NHL Power Rankings: Avalanche takes top spot; here come the Bruins

NHL Power Rankings
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In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings the Avalanche takes over the top spot as they continue to dominate the Western Conference.

Since starting the season with a 4-5-1 mark, the Avalanche has gone on a 24-3-2 run over the next 29 games and is currently on a 12-game point streak (11-0-1) since the start of January. Their forwards and defense are as good and deep as any NHL team, and now that the goaltending is starting to get back on track they are looking like a fierce Stanley Cup contender.

In the Eastern Conference, the Bruins continue their recent climb up the rankings thanks to a 10-2-0 mark since January while working Tuukka Rask back into the mix.

We take a look at those two teams and more in this week’s NHL Power Rankings.

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1. Colorado Avalanche (Last Week: 2). Their defense is what makes them so dangerous as a team. You know about Cale Makar, but do not sleep on Devon Toews as a potential Norris Trophy contender.

2. Florida Panthers (LW: 1). Seattle seems to be the only team that has solved them. Sometimes hockey is a random game.

3. Carolina Hurricanes (LW: 3). As if they are not already deep enough, they have 19-year-old rookie in Seth Jarvis, who is on a 50-point pace per 82 games this season. Insanely deep roster.

4. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: 4). It kind of feels like the reigning back-to-back Cup champions are kinda sneaking under the radar this season. As if that were possible.

5. Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: 7). As the Golden Knights and Jets found out, this offense can score a lot of goals in a very short period of time.

6. New York Rangers (LW: 5). Chris Krieder has 29 goals in 42 games. That is a 56-goal pace over 82 games. At some point you have to think he will slow down this season but he just keeps scoring goals.

[Related: Stats favor Shesterkin in Vezina race, but will GMs?]

7. Boston Bruins (LW: 8). Tuukka Rask’s return has been a mixed bag so far, but give him time. He should still be a top-tier goalie.

8. Minnesota Wild (LW: 10). Let’s give some attention to Ryan Hartman for a breakout season that currently has him leading the team with 18 goals.

9. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 6). Holding leads has been a problem recently, which is going to create another round of discussion about their defense and, well, pretty much everything else about them.

10. St. Louis Blues (LW: 11). Keep playing Ville Husso until he gives you a reason to stop playing him.

11. Nashville Predators (LW: 9). Over the previous two seasons Filip Forsberg scored 33 goals in 102 games. This season he already has 20 goals in 32 games.

12. Washington Capitals (LW: 13). It is starting to look like their starting playoff goalie is not on the roster at the current time.

13. Vegas Golden Knights (LW: 12). This is a team whose regular season record will not do their overall strength as a team justice.

14. Los Angeles Kings (LW: 14). Quinton Byfield gets to experience a playoff chase right off the bat. Probably not what anybody expected this season, but great progress for them as a team.

15. New York Islanders (LW: 19). They are getting on track a bit, but there is still such a massive gap between them and the playoff teams in the East.

16. Winnipeg Jets (LW: 15). Connor Hellebuyck and Kyle Connor are keeping them in it as best they can.

17. Anaheim Ducks (LW: 16). They really needed that win against Tampa Bay — and it was impressive — to stop their recent tough stretch. Now they start a tough Eastern Conference road trip. They need to stack some wins again.

18. Calgary Flames (LW: 17). They still hold the second best points percentage in the Pacific Division, which is good. But because of schedule postponements and a lot of losses they have won just three games since Dec. 5, a stretch that has seen them go 3-7-2 over 12 games.

[Related: Assessing each NHL team at the mid-point of the season]

19. Dallas Stars (LW: 21). Overall they have been very inconsistent this season. Individually, Joe Pavelski, Jason Robertson, and Roope Hintz have been great.

20. San Jose Sharks (LW: 20). Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl deserve a lot of credit for helping to keep them in it. But will Hertl re-sign, and if not, will he be traded before the March 21 deadline?

21. Edmonton Oilers (LW: 21). They really needed that win against Calgary. Is it a turning point or just a brief distraction from the overall mess that is the team? Based on recent Oilers franchise history we probably already know the answer to that question.

22. Detroit Red Wings (LW: 24). Progress is the important thing to watch for this season. Progress is being made.

23. Vancouver Canucks (LW: 18). Even with their improved play under Bruce Boudreau they are still only on an 80-point pace for this season. That is not going to be anywhere near good enough.

24. Ottawa Senators (LW: 25). At least they are competitive right now. That is more than we could say about them earlier in the season.

25. Chicago Blackhawks (LW: 23). Here is the list of players who should be untouchable in trade talks right now: Nobody.

26. Columbus Blue Jackets (LW: 27). They play hard, but goalie depth has been an issue. They are 4-10-0 when Elvis Merzlikins is not the goalie of record. They are very respectable 14-10-1 when he is.

27. New Jersey Devils (LW: 28). Given the fact they have two recent No. 1 overall picks and have made some big offseason additions in recent years it feels like they should be further along than this.

28. Seattle Kraken (LW: 30). They are not going to make the playoffs but they have won three out of four and Philipp Gruabuer is playing a little better. So that is something.

29. Buffalo Sabres (LW: 29). Jeff Skinner is very quietly having a nice bounce back season.

30. Philadelphia Flyers (LW: 26). They have had two different 10-game losing streaks in the first half of the same season. That is incredible.

31. Arizona Coyotes (LW: 31). Karel Vejmelka has been a nice bright spot at times this season in goal.

32. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 32). Lot of work here for the new general manager.

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    LA Kings put goaltender Cal Petersen on waivers

    Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
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    LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings put goaltender Cal Petersen on waivers, a surprising move for a player once considered the successor in net to two-time Stanley Cup winner Jonathan Quick.

    Petersen, 28, went on waivers the day after allowing four goals on 16 shots in relief of Quick during a 9-8 overtime loss to the Seattle Kraken. Quick was pulled after giving up five goals on 14 shots.

    Only one NHL goalie has a save percentage lower than Petersen’s .868 this season, Elvis Merzlikins of the Columbus Blue Jackets with .864. Petersen is 5-3-2 in 10 games with a 3.75 goals-against average in his third full season with the Kings and fifth overall.

    L.A. signed Petersen to a three-year, $15 million contract in September 2021, and he figured to take the starting job from Quick, who turns 37 in January and is set to be a free agent after the season. Petersen has two years left on that deal after this one at an annual salary cap hit of $5 million.

    Penguins’ Kris Letang out indefinitely after 2nd stroke

    Kris Letang Penguins
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    PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang plays hockey with a grace and inexhaustible fluidity seemingly impervious to the rigors of spending nearly half his life in the NHL.

    For the second time in less than a decade, however, a major health scare has brought Letang’s career to a halt.

    The 35-year-old Letang is out indefinitely after suffering a stroke for a second time. Letang reported feeling ill and was taken to the hospital, where tests confirmed the stroke.

    While general manager Ron Hextall said Wednesday this stroke doesn’t appear to be as serious as the one Letang sustained in 2014, the Penguins will have to find a way forward at least in the short term without one of their franchise pillars.

    “I am fortunate to know my body well enough to recognize when something isn’t right,” Letang said in a release. “While it is difficult to navigate this issue publicly, I am hopeful it can raise awareness. … I am optimistic that I will be back on the ice soon.”

    The three-time Stanley Cup champion missed more than two months in 2014 after a stroke, which doctors determined was caused by a small hole in the wall of his heart. He spent Monday feeling off and told team trainers he was dealing with what Hextall described as a migraine headache.

    Penguins team physician Dr. Dhamesh Vyas recommended Letang go to the hospital, where tests confirmed the stroke.

    “He didn’t know (he had a stroke),” Hextall said. “He just knew something wasn’t right.”

    Letang is continuing to undergo tests but felt well enough on Tuesday to be at the arena for Pittsburgh’s 3-2 overtime loss to Carolina. He spent the second period chatting with Hextall then addressed his teammates in the locker room afterward in an effort to help allay their concerns.

    “I think it was important for Kris to be there because his teammates got to see him in good spirits and that he’s doing well,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.

    Sullivan added initial test results on Letang have been “very encouraging.” Letang will continue to undergo testing throughout the week, though he felt good enough in the aftermath to ask Sullivan and Hextall if he could skate, an activity that is off the table for now.

    Hextall said he “couldn’t even guess” how long the Penguins may be without the married father of two, adding hockey is low on the team’s list of concerns about a player who, along with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, has helped the franchise to three Stanley Cups during his 17-year career.

    “First and foremost this is about the person and I told Tanger about that last night,” Hextall said. “This is Kris Letang, the father and family guy, the Pittsburgh Penguins, that’s second.”

    Letang, a six-time All-Star, has been one of the most durable players in the NHL. His 662 career points (145 goals, 517 assists) are a franchise record for a defenseman. He’s averaged well over 24 minutes of playing time over the course of his career, a number that’s ticked above 25 minutes per game seven times in eight-plus seasons since he returned from the initial stroke.

    The Penguins felt so confident in Letang’s durability that they signed him to a six-year contract over the summer rather than let him test free agency for the first time.

    “The level of hockey he’s played for as long as he’s played is absolutely incredible,” Hextall said. “The level he’s continued to play at at his age, the type of shape he’s in … he’s a warrior.”

    Letang has one goal and 11 assists in 21 games so far this season for Pittsburgh, which hosts Vegas on Thursday night. The Penguins are pretty deep along the blue line, but Sullivan knows he can’t try to replace Letang with any one player.

    “It’s not anything we haven’t been faced with in the past and the reality is we have what we have, and we’ll figure it out,” Sullivan said, adding “it’ll be by committee, as it usually is when you replace a player of that stature.”

    Ovechkin tops Gretzky for most road goals, Capitals beat Canucks

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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Alex Ovechkin scored twice, passing Wayne Gretzky for the most road goals in NHL history, and the Washington Capitals beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-1 on Tuesday night.

    Ovechkin has scored 403 of his 793 career goals away from home. Gretzky holds the overall record with 894.

    “It’s always nice when you beat the Great One,” Ovechkin said. “It doesn’t matter what kind of milestone it is. It’s history.”

    Anthony Mantha added a goal and an assist for the Capitals (10-11-3). John Carlson and Martin Fehervary also scored, and Darcy Kuemper stopped 31 shots.

    Nils Hoglander scored for the Canucks (9-11-3), who had won three in a row. Spencer Martin made 23 saves.

    “Spencer’s been great for us. He’s probably a bit like the other players tonight. They weren’t ready to play and it showed on the scoreboard,” Vancouver coach Bruce Boudreau said.

    The 37-year-old Ovechkin nearly netted a hat trick when Vancouver pulled Martin for an extra skater with just over six minutes left, but his rocket of a shot skimmed the outside of the post.

    “I think he has 13 goals this year and I want to say like eight or nine have been like a new record. So it’s been cool,” Washington center Dylan Strome said. “Any time you pass Wayne Gretzky in anything, it deserves a standing ovation, which he got.”

    Fehervary was the one who sealed it, flipping the puck high into the Canucks zone and into the empty net at 15:57 of the third period.

    Ovechkin topped Gretzky 11:52 into the first, firing a one-timer from the left circle past Martin to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead with his 13th goal of the season.

    “On his second goal, it looks like, `Oh, maybe (Martin) should have had it.’ But I’ve seen (Ovechkin) score 100 goals like that,” said Boudreau, who coached the Capitals from 2007-11. “He’s got a shot that finds its way in.”

    The star forward from Russia got his first of the night 5:35 in, taking the puck off the stick of Vancouver defenseman Quinn Hughes near the net and batting in a quick shot.

    “It could have been 6-1 after the first period, quite frankly, with the amount of chances (Washington) had,” Boudreau said.

    It was Ovechkin’s 135th game-opening goal, tying Jaromir Jagr for the most in NHL history.

    “(Ovechkin) was really good in the first and I thought we were really good in the first so it was nice to get out and get a jump like that,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “He certainly led. We knew we needed to have a good first period, have a good game, and you need your best players to do that.”

    Carlson scored the lone goal of the second, chipping in a loose puck from the low hash marks at 18:47 to give Washington a 4-1 cushion.

    “It’s frustrating. Because when you lose games, it should never be about your compete level and battle level,” Canucks center J.T. Miller said. “It’s frustrating because they didn’t out-skill us today, they didn’t out-system us. They literally just outbattled us and created their own chances.”

    NOTES: Washington’s Lars Eller got his 200th career assist. … Miller had an assist, extending his point streak to nine games (four goals, seven assists). … The Capitals swept the two-game season series. … Vancouver assigned winger Vasily Podkolzin and defenseman Jack Rathbone to the Abbotsford Canucks on Monday, then recalled forward Phillip Di Giuseppe from the American Hockey League club on Tuesday.

    UP NEXT

    Washington: At Seattle on Thursday in the second of a five-game trip.

    Vancouver: Host Florida on Thursday in the second of a four-game homestand.

    Deal for Coyotes’ proposed arena approved by Tempe council

    David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports
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    TEMPE, Ariz. — The Tempe City Council has unanimously approved a proposal for a new Arizona Coyotes arena and entertainment district, clearing the way for a public vote on the project next year.

    The City Council approved the proposal 7-0 after a lengthy meeting that included NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

    The $2.1 billion project would include a 16,000-seat arena, practice rink, 1,600 apartments, two hotels and a theater. Approval of the project was the final step before it goes to referendum on May 16.

    The team is currently playing at Arizona State’s 5,000-seat Mullett Arena, by far the NHL’s smallest arena.

    The Coyotes have been searching for a permanent home since the city of Glendale pulled out of a multimillion-dollar lease at Gila River Arena. Arizona had been playing on an annual lease until Glendale said it would not be renewed for the 2022-23 season.