NHL Power Rankings: Panthers in first; Blues make big climb

NHL Power Rankings
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In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we have a new team in the top spot as the Florida Panthers replace the Colorado Avalanche. It is not necessarily because the Avalanche have done anything wrong (they have won nine games in a row!), but more because the Panthers have won 10 games in a row and are scoring goals at a pace we have not seen in the NHL in close to 30 years.

Quite honestly the Panthers and Avalanche might best be suited as a 1A and 1B right now because you can not go wrong with either team in the top spot. They are both fantastic, dominant offensive teams that are clearly the class of the NHL right now.

Along with that change in the first two spots, we also have a new team make a move into the top-five as the St. Louis Blues move into the fourth spot thanks to their own fantastic offense and current nine-game winning streak.

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

Where does your team sit?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Florida Panthers (Last Week: 2). If they can score 14 goals in their remaining seven regular season games they will be the first time since 1995-96 to average at least four goals per game over a full season. Just need the goaltending to be solid.

2. Colorado Avalanche (LW: 1). If you wanted to fight me on them not being first again I would listen to it. There is not a wrong choice between the Panthers and Avs right now.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 3). They have set franchise records for wins and points in a single season despite getting some lousy goaltending for half of the season.

4. St. Louis Blues (LW: 10). Very quietly the Blues have become one of the leagues deepest and most explosive offensive powerhouses. They could have nine 20-goal scorers this season.

[Related: Blues have transformed into offensive powerhouse]

5. Calgary Flames (LW: 5). Bringing back Darryl Sutter has worked out quite well. Very solid team from top to bottom.

6. Carolina Hurricanes (LW: 4). Injuries to Frederik Andersen and Jordan Staal are very concerning.

7. New York Rangers (LW: 6). You got a glimpse of why Alexis Lafrenière can be such an X-factor for them with his two-goal effort against the Detroit Red Wings this weekend.

[Related: Trade additions giving Rangers new life]

8. Minnesota Wild (LW: 7). Paul Fenton’s run here was definitely weird for that one year but he did bring them Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Fiala. Those were big-time franchise changers.

9. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: 9). Still not a team that I would want anything to do with in a playoff series.

10. Edmonton Oilers (LW: 11). If Mike Smith can keep giving them solid goaltending they might have something here. That is a big if, but this recent run has been encouraging.

11. Boston Bruins (LW: 8). They have scored exactly two goals in five consecutive games and somehow still managed to win two of those games.

12. Washington Capitals (LW: 12). Offense is really coming to life lately. When fully healthy this is still an excellent team. Goaltending is the big question.

13. Dallas Stars (LW: 13). Jason Robertson is blossoming into a superstar for them. He is the engine that drives their team and offense right now.

14. Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: 14). They really miss Evgeni Malkin, but his suspension ends soon. Tristan Jarry‘s injury is the big concern right now.

15. Vegas Golden Knights (LW: 15). They will be a nightmare opponent if they make the playoffs. But they still have some work to do and need some help.

[Related: Golden Knights would be nightmare playoff opponent]

16. Nashville Predators (LW: 16). Sometimes they look like a team capable of making some noise in the playoffs, then they go and give up seven goals in a period.

17. Los Angeles Kings (LW: 17). The main thing they have going for them right now is their remaining schedule.

18. Vancouver Canucks (LW: 19). They have a nice winning streak going, but it will not be enough to make the playoffs. No team in the league will be more fascinating going into this offseason with the coaching situation and the salary cap situation.

19. New York Islanders (LW: 18). At least they know they have their goalie. Ilya Sorokin is sensational.

20. Buffalo Sabres (LW: 22). Still not sure what to make of this Tage Thompson season. Looked like a disappointment until this season, now he might score 40 goals and it is not even because of a crazy shooting percentage.

21. Columbus Blue Jackets (LW: 21). Jakub Voracek has five goals and 50 assists in 73 games as a forward. Just a truly bonkers stat line for the season.

22. Winnipeg Jets (LW: 20). Not a particularly good team. Not a particularly bad team. Just a disappointing team.

23. Detroit Red Wings (LW: 23). Pressure is on to make a big step forward next season. Just seems hard to make that happen in the Eastern Conference.

[Related: Red Wings mixed hope with more growing pains]

24. Anaheim Ducks (LW: 25). They do not win a lot right now but they are pretty fun to watch. Keep skilling it up.

25. Ottawa Senators (LW: 28). Everything we said about Detroit applies here as well.

26. New Jersey Devils (LW: 27). They have some foundation pieces. That is the important part. Now they need the complementary pieces. As well as the goalie.

27. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 24). Seeing Carey Price back on the ice this week was a welcome sight for Canadiens fans. Not sure he would have made a huge difference this season, but he can still make an impact.

[Related: Reviewing the Canadiens’ season as Price returns]

28. San Jose Sharks (LW: 26). Just not sure what direction they are going in here. This is not a good team, it is very expensive, and has an older core.

29. Philadelphia Flyers (LW: 29). They missed the playoffs just eight times in the first 45 years of their existence in the NHL. They have missed the playoffs six times in the past 10 seasons.

30. Seattle Kraken (LW: 30). So many what ifs from the expansion draft. It still does not make any sense what they were trying to accomplish here.

31. Chicago Blackhawks (LW: 31). How much of Jonathan Toews‘ contract would they have to eat next season to find a taker for it in a trade? At least 30%. Maybe more.

32. Arizona Coyotes (LW: 32). They have allowed 45 goals in eight games in the month of April. Teams are padding their stats against them right now.

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

mark stone surgery
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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.

Stars aligned with new coach DeBoer, Nill-constructed roster

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DALLAS — General manager Jim Nill sensed things were coming together for the Dallas Stars even before the season started with new coach Pete DeBoer and a roster mixed with proven veterans, up-and-coming young players, and even a teenaged center.

At the NHL’s All-Star break, after 51 games together, these Stars are leading the Western Conference.

“Every year you start, you put a team together, and there’s always going to be question marks,” said Nill, in his 10th season as the Stars GM. “You have ideas how you think you’re going to come together, but there’s always the unknown. . This year has been one of those years where right from the start, you could just see everything was kind of jelling.”

The Stars (28-13-10, 66 points) have their trio of 2017 draft picks that just keep getting better: All-Star winger Jason Robertson, goaltender Jake Oettinger and defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The seemingly ageless Joe Pavelski, at 38 and already re-signed for next season, is on the high-scoring top line with Robertson and point-a-game winger Roope Hintz. Wyatt Johnston, their first-round pick in 2021 and half Pavelski’s age, has 13 goals.

There is also the resurgence of six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin two years after hip surgery and 33-year-old captain Jamie Benn, who already has more goals (19) than he did playing all 82 games last season.

The Stars have a plus-40 goal differential, which is second-best in the NHL. They are averaging 3.37 goals per game, more than a half-goal better than last season when they were the only team to make the playoffs after being outscored in the regular season. They are also allowing fewer goals, and have improved on power plays and penalty kills.

“Where we sit at this break, I think guys are happy with that,” Seguin said, before being asked the keys to the Stars leading the West and on pace for a 100-point season with their new coach.

“Our style, our team speed, our puck speed, being predictable. All the clichés, knowing where the puck’s going. Really how we play the five-man unit,” he said. “Our pace this year, it’s been a lot quicker. There’s been some solid depth scoring this year while we’ve got one of the best lines in hockey.”

The Stars went into the break on their only three-game losing streak of the season, all 3-2 overtime losses at home.

“Those aren’t real losses,” said DeBoer, who twice has gone to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with a new team. “I’m happy where we’re at. I like how we’re playing.”

Plus, Dallas won’t have to worry in the playoffs about 3-on-3 hockey, which has been the only real stain on their season so far. Only one team has more than its 10 losses after regulation.

“We’ve played a lot of good hockey. We’ve made a lot of good strides in our game,” DeBoer said. “We still have another level we have to get to when we get back, but there are a lot of good things that have happened. They’ve worked to have us where we are right now in the standings. Good spot to be in.”

The Stars have 31 games left in the regular season. The first four after the break at home, like the last four before their week-long hiatus.

Robertson’s 33 goals rank sixth in the NHL, and the 23-year-old has the same number of assists while averaging 1.29 points a game even after he missed most of training camp before signing a four-year, $31 million contract. Pavelski has 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists) while playing every game, and Hintz 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in only 43 games.

Oettinger, who is 21-7 in regulation, has a .923 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average since signing his three-year, $12 million contract. That deal came after 223 saves in a seven-game playoff series against Calgary last May, capped by 64 in the series finale that went to overtime.

Nill said Robertson’s production has improved even with the league adjusting to the high-scoring forward, and that Oettinger is proving to be one of the league’s best goalies. But they are just part of what has been a tremendous team effort.

“They kind of had that mojo right from the start, and it was kind of this team’s got the right mix,” Nill said. “It’s come together well, and it’s shown in the standings. It’s been good to watch.”