Craig Smith

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

NHL Power Rankings
Rich Gagnon, Getty Images

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.

Where does your team sit?

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.

Scroll Down For:

    NHL Rink Wrap: Keith’s Chicago return, Cooper ejected, and surprising results

    nhl scores
    Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
    1 Comment

    Top player in the NHL on Thursday

    Craig Smith, Boston Bruins

    The Boston Bruins are starting to put it together and are now 7-2-1 in their past 10 games thanks to Thursday’s 5-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights. Jeremy Swayman has been a difference maker in net, and he was great again on Thursday, but Craig Smith provided the boost in this game with this third career hat trick. He helped the Bruins jump out to a 2-0 lead and then helped add some insurance in the third period. It has been a down year for Smith with just six goals in 47 games entering play on Thursday, so he and the Bruins absolutely needed a game like this.

    Highlights from around the NHL on Thursday

    Duncan Keith made his first return to Chicago on Thursday night and received a very warm welcome on the same night that the Blackhawks were honoring his long-term defense partner, Niklas Hjalmarsson. The Blackhawks were also 4-3 overtime winners against the Edmonton Oilers thanks to Alex DeBrincat‘s game-winning goal.

    The Minnesota Wild needed a win to snap out of their recent funk and they got it in Philadelphia thanks to two goals within 25 seconds in the third period to tie the game and then take the lead.

    The save of the night belongs to Swayman against Reilly Smith.

    Three takeaways from the NHL on Thursday

    Avalanche, Flames lose to Coyotes and Canadiens

    Maybe the Colorado Avalanche and Calgary Flames were looking ahead to their weekend matchup against each other. Maybe hockey is just random sometimes. Either way, the Avalanche and Flames both lost on Thursday night in games where they were heavily favored. The Avalanche lost a 2-1 decision to the Arizona Coyotes, the team with the league’s worst record, while Calgary lost 5-4 in overtime to the Montreal Canadiens thanks to a two-goal game, including the game-winner in overtime, from defenseman Ben Chiarot who no doubt boosted his trade value. Colorado and Calgary are the two best teams in the Western Conference and have both been playing outstanding hockey lately, so these two results are pretty surprising. Arizona has beaten Colorado two times this season.

    Lightning coach Jon Cooper ejected

    The Pittsburgh Penguins absolutely dominated the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night, winning 5-1 and doubling them on the shot chart to make quite a statement in the Eastern Conference and extend their current winning streak to three consecutive games. Evgeni Malkin was the star of this game with a dominant performance that included a goal and two assists, while Sidney Crosby, Danton Heinen, Brock McGinn, and Jake Guentzel also scored goals. Pierre-Eduard Bellemare scored the only goal for the Lightning. The weirdest moment of this game came late in the second period when Lightning coach Jon Cooper was ejected after screaming at referee Wes McCauley from the bench. During a mini-line brawl in front of the Pittsburgh net the Lightning ended up getting the extra penalty, resulting in Cooper’s anger. His game misconduct also resulted in another penalty, putting the Lightning into a two-minute 3-on-5 situation.

    Western Conference Playoff race update

    Interesting night here with the Oilers getting a point, the Canucks winning, and the Golden Knights losing. All of that means Edmonton moves into the third spot in the Pacific Division behind Calgary and the Los Angeles Kings, while the Golden Knights now currently find themselves outside of a playoff spot based on points percentage. Their .582 points percentage is ninth in the Western Conference while the Anaheim Ducks and Canucks are now right behind them.

    Friday’s big story

    Friday is going to be another significant day in the Western Conference playoff race with Los Angeles (at Columbus), Dallas and Winnipeg (playing each other) and Vegas and Anaheim (also playing each other) all in action. The Kings, Golden Knights, and Ducks are all separated by just four points in the standings, while Dallas is making a strong push with a 12-4-1 record in its most recent 17 games.

    Thursday’s NHL Scores

    Pittsburgh Penguins 5, Tampa Bay Lightning 1
    Florida Panthers 3, Ottawa Senators 0
    Minnesota Wild 5, Philadelphia Flyers 4
    Washington Capitals 4, Carolina Hurricanes 0
    Vancouver Canucks 4, New York Islanders 3
    Chicago Blackhawks 4, Edmonton Oilers 3 (OT)
    Boston Bruins 5, Vegas Golden Knights 2
    Montreal Canadiens 5, Calgary Flames 4 (OT)
    Arizona Coyotes 2, Colorado Avalanche 1

    How will the Bruins replace David Krejci?

    Boston Bruins David Krejci

    The Boston Bruins do not have many holes on their roster this season, but there is one significant question mark that might have to be addressed if they are going to make another serious run at a Stanley Cup this season.

    Just what exactly are they going to do to replace David Krejci in the middle of their second line?

    For the past 15 years Krejci has been a staple in the Bruins’ lineup and one of the most valuable (and underrated) players on the roster. Smart, skilled, productive, and a rock-solid all-around player that has been a vital cog on a team that has made three Stanley Cup Finals and won one of them, while also being one of the most productive postseason performers in franchise history.

    Instead of re-signing with the Bruins this offseason Krejci instead opted to return home to the Czech Republic (where he is dominating so far).

    That leaves the Bruins with a question mark on the second line between wingers Taylor Hall and Craig Smith, and could cause havoc with their depth. The one Achilles heel for the Bruins over the past couple of years has been their secondary scoring depth beyond the top line of Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Brad Marchand. While that line has dominated the NHL, the team has struggled to outscore their opponents when that trio is sitting on the bench.

    [Related: Every free agent signing by all 32 NHL teams]

    Krejci has been a rock centering their second line, but he has not always had talented wingers around him to help make that line a truly dominant scoring line that would strike fear into opponents. With the additions of Hall and Smith over the past year, they finally had that.

    Following the acquisition of Hall, that trio absolutely dominated the stretch run of the regular season outscoring teams by a 13-1 margin during 5-on-5 play and controlling the pace of the game by every objective possession metric. It was, quite frankly, one of the best lines in the league after it was assembled. The prospect of it over a full season would have made the Bruins a very formidable contender. And to be fair, they still almost certainly are a formidable contender. Just one that has a significant question mark to open the season.

    The hilarious thing about the situation in, depending on your sense of humor I guess, is that after about 10 years of not always surrounding him with consistent wingers, the Bruins finally found two that could fully complement him and his skill and it just so happens to come at a time when Krejci is ready to move on. They went from having the center and no wingers to having the wingers and no center.

    So what are the options?

    Internally, Charlie Coyle figures to get first crack at that spot and is the most logical choice. While his production dipped a little during the 2020-21 season, he still has the ability to score enough to make an impact in that spot and he did play well alongside Smith in their time together last season. So there is at least a little bit of chemistry there. Still, they are going to need Coyle to be better than he was a year ago to help fill that void left by Krejci.

    Erik Haula is another veteran option after joining the team this offseason on a two-year, $4.75 million contract. While he has not fully duplicated his breakout performance in Vegas during the 2017-18 season (injuries played a role in that regression) he has at least bounced back to being a 15-goal per 82 games player. He still might be better suited for third-line duty than being relied on for a second-line role.

    [Related: David Krejci leaving Bruins to return to Czech Republic]

    The wild card option might be Jack Studnicka, one of the Bruins’ top prospects. He has almost no NHL track record to speak of at this point, but has produced at the AHL level and played some of his best hockey with the Bruins when he was moved back to his natural position of center. He is the most unknown of the options at this point, but he might have the highest upside for that spot given his age and potential.

    The remaining option, of course, is a trade. But that creates another set of problems given the salary cap (they are short on space and still have the Tuukka Rask situation looming) and a thin farm system to deal from.

    Having two outstanding wingers like Hall and Smith to help carry that line should help soften the blow of losing Krejci, but finding a center that can complement them and help drive that line is going to be a necessity for the Bruins to be the team they are capable of being. The best case scenario is that Coyle or Studnicka emerge as that player.

    Related: Boston Bruins 2021-22 NHL Season Preview

    David Krejci leaving Bruins to return to Czech Republic

    olympic men's hockey
    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    Th Bruins are losing a significant member of their core as longtime center David Krejci announced on Friday that he is leaving the NHL to return to the Czech Republic.

    Krejci, who’s contract expired after the 2020-21 NHL season, said in a statement that he made the important decision to return home where he can play in front of his family who have sacrificed so much to help him achieve his professional dreams. Along with that he said it is very important for him that his children spend time where he grew up and get an opportunity to meet Czech family members.

    Krejci, 35, has been a member of the Bruins since 2006-07 season, scoring 215 goals and 730 total points in 962 regular-season games. He has also been one of the best playoff performers in franchise history with 124 points in 156 playoff games, helping the franchise to three different Stanley Cup Finals and one championship.

    [Related: Every free agent signing by all 32 NHL teams]

    In the short-term this is a big loss for the Bruins because they were almost certainly expecting him to again center their second line between Taylor Hall and Craig Smith. That line was outstanding last year after Hall was acquired at the trade deadline, and it gave the Bruins a great complement to their top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak.

    For years the Bruins had Krejci centering a second line that was weak on the wings. Now they have the wings to form a great second line and (for the time being) nobody to center them.

    One option to consider: It might put them in the running for Sabres superstar Jack Eichel. It would be costly to get Buffalo trade him within the division, it would require some salary cap maneuvering, but it would be intriguing. But whether it is him or somebody else the Bruins definitely have a need for that spot in their lineup.

    NHL Power Rankings: Most impactful additions of 2020-21 season

    In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we take a look at the most impactful additions teams made for the 2020-21 season.

    That includes free agent signings, offseason trades, and in-season trades.

    It does not include rookies, so for as impactful as Kirill Kaprizov or Ilya Sorokin may have been, they do not fit the definition we are looking for here since they were already part of their respective organizations as former draft picks. We are looking for players that were actually added to the organization.

    Regular season and postseason contributions are all counted.

    Leading the way are a handful of players making meaningful contributions to some semifinalists, including two of the bigger free agent signings of the offseason and one of the bigger trade deadline additions.

    Who all makes the cut in this week’s NHL Power Rankings?

    To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

    1. Tyler Toffoli, Montreal Canadiens. In terms of overall production and value against the salary cap this is the best addition of the offseason, and I am not even sure it is particularly close. Toffoli finished as the seventh-leading goal scorer in the NHL, has been the leading scorer on a playoff semifinalist, has a series clinching goal, and has been Montreal’s biggest offensive difference-maker all season. Not only that, he is also a fantastic all-around player aside from his goal scoring and they got him for a steal of a price against the salary cap (just a little over $4M per season on a manageable four-year contract). Tremendous move by Marc Bergevin and the Canadiens, and a miserable show of cap management and roster management by the Canucks to let him get away.

    2. Alex Pietrangelo, Vegas Golden Knights. Vegas’ latest big-ticket move was to sign Pietrangelo away from the Blues in free agency. It is a massive contract, but he has given the Golden Knights another bonafide top-pairing defenseman (along with Shea Theodore). Very strong regular season performance that is in line with his normal career levels and an outstanding postseason. They paid a steep price and they are getting big production.

    3. Kyle Palmieri, New York Islanders. A significant trade deadline addition. The Islanders needed scoring, especially in the absence of team captain Anders Lee, and Palmieri was a perfect fit in terms of style and substance. His Islanders career got off to a slow start, but he has been everything they wanted and needed in the playoffs. A big reason they are two wins away from their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1984.


    4. Devon Toews, Colorado Avalanche. As if the Avalanche needed another impact player on their blue line. They acquired Toews from the Islanders for two second-round draft picks, immediately signed him to a four-year contract extension, and got an incredible season from him. With Cale Makar, Sam Girard, Toews, and the arrival of Bowen Byram the Avalanche defense is set for years.

    5. Taylor Hall, Boston Bruins. When we saw Taylor Hall, we mean the Boston version of Taylor Hall. Because Buffalo, well, that just did not work out for anybody. Boston, though, was a very different story. From the moment he arrived Hall started to regain his top-line, MVP-level form and helped give the Bruins something they desperately lacked — a second scoring line. It did not produce a Stanley Cup, but if the Bruins can get Hall re-signed he should continue to be an impact player.

    6. Cam Talbot, Minnesota Wild. The Wild were one of the biggest surprise teams in the league this season, and the arrival of Kaprizov was a huge factor in that sudden turnaround. Better goaltending also played a big role. Talbot was not one of the bigger names in the goaltending carousel this offseason but he made one of the best and most consistent impacts for a Wild team that ended up being one of the league’s best.

    7. Carter Verhaeghe, Florida Panthers. In some ways Verhaeghe is a testament to the absurd depth the Lightning have accumulated over the years. He dominated in the AHL for them, could barely crack their NHL lineup, did not get a qualifying offer as a restricted free agent due to salary cap reasons, and then signs a cheap contract in Florida and plays like a top-line player.

    8. Jeff Carter, Pittsburgh Penguins. He showed he still has something left in the tank. A lot, actually. He was one of Pittsburgh’s best players following his acquisition from the Kings and figures to play a prominent role next season as either their third-line center, or second-line center depending on how long Evgeni Malkin is sidelined.

    [NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 schedule, TV info]

    9. Craig Smith, Boston Bruins. This was a really strong signing by the Bruins and along the same lines as the Toffoli deal in Montreal. Good player, good value, good fit. Smith, Hall, and David Krejci helped form an outstanding second scoring line in Boston that was a perfect complement to the big line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak. The only problem now is two of those three (Hall and Krejci) are unrestricted free agents this offseason.

    10. Corey Perry, Montreal Canadiens. This one is probably a surprise. Even though Perry is not the player he was at his peak, he has still proven to be a very strong addition to the Montreal lineup. He scored at a 15-goal, 40-point pace over 82 games, had great possession numbers, and has been outstanding in the playoffs during the Canadiens’ shocking run through the playoffs. He only cost them $750,000 against the salary cap. You could not have possibly asked for more from that signing.

    Honorable mentions: Tyson Barrie (Edmonton Oilers), Chris Tanev (Calgary Flames), Patric Hornqvist (Florida Panthers), Kasperi Kapenen (Pittsburgh Penguins), Brandon Saad (Colorado Avalanche), Sam Bennett (Florida Panthers), Mike Reilly (Boston Bruins), Jakub Vrana (Detroit Red Wings), Anthony Mantha (Washington Capitals)