NHL Power Rankings: Avalanche stay in first; Capitals, Predators improve

NHL Power Rankings
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In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings the Colorado Avalanche maintain their spot in first place despite a growing injury list that now includes Gabriel Landeskog and Samuel Girard. They are in a tough race with the Carolina Hurricanes (who remain in the second spot) for the Presidents’ Trophy.

There are not many major changes in this week’s top-10, but the Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators both make nice jumps this week thanks to their improved play in recent weeks.

The Capitals might be getting enough goaltending from Vitek Vanecek to allow them to search for other upgrades at the trade deadline, while the Nashville Predators are getting a great bounce back season from Matt Duchene to help further solidify their playoff spot.

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). Injuries to Landeskog and Girard are going to hurt, but their salary cap situation might open up for a big addition before the NHL trade deadline (depending on how long Landeskog is sidelined).

2. Carolina Hurricanes (LW: 2). They are reportedly close to an eight-year contract extension for Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Could be a big win if he becomes the player they hope, but also a little bit of a risk if he does not.

3. Florida Panthers (LW: 5). Their offense is just laughably good. They have scored at least five goals in 25 of their 59 games this season. That is nearly half of their games.

4. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: 3). Andrei Vasilevskiy is so good that a .918 save percentage seems like a “down” year for him. It is not really a down year.

5. Calgary Flames (LW: 4). This is a really good team, and as long as Jacob Markstrom keeps playing like this they will continue to be a really good team no matter how the rest of the lineup plays. He has nine shutouts already this season.

6. Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: 6). Their past seven games have been against some of the league’s best teams and they are 5-1-1 with 11 out of a possible 14 points during that stretch.

7. Boston Bruins (LW: 7). This team is just lurking in the shadows and seems like the type of team that will end up in the Eastern Conference Final before anybody realizes how good it has been.

8. New York Rangers (LW: 8). They are 29-7-3 when Igor Shesterkin is the goalie of record. They are 8-10-2 when he is not. They are Colorado when Shesterkin plays. They are Chicago when he does not. Talk about a good news, bad news situation.

[Related: Rangers trade deadline targets; Hertl, Miller, and more]

9. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 9). Goalie. Goalie. Goalie. Goalie.

10. Washington Capitals (LW: 14). The Eastern Conference is so good that this team is the eighth playoff team in the conference. Vitek Vanecek might be calming some of their goalie concerns.

11. St. Louis Blues (LW: 10). Their offense is legit, and if Ville Husso is in goal they are not going to go away quietly. Still need an upgrade on defense.

12. Los Angeles Kings (LW: 11). Injuries have really mounted for this team recently but that was a really impressive win against the Florida Panthers with so many players out of the lineup.

13. Nashville Predators (18). Matt Duchene very quietly has 31 goals this season. Did you know that? Now you do.

14. Minnesota Wild (LW: 13). They are probably not in major jeopardy of missing the playoffs but they are probably closer to the bubble than they expected to be given their start.

15. Dallas Stars (LW: 12). The absence of Miro Heiskanen is going to be significant, and probably guarantees that John Klingberg is not getting traded. Assuming the playoffs are still their goal (which they should be). Joe Pavelski‘s one-year extension was also a smart piece of business.

[Related: Stars re-sign Joe Pavelski for one year]

16. Edmonton Oilers (LW: 17). Back to back wins against Washington and Tampa Bay was significant, especially with Detroit, Buffalo, and New Jersey ahead. The key is not wasting that opportunity with those three games.

17. Vancouver Canucks (LW: 16). Hot take: They should not trade anybody and just see what these guys can do the rest of the way.

18.  Vegas Golden Knights (LW: 15). This is starting to get concerning for their playoff chances. Injuries are a problem, sure. But a lot of top teams have played a lot of games without a lot of top players this season and are not in this spot. Mark Stone is great. He is not so great that the entire operation should fall apart without him.

19. Winnipeg Jets (LW: 19). Expectations for this were higher than this result. They should have been higher. This team should be better than this.

20. Columbus Blue Jackets (LW: 20). Cole Sillinger looks like he has quite a future.

21. San Jose Sharks (LW: 26). They really missed Erik Karlsson when he was out of the lineup. A lot. Different team with him in there.

22. New York Islanders (LW: 23). Wonder what they look like with a fresh start and a more normal season next year. The goaltending is still legit.

23. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 24). The night and day difference in this team’s performance (on both a team level and individual level with the young players) is striking. Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki look like the players the Canadiens expected them to be since the coaching change.

24. Anaheim Ducks (LW: 21). Time to sell the pending free agents and get what you can. Still a promising future here.

25. New Jersey Devils (LW: 25). They have some key pieces in place, but making progress in this division is tough.

26. Detroit Red Wings (LW: 22). Their second half performance might be a little discouraging given the way they started, but this young core still looks strong. Especially now that Jakub Vrana is back and scoring goals.

27. Ottawa Senators (LW: 27). There are some good building blocks here, but the question marks still outnumber those positives.

28. Chicago Blackhawks (LW: 28). Just get it over with and start the full scale rebuild.

29. Philadelphia Flyers (LW: 29). Trading away a first-round pick for Rasmus Ristolainen and then re-signing him for five more years is not the key.

[Related: Flyers give Rasmus Ristolainen five-years, $25.5 million]

30. Buffalo Sabres (LW: 31). Beating Jack Eichel and the Vegas Golden Knights thanks to the players they received in the trade for him (Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs) is probably the highlight of the season for the Sabres.

31. Arizona Coyotes (LW: 32). Nice little stretch here with a 6-2-0 record in their past eight games with wins against Toronto, Vegas, and Colorado.

32. Seattle Kraken (LW: 31). Simply not the debut season anybody hoped for this year.

 

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    Ovechkin, and Ovi Jr., take the ice at All-Star skills night

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    SUNRISE, Fla. — When you’ve got the second-most goals in NHL history, you’re evidently permitted to bring a guest onto the ice for the All-Star Skills competition.

    That’s why there were two No. 8 Washington jerseys out there.

    Capitals star Alex Ovechkin took the ice with his Metropolitan Division teammates – and his oldest child, 4-year-old Sergei.

    Sergei, named for Ovechkin’s late brother, was wearing an Ovi Jr. jersey. The kid has built a bit of a following in recent weeks, after scoring a goal at a Caps practice in December and playing a role in helping the Washington crowd celebrate his dad’s 800th goal.

    It was Ovi Jr.’s first chance at being part of an All-Star weekend. His father hasn’t participated at All-Star since 2018, either because of COVID-19 or injuries. The last time his dad played in an All-Star event, Sergei hadn’t been born.

    Alex Ovechkin has 812 goals. He only trails Wayne Gretzky’s 894 in NHL history.

    And later in the night, Ovi Jr. got to center a line alongside his dad and Pittsburgh great Sidney Crosby. They each got an assist on a goal that Sergei scored – beating Roberto Luongo, the Florida great who came out of retirement for All-Star weekend.

    Said Ovechkin after his son scored: “I think he’s really enjoying it.”

    WELCOME HOME, LU

    Luongo got to be part of one more All-Star competition.

    In a building where a banner bearing his No. 1 jersey hangs – he’s the only former Panthers player to have that distinction – Luongo was a celebrity goaltender during the Breakaway Challenge during the Skills Competition on Friday night.

    He stopped his lone shot in the breakaway, off the stick of Toronto’s Mitch Marner. On one hand, Marner is the Maple Leafs’ leading scorer this season. On the other hand, he was also wearing a white suit, sunglasses and a light blue T-shirt to keep with a “Miami Vice” theme.

    Luongo, who was regaled by “Luuuuu” chants from the Florida fans all night, was up to the challenge. Marner tried to beat him to the glove side, but Luongo got enough of it to make the save – then flopped forward to cover up the rebound, the smile clearly seen through his mask.

    “You got too close,” Luongo told Marner.

    Later, Luongo told ESPN during the telecast of the event that “this is my house. This is my home right here. The crease is my home.”

    Luongo’s pads paid tribute to his career – the design depicted his time both as a member of the Panthers and the Vancouver Canucks. They were a gift from CCM for his making the Hockey Hall of Fame.

    “I’d never put the pads on since I retired,” Luongo said. “First time I put them on was this week. Felt pretty good.”

    He also took part, and scored a goal, in a Florida alumni game on Wednesday night. But if there’s more alumni games, Luongo suggested he might jump back into the net.

    “It back some good memories tonight to be in the blue paint, hearing the chants,” Luongo said. “Maybe one day we’ll hear them again.”

    REMEMBERING JIMMY

    Sergei Ovechkin – who knocked a shot into an open net during a stoppage of the skills events – wasn’t the only child who got a great view of the night.

    Philadelphia forward Kevin Hayes has his 3-year-old nephew Beau with him for All-Star weekend. Beau’s father was Jimmy Hayes, Kevin Hayes’ brother.

    Jimmy Hayes was 31 when he died in 2021 with fentanyl and cocaine in his system. He played for four NHL teams, including Florida.

    Kevin Hayes is part of an All-Star weekend for the first time.

    ANTHEM POISE

    “The Star-Spangled Banner” was performed by the South Florida Gay Men’s Chorus, and group crushed it – never minding that the crowd, representing several different fan bases, was going to shout some term specific to their team at various points in the lyrics.

    Florida fans shout along with “red” and “Knight,” one a nod to one of the team’s primary colors, the other for goaltender Spencer Knight. There also were some shouts from other fan bases; some St. Louis fans, for example, could be heard singing “home of the Blues” instead of “home of the brave” to close the song.

    And “O Canada” performer Hannah Walpole had some shouting as she sang as well, particularly when she reached the “true North” portion of those lyrics – something typically heard at Winnipeg games.

    SLAP SHOTS

    Cale Makar, the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner from the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, was the first participant in the Fastest Skater event – the opening competition of the night. He fell coming around the second turn. … Tampa Bay’s Pat Maroon, one of the broadcasters on the event, reported that he was “freezing” by working at ice level. “I’m used to the gear,” said Maroon, who was in a blazer and open shirt Friday night. … A big hit for those used to the regular colors of FLA Live Arena – and basically all other hockey arenas – was the ocean-water-shade of blue used for the blue lines and the creases. The faceoff dots at the circles on either end of the ice aren’t the standard solid red this weekend, but depict an image of the sun instead.

    Capitals sign Dylan Strome to five-year, $25 million extension

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    FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Washington Capitals signed forward Dylan Strome to a five-year extension worth $25 million.

    The team announced the contract during NHL All-Star Weekend, which is taking place in South Florida – the place Strome was drafted third in 2015.

    Strome will count $5 million against the salary cap through the 2027-28 season. He was set to be a restricted free agent this summer.

    “Dylan is an intelligent and skilled center and has been a great addition to our organization,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “We are pleased to sign him to a long-term contract. We feel his skill set is a great fit for our team as he enters the prime years of his career at an important position.”

    Strome is getting a raise from the $3.5 million deal he signed with the Capitals after the Chicago Blackhawks opted not to tender him a qualifying offer and made him a free agent. Strome has 11 goals and 25 assists in 36 games this season and ranks third on Washington’s roster with 14 power-play points.

    The Mississauga, Ontario, native who played his junior hockey alongside Connor McDavid with the Erie Otters has 206 points in 325 regular-season NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes, Blackhawks and Capitals.

    Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

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    Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports
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    LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced.

    The Knights termed the procedure as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

    This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

    But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

    Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.

    Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette charged with DUI

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    DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.

    Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released on $500 bond.

    The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette’s arrest and gathering additional information.

    According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette’s illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.

    The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.

    Online jail and court records didn’t list an attorney for Brunette.

    Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

    The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.

    The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.