puck past goalie Jordan Binnington more than eight minutes apart in period one. Brayden Schenn helped Saint Louis stay close after twenty as the fifth overall pick by the Kings in 2009 halved the deficit. Thomas Greiss proved to be difficult for members of the Blues to solve, but they were patient. The moment came from one Vince Dunn with 1:44 left in regulation on a slap shot. His eighth goal forced overtime. In the extra session, six-foot, six-inch Colton Parayko wrapped the puck around the Islanders’ goal before putting it between the pipes for the game-clincher.
After thrashing the Stars in Dallas in their most recent head-to-head encounter, the two sides met Saturday in the Show-Me State. After conceding the opening goal, the Blues got off the deck. David Perron earned his twenty-fifth goal of the year. Robert Thomas was tripped up by Jamie Oleksiak 2:50 into period two. Tyler Bozak was the beneficiary as he got the crowd excited, and it put Saint Louis in front for the first time almost a minute and a half following the infringement. Schenn sent a second puck past Anton Khudobin to make it 3-1. They were unable to hold the lead as they gave up an eventual game-tying goal in the closing moments so the game necessitated a shootout. Both Jake Allen and Khudobin were solid in the one-on-one competition, but in the end, Ryan O’Reilly’s backhand goal in round two separated the sides as the Blues continue to have the Stars’ number, taking four of five meetings this season.
The Blues took on the Rangers Tuesday for their only meeting at Madison Square Garden. Mika Zibanejad put Saint Louis on the back foot 12:26 into the game, but once again, the goal-scoring power from the 2019 titleholders came alive with once again. Parayko scored unassisted to make it 1-1. Then Alexandar Georgiev was pulled into a backhanded effort by Schenn. Brayden’s twenty-fifth almost midway through the third put the Blues ahead. Jaden Schwartz took aim at the Rangers’ empty-net and did not miss with six seconds left to sow up a two-goal win.
The roadmap for the next week includes stops to New Jersey and Chicago Friday and Sunday. Saint Louis will then welcome the Florida Panthers on Monday evening.
1. Boston Bruins
With Boston on course for the NHL President’s Trophy which awarded to the team with the best regular season, they are still undoubtedly the pole-sitters in this installation’s power rankings. I still think they have the extra fuel in their tank from Wednesday, June 12th of 2019, which was the Game 7 loss in the NHL Stanley Cup Final. Still, there is a long road ahead to put themselves back on the precipice of earning their first title since 2011.
Thursday, the Bruins hosted the Stars. It felt like Boston was in control of this game, but they were certainly pushed in this one. After Matt Grzelcyk went to the box and Dallas scored off of it, the B’s drew a Stars penalty as Charlie Coyle was slashed by Andrew Cogliano. Coyle was able to put the puck in the net against Ben Bishop and the game was tied after twenty. Brad Marchand picked up his fifty-fifth assist on Boston’s first goal. He would score deep in the second period. More than a minute later, Nick Ritchie found the target before the second recess. Still, Dallas did not give up. They pulled to within one early in the third, but then sooner or later David Pastrnak usually gets his fingerprints involved in the game and he deflected an attempt into the goalmouth. The Stars recorded one more tally but the Bruins held firm for the last 2:24 of action.
Against the Islanders Saturday, Boston rain the final regular-season meeting fairly convincingly. Pastrnak made Semyon Varlamov his latest goal-scoring victim 4:30 into play. Grzelcyk increased the away team’s advantage. Marchand added another goal in the third period and Charlie McAvoy polished off a 4-0 victory. This was a game in which Tuukka Rask spit back twenty-five shots.
Boston spent its first game in March in Tampa. The winning streak hit three after a narrow win in the Sunshine State. Marchand continued to be relentless Tuesday evening as the Bruins power play struck gold twice. The second one was finished off by Edmonton’s Jake DeBrusk in the middle stanza. A lapse in special teams gave Tampa some hope late in the game as Rask was called into action on twenty occasions.
Ahead for the B’s include the Panthers Thursday before they return to Beantown. The Lightning awaits them on Saturday night. Seventy-two hours after the puck drops in that game, they will see a Philadelphia Flyers team soaring in confidence in Pennsylvania. The last time those teams played in Philadelphia, the game necessitated a shootout, one in which Brad Marchand never got a shot away. He and the team look to rectify it in their next encounter.
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