It’s a rare occasion when a full week passes by and there isn’t a single change in the top five of our NHL power rankings. However, with so many teams off on bye weeks including two of the five teams on this list there isn’t much that is going to change. Here is a look at the NHL top five power rankings for this week.
1. Washington Capitals (39-11-6)
Last Week: 1
Stanley Cup Odds: +500
The Capitals entered their bye week with the best record in the NHL and it will be very interesting to see whether they can pick up from where they left off after so many teams struggled coming out of their week off. Washington is in position to clinch its second Presidents trophy in as many years and the focus for this year’s trade deadline will be upgrading the talent in place with gritty forwards that can really help put this team over the top in the postseason. The Capitals will ultimately be judged based on whether they can finally break through and reach the Stanley Cup Finals but in terms of their regular season it’s clear that no team has come close to this point.
2. Minnesota Wild (37-13-6)
Last Week: 2
Stanley Cup Odds: +600
Minnesota is the closest team to Washington in the standings but their approach has been much different than the Capitals. The Wild rank fourth in the NHL in goals per game but they don’t have a single player that ranks in the top-15 in league scoring. 10 players on Minnesota’s roster have scored 10 or more goals this season and that even approach across the board could be a key to success come playoff time. Meanwhile, the Wild need Devan Dubnyk to continue to play at a Vezina level in order to carry them on the back end. Dubnyk’s numbers have dipped slightly over the last month but he is still 31-10-3 with a 1.97 goals against average and a .933 save percentage this season.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins (35-13-7)
Last Week: 3
Stanley Cup Odds: +900
The sky might as well be falling in Pittsburgh when Sidney Crosby goes back-to-back games without a point but the reality is that he still has 30 goals and 61 points in 49 games this season to lead the NHL in points per game by a significant margin. Crosby isn’t doing it alone either as Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel have both topped the 50-point mark while Patric Hornqvist, Chris Kunitz and Bryan Rust have provided some solid secondary scoring numbers. It’s scary to think about the fact that the Penguins could still add significant pieces at the deadline to a team that won the Stanley Cup last season. The most interesting situation is in between the pipes where Matt Murray is the clear starter but Marc-Andre Fleury wants to play somewhere and could be part of a package that is moved at the deadline for another scoring option.
4. Columbus Blue Jackets (36-15-5)
Last Week: 4
Stanley Cup Odds: +1400
Columbus was bound to suffer somewhat of a lull following their franchise-record win streak but they have maintained a .500 record since that run ended and they are still in excellent position heading in to the final stretch. Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno and Brandon Saad have been consistent producers while players like Brandon Dubinsky and Boone Jenner have heated up of late. The Blue Jackets are another team with the potential to add at the trade deadline and solidify a group that is already fairly deep. The key for Columbus will be the play of Sergei Bobrovsky, the veteran goaltender that has been among the NHL’s best this season with 30 wins, a 2.19 goals against average and a .925 save percentage.
5. Chicago Blackhawks (35-17-5)
Last Week: 5
Stanley Cup Odds: +900
Don’t expect the Blackhawks to be quiet at the NHL trade deadline when they will have an opportunity to add a couple of key pieces to their current forward group in preparation for another Stanley Cup run. Chicago has leaned heavily on Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin and Jonathan Toews but they should be in the market for at least one more top-six forward and perhaps even two top-nine forwards. Meanwhile, Corey Crawford’s numbers have dipped somewhat of late and that has led to Scott Darling getting more starts. The Blackhawks need more from Crawford heading in to the postseason and it will be interesting to see if the addition of some scoring help takes some of the pressure off of their goaltenders and helps them bounce back with better numbers down the final stretch.
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