NHL Power Rankings: Maple Leafs climbing; Kings struggling

NHL Power Rankings
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In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings the Toronto Maple Leafs make a significant jump into the top-three thanks to an offense that is lighting up the scoreboard and a historic goal scoring season for Auston Matthews. They are 15-5-2 in their past 22 games (even with their goaltending issues) and are in a strong position to secure home-ice advantage in the First Round. They have also played extremely well against their potential playoff opponents, owning a 4-1-0 record against the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning.

In the Western Conference things are starting to get interesting in the Pacific Division where the Los Angeles Kings have taken what looked like a guaranteed playoff spot and fallen back to the bubble thanks to their recent stretch that has seen them lose 10 of their past 16 games. That includes their current three-game losing streak.

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

Where does your team sit this week?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Colorado Avalanche (Last Week: 1). Does not matter which top player you take out of the lineup, they just keep winning and steamrolling over the league.

2. Florida Panthers (LW: 2). The good news: The only thing that could hold them back right now is goaltending. The bad news: That is a bad thing to have as your potential weakness in the playoffs.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 7). The sentence above for Florida also applies here.

[Related: Matthews leads Richard race; what are his MVP chances?]

4. Carolina Hurricanes (LW: 3). They are still probably the most complete team in the East. Florida and Toronto are just playing a little better at the moment.

5. Calgary Flames (LW: 8). Johnny Gaudreau is going to make some serious money this offseason.

6. New York Rangers (LW: 10). They have looked great since the trade deadline even though Igor Shesterkin is not playing at his best. Great sign. Shesterkin can be better, and now the supporting cast around him is better.

7. Minnesota Wild (LW: 6). One of the most exciting teams in the league now has one of the most exciting goalies in the league. And Marc-Andre Fleury is off to a great start with them.

8. Boston Bruins (LW: 5). They have been great lately, but there is a small concern: They are beating up on non-playoff teams and struggling with top teams.

9. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: 4). Imagine winning your division and getting this team as a wild card opponent in the First Round. Might happen for Florida or Carolina.

10. St. Louis Blues (LW: 10). They have assembled an outstanding, deep, and balanced offensive team. They have scored at least four goals in eight consecutive games.

11. Edmonton Oilers (LW: 12). The coaching change has done wonders for this team. But is it enough to make up for the shortcomings on defense and in net?

[Related: Playoff goalie confidence rankings]

12. Washington Capitals (LW: 14). Just when it looked like they were fading a bit they beat Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, and Boston in three consecutive games. Goaltending is still something to watch here.

13. Dallas Stars (LW: 13). Jason Robertson is one of the best players in hockey. Get used to hearing that.

14. Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: 9). They have only won three of their past 10 games and Tristan Jarry has a sub-.900 save percentage during that run. Not the time of year for that. Plenty of time to turn it around. Also the talent to make it happen.

15. Vegas Golden Knights (LW: 15). With the Kings sliding they might actually pull this off. The rest of the Western Conference better hope they do not.

16. Nashville Predators (LW: 17). Their playoff spot should be okay, but they are not playing their best hockey at the moment.

17. Los Angeles Kings (LW: 16). A month ago they looked like a playoff lock and were gaining ground on Calgary at the top of the Pacific Division. They are just 6-7-3 since then and have Vegas breathing down their necks. Not great.

18. New York Islanders (LW: 18). They need more offense next season, including from Mathew Barzal. He has been good. He has the potential to be great.

19. Vancouver Canucks (LW: 22). They have been better under Bruce Boudreau, but his future with the team is not known beyond this season and they have some salary cap issues to work through. No idea what to project for them next season.

20. Winnipeg Jets (LW: 19). Kyle Connor‘s push for 50 goals is the thing to watch for here.

21. Columbus Blue Jackets (LW: 20). Jakub Voracek has five goals and 47 assists. Just a wild stat line for a forward.

22. Buffalo Sabres (LW: 21). They are finishing strong, seem to have done well in the Jack Eichel trade, and get to see a glimpse of Owen Power this season. By recent Sabres standards this is a decent year.

23. Detroit Red Wings (LW: 26). Mortiz Seider should win the Calder.

24. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 24). Cole Caufield probably would have won the Calder with a full season of Martin St. Louis as his coach.

25. Anaheim Ducks (LW: 28). Trevor Zegras might not win the Calder but he is the most exciting rookie (and one of the most exciting players) in the league.

26. San Jose Sharks (LW: 23). Doug Wilson‘s departure creates a lot of questions for the direction this team takes with new leadership.

[Related: Wilson steps down as general manager of Sharks]

27. New Jersey Devils (LW: 27). Seeing what Jack Hughes is capable of over a full season is something to look forward to here, even if things do seem far away.

28. Ottawa Senators (LW: 25). With Josh Norris having a breakout season and Tim Stützle looking like a cornerstone player the Erik Karlsson trade is working out nicely here.

29. Philadelphia Flyers (LW: 29). Difficult to see a path here for this team to be dramatically and meaningfully better next season.

30. Seattle Kraken (LW: 31). They played like an expansion team. They had opportunities to be better than a typical expansion team and missed them.

31. Chicago Blackhawks (LW: 30). Everything must go this offseason. Everything. The next cornerstone building block does not currently exist on this roster.

32. Arizona Coyotes (LW: 32). The only thing you can say about this season is that it went exactly the way everybody expected it go for them.

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    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.

    Bruins rolling, rest of NHL making final push for playoffs

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    SUNRISE, Fla. — Bruce Cassidy’s Vegas Golden Knights lost eight of 10 games going into the All-Star break after leading the Pacific Division at the midway point of the NHL season.

    They’re still safely in a playoff spot in the Western Conference, but they can’t keep it up.

    “We’re still in a good position – that’s the way we look at it,” Cassidy said. “There’s not too many teams that can cruise home the last 30 games in this league, and we’re certainly not one of them.”

    Cassidy’s old team, the Boston Bruins, probably could. They’re atop the NHL and running away with the Atlantic Division.

    With 39 wins and 83 points through 51 games, Boston is on pace to break the record for the best regular season in NHL history. The Carolina Hurricanes, who beat Boston in seven games in the first round last year, are next in the standings at 76 points.

    “Top to bottom, there’s no weaknesses,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said.

    The Bruins are in a class of their own, but the playoff races behind them in the East and West should be hot down the stretch with roughly 30 games to go before the chase for the Stanley Cup begins.

    METROPOLITAN DIVISION

    The Hurricanes rode a seven-game winning streak into the break, putting some fear into the Bruins in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy and home-ice advantage through the postseason. Winger Max Pacioretty re-tearing his right Achilles tendon five games into his return didn’t slow them down, and if their goaltending holds up, Carolina stands a good chance of reaching the East final.

    “This team, it’s a special group of guys,” said Brind’Amour, who captained Carolina to the Cup in 2006 and is in his fifth year as coach. “We kind of show that nightly. It’s just very consistent, and they take their job real serious. They do it right.”

    The second-place New Jersey Devils are contending for the first time since 2018. Bottoming out the next season helped them win the lottery for No. 1 pick Jack Hughes, a two-time All-Star who has them winning ahead of schedule.

    “Much better than being out of the mix,” Hughes said. “We’re really excited because it’s going to be a lot of important hockey, and it’s going to be really competitive and we’re really pumped to be where we are.”

    They’re followed by the New York Rangers, Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders. All three New York-area teams could make it, which was the expectation for the Rangers after reaching the East final last year.

    “I think the run last year really taught us a few things and stuff that we obviously could build on for the rest of this year,” 2021 Norris-Trophy winning defenseman Adam Fox said.

    ATLANTIC

    The Rangers lost to the Lightning in six games last spring, when two-time champion Tampa Bay reached the Stanley Cup Final for the third consecutive season before getting beat by the Colorado Avalanche.

    The Lightning are almost certain to face the Toronto Maple Leafs – who haven’t won a playoff series since the NHL salary cap era began in 2005 – in the first round and remain a threat to the Bruins.

    But Boston has separated itself despite starting the season without top left winger Brad Marchand and No. 1 defenseman Charlie McAvoy. The Bruins have lost only 12 games under new coach Jim Montgomery.

    “You just keep winning,” said All-Star right winger David Pastrnak, who’s tied for third in the league in scoring. “Every single line and every single guy is going and it obviously builds our confidence. It’s funny sometimes what confidence can do in hockey.”

    The Islanders should have some more confidence after acquiring 30-goal scorer Bo Horvat from Vancouver, but still need to make up ground to get in.

    CENTRAL

    Defending champion Colorado climbed in the standings – winning seven of eight going into the break despite an injury-riddled first half of the season. Captain Gabriel Landeskog still has not made his season debut since undergoing knee surgery. It would be foolish to bet against the Avs coming out of the West again.

    “It’s up to us: We control our own fate,” All-Star center Nathan MacKinnon said. “We need to definitely keep playing the way we were before the break. No matter who’s in the lineup we were playing well, playing hard, so it would definitely help with healthy bodies.”

    They still trail the Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild in the Central, and the Nashville Predators are on their heels. Only the Stars and Jets are essentially guaranteed a spot.

    “Every point, you grind for it,” Stars leading scorer Jason Robertson said. “Every point’s going to be a dog fight, so it’s going to be a fun 30 games down the stretch.”

    PACIFIC

    Undisputed MVP favorite Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers, who were swept by Colorado in the West final, have a little bit of catching up to do in the Pacific Division.

    The top spot is held by the Seattle Kraken, who surprisingly are on pace to make the playoffs in their second season but still need to fend off the Los Angeles Kings and the Vegas Golden Knights.

    Edmonton – and the Battle of Alberta rival Calgary Flames – have the talent to not only get in but make a run. McDavid leads the league with 41 goals and 92 points, 16 more than No. 2 scorer and teammate Leon Draisaitl, and is producing unlike anyone since Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux in the mid-1990s.

    Now he’ll try to carry the Oilers into the playoffs and beyond.

    “It hasn’t been easy at all for our group. We’ve kind of had to battle for everything that we’ve got,” McDavid said. “We’ve always been a second-half team for whatever reason. Even since my first year, we’ve always been better in the second half, so we’ll definitely look to continue that. That being said, we’re not going to hang our hat on that and expect that to carry us to the playoffs. There’s a lot of work to be done.”

    Capitals sign Sonny Milano to 3-year, $5.7 million extension

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    ARLINGTON, Va. — The Washington Capitals signed winger Sonny Milano to a three-year extension worth $5.7 million.

    General manager Brian MacLellan announced the contract, adding to an already busy All-Star break for taking care of future business. The Capitals extended forward Dylan Strome for five years, $25 million.

    Like Strome, Milano has fit in as a new addition for Washington. He’s now set to count $1.9 million against the salary cap through the 2025-26 season.

    The 26-year-old Milano has been a near-perfect bargain signing for the Capitals after joining them on an NHL veteran one-year deal after this season got underway. He has eight goals and 14 assists for 22 points in 40 games since getting called up from Hershey of the American Hockey League.

    Originally drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets 16th in 2014, Milano split his first eight seasons in the league with them and the Anaheim Ducks. He went unsigned as an unrestricted free agent last summer despite putting up 34 points in 66 games with Anaheim.