NHL Top 10 Power Rankings for the Week of 3/9/2020
10. Dallas Stars
Dallas has been in a goal-scoring drought this week. They are in third, but their margin for error has shrunk as the two current wild card teams below them are from the NHL Central Division. Every team in the league has fewer than fifteen games left, so the Stars are looking for answers down the stretch just to make sure they do not miss the NHL Playoffs.
The Stars found the Nashville Predators to be difficult to score a goal against in a home-and-home series. The first leg was in Music City. Anton Khudobin blinked first of the two goalies on the ice. Filip Forsberg, though drafted by Washington in 2012, has played for Nashville for his entire career, and he lit the lamp on the power play. Later, Matt Duchene of Haliburton, Ontario doubled the Predators lead and Juuse Saros locked the door, repelling thirty-three shots on goal to keep a clean sheet Thursday.
It was the same story and second verse Saturday. Saros ended up making a total of seventy saves, not having one slip-up. That meant all Nashville needed was one goal from the stick of Ryan Ellis. The goal happened after Jamie Oleksiak was in the way of Rocco Grimaldi, which put the Preds on the man advantage. Nashville went to the box four times, but Dallas could not put the biscuit in the basket on two power-play opportunities.
The Stars hosted the New York Rangers Tuesday. The good news is the third period saw goals by Dallas to put an end to their scoring woes. As for the game, it was too little too late. Adam Fox, a red-hot Mika Zibanejad, and Kaapo Kakko made the mountain too steep to climb. Kakko earned his ninth and tenth goals in the second period. The power-play unit had a chance to feel good about things when Roope Hintz put the puck by Igor Shesterkin 1:23 after the second intermission concluded. Andrew Cogliano scored his third later in the frame to make the final score 4-2.
They will try to get it right on Thursday against the Panthers. The team will remain at home for a tilt against the Sharks a couple of nights later. They will then be the desert for NHL contests against the Arizona Coyotes and Vegas Golden Knights Monday and Tuesday.
9. Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers find themselves in a tight race with the Vegas Golden Knights for the NHL Pacific Division lead. Even after a head-to-head meeting which took place this past week, the standings show that it could still come down to the final week to decide who takes the bragging rights.
Against Chicago, Edmonton was put on the back foot. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Alex DeBrincat scoring meant the Oilers were up against it. They did get on the scoresheet as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins put the puck past Corey Crawford. Leon Draisaitl earned a point for his sixty-sixth helper. However, DeBrincat restored the Blackhawks lead to three entering the final twenty minutes. Edmonton did not back down. Josh Archibald and Kailer Yamamoto lit the lamp in a span of forty-nine seconds to get back in the game. Crawford held the fort together from there to deny the Alberta-based side to a fourth goal.
Edmonton returned home and played better against a Columbus Blue Jackets team trying to qualify for the NHL’s Eastern Conference playoffs. This time, the Oilers were the ones hitting the front as Chiasson recorded his tenth goal on a slap shot. Eventually, they added some distance in the third period. Defenseman Caleb Jones of Arlington, Texas gained his fourth tally with 4:31 left. Connor McDavid got in on the act for thirty-three to make it 3-0. Only Gustav Nyquist had an answer for Mikko Koskinen to prevent a shutout. Riley Sheahan put a close to the scoring with his empty netter.
In a big NHL division meeting Monday, the Oilers welcomed the Vegas Golden Knights. Chiasson seized the initiative with his tip-in goal exactly nine minutes in. After Vegas got even, the goaltenders of Fleury and Koskinen posted goose eggs in the second period. In the third, Nugent-Hopkins came up big again. Edmonton could not hold onto the lead and had to settle for a point as they had hoped to inch closer to the pole position in their division.
Still to come for Edmonton are home games against the Winnipeg Jets and New York Islanders on March 13th and 15th. From there, the team will be on the airplane to fly east. The Flyers and Capitals games occur Sunday and Monday.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh has had a poor run of form, which has relegated them to third in the NHL’s Metropolitan table. They are five points clear of the two wild card positions. They have had their ups and downs this season but it will be dangerous if they find a way to turn it on again.
The Penguins have had trouble getting wins lately, but they managed to do so in Buffalo Thursday. Patric Hornqvist of Sollentuna, Sweden started the scoring with a backhanded effort to get the better of Jonas Johansson. Things did not go smoothly during a Pittsburgh power play as Jake McCabe found a way past Murray to tie the game. Marcus Pettersson restored the Pens lead for just his second twine-tickler. Hornqvist provided an insurance goal on the power play for the second period’s lone goal. After the Zambonis circled the ice to prepare for the final period, Marcus Johansson gave the hosts a lift, but Sidney Crosby got the goal right back as his backhander allowed Pittsburgh to have more margin for error. Murray held his nerve and his side were 4-2 winners.
The Penguins returned to western Pennsylvania but it was a very grim start against Washington. Murray saw three pucks go behind him. He stuck it out but would give up one more in the third. Pittsburgh showed some pride as Crosby and Evgeni Malkin tried to plant some seeds of doubt into the Capitals, but the deficit was too steep and the Penguins gave up one more in a 5-2 decision.
There was a carry-over effect on Sunday as Carolina was the next team to come into town. For a while, things were going well. Patrick Marleau, the long time San Jose Shark put Pittsburgh ahead. Later Malkin scored on a five on four almost seven minutes after the Hurricanes restored parity. Everything came unhinged from the second half of the second period onward. Carolina scored five straight times to win going away.
Evgeni Malkin reached twenty-five goals and forty-nine assists following his team’s 5-2 win in New Jersey Tuesday. Before his impact, the Penguins scored first on Evan Rodrigues’s sixth of the campaign. After the Devils tied the game, Evgeni and Bryan Rust passed the puck to Justin Schultz for Pittsburgh’s second. Malkin then took over in the third for a pair of goals and a three-point night. Defenseman Kris Letang had the helper on the first one, while the second was unassisted. Letang then put the icing on the cake with an empty-net goal late in the third.
Visits to Columbus, Ohio and Raleigh, North Carolina lie ahead Thursday and Saturday. The Islanders will be in Pittsburgh which will finish off three fixtures in four days.
7. Vegas Golden Knights
Vegas continues to be a hot team, and it is good enough to be tops in the NHL Pacific with eighty-six points as they close in towards forty wins, needing one more to do just that. The home-away split needs some work, but they will have a chance to re-visit that soon in the upcoming NHL schedule.
The Knights were second-best on Friday in Winnipeg. Marc-Andre Fleury played three whole games between the pipes but yielded three in the first frame. Of the four scored, two came on special teams. The sticks of Patrik Laine and Mathieu Perreault found the twine as the Jets went two for two. Nikolaj Ehlers and Kyle Connor breached the Vegas net with five skaters a side.
The Canadian swing continued in Calgary. Last their last game, Vegas was better on the shot counter, but this time, they had something to show for it. Determined to make amends, Vegas started out the stronger side. Tomas Nosek broke the scoring seal almost five and a half minutes since the puck dropped. More than six minutes afterward, Nick Holden of St. Albert, Alberta made it a two-goal advantage. There were only two penalties in the entire game, but the first one led to the next goal. Mark Giordano impeded the progress of Brandon Pirri at 2:42 of the second period. A snapshot by Max Pacioretty almost three-quarters of the way through the Vegas power play gave the Golden Knights a big lead. Despite all the hard work, the lead would not hold. Robin Lehner could not stop Milan Lucic‘s wrist shot. The second player to sit in the box was Alec Martinez. Like Giordano earlier, it led to an opportunity and Dillon Dube seized the moment. The comeback was complete with exactly three minutes left in the third. Matthew Tkachuk’s backhanded effort made it between the pipes and Vegas was forced to regroup. The team did just that, and Shea Theodore wristed the puck by David Rittich for the go-ahead goal with 1:10 remaining. Twenty-nine-year-old Jonathan Marchessault put the cherry on top of the sundae by steering the circular piece of vulcanized rubber into the vacant net eighteen seconds from the finish line.
Vegas showed that they could win after going behind twice in Edmonton. Nicolas Roy deflected a puck past Mikko Koskinen to offset Alex Chiasson’s tally. Fleury did not see as many shots as Koskinen. In fact, it was a two to one ratio of forty-eight to twenty-four. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of Burnaby, British Columbia gave the Oilers another lead. Marchessault and Vegas were unrelenting getting back on terms more than five minutes later. Sixty minutes left no resolution, so Marchessault sent the puck Shea Theodore’s way, and the twenty-sixth pick of the Anaheim Ducks in 2013 steered the puck home for a Knights win.
Stops to Saint Paul and Denver are next on the road map Thursday and Sunday. Vegas will be back in front of their fans Tuesday versus the Dallas Stars.
6. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning looks like a side that will have to settle for second in the Atlantic as Boston is right ahead of them while the Bolts are eleven ahead of Toronto for the runner-up spot. Tampa has an impressive goal difference. Their record is about the same whether they play in central Florida or elsewhere. They are trying to re-capture the form they enjoyed in the middle of the season during an extended winning streak.
Tampa Bay was able to take control of business Thursday when they welcomed the Montreal Canadiens to the Sunshine State. Less than a minute into the game, Victor Hedman netted his tenth goal. One of the assists went to Nikita Kucherov who reached fifty on the year on the Lightning’s first. He later added his thirty-second deep in period two. Sandwiches between Hedman and Kucherov’s strikes was Alex Killorn. The scoring was complete when Hedman found the net on the power play late in the game. Andrei Vasilevskiy was asked to stop thirty-two shots to accomplish a clean sheet.
The Bolts were able to take the crowd out of the game in Boston two nights later. Tampa Bay scored twice a man down. First Cirelli unassisted at 5:08, then Mikhail Sergachev receiving the puck from Yanni Gourde at 6:10 of the first. The Lightning did not stop there. Cedric Paquette made it a three-goal margin almost seven minutes into the following period. Still, the win would not come easy as the Bruins made up two goals going into the third. On the power play, Killorn got ahold of his twenty-sixth. Later, with Tampa’s lead down to 4-3, Kucherov came to the rescue. His thirty-third put the game to bed.
Detroit was the next opponent on Sunday. Down one but on a power play, Brayden Point collected his twenty-fourth. Almost four minutes after that goal Carter Verhaeghe made it 2-1. Still, the Red Wings responded with three. Point’s contribution was needed again for the Lightning’s third. Then, Pat Maroon made it a brand new game with 11:19 elapsed of the third stanza. After five scoreless overtime minutes, the contest necessitated a one-on-one skulls competition. First up was Sergachev. He slotted one past Jonathan Bernier. Point and Kucherov were unable to do likewise. Meanwhile, Lightning net-minder Curtis McElhinney stopped Sam Gagner but was outclassed by Dylan’s Larkin and Robby Fabbri. Detroit took the NHL shootout 5-4.
A good goaltender’s duel panned out in Toronto. Frederik Anderson and Vasilevskiy faced at least thirty-three shots, but the former was slightly better Tuesday. Power play goals for the Leafs proved to be the margin of victory. First, it was William Nylander in the first, then Auston Matthews of San Ramon, California who broke a 1-1 tie early in period three. Ondrej Palat made his mark for the Lightning in the second period. Kucherov got a helper for the fifty-second time, but the box swung open for Tampa Bay players five times, and the opposition will make a team pay for that more often than not.
Home games are next for Tampa for three in four days. The opposition includes the Flyers, Red Wings, and New Jersey in the upcoming days.
5. Washington Capitals
The good news is even after Philadelphia won nine on the trot, they were able to re-capture possession of the NHL’s Metropolitan as the top three now have thirteen games to determine how that division will shape up. As long as Ovechkin and Oshie are there, the Capitals will have a big say down the stretch.
Against Philadelphia in a key divisional showdown, the Capitals power play could not muster a goal in five tries as they lost 5-2. Lars Eller did put his side ahead more than fourteen minutes into proceedings. The Flyers hit back for three in the middle frame, but prior to the second intermission, Garnet Hathaway atoned for a penalty he committed earlier in the session. His eighth made it a one-goal contest. However, the fans in red did not see their team score again while the visitors added two more. Washington was slightly better in the face-off circle, but eighteen giveaways did not help Wednesday.
Thursday, Washington was buttoned up offensively in New York City, but seven Capitals penalties added up as they lost in a game that saw eleven goals. Carl Hagelin began the fireworks show at even strength with under thirteen minutes left in the first period. Mika Zibanejad scored the next two Ranger goals. The first was the result of Nic Dowd taking down Kaapo Kakko, and the second put New York ahead in the second twenty minutes. Ilya Kovalchuk evened the game as Eller and Richard Panik set him up. The home side put their nose back in front after Artemi Panarin gained his sixtieth assist as he and Marc Staal fed Tony DeAngelo. Hathaway made it three-all 1:16 later to set up a memorable third period and overtime. The superstars came to the forefront as Zibanejad and Alex Ovechkin scored twice. Mika won the game for his fifth goal of the game.
The Caps were able to take out their frustrations on the Penguins in their building. They scored thrice on Mutt Murray less than nineteen minutes in. Dowd, Nicklas Backstrom, and Panik were the protagonists. After a barren second period, Dowd recorded his second goal for a shorthanded goal. Pittsburgh managed to close the deficit to two, but T.J. Oshie ensures that there would be no comeback. His twenty-sixth was assisted by Backstrom, and Washington got a much-needed win on Saturday.
Monday, the Capitals took aim at two wins in a row against the Buffalo Sabres. Victor Olofsson and Jack Eichel put the visiting team in a 2-0 hole entering the final period. Ovechkin picked up goal number forty-eight 3:33 in. Later, he assisted Dmitry Orlov to get Washington back on terms with under seven minutes left in regulation. Neither team was able to bury a puck past Braden Holtby nor Linus Ullmark and the game required a shootout. Both goalies were efficient as the first three skaters were turned aside. Rasmus Dahlin’s tally was answered by Evgeny Kuznetsov in round four. Ovechkin and Jakub Vrana could not convert their chances. Finally, in the seventh round, Dominik Kahun lit the lamp while Panik could not extend the game.
Games back in the District of Columbia include Detroit, Chicago, and Edmonton in a span of five days beginning Thursday.
4. Philadelphia Flyers
Philadelphia eventually saw their nine-game winning streak come to an end, but considering where they were, it’s been an impressive turnaround. They are in the mix for the division, but they are in the midst of playing the best teams in the NHL’s Atlantic Division to size up where they stand in the pecking order in the NHL’s Eastern Conference.
The Flyers dealt with the Washington Capitals this past Wednesday in D.C. They did concede the game’s first goal, but the second period was one to remember. Travis Sanheim was struck by a high-stick from Garnet Hathaway at 5:34 to put Philadelphia on the man advantage. Just over ninety seconds later, Travis Konecny earned his twenty-fourth goal of the season. Kevin Hayes was assisted by Derek Grant and Nicolas Aube-Kubel on the next score. Tyler Pitlick increases the margin to 3-1 with under three minutes left in the frame. Still, Washington stayed close and through forty minutes were down one. Ivan Provorov and Scott Laughton came up with the goods during the third period, and the Flyers walked away with a 5-2 victory.
The win streak went to eight after their next game against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Flyers did not commit a single penalty Thursday. The team also won fifty-eight percent of their face-offs and blocked seventeen shots. As for how they got to taste a 4-1 win, Provorov got it started with his thirteenth in the final minutes of the opening period. Michael Raffl made it two without response almost midway through period two. Carolina halved the deficit on Justin Williams’s fourth 2:55 into the final frame. The Flyers responded swiftly. Two goals in a twenty-six-second span occurred thanks to strikes by Aube-Kubel and Sean Couturier. Carter Hart was very good in goal, turning aside twenty-eight attempts on target.
Despite getting out-shot and out-hit, Philadelphia won sixty-two percent of the draws versus Buffalo. Hart stopped thirty-eight shots this time. Only Dominik Kahun was able to beat him with more than three minutes left in the second period. Claude Giroux scored twice which included the winner 10:32 from time. Joel Farabee had an unassisted tally more than five minutes later to put the game on ice, 3-1.
The streak did have to end one way or another. It just so happened to be against Boston Tuesday evening. Hart was not bad between the pipes, but the pucks went past him and not Tuukka Rask in this game. Philadelphia can still say that they won two of the three in the regular-season series. They shot the puck thirty-six times, but could not get the desired outcome. The Flyers prepare for the Lighting Thursday, then welcome in Minnesota and Edmonton on consecutive days over the weekend. The NHL Stanley Cup champion Blues arrive for a clash Tuesday night.
3. Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche are still within breathing distance against the NHL’s best team in the West, the Saint Louis Blues. They have a game in hand knowing that the NHL’s Central Division is still very realistic. Thirty-seven of their forty-one wins have occurred in regulation. Colorado is 7-2-1 in their last ten games.
Wednesday, Colorado was put to the test vs. Anaheim. The first period provided a lot of action. Vladislav Namestnikov of Zhukovskiy, Russia put the Avalanche ahead not four minutes into proceedings. Andrew Agozzino and Brendan Guhle, who both had a combined four goals between them both put their names in lights on snapshots for the Ducks. The Colorado power play was effective on this night. The first one came off the stick of Gabriel Landeskog to finish off a four-goal frame. Sam Steel re-claimed the lead for Anaheim deep into the second period. Fortunately for the Avs, Sonny Milano’s infraction created a five-on-four situation. Center Nathan MacKinnon put then back on even footing. It earned the Denver-based team a point, but they were unable to get the second. That is because in the final seconds before a shootout would have occurred, Rickard Rakell, who has played in nearly 450 career games had the sixty-fifth and final shot on goal. The puck beat Pavel Francouz and Anaheim came away with a 4-3 decision in the Mile High City.
In Vancouver, Colorado found itself involved in another high-scoring game. Troy Stecher and J.T. Miller put the Avalanche behind the eight-ball. Erik Johnson provided a lifeline forty-eight seconds after the Canucks’ second goal. Zack MacEwen scored unassisted 2:12 after the first recess. Landeskog, who assisted on Colorado’s first, tickled the twine to make the score 3-2. Less than five minutes later, Valeri Nichushkin erased the deficit after twenty-eight minutes elapsed in the game. Thatcher Demko proved to be the better of the two goaltenders the rest of the way. As for Vancouver’s scorers, they came in the form of Antoine Roussel, MacEwen, and Tanner Pearson, and the Avs came up short Friday.
Colorado was able to break out of their funk on Sunday night in San Jose. Power plays resulted in a goal for each side in the latter stages of the opening period. Joe Thornton and MacKinnon rose to the occasion as both found the net. Landeskog and Namestnikov came through again. On both goals, they broke a tie game as Melker Karlsson kept the Sharks within striking distance. The Avalanche briefly got some separation on Joonas Donskoi’s sixteenth of the year. Despite Noah Gregor’s last-minute tally, Colorado exited with a 4-3 win.
The Avs were in Los Angeles Monday. They were unable to seize the initiative as Francouz and the team fell behind in the first period and they were streaming uphill for the rest of the night. Ian Cole did find Pierre-Edouard Bellemare to chop the deficit to one, but Alex Iafallo put the Kings back up two. Los Angeles had a plus thirteen on the shots on goal department, so the 3-1 decision was certainly not a fluke. The start of a Colorado home-stand begins Wednesday with NHL games every other day going into the middle of next week. The Rangers, Canucks, Golden Knights, and Sharks are the scheduled opposition for the Avs.
2. Saint Louis Blues
Saint Louis did not have a great week but are still wearing the championship belt. They are being pushed for home ice in the NHL West by the Colorado Avalanche. Both of these teams have played well all season long. Those two teams do not play until Saturday, April 4th, which may offer a big clue on how the seedings play out. The Blues have twelve games remaining. Only Philadelphia and Vegas have been as hot or better than they have in their last ten games.
The Blues got a rude awakening in New Jersey Friday. After Vince Dunn canceled out Jesper Bratt’s lamplighter, two Devils players earned their maiden goals of the season. First, Dakota Mermis, then Connor Carrick both at even strength in period two. Jaden Schwartz did pull one back for the Missouri-based side, but Joey Anderson finished off the surprising result with an open Blues cage in the final minute.
In Chicago Sunday, Saint Louis re-gained their form. Jake Allen was brilliant between the pipes and got the necessary help nearly two-hundred feet from him. Thirty-year-old Robert Bortuzzo of Thunder Bay, Ontario solved Corey Crawford towards the middle stages of the game. Alex Pietrangelo, another defenseman helped to sow up a victory with fourteen minutes and change left in regulation. The Blues out-hit the Blackhawks 34-26 and still managed to be sharp on the penalty kill despite twenty-five total minutes in the box for the visitors.
Saint Louis was back in friendly surroundings versus Florida Monday. Things began well as Colton Parayko gave his side the initial goal 11:20 into the second period. Things turned when Marco Scandella committed a slashing minor on Mark Pysyk more than three minutes later. Left-winger Mike Hoffman gained his twenty-ninth tally to restore parity. The Panthers came out of the dressing room for the third period and they had their tails up. Right-winger Brett Connolly was able to put the biscuit past Jordan Binnington and the goal stood up the rest of the way.
The Blue hit the road again in Anaheim Wednesday before returning for what they hope will be better performances in familiar territory against San Jose and Ottawa. After those NHL games on Friday and Sunday, an out of conference game against an in-form Flyers team awaits them in Philadelphia on Tuesday.
1. Boston Bruins
With forty-four wins, the Bruins have become the first team to hit triple digits in points in the pursuit of home ice for the NHL Stanley Playoffs. About the only negative that can be found is something that will not matter in the postseason – shootouts. They still are winless in seven tries. They have been dominant at home at 22-4-9, hold a plus fifty-three goal differential, and have thirty-eight regulation wins on their belt.
The Bruins were in Sunrise, Florida Thursday. They played the Panthers, who are fighting for a playoff spot in the East. After a scoreless first period, Boston fell behind as MacKenzie Weegar, a twenty-six-year-old defenseman got the puck past Jaroslav Halak. Later in the period, Evgenii Dadonov elbowed Brandon Carlo with 10:46 elapsed in the second. Fourteen seconds later, Patrice Bergeron tipped in a shot versus Florida netminder Chris Driedger to put the sides level. Both goalies snapped out of it and held their cool, playing to a stalemate after sixty minutes. In the extra session, with time winding down, Torey Krug became the man of the hour as his slap shot gave his team two more points.
Two nights later, Boston found themselves again on the back foot. The Bruins went a man up when Barclay Goodrow used his elbow against the body of Ondrej Kase. It ended up backfiring against the home team. The puck went behind Tuukka Rask’s twice had the puck behind in a span of sixty-two seconds. After the Lightning added another at even strength in the middle frame, Boston would get back in the game. Charlie McAvoy earned his fifth with more than five minutes left in the period. Later, Sean Kuraly found the net to make it a one-shot hockey game with twenty minutes to play. Special teams contributed to the game’s next two goals. After the Lightning went up 4-2, Havirov, Czech Republic’s David Pastrnak found the net a forty-eighth time to apply more pressure on the away side. The effort went in vain as Boston put an extra skater forward, and Tampa scored an empty-net goal.
The Bruins avoided getting swept by Philadelphia in their three regular-season encounters on Tuesday. Rask kept the Flyer fans quiet by stopping all thirty-six pucks that headed his way. He got the run support from Matt Grzelcyk and Bergeron for a 2-0 shutout. Patrice forced Justin Braun to sit in the box which led to the first Boston goal. Both teams got three chances on the power play, but the aforementioned penalty late in the second period was the only one that was converted into a goal. Up next for the B’s will be an NHL stop in Buffalo Friday, then home games against Toronto and Columbus Saturday and Monday.
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Works cited: NHL app, NBCSN, ESPN ticker, Twitter, saw a screencap from a user on YouTube regarding Tampa Bay-Boston anarchy (did not watch the video, but that’s how I found out about that game Saturday)