Rahl Bets | NHL POWER RANKINGS (April 8, 2022)
- Eastern Conference by Brandon Wamsley
- Western Conference by Brock Hartley
1. Colorado Avalanche (50-14-6)
Not only are they the top dogs in the West, but the gap is widening after a week of poor performances by Calgary. I suspect this team wants to clinch home ice ASAP so they can take their foot off the pedal a little bit. Injuries and suspensions have posed problems for the Avs in recent postseasons, so with team captain Gabriel Landeskog already missing time from an injury and with another injury scare from Mackinnon this week, it would make sense to just take care of business and start shaving minutes from the top 6.
2. Florida Panthers (49-15-6)
The Panthers had the title “comeback cats” trending when they overcame a 4-goal deficit in the third period to beat New Jersey in the first game Florida played in April. They then earned and cemented that title for themselves the rest of the season by astoundingly coming back from another 4-goal deficit just 3 days later and this time they did it against the Toronto Maple Leafs, much stiffer competition to say the least. The comeback cats remain just behind Colorado in our rankings, but they will head into the playoffs believing they can overcome any obstacle. Florida has shown they always believe they can win in any situation, a trait that will surely be utilized in the postseason.
3. Carolina Hurricanes (46-17-8)
The Hurricanes have struggled a bit since our initial power rankings were released, going 2-3 in their last 5. The Hurricanes had to endure a couple rough patches throughout March and supporters would certainly like to see the Canes get back to winning more consistently heading into a postseason with the highest of expectations. That being said we aren’t concerned enough to move Carolina down in our rankings. They are still the second-best team in the East in our eyes and they still might be the best team in the NHL at controlling game flow and getting teams to play their game. Carolina is still in the top 5 of the league in every offensive metric, 2nd overall in xGF and 3rd in CF%. Freddy Anderson is making a push to challenge for the Vezina and Carolina still has all the pieces to right the ship in time to make a deep playoff run.
4. Minnesota Wild (43-21-5)
The Wild must be feeling good about this past week. The team went 3-0-1, including wins in back-to-back road games against the Hurricanes and Capitals. It would appear that the acquisition of Marc-Andre Fleury is already paying dividends. He has won all 3 of his starts for Minnesota, including a show-stopping performance against the Hurricanes where he won 1st star honors.
5. Boston Bruins (44-21-5)
The Bruins were the hottest team in hockey heading into April and they haven’t slowed down much. They swept a home and home against Columbus who has been a dangerous opponent for teams preparing for the postseason. They finally dropped a game to Detroit, but it’s hard to fault them much as they were heading into Detroit on the tail end of a back-to-back and playing their 3rd game in 5 days. The Bruins have improved in every area both offensively and defensively the past 2 months. They were already trending upwards before the deadline and Lindholm has been a perfect addition to Bruins. Craig Smith and Charlie Coyle are adding some scoring to the 3rd line with 31 combined goals, which was a big reason the Bruins struggled against the league’s top teams. Boston appears to be firing on all cylinders and if there is any truth to the “hot at the right time” mantra, they may wreak havoc in the East.
6. Toronto Maple Leafs (46-19-6)
If Boston was the hottest team heading into April, Toronto took the crown of hottest team when they went into Boston and won 6-4 on March 29th. They carried that momentum to 3 more wins in a row, scoring 7-6-6 goals in each game, respectively. Toronto has been the highest scoring team in the NHL since our initial release, with 31 total goals. All that scoring has led to a 4-1 record in their last 5. Even in their sole loss over the period the Leafs scored 6 goals and lead by 4 before blowing that lead to the aforementioned Panthers. We mentioned that Auston Mathews was well on his to 50 goals last time, well he’s already achieved that number easily and is now looking towards 60 and the Hart Trophy. Nobody questioned Toronto’s firepower and ability to score. The issue for Toronto comes on the defensive end. Sure, they scored 31 times in their last 5 games, but they gave up 19. For anyone that doesn’t like math that’s almost 4 goals per game. That is not a winning method for playoff hockey. There is more scoring talent than ever in the NHL, and a strong offense is now a must-have, but defense still does win championships. Toronto doesn’t need a top defense to win like many others, but they certainly need better defensive play than they are currently producing. Alongside the defensive issues we still don’t have a definitive answer in Net either. Overall, Toronto’s scoring ability is scary for anyone they encounter in the playoffs, but they will need to tighten down defensively if they hope to finally escape the first round.
7. Calgary Flames (43-19-9)
It was a brutal week for the Flames – both on and off the ice. Calgary dropped 3 games this week, securing only 1 point via a shootout loss. Then to make matters worse, it was announced that Daryl Sitter’s club would be without the services of C Sean Monahan It has been a down year for Monahan on the score sheet, but once we’re in the postseason where the little things matter more, Calgary will miss his experience, leadership and ability to win faceoffs.
8. Tampa Bay Lightning (43-19-7)
Everything was looking good for the Lightning heading into April, but the final month of the season has not gotten off to the start the Lightning were hoping for. They began with a win vs Chicago, but have lost their last 3, two of which were against future playoff teams in Toronto and Washington. Tampa has really struggled with giveaways and bad defensive play over that stretch giving up 15 goals in 3 games. The team misses Ryan McDonagh badly, that much seems clear. Some reports say the Lightning look tired; others say it’s a lack of focus. Both of these purported issues aren’t surprising from a team that just won back-to-back Cups and played more than team the last 2 seasons. Even though they were shortened seasons, the Lightning may be showing why it is so hard to win year after year in the NHL. Things aren’t slowing down for Tampa as they still have 12 games remaining all jam packed in the April schedule. The star power is still there, and they still have Andrei Vasilevskiy between the pipes. They still know how to win in the playoffs and Jon Cooper is sure to do everything he can to ready the team for another playoff run, it just seems like the magic in Tampa Bay may be coming to an end.
9. New York Rangers (46-20-6)
To be completely honest the Rangers are the most exciting update since our initial rankings. We ended the Rangers opening summary saying they needed to improve their play in front of Shesterkin if they had any hope of winning in the playoffs. Well, the Rangers have done exactly that, and they’ve done it at a shocking magnitude. We mentioned at the time of our rankings the Rangers were in the bottom of the NHL in every offensive metric, ranking 30th with a CF% of just 45.56%. Since March 26th, the Rangers are at a league-best 59.42 CF%. They are also in solo first of the NHL in xGF% at 61% over that time period. Sure, sample size is important to factor in here but regardless the Rangers have vastly improved their play in front of Shesterkin who has carried them so far already. The trade deadline additions have done wonders in New York impacting the team in a better way than anyone predicted, vaulting the Rangers to very real contenders in a deep Eastern Conference.
10. Pittsburgh Penguins (41-21-10)
The Penguins have hit a bit of a rough patch lately, going 1-3 since we put out our Power Rankings. While many Penguins fans are worried about the team, the schedule has had a lot to do with that record. Those 4 games were against Rangers, Wild, and 2 vs Colorado in a home and home. That’s about as a difficult as a 4-game stretch can be. Also, they did beat Minnesota, a Cup favorite, in their own building. Then they played the Avs tough both times and managed 40 & 45 shots in the respective matchups with the best team in hockey. The Penguins also out chanced the Avalanche (30-26) & (30-21) in the two games. All of this while a non-COVID illness of some sort made its way through the Pittsburgh locker room and left multiple players playing sick in both games. Mike Sullivan said he likes to believe if they keep generating shots and chances the goals will come, we are inclined to believe the same. One caveat to that statement though, the Penguins seem to be on a collision course with the Rangers, so it’s certainly no given those goals will come against Igor Shesterkin. The Pens will need to get back to playing better defensively and tighten things up in preparation for a potential playoff series against a quickly improving Rangers team.
11. Edmonton Oilers (42-25-5)
I would be lying to you if I told you that I had a good read on this team. This has been such a turbulent season for them that it’s tough to picture them making a deep postseason run. It feels like it would just be a matter of time before someone takes advantage of their weaknesses. But it’s tough to count out a team with such high-caliber talent, even if they are a little top-heavy.
12. St. Louis Blues (40-20-10)
Can Ville Husso play the role of hero? It’s beginning to look like we will see that question answered in the coming weeks. The crease has been split relatively evenly between Husso and Jordan Binnington all year, but Binnington’s game seems to be coming apart at the seams. His stats have been declining each year since his incredible 2019 playoff run that resulted in a Stanley Cup. So as a team that will try to out chance you, the Blues will inevitably need some big stops from their netminder eventually, if they want to win any best of seven’s. My guess is Husso will be who Berube calls upon to step up in those big spots.
13. Washington Capitals (38-22-10)
We mentioned the Penguins having a tough bit of the schedule lately, well so have the Capitals. They’ve played three games against top Cup Contenders, Carolina, Minnesota, and Tampa Bay. While initially struggling quite badly against Carolina and Minnesota, the Caps bounced back nicely with a very solid performance to beat the Lightning. Ovechkin notched his 1400th point with a goal against Tampa and John Carlson produced 4 points that same game. Those are two of the most important names to watch when Washington gets to the postseason. The Capitals are a tough opponent for anyone, however the outlook for Washington remains the same, we can’t see them as a real threat in the playoffs.
14. Los Angeles Kings (38-25-10)
The Kings just need to tread water over these final weeks. Due to the injuries on their blue line, they are in a survivalist mode. They currently hold the 2nd playoff spot in the Pacific Division. However, Edmonton is 1 point back with two games in hand, Vegas sits 4 points back with one game in hand. If they were to be pushed out of the Pacific’s top 3, they will be battling Nashville & Dallas for the 2 wild card spots. They are currently 4 points ahead of Nashville and 5 ahead of Dallas, but both teams have four games in hand. They do have a somewhat favorable schedule, as 7 of their 10 remaining games are against opponents with sub-.500 records.
15. Nashville Predators (41-25-4)
There’s a lot to like about this Nashville team. They have goaltending and play low-event hockey in their own zone – both are important traits for playoff success. Although I would have liked to see this team pick up a true goal-scorer or playmaker at the deadline, I think the Preds can make a little postseason noise depending on their first-round draw, assuming they get in of course.
16. Dallas Stars (40-26-4)
Since our last rankings dropped, the Stars have had a good run of play. They played 4 games and managers to take away 6 points. If the playoffs began today, they would be on the outside looking in. However, they are only 1 point behind Vegas for the final wild card position with four games in hand. They have won 6 of their last 8 and recently saw defenseman Miri Heiskanen return to action. Things seem to be going well at precisely the right time.
17. Vegas Golden Knights (39-29-4)
For the first time in their existence Vegas fans are dealing with the stresses that come with a late season playoff push. The injuries aren’t helping their cause, but after winning 5 straight it would seem that the Golden Knights are back on track. They’re going to need to stay on track because they are on a tight rope. They currently hold the final playoff spot, but Dallas has three games in hand and are 1 win away from pushing them off. April 26th – circle that date. The VGK head to the Lone Star state to face the Stars in a game that could very well determine who earns a postseason berth.
18. New York Islanders (32-28-9)
The Islanders are finally playing like the team everyone expected them to be at the begging the season. Unfortunately for Isles fans, it’s too little too late. They are 4-1 in the games assessed for our update and they look like a team that should be competing for a playoff spot. Their record will keep them from the playoffs but considering we initially said if anyone should be looking to next year, it’s the Islanders, then things are a lot brighter than they were before. The New York front office will have a lot of personnel decisions to make in the offseason that will decide the composition of this team next season. However, those decisions are made though, the outlook is positive for the Islanders in 2023.
19. Winnipeg Jets (33-28-10)
After a 1-2 week the Jets’ playoff hopes are slipping away. With only 12 games remaining and 6 points back of the final wild card, the Jets need to get hot in a hurry. If you look ahead at their schedule, however, there isn’t much cause for optimism.
20. Vancouver Canucks (34-28-10)
RIP Canucks playoff hopes. They were decimated this week. Vancouver dropped both games of a home & home against St. Louis, then fell in OT to Vegas – the team they are trying to run down for the 2nd wild card berth. While they aren’t mathematically eliminated yet, I don’t expect them to cash in on the 1.4% chance they have to make the postseason.
21. Columbus Blue Jackets (33-33-6)
Earlier, we mentioned the Blue Jackets being a thorn in the side of playoff teams forced to play them while preparing for a Cup run. The problem is even though they’ve given these teams trouble they still aren’t winning. Columbus finally ended a 7-game losing streak on Tuesday with a win in Philadelphia, but the losing streak in itself shows the Jackets have a long way to go. Cole Sillinger has looked like a bright spot for Columbus fans to look forward to watching as the young team tries to build into a winner.
22. San Jose Sharks (29-32-9)
It was a tough week for the Sharks. Last Wednesday they fell to the lowly Coyotes. They would then go on to drop the next 3 games against teams in the playoff picture. At this point in the season, you sometimes see cellar teams knocking off a giant here or there, since they are playing with house money and some of the younger guys are auditioning for next season. That could be something to look for out of San Jose in the coming weeks, as their schedule will afford them multiple opportunities to play the role of spoiler against teams fighting for a playoff spot.
23. Buffalo Sabres (26-35-11)
Buffalo might be the hottest non-playoff team in the NHL right now. The Sabres earned a point in 7 straight games to end the month of March. Of those games, 4 were against playoff teams. The young core in Buffalo is on absolute fire. Tage Thompson is probably the hottest with 4G and 7P in his last 8 games. The outlook in Buffalo is brighter than it has been in years, and when we compare the play of Tuch vs Eichel and consider the trade price, it’s looking like the blockbuster deal of the NHL season may have worked out a whole lot better than expected for the Sabres.
24. Anaheim Ducks (28-32-12)
The Ducks season has come completely unhinged. It’s hard to believe this team looked like a playoff contender for a solid chunk of the season. They are 1-12 over their last 13 games and there isn’t much reason to think things could get much better before year’s end.
25. Ottawa Senators (26-38-6)
Ottawa is another non-playoff team that is trending in the right direction heading towards the end of the season. The Senators are still building that much is obvious. They certainly still have a long way to go, but things look better in Ottawa. That may not be saying much but Brady Tkachuk is a great guy to build around and the Senators have plenty of room to work with in the off-season. We will wait to see where they draft but considering it will be high, they can add another crucial piece and keep up the rebuild progress.
26. Detroit Red Wings (28-34-9)
The Red Wings were really struggling at the end of March. It didn’t help that they had to play 3 straight playoff teams to end the month, but then they dropped back-to-back games against Ottawa. It looked like a season that had given Red Wings fans a lot of hope for the future was going to end in dismay. Then Detroit beats Boston, and the very next night flies into Winnipeg and beats a Jets team that just got back their top scorer in Kyle Connor. Detroit is a little bit all over the place. It looks like they may be playing for coach Jeff Blashill, who’s job status has become a big question in Detroit the last month. The upcoming final stretch of the season may decide if Blashill gets to continue to lead the team after a rebuild, he has been a part of for 7 years.
27. Montreal Canadiens (20-40-11)
The Canadiens are 1-3 since we last discussed them but 2 of those losses were to Florida and Carolina on the road. The win was at Tampa Bay though, so actually the road trip could be considered a success against the competition. Cole Caufield is still thriving under St. Louis which could go a long way into the Canadiens retaining St. Louis as the new head coach of the future. The other bright spot for Montreal is that despite playing much better since St. Louis took over, the Canadiens still only have 19 wins and 49 points, which puts them in prime position to win the Shane Wright sweepstakes and elevate their future aspirations to another level.
28. Philadelphia Flyers (23-37-11)
Losing their Captain Claude Giroux didn’t help the morale in the Flyers locker room even though they all knew it was coming and had to be done. The last couple of years have been as disappointing as possible in Philadelphia who thought they built a winning team that wouldn’t have required them to trade the face of the franchise. Not much has changed in Philadelphia since our original rankings. They are 1-3 since and still have crucial offseason decisions to be made, beginning with the Head Coach.
29. Chicago Blackhawks (24-36-11)
If “tanking” in the NHL is a real thing, we may be witnessing it with the Blackhawks. They’ve lost 5 straight, blowing leads in 3 of those games. They blew a 3-goal lead against Vegas, and then proceeded to top themselves two days later by blowing a 4-goal lead against Buffalo. Could we see Chicago year it all down in the near future?
30. New Jersey Devils (24-41-6)
The Devils come into our updated rankings on a 4-game losing streak. To make matters worse, that losing streak included blowing a 4-goal lead with 15 minutes remaining against Florida. Then, the Cherry on top of the misery, Jack Hughes is shut down for the season after suffering a MCL sprain against the Islanders. Hughes was playing like the star Jersey has been expecting and hoping for leading up to the injury with 26G and 56P in 49 games this season. Shutting him down was an easy call and it may be a good thing that he escaped with no tears and can get fully healthy for next season before anything truly catastrophic could happen. Even better for Devils fans is that without Hughes they’re less likely to win games and they can have an even better chance at Shane Wright. For the rest of this season Jersey fans should probably root against their team and just fantasize about having both Jack Hughes and Shane Wright on the same team.
31. Seattle Kraken (23-42-6)
Seattle was able to put a dent in Dallas & Los Angeles’ records this week, winning the games by a combined 8 goals. They did also drop two games to Vegas, but at least the victories are something that can be viewed as a positive to build on toward next season.
32. Arizona Coyotes (22-44-5)
This has just been a painful season for the Coyotes. It was already bad enough between the dismal performances on the ice and the news that they will be playing in a college arena for the next 3 years. Things got even worse this week when F Clayton Keller suffered a season-ending injury against the Sharks. I’m sure Yotes fans just want this season to be over.