NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs Top Five Power Rankings
Another week has come and gone with more playoff hockey completed in the provinces of Ontario and Alberta. The first-round series are still happening. With the playoff field about to be reduced to eight teams by the time the final week of August comes around, here are my top five teams in this edition of NHL power rankings.
5. Boston Bruins
After going 0 for 3 in round-robin play, I put them in the category of one of the disappointing teams a little more than a week ago. I read too much into their struggles. Now without David Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask, Boston has shown great character in dismantling Carolina, holding them to under twenty shots in their comeback victory in Game 4. Still, the Bruins are showing great character and have flipped the switch. They really have matched up well against Carolina, but Boston will still miss Pastranak’s scoring going forward. Rask made the decision to leave the bubble to be with family, so praying and hoping he is doing well. As for the team on the ice, they will keep pressing forward, but it would be remarkable to me if they win the East next month if they were to play Tampa Bay and Philadelphia. To me, that’s tough sledding, so fifth is where I will place them.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning have taken Columbus’s best shot and are on the verge of exacting vengeance from last year’s ignominious exit. Certainly, it must be said that almost 150 minutes of hockey can take a toll on both teams. Though the Blue Jackets responded well in Game 2, the Lightning, save for the fourth contest, have heavily outshot their counterparts.
Taking into consideration that the team that has a strong regular season does not always win the Stanley Cup, perhaps it suits the second-seeded team to not have the whole league talking about them as heavy favorites like the prior season. Minus Game 1, the Bolts have scored first in each game, so it’s a good sign that they take the initiative which might be good for those tired legs which they will need in the business end of the playoffs. That’s why I still have some reservations about them, so they go forth.
3. Philadelphia Flyers
Championship teams thrive under adverse circumstances. After taking a 5-0 defeat at the hands of the Canadiens in Game 2, the Flyers showed they could grind out a narrow win in the subsequent game. Gord Miller pointed out during the second period of Game 4 the numerous times that Montreal clattered the puck against the iron. That being said, in order to get sixteen wins, the breaks must bounce the right way for the winner.
Goaltending has been a problem for Philadelphia in past playoffs, but to this point, I would say Carter Hart has been holding his end of the bargain. Back to back shutouts in the playoffs is to be applauded. I enjoy the play of 31-year-old Jakub Voracek. He had a game-winning goal in Game 3, as he is usually tallying up more assists than goals. He helped set up the Flyers first tally in the next game, which helped the team get to within one win of the second round. I do not think they are ready to win the Stanley Cup even if they exit Toronto as the NHL East Champion. They need to put the biscuit in the basket more frequently because when they go up against a skilled offensive team out in the West, I do not think they will be able to consistently play on their terms of 2-1 or 1-0. I still think there is another gear they need to reach, which is why I have them ranked third.
2. Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche have come out of hibernation after an era in which they saw Patrick Roy, Ray Bourque, and Joe Sakic experienced the thrill of winning the NHL Stanley Cup. Interestingly enough, there was a tweet last week as twenty-five years have passed since the team left Quebec for Colorado and the franchise would win the Cup in their first season in 1996. They added one more five years later, but this feels like a side ready to get their third down the road.
Fast forward to today. Their series with the Arizona Coyotes will have proven to be a blessing. Colorado is learning how to be patient against a gritty side. They will take the Arizona Coyotes series with ease, and this will help them down the road. This is part of the maturation to take the next step in making a serious run at winning the Stanley Cup. Many pundits see them as the team to beat. I still think they are a strong team, but it would not surprise me if they came up short this year. They may have to go through another hard-fought series where they come up a bit short before they ultimately win it. I like their core of Nazem Kadri, Joonas Donskoi, and Mikko Rantanen. I believe their time will come, but they will be experiencing the conference final for the first time since 2002.
1. Vegas Golden Knights
The Knights won their first five games in Edmonton, and are about to take care of business against the Chicago Blackhawks. Though they did not get the sweep, they managed to put forty-nine attempts in the direction of Corey Crawford, nearly doubling Chicago’s shot total, so this appears to be a blip on the screen for the Knights. They were in the game until the closing stages. Like the Lightning in the East, Vegas has been sharp and I sense they are not getting the talk like Colorado. The Golden Knights did beat the Avalanche in the round-robin, and should they both keep winning, they would meet in the conference final.
Marc-Andre Fleury has played well in goal, and I like players that know what it takes in the postseason. That said, Robin Lehner by his play has been excellent with his .908 save percentage. Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith have stirred the drink for Vegas’s offense. Both sides of the special teams could use some improvement. They do have a shorthanded goal by William Karlsson from Game 3 and one power-play goal conceded. On the other side, the power play has been silenced in four games so I think they will improve in that category. This team is very talented, and right now I think they are the favorites to win the Stanley Cup.
The bubble seems to be working because the tests have gone well from one of the feeds I saw on the bottom line. The defending champion Blues have started to build back good form in a tight series versus the Canucks. The Islanders are making quick work of the Washington Capitals, and the Flames and Stars are not lacking for the drama that has seen some high scoring games and short-handed goals. The playoff tension still translates through the television sets even if the fans cannot be present. Set for another fortnight’s worth of series in the second round.
Who do you see as the top five NHL Playoffs Teams? Leave a comment below.
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Works cited: NBC Universal networks, ESPN family of networks, Fox Sports Southwest, NHL app, NHL and SN YouTube Channels, Twitter @SiriusXMNHL this day in history August 10th tweet, Wikipedia year by year of “Stanley Cup Playoffs”