One of the only constants in life is change. Here at the Puck Show, we are certainly no different. We have tweaked our NHL Power Rankings slightly, and are now introducing the Puck Show Top 20. This is essentially the same idea as our power rankings, but with 11 less teams involved. There is little use in rattling off teams 25-31, for example, on most weeks as they have been, and likely will be, the same teams moving forward. We feel it is more efficient to spend our time producing additional content compared to ranking the NHL’s worst clubs. Besides, seeing who falls in/out of the top 20 is a good indicator of who we believe will be in or out of the postseason picture as the season moves along. Without any more hesitation, let’s get started!
1. Tampa Bay Lightning (31-9-3) (1)
They started the season here, and there’s a good chance they will finish it here. No reason to move Tampa out of the top spot as they are five points clear of the field for top spot in the NHL. Sending four players to the All-Star game is impressive in it’s own right.
2. Vegas Golden Knights (29-10-2) (2)
Vegas sits second in the NHL standings behind Tampa and they have games in hand on almost everyone. The ‘Vegas Flu’ is real as they have just two regulations losses in 21 home games this season.
3. Winnipeg Jets (26-11-7) (3)
After winning three straight since last week’s rankings, there’s no reason for the Jets to slide. They continue to win without Mark Scheifele. Perhaps Blake Wheeler moving to center and rattling off 11 points over his last seven games has something to do with it.
4. Washington Capitals (27-13-3) (6)
Winning five straight overall and ten straight at home ice spells dominance. It’s pretty amazing what the Capitals are doing. They lost half their blueline from last year’s Presidents’ Trophy squad and are still getting it done. John Carlson is having a career year while ranking second in defensive scoring and fourth overall in ice time.
5. Boston Bruins (23-10-7) (4)
This is how competitive the top of this list can be. All the Bruins have done is go 8-0-2 over their last ten and they drop a spot. They lost an OT decision in Pittsburgh and the Capitals have won five straight. Their previous loss was to Washington too, so there’s the tiebreaker.
6. Nashville Predators (25-11-6) (8)
The time for the Preds to take a run at top spot in the Central is now. They play eight of their next nine at home where they are 13-4-2 this season. Unfortunately for us, they don’t get a crack at the first place Winnipeg Jets during that stretch. The rematch is set for February 27th in Winnipeg.
7. Los Angeles Kings (24-13-5) (5)
The Kings have lost two straight which inches them down a couple spots. Yielding 2.36 goals per game (1st) and receiving a .925 Sv% from their goaltenders (1st) is going to keep them among the elite.
8. New Jersey Devils (22-11-8) (7)
New Jersey’s ability to bank points and play well on the road is impressive. They have points in ten of their last 12 and are 10-6-5 on the road. They haven’t given up less than three goals over their last five, so a tightening of the back end would serve them well.
9. Columbus Blue Jackets (25-16-3) (12)
The Jackets stole two points in Toronto on Monday but haven’t scored more than two regulations goals in a game over their last five. Their even goal differential is eighth in the East, so perhaps some scoring punch can be added to a team with a reliable goaltender at the deadline.
10. Toronto Maple Leafs (25-17-3) (11)
The Maple Leafs gave away two points against the Blue Jackets on Monday before losing at home to the lowly Senators on Wednesday. This is a team that needs the break more than most. They should still be fine in a weak Atlantic Division.
11. Dallas Stars (24-16-3) (14)
The Stars are rolling. Winners of four of their last five, Dallas is within striking distance of the Blues for a top three spot in the Central. Their road play is set to be tested as four of their next five are away from American Airlines Center.
12. St. Louis Blues (26-17-3) (9)
The Blues have been way too beatable at home as evidenced by their 7-4 loss to the lowly Panthers at the Scottrade Center on Tuesday. Carton Hutton is significantly outplaying Jake Allen, so Mike Yeo is left with a tough decision in his crease moving forward.
13. San Jose Sharks (21-13-6) (10)
A 1-2-2 record on their five-game road trip wasn’t what they wanted. After their five-day break, the Sharks will play eight games over a 12-day stretch. This will make up the games in hand they have on everyone, so we will know more about this team in a couple weeks.
14. New York Rangers (22-15-5) (13)
Their next three games come against the Islanders, Penguins and Flyers who are all within three points of one another. The Wild Card situation in the East could look a lot different by this time next week.
15. Colorado Avalanche (22-16-3) (19)
This is a fun team, something that seemed impossible to say at this point last season. Five straight wins has the Avs knocking on the Wild Card door in the West. Problem is, they are one of four teams within three points of that second Wild Card spot. Parity in this league is real, folks.
16. Minnesota Wild (23-17-4) (17)
The Wild remind me of the Blue Jackets. They are pretty good, but they also boast a goal differential of zero which is worse than nine teams in the West. They give up 2.14 goals per game at home (T-1st) but a whopping 3.52 per game on the road (29th). Clearly, better road play will be required to lock down a playoff spot and a 2-1 win in Chicago last night is a good start.
17. Calgary Flames (22-16-4) (22)
A four-game win streak has the Flames leaping up five spots in our rankings. They haven’t given up more than three goals in a game since December 4th, a span of 15 games. You have to wonder if their top four defenseman are now comfortable with each other and are forming the formidable group they were expected to be when Travis Hamonic was brought on board in the offseason.
18. Anaheim Ducks (19-15-9) (15)
These last few spots are a logjam. That said, considering the Ducks have played the majority of the season without their best players, they deserve a spot. They have two more big road games in Los Angeles and Colorado before a five-game homestand. John Gibson does not get enough credit for a goaltender set to record his third straight season with a Sv% above .920.
19. Chicago Blackhawks (21-16-6) (21)
They mauled the Senators 8-2 in Ottawa on Tuesday before going home and scoring one goal against the NHL’s 29th-ranked road defense on Wednesday. As it stands, this team isn’t good enough to get into the playoffs and it’s tough to see them beating a Western Conference opponent listed above in a seven-game series if they do.
20. Philadelphia Flyers (19-15-8) (23)
Winning three in a row has the Flyers sneaking into our top 20. The season the trio of Claude Giroux/Sean Couturier/Jakub Voracek along with rearguard Shayne Gostisbehere are having is unworldly. The contributions from the remainder of the roster have been disappointing, Ivan Provorov aside. You have to wonder if this current group would benefit from having Brayden Schenn back in that second line center spot where Nolan Patrick has understandably struggled as a rookie.