NHL Power Rankings: Flames becoming contenders; Predators slumping

NHL Power Rankings
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In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings the Calgary Flames keep climbing toward the top thanks to a 12-2-0 run over their past 14 games, including a nine-game winning streak entering the week. That stretch has included big wins against other top teams Florida (5-1), Toronto (5-2), Vegas (6-0), and St. Louis (7-1). They entered the season looking like a bubble playoff team but have taken off under Darryl Sutter in his second stop with the team.

Calgary boasts one of the league’s best top-line duos in Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, and already made a significant move to strengthen their depth by getting Tyler Toffoli from the Montreal Canadiens. Add in their strong defensive player under Sutter and excellent goaltending and they are starting to look like a team that can make a deep run in the playoffs.

Elsewhere, the Colorado Avalanche maintain their hold on the top spot while the Nashville Predators go through a slump that has seen them drop down a few spots thanks to a stretch that has seen them go 4-7-2 over the past month.

We look at all of that and more in this week’s rankings.

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To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Colorado Avalanche (Last Week: 1). After a slow start Darcy Kuemper has very quietly put things together. He and Pavel Francouz both have save percentages north of .920 for the season. They get that level of goaltending this is as complete of a team as you will find in the NHL.

2. Florida Panthers (LW: 2). They already have nine players with at least 10 goals this season, including six with at least 15 goals. Just an insanely deep offense.

3. Carolina Hurricanes (LW: 4). Andrei Svechnikov‘s big breakout season is happening as he chases the 40-goal mark.

4. Minnesota Wild (LW: 3). Kirill Kaprizov is going to be worth every penny of that contract he signed over the summer. Franchise changing player.

[Related: Emboldened by Boldy, should Wild be trade deadline buyers?]

5. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: 5). Do you know who has quietly had a very good season here? Corey Perry. He should score 20 goals this season.

6. Calgary Flames (LW: 8). Not getting a lot of attention but they have the look of a team that ends up in the Western Conference Final and everybody asks “wow where did they come from?”

7. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 7). Their stars are playing great and they did a nice job building around them. They are still going to get a nightmare First Round playoff matchup that will dictate the entire narrative around them.

8. Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: 6). The power play has taken a step back these past two games, and it has cost them against Toronto and Carolina.

9. New York Rangers (LW: 9). Igor Shesterkin has done everything else for them this season so it would have been really fitting if he had added “goal scorer” to his resume. They should really be aggressive at the NHL trade deadline to try to improve their forward depth.

10. St. Louis Blues (LW: 10). Ville Husso should be the guy here.

11. Vegas Golden Knights (LW: 12). Jack Eichel has looked great so far since making his debut this past week, and that is fantastic news for the Golden Knights. They need him to be a difference maker and he absolutely has the potential and ability be that.

12. Washington Capitals (LW: 14). We should probably pay more attention to the fact that Evgeny Kuznetsov has had a really strong bounce back season. He and the Capitals both needed that.

13. Edmonton Oilers (LW: 17). They have looked like a different team since the coaching staff, but that game against Minnesota on Sunday shows they still have some real flaws that should be addressed.

14. Boston Bruins (LW: 13). They are back to being a one-line team and that is not good. Fortunately that one line is great. When they are all in the lineup, that is.

[Related: Bettman upholds Marchand suspension; what caused outburst]

15. Nashville Predators (LW: 11). They have struggled for a month now. Cause for concern or just the type of lull that comes with an 82-game season?

16. Los Angeles Kings (LW: 16). On the playoff bubble, but I like their chances with the way they defend and their center depth.

17. Dallas Stars (LW: 15). Such a difficult team to understand. They were rolling, and then lost to Arizona. Can not lose that game.

18. Columbus Blue Jackets (LW: 19). They always seem to overachieve, and right now Patrik Laine is rolling. Get him signed.

19. Winnipeg Jets (LW: 20). Bit of a disappointment right now. They need a big second half from Connor Hellebuyck.

20. Detroit Red Wings (LW: 21). The performance of the rookies (Lucas Raymond and Mortiz Seider) has overshadowed the great season Dylan Larkin is having.

21. Anaheim Ducks (LW: 18). The playoffs seem like they might be slipping away, but still a nice season of progress here.

22. Vancouver Canucks (LW: 22). The question is now starting to shift to who gets traded over the next month. Something major like J.T. Miller or Brock Boeser? That would be significant to the long-term outlook of the team.

[Related: New Canucks front office faces big trade deadline questions]

23. New York Islanders (LW: 23). Even with above average goaltending this team has been bad. Just not their year.

24. Ottawa Senators (LW: 25). The best development here this season is Matt Murray maybe getting back on track. With that contract they need him to be good.

25. San Jose Sharks (LW: 24). The playoffs are starting to seem out of reach, which turns all of the attention to what happens with Tomas Hertl and his contract situation.

26. Chicago Blackhawks (LW: 27). No player should be off limits in trade talks over the next month. See what offers you get for everybody.

27. Seattle Kraken (LW: 26). Joonas Donskoi with only one goal in 50 games might be the most baffling development on this team. Outside of the goaltending that is.

28. New Jersey Devils (LW: 29). Mackenzie Blackwood regressing so much the past two seasons has to be a major disappointment. Seemed like he was a big part of the plan to get this team back to contention and relevance.

29. Philadelphia Flyers (LW: 28). At this point it really seems to just be a matter of where and when Claude Giroux gets traded and not if he gets traded.

[Related: Giroux, Fleury ponder futures as trade deadline approaches]

30. Buffalo Sabres (LW: 30). There are definitely some positive developments here this season. Jeff Skinner‘s bounce back. Tage Thompson having a nice year. Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs looking good in their initial debuts after the Jack Eichel trade.

31. Arizona Coyotes (LW: 31). They have beaten some really good teams this season and really handed Dallas a significant defeat this week.

32. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 32). Cole Caufield looks like the player Montreal wanted Cole Caufield to be since the hiring of Martin St. Louis as head coach. Very important development there.

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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

    Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
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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.