Rahl Bets | NHL POWER RANKINGS (MARCH 28, 2022)
With the NHL playoffs nearing, we at Rahl Reviews have decided to help you get prepared by summarizing what has been going on around the league. We will be updating our rankings every 7-10 days, so be sure to check back!
- Eastern Conference by Brandon Wamsley
- Western Conference by Brock Hartley
1. Colorado Avalanche (46-14-6)
This is the team to beat in a Western Conference that is weaker than most anticipated. Anything less than a WCF appearance should be viewed as a disaster. Even a WCF loss would be a disappointment for this juggernaut.
2. Florida Panthers (44-15-6)
The Florida Panthers come in at #2 in our post-deadline edition of the NHL Power Rankings. We really put a lot of thought into putting the Panthers in the 1 spot but had to give the nod to Colorado. With that being said, the Panthers are a clear number 2 and the favorites to come out of the East. The additions of Claude Giroux and Ben Chiarot at the deadline made the best team in the East even better, and the Panthers are poised to make a very real cup run with a ton of skill and plenty of depth throughout the roster. The only worry to be found in Florida is the injury to Aaron Ekblad, who is a key piece in living up to their Cup expectations. The 26-year-old Defenseman had already posted 15G and 42A on the season and was a Norris contender before getting injured. Ekblad is expected to return for the first playoff series though, and if healthy, the Panthers are as real a Cup contender as anyone. They will need to be more careful with the puck come playoff time, and dispose of some sloppy, turnover prone tendencies, but we have no reason to believe they won’t do just that and tighten things up when the postseason begins.
3. Carolina Hurricanes (43-15-7)
The Hurricanes fit very comfortably in the 3 slot of our rankings. While we never considered them ahead of the top 2, we also had no doubts about them at number 3. Carolina sits comfortably above the rest of the East here and the Canes are as difficult to play against as anyone. They have really tightened up on defense as of late and allow the fewest GA in the East. A lot of that has been thanks to an incredible bounce back season from Freddie Andersen, who seems to really love it in Carolina and will be a Vezina finalist with a .926 SV% and 2.07 GAA. The Canes only slight issue as of late is they sometimes struggle to score and create chances in the offensive end. We are really nitpicking here as these struggles are only very recent and Carolina still ranks 3rd and 5th in CF% and FF% respectively. We are just mentioning it because it’s difficult to find very many issues on this Carolina squad. Carolina added Max Domi at the deadline, in hopes to add a touch more firepower and remedy this problem to prepare for a run at the Stanly Cup Finals.
4. Calgary Flames (40-17-8)
What Daryl Sutter has done in Calgary is impeccable. A year ago, many thought Calgary would be a major seller at the deadline, and if not last year then almost certainly this year. Instead, the Flames were buyers this season, as Sutter turned the team around in a major way, currently sitting with the 2nd most points in the west.
5. Minnesota Wild (40-20-4)
I really liked this Minnesota team – but that was before they acquired Marc-Andre Fleury at the deadline. Now I love them. This is a well-built team that can score in bunches. Now with a future hall of famer minding the cage, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Wild playing for the Campbell Bowl come June.
6. Boston Bruins (41-19-5)
The Bruins weren’t going to be left out at the deadline and acquired Hampus Lindholm from the Ducks to add some much-needed help on defense. They didn’t pay a steep price for the 28-year-old defenseman just to use as a rental either, immediately inking him to a new 8-year, $52 million contract. While Lindholm helps a lot on defense, the Bruins did not address their lack of scoring depth at forward. The top 6 have no trouble scoring and David Pastrnak is on pace for the second 40+ goal season of his career. Behind that however there have been some question marks this season. As of late Boston is trying to erase those concerns and the depth scoring has been much greater on the recent win streak, and the added scoring down low has elevated Boston to one of the hottest teams in the NHL at the right time. The question remains however, will the Bruins be able to keep up this production when facing stiffer competition and tighter defense in the playoffs? On paper that question is worrisome however, on the brighter side for Boston fans, Jeremy Swayman has been a revelation in net this season, with a .925 SV% and miniscule 2.09 GA. The Bruins will have some much-needed stability in net heading into the post-season. If they can keep up the scoring throughout the entire lineup, and stay hot heading into the playoffs, Boston is certainly a team no one wants to see.
7. Tampa Bay Lightning (41-18-6)
The 2-Time defending Stanley Cup Champions are trying to go for an unprecedented 3rd Cup and come in just behind the top contenders to do just that. The Lightning have lost some key pieces of those past Cup champion teams, including the entire 3rd line from last year that was so key to their success. That being said, Tampa is still a very real threat in the East with plenty of firepower remaining behind the star power of Kucherov, Stamkos, and Point. The front office sent a very clear message at the deadline that they are still very much in “Win Now” mode, giving up 2 first round picks to the Blackhawks for Brandon Hagel. The Bolts also acquired Nick Paul from Ottawa in hopes to get back some scoring depth that they’re missing from the prior two seasons particularly on that 3rd line. Behind all of that firepower they still have maybe their most important piece in Andrei Vasilevskiy. The reigning Conn Smythe winner is having another outstanding season posting an incredible .920 SV%, 2.36GAA, and 24GSAx stat line. The Lightning know anytime they have Vasilevskiy guarding the cage, they have a chance to beat anyone. They are not the power-house favorite like they have been the past two years, but the Lightning remain a threat to everyone in the East.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins (40-17-10)
The Penguins are having their best season since the back-to-back Stanley Cup wins that now seem so far in the past. Mike Sullivan has gotten Pittsburgh back to playing a much more defensively sound game and the results are showing. The defensive breakdowns that crushed the team in recent years seem to be a thing of the past and the Penguins are among the tops of the East in defensive metrics. The scoring ability is plentiful in Pittsburgh as well and the Penguins added Rickard Rakell in a deal with Anaheim at the deadline to add even more firepower. Behind all of that sits Tristan Jarry. A guy that many wanted out of Pittsburgh, has become a fan favorite this season. The Penguins biggest glaring weakness entering the season, has shockingly become a strength and Jarry has been a large factor in the Penguins success this season. The netminder has managed a .922 SV%, 2.31 GAA and 14.1 GSAx in 50 starts as one of the NHL’s most active goaltenders. Pittsburgh is hoping to give Sidney Crosby another shot at one more Stanley Cup to add to one of the greatest NHL resumes of all time. Crosby is doing his part to get that opportunity. The Captain of the Pens has put up 69 points already in his 17th NHL campaign and scored 24 goals all in only 55 games thus far. Sid isn’t slowing down and remains one of the best players in the game still today. Couple that with the return of Evgeni Malkin, who has looked better than a lot of Pens fans expected returning from his injury. Malkin has scored 16 times and added 16 assists in only 30 games. Kris Letang rounds out the core 3 from all the past success and respectively having a very nice season himself with 56 points (49A) and a +20 rating. All 3 stars are showing they aren’t done just yet, and with Malkin and Letang both being UFA after this season, this may be the final run we get to see for one of the most dynamic trios the game has ever seen.
9. Toronto Maple Leafs (41-19-5)
So, when you see the final team in our Cup contenders tier is the Toronto Maple Leafs, you may laugh and say “heard that one before”. Nobody could argue against that point, and we are well aware of the Leafs notorious playoff collapses in recent years. We agree, they are going to have to prove themselves before any sane person could believe wholeheartedly in the Maple Leafs. That being said, there is just too much talent in Toronto to slot them any lower in our rankings. It all starts behind the face of the franchise Auston Mathews. The young superstar already has 47 goals on the season and is well on his way to pass the 50 mark for the first time in his career. The Leafs added some help on the back end as well, first acquiring Ilya Lyubushkin from Arizona, then more notably Mark Giordano at the deadline. The Leafs heard plenty about their lack of toughness and they believe Lyubushkin adds the size and physicality they need to win in the postseason. Others, though, may question how Lyubushkin will fit in with the Leafs current style of play. Giordano is a huge addition for Toronto, giving the Leafs a veteran defensive presence that will be crucial for the playoff success. The glaring issue for Toronto is goaltending. Jack Campbell seemed to many to finally be the guy earlier this season, but if you looked underneath the initial numbers you would’ve seen his GSAx numbers had him at the bottom of the league, and for reference he currently resides 62nd in the NHL, and 3rd on his own team. Considering the guys above him have very little experience, and hardly any at all for Erik Kallgren who appears to be their best option at the moment. Shaky goaltending along with lack of experience is the last thing any team wants if they plan on making a cup run. The Maple Leafs are going to need to find an answer in net and fast if they plan on finally making it past the first round.
10. New York Rangers (42-19-5)
Rounding out our top 10 are the New York Rangers. The Rangers are an interesting team because at first glance some may wonder why they aren’t higher on this list. The answer is because the Rangers record doesn’t exactly match their on-ice play. If we dive a little deeper into team statistics and metrics, you see that the Rangers are vastly overachieving in the win column compared to their play. For example, the Rangers rank an astonishing 30th in the NHL in CF% at only 45.56%. Just to put that in perspective, the 18-win Canadiens come in at 47%. It doesn’t get better if you look elsewhere either, the Rangers are even worse in the FF% category coming in 31st in the league. Just in case you’re not a fan of those metrics, take a look at xGF% (Expected Goals For), the Rangers rank 28th . The Rangers are by far the lowest among playoff teams in all those metrics. So, how are the Rangers winning all these games? Well, New York owes so much of their success this season to one guy, Igor Shesterkin. Shesterkin has been incredible this season and is the frontrunner and near shoe in for the Vezina trophy for the NHL’s best goaltender. He is also the first goalie in a long time that has a legitimate case for the Hart Trophy. Igor has posted a .936 SV% and 31.5 GSAx (Goals Saved Above Expected) so far this season. Shesterkin has really carried the Rangers this season being in net for 31 of their 42 wins. Sure, we will give Kreider a nod, 44 goals never hurt, but much of the team’s success is owed to the man in goal. The Rangers were aware of some of these glaring issues at the trade deadline and made plenty of moves to try and remedy the problem. The Rangers brought in 4 guys that will fit into the lineup, adding Justin Braun, Andrew Copp, Tyler Motte, and Frank Vatrano. Copp could really help boost scoring if they can find the right pieces to align him with and all of the others should fit into some of the big holes the Rangers have. All of these guys though, aren’t going to take care of all the issues the Rangers have. Ultimately, it’s going to be hard for Shesterkin to carry them through multiple 7 game series no matter how great he plays. So, for the Rangers to achieve post season success they are going to need to improve their play in front of him, and they’ll have to do it quickly.
11. Washington Capitals (37-20-10)
The Caps have been hot lately going 6-2 in their last 8. Things are trending in the right direction in Washington. The return of Anthony Mantha has a lot to do with that, adding a spark the team had been lacking. Vitek Vanecek has also highly elevated his play during the recent stretch and convinced the Caps front office he is their man in net. Many sources rumored the Capitals may be in the market for a goaltender, but those rumors faded when Vanecek posted a .930 SV% in the 10 games leading up to the trade deadline. Vanecek also deserves plenty of credit for the recent success. The Caps did make a couple moves, trading Daniel Sprong to bring back Marcus Johansson. They also added Johan Larsson from Arizona. These moves however aren’t enough to convince us Washington belongs in our top 10. Ovechkin hasn’t slowed down at all this year with 42 goals on the season and will once again be chasing the half-century mark. The top line in Washington can still score with the best of them, and they are sure to put up a fight come playoff time. It’s just not enough right now for us to the Capitals as a real Cup Contender.
12. St. Louis Blues (35-20-9)
It feels like the Blues were a move or two away at the deadline from being a top cup contender. I don’t think Nick Leddy is going to cut it. But then again, how did we feel about the Blues at the 2019 deadline?
13. Edmonton Oilers (36-25-5)
It’s been an odd season in Oil Country. It started off with a 9-1-0 record and a powerplay that was on a record shattering pace. Then the powerplay disappeared, along with their goaltenders and chances at a playoff berth it seemed. But then interim coach Jay Woodcroft came in and managed to right the ship, as the Oilers are back on track for the postseason. Any team with McDavid & Draisaitl is dangerous, but their ability to keep the puck out of their own net is still a major question mark.
14. Nashville Predators (38-24-4)
Cale Makar’s offensive output has gotten a lot of attention this year. Enough so that it’s probably a shock to learn that Roman Josi is the leading scorer among defensemen by a 6-point gap. His stellar play along with some show-stopping performances by Juuse Saros in net once again have the Preds on track for the postseason.
15. Los Angeles Kings (36-22-9)
This is one of the bigger surprises on the 2021-2022 season. We all knew the Kings rebuild was going well as they cultivated arguably the top prospect pool in the league. We just didn’t expect to see it pay dividends so soon. Yet here we are. The Kings currently hold the #2 spot in the Pacific Division and will look to make another run with Kopitar, Brown, Doughty & Quick, who were vital to their two Stanley Cups in 2012 & 2014.
16. Dallas Stars (36-25-3)
I’ve had a tough time reading this team this season. Early season road woes are the key reason that the Stars only recently crept into a wild card position. They are probably fortunate to be in that position since Tyler Seguin & Jamie Benn have only combined for 71 points this season, a number far below what we have come to expect from the duo.
17.Vegas Golden Knights (36-28-4)
I can’t believe how fast things have deteriorated in Vegas. They entered the season with Stanley Cup aspirations. A couple weeks ago, multitudes of fans took to social media to voice their theories that Vegas placed Mark Stone on LTIR in order to circumvent the salary cap come playoff time. Today, however, it would appear as if the VGK are going to have to fight tooth & nail to play in May. If their recent performance is any indication, they won’t be.
18. Vancouver Canucks (32-26-9)
I bet the Canucks wish they would have made their front office/coaching changes sooner. I’m not sure why they didn’t, but there’s a small beam of light shining on a playoff spot, even after a dismal start to the season. Vancouver has their work cut out for them, but if they can win some key head-to-head’s and maybe get a little help, then it’s as Lloyd Christmas would say – “So you’re telling me there’s a chance!”.
19. Winnipeg Jets (32-25-10)
Connor Hellebuyck is once again continually bailing out poor defensive play in front of him. The Jets are in playoff contention despite giving up the most high-danger chances in the NHL. They’ve ridden Hellebuyck’s play all season and will likely need to continue doing so if they want to be playing hockey come May.
20. New York Islanders (28-27-9)
The New York Islanders win this season’s “Most Disappointing Team” award. The Islanders have seen nothing but success since Barry Trotz came to town. Last season they added firepower at the deadline and took the eventual Stanley Cup Champions to a game 7 in the Stanley Cup Semi-Finals. Everything was trending in the right direction for the Isles. They kept the team together and even retained 2 outstanding goaltenders from the previous year in Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin. Everyone had the Islanders making the playoffs in the preseason with many thinking even bigger……then they played the games. Sure, starting the season on a 13-game road trip isn’t fun. Then they finally got to go home to a brand-new stadium and lost their first 7 in a row in their new home. The longest losing streak in NHL History for a team playing in a new arena. At that point it was clear the season was lost in New York, and it was hard to tell why. The Islanders just couldn’t get anything to mesh this season and their ranking here exemplifies this. If anyone is looking ahead to next year, it’s Islanders fans and one would think they should be optimistic. They are still going to have Ilya Sorokin who has established himself as one of the best Goalies In the game. They still have a young core of talented players. They will try to figure out which of those players they want to build around in the offseason, re group, and they should be icing a talented team next season. We will just have to wait and see if they can make it all fit together.
21. Columbus Blue Jackets (32-29-5)
Things went pretty much as expected in Columbus this season. The Blue Jackets weren’t great, but they also weren’t terrible. Columbus was competitive on a regular basis with some very stiff competition in the East. This season has to bring some optimism for the Jackets and their fans, showing they have the ability to play at a higher level than some thought they were capable coming into the new year. They have some nice pieces to build on looking forward to next season. The most apparent issue this season has been in net, an issue Columbus is hoping will be addressed by Danil Tarasov. The third-round pick has started 3 games this season and has a .937 SV% and 2.40 GAA to show for it. Sample size is everything though, and it remains to be seen if Tarasov provides an answer in an area Columbus will certainly be focused on during the offseason.
22. San Jose Sharks (29-28-8)
This season has essentially been a sneak preview of the future San Jose Sharks. Nobody has played more rookies than them. The results haven’t been terrible, as the Sharks are only 9 points out of a playoff spot. This season should be viewed as a valuable experience building tool for their young players.
23. Anaheim Ducks (27-29-11)
It’s looking like the rebuild is under way. The Ducks were in playoff contention for much of the season, but poor play recently has resulted in a drop in the standings, leading Anaheim to deal some key veterans at the deadline.
24. Detroit Red Wings (26-32-8)
The Red Wings have been rebuilding for a while now and this season we really saw how well that rebuild is going more recently. Things are trending in the right direction in Detroit with plenty of young talent and a system that continues to build. The most apparent example of that is budding superstar Mo Seider. The Red Wings hit big on the young defenseman who has posted 5G and 37A in his first season. The point total isn’t everything for Seider either at 6’4 (and plays even bigger) he adds a physicality in Detroit rarely seen in young stars. Dylan Larkin has done his part as well with 62 points and 28 Goals on the season, showing Detroit has young potential star power at forward as well. The Red Wings will continue to build in the offseason and try to get back to the winning ways Hockey Town is so accustomed to.
25. New Jersey Devils (24-37-5)
New Jersey might be pretty far down the list this season, but they will be moving up in the future and going into the 2022/2023 season. There is plenty of young talent in New Jersey and it all starts with Jack Hughes. Hughes is finally looking a lot more like the star everyone expected him to be, rebounding this season with 54 points and 24 goals in only 46 games. Hughes has elevated the entire team with his play, and they are showing as of late they can score with anyone. Everyone else in New Jersey has been doing their part offensively as well and the Devils currently rank 12 th in the NHL in CF% coming in at 51.08%. Jersey is even better in xGF ranking 9th. So, New Jersey can score, the problems for the Devils come on defense and really just lack of discipline and turnovers. As good as those offensive rankings are, the Devils rank 31st in GA. Overall, the situation is looking up in New Jersey, they can gain better defensive structure in the offseason as well as add even more young talent to build on.
26. Chicago Blackhawks (24-32-10)
The past year or so has just been flat out embarrassing for the Hawks, and that’s putting it politely. They brought in the likes of Marc-Andre Fleury & Seth Jones with the intention of once again finding postseason success. Things haven’t gone as planned. After the Kyle Beach story decimated the organization’s reputation, their on-ice play decimated their playoff hopes. They no longer have the coach, goalie or future aspirations that they started the season with.
27. Philadelphia Flyers (21-34-11)
The Flyers are similar to the Islanders in terms of disappointment. Not quite as much as New York, Philly won that award last season. Still though, most expected the Flyers to bounce back this season and contend for the playoffs. That definitely did not happen. The situation doesn’t look so promising heading into the offseason in Philadelphia this time around either. The face of the franchise in Claude Giroux is gone. The young talent they had surrounding him has regressed and now offers more questions than answers. Even Carter Hart in net, who was seen as a sure-fire generational talent has had problems the past couple years and no one seems to have the remedy. This means even the biggest piece the Flyers had to build on is now a question mark. The organization moved on from head coach Alain Vigneault in December and will have to decide if they want to retain interim coach Mike Yeo or look elsewhere after the season. This seems like the logical starting place to get things back on track in Philadelphia.
28. Buffalo Sabres (23-33-10)
Buffalo has made plenty of waves this season, just not necessarily with their on-ice play. The Jack Eichel debacle finally came to a close with Buffalo eventually trading the guy who was supposed to be the future face of their franchise and a perennial star. The Sabres did get Alex Tuch in the deal with Vegas and Tuch seems to have really taken a liking to Buffalo. They also received Vegas’ first round pick this year in the deal and that pick is looking like it might be a lot higher and a lot more valuable than either party imagined at the time of the deal. Tage Thompson has really had a breakout season scoring 27 goals and adding 22 assists. Buffalo will look to load up on young talent in this year’s draft and continue to improve heading into next season.
29. Montreal Canadiens (18-37-11)
In Montreal you’ve really had a Tale of Two Seasons. The season started horribly for last year’s Cinderella, beginning 8-30-7. The abysmal start led to the firing of Head Coach Dominique Ducharme in February. This is where the story turns in Montreal. The Canadiens named Martin St. Louis as their interim head coach and the season immediately turned around. Since St. Louis took over the Canadiens are 10-7-3 and look like a completely different team. The best way to put the change in perspective would be to just look at the performance of Cole Caulfield. Caulfield came into this season as the favorite to win the Calder Trophy after lighting up the score board in last season’s postseason run. Then after a slow start and no scoring Cole found himself playing in the AHL. Caulfield and Ducharme weren’t meshing and Ducharme showing little patience with Caulfield, constantly moving him around and playing him bottom 6, really just crushed the 21-year-old. Enter Martin St. Louis, a former NHL star player whose game really looked a whole lot like Caulfield, and everything changed. Caulfield has 13 goals in 20 games under St. Louis after having just 1 in the 30 games prior. The entire team has elevated play with Caulfield as well, and we may be seeing a lot more of Martin St. Louis behind the bench after the success and outright mentality change he has brought to Montreal.
30. Ottawa Senators (23-36-6)
Nobody was expecting much from Ottawa heading into this season and they performed pretty much as expected. Brady Tkachuck has really had a nice season and is well on his way to becoming a star player in the NHL as many expected. His 22G and 24A are more impressive than they look considering how much the team struggled offensively especially in the beginning of the season. Ottawa has a lot of work to do still to get back to being a winning team, but they have another cause for optimism in Anton Forsberg. Forsberg has posted a .919 SV% and 2.72 GAA in 32 starts this season. He’s really looked good underneath those numbers as well with 8.1 GSAx. Forsberg looks like he can offer the Senators some much needed stability in net so they can focus this offseason on building the team in front of him.
31. Arizona Coyotes (20-40-5)
After an abysmal start to the 2021-22 campaign, the Desert Dogs have shown life recently. Not that it matters much for this season, but the Yotes are 6-4-0 in April, which could be viewed as a positive for their rebuild.
32. Seattle Kraken (20-39-6)
This team entered the season with unrealistic expectations because of the Vegas Golden Knights’ instant success. That was obviously unreasonable, but I also would have called it unreasonable to think the team would be this bad. Back in October/November most of the fault could be chalked up to VERY bad goaltending, as the team had decent underlying metrics at 5-on-5. Things never really picked up, however, leading the Kraken to sell some of their key players for draft picks at the deadline.