NHL Power Rankings: Bruins looking like contenders again; Stars keep winning

NHL Power Rankings
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In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings there are no changes in the top five with Colorado, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Calgary, and Florida holding firm in their spots. The Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings keep inching their way up with their recent strong play, while the Dallas Stars continue to solidify their place in the playoff race with some of their best hockey of the season.

The Bruins are the team that really stands out this week (climbing to the No. 7 spot) given their recent play. They enter the week with an 8-2-1 mark over their past 11 games. They have played four potential playoff teams during that stretch, going 3-0-1 in those games and outscoring them by an 18-5 margin. Pretty good numbers. They still have a quartet of elite players at the top of the lineup (Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Charlie McAvoy) while Jeremy Swayman has really solidified things in goal. They are also getting some important secondary scoring from players like Jake DeBrusk, Craig Smith, and Erik Haula. Do not rule them out in the Eastern Conference.

We take a look at them and every other team in this week’s rankings.

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To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Colorado Avalanche (Last Week: 1). They did lose two games this week, but the second was a tough overtime loss to Calgary in a potential Western Conference Final preview. Colorado has lost consecutive games in regulation just once all season (Game Nos. 2-4). Even great teams lose a couple of games. Still the NHL’s best team.

2. Carolina Hurricanes (LW: 2). They are so good and so many of their top players are just entering the prime of their careers right now. They are going to be here for a long time.

3. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: 3). Outside of that loss to Pittsburgh they have looked incredible over the past month. So much talent and an elite goalie.

4. Calgary Flames (LW: 4). They are looking like a team you are not going to want to face in the playoffs. Just dominant right now.

5. Florida Panthers (LW: 5). We do not talk enough about how good Sam Reinhart has been for them. Point per game player since coming over from Buffalo this offseason.

6. Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: 9). They earned three out of four points in a back-to-back, on the road, against Tampa Bay and Carolina. Very impressive stretch even if they did let a two goal lead slip away against the Hurricanes.

7. Boston Bruins (LW: 11). If Jeremy Swayman can keep his hold on the top spot this is going to be a nightmare opponent in the playoffs with the way they defend.

[Related: Potential Bruins trade deadline targets; buy or sell?]

8. New York Rangers (LW: 10). Igor Shesterkin should not only be the NHL MVP, it should not even a debate. Or a close vote.

9. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 6). They better hope Jack Campbell figures it out. They are going to have to face Tampa Bay or Florida in the First Round and they are going to need better goaltending than this.

[Related: Maple Leafs have goalie concerns but trade deadline options are shaky]

10. St. Louis Blues (LW: 7). They will go as far as their goaltending, specifically Ville Husso, allows them to go. Good team, but that is a big question.

11. Los Angeles Kings (LW: 12). The offseason additions of Viktor Arvidsson and Philip Danault has really accelerated the rebuild.

12. Dallas Stars (LW: 13). Maybe they are starting to find some consistency. They are 14-4-1 over their past 19 games and starting to really establish themselves as a playoff team.

13. Minnesota Wild (LW: 8). They are fighting it right now. The good news is there is still time to correct it.

14. Washington Capitals (LW: 14). Vitek Vanecek is doing his part to prove to the front office a goalie upgrade is not on their trade deadline shopping list.

15. Vegas Golden Knights (LW: 17). When healthy, they are great on paper. We have not really seen them healthy this season, and as a result, have not really seen a great team. Yet.

16. Vancouver Canucks (LW: 18). Bruce Boudreau is a heck of a coach. They are 20-8-4 with him since replacing Travis Green. Would they actually add instead of sell?

[Related: J.T. Miller should carry a high trade price]

17. Edmonton Oilers (LW: 15). Remember that five-game winning streak when it looked like they turned things around? They are 2-4-1 since then. 

18. Nashville Predators (LW: 16). Yeah, they crushed San Jose, but that loss to Seattle is going to hurt. Can not lose that game when you are fighting for a playoff spot.

19. Winnipeg Jets (LW: 20). Nikolaj Ehlers being back will help, but it is not going to make up that much ground in the standings.

20. Columbus Blue Jackets (LW: 19). Patrik Laine keeps rolling. If they get him signed long term there is a nice future here.

21. Anaheim Ducks (LW: 23). Every team competing with them for a playoff spot has multiple games in hand on them. That is going to be their problem the rest of the way. Valiant effort this season. Not quite there yet.

22. Detroit Red Wings (LW: 21). They are running out of steam, but the core of players that will make them contenders again is in place.

23. New York Islanders (LW: 22). The lack of offense has finally caught up to them, among other things.

[Related: 2021-22 NHL Trade Tracker]

24. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 26). They have won seven out of their past eight games and beaten St. Louis, Calgary, Edmonton, and Toronto along the way. It is crazy the impact Martin St. Louis has had on this team already.

25. New Jersey Devils (LW: 28). Jesper Bratt‘s development has been a huge bright spot this season.

26. San Jose Sharks (LW: 26). Erik Karlsson‘s injury has been too much to overcome this season. They are just 3-7-5 since he exited the lineup.

27. Ottawa Senators (LW: 24). Just when it looked like Matt Murray had turned things around he hit another ugly stretch of hockey.

28. Chicago Blackhawks (LW: 27). There should be no untouchable players on this roster in trade talks.

29. Philadelphia Flyers (LW: 29). The worst thing about this season would be if the front office thinks it is a fluke and they can compete again next season. Not sure that is going to happen.

[Related: Finding the right team for Giroux to chase the Stanley Cup]

30. Buffalo Sabres (LW: 31). Is Tage Thompson‘s season the result of him finally having a breakout season, or simply a matter of “somebody has to score some goals.” Somebody is going to get top minutes, and top power play time, and finish as the leading scorer, even on bad teams.

31. Seattle Kraken (LW: 30). The Kraken should be aggressive at the trade deadline in terms of shopping players. Not sure their “core” is in place yet.

32. Arizona Coyotes (LW: 32). They have beaten the Avalanche twice this season. That is stunning.

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    Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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    BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

    The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

    Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

    Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

    Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

    The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

    Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

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    ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

    Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

    These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

    In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

    “Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

    Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

    “He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

    Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

    “I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

    Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

    “I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

    Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

    “I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

    Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

    The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

    One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

    “It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

    Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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    SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

    Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

    “Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

    The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

    Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

    Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

    Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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    The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

    The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

    General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

    The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

    Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

    Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

    “I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

    Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

    “Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

    After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.