This has been quite a topsy-turvy season in the NHL.
The expansion Vegas Golden Knights just completed their season sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning while moving 19 games over .500. They should make the Western Conference playoff bracket rather easily while also allowing general manager George McPhee to move a few veterans for long-term assets. That’s insane.
Last season the Colorado Avalanche staggered to a 22-56-4 finish. This season they moved nine games over. 500 with an eight-game winning streak, outscoring their opponents 34-13 along the way.
So it goes this season, with expected also-rans making postseason bids and the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins fighting to stay in the playoff race.
Below are Contest General’s newest NHL Power Rankings.
Boston Bruins (7-0-3 in L/10)
After a sluggish start, the Bruins raced back into the playoff race. They rolled through 15 games without suffering a regulation loss. The top line of Patrice Bergeron centering Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak caught fire, but Boston also got supplemental scoring from center David Krejci (23 points in 26 games) and rookie Danton Heinen (31 points in 40 games).
Goaltender Tuukka Rask came around, too. After posting 2.93 and 2.78 goals-against averages in his first two months, he was 9-0-1 with a 1.22 GAA in December.
Colorado Avalanche (9-1-0 in L/10)
Last year speedy forward Nathan MacKinnon scored 52 points. This season he scored 57 points in his first 44 games while bidding for the NHL scoring title. That sums up the stunning turnaround by the Avalanche under head coach Jared Bednar this season.
The good news for the Avalanche: They could get healthier soon, with forwards Sven Andrighetto (leg) and Tyson Jost (leg), defenseman Tyson Barrie (hand) and goaltender Semyon Varlamov (lower body) all getting close to returning.
The bad news for the Avalanche: They play 13 of 16 games on the road, starting with a three-game trip leading into the All-Star break.
Taking A Spill
Los Angeles Kings (2-7-1 in L/10)
They were one of the league’s better stories earlier this season, given the stirring revival of veteran forwards Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. But the Kings are lagging again. Their 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks was their sixth in a row.
“Guys are frustrated,” head coach John Stevens told reporters afterward. “I mean, guys are frustrated in the right way. No excuses, you’ve got to suck it up and win hockey games right now. You’ve got to find ways to win. Sometimes, you get outplayed and you find ways to win, and sometimes you outplay the other team and they hang around. Bottom line is we’ve got to start winning hockey games.”
Center Jeff Carter is back on skates and recovering from a leg laceration, but he could still be weeks from returning. Can the Kings stay in the race while he heals?
Toronto Maple Leafs (3-3-4 in L/10)
After extending their losing streak to four games with an overtime defeat to the Philadelphia Flyers, they heard from goaltender Frederik Andersen. He lectured the Maple Leafs about their flagging commitment to defense.
“He doesn’t say much, but when he says something, people listen up,” Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews told the Toronto Sun. “He’s absolutely within his right to be upset because we’ve left him out to dry too many times over this course of games. We need to be better for one another, we need to be better for him.”
NHL Power Rankings (Updated 1/21)
1: Tampa Bay Lightning (31-11-3) (LW: 1)
2: Vegas Golden Knights (30-11-4) (LW: 2)
3: Washington Capitals (28-15-4) (LW: 3)
4: Nashville Predators (27-11-6) (LW: 4)
5: Boston Bruins (26-10-8) (LW: 6)
6: Winnipeg Jets (26-13-7) (LW: 5)
7: New Jersey Devils (24-12-8) (LW: 8)
8: St. Louis Blues (28-17-3) (LW: 10)
9: Colorado Avalanche (25-16-3) (LW: 20)
10: Los Angeles Kings (24-17-5) (LW: 7)
11: Dallas Stars (26-17-4) (LW: 13)
12: San Jose Sharks (24-14-6) (LW: 15)
13: Toronto Maple Leafs (25-17-5) (LW: 9)
14: Columbus Blue Jackets (26-18-3) (LW: 11)
15: New York Rangers (24-17-5) (LW: 12)
16: Calgary Flames (25-16-4) (LW: 14)
17: Minnesota Wild (24-17-5) (LW: 16)
18: Anaheim Ducks (22-16-9) (LW: 17)
19: Pittsburgh Penguins (25-20-3) (LW: 23)
20: Chicago Blackhawks (22-17-6) (LW: 18)
21: Philadelphia Flyers (21-16-8) (LW: 22)
22: Carolina Hurricanes (20-17-8) (LW: 19)
23: New York Islanders (23-20-4) (LW: 21)
24: Detroit Red Wings (18-19-7) (LW: 24)
25: Florida Panthers (19-19-6) (LW: 25)
26: Montreal Canadiens (19-21-6) (LW: 26)
27: Edmonton Oilers (20-23-3) (LW: 27)
28: Vancouver Canucks (18-21-6) (LW: 28)
29: Ottawa Senators (15-19-9) (LW: 29)
30: Buffalo Sabres (11-25-9) (LW: 30)
31: Arizona Coyotes (10-28-9) (LW: 31)