NHL Power Rankings: Lightning return to Top 3 as Leafs continue to slide

Ryan Lambert

Hey everyone, we here at Yahoo! Sports are doing real power rankings for teams Nos. 1-31. Here they are, based on only how I am feeling about these teams and their chances to win the Cup, meaning you can’t tell me I’m wrong because these are my feelings and feelings can’t be wrong. Please enjoy the Power Feelings.

31. Ottawa Senators (Last week: 29)

Things are grim at the bottom of the league. The Sens’ convincing wins over New Jersey and Philadelphia were kinda painted over to the fact that they gave up eight goals to Carolina and lost to the freaking Sabres.

Frankly, I know this is the kind of thing where Senators fans will go “We have a better record than Detroit though!” and all that sort of thing and I get it, but let’s be honest: The bottom five are effectively all tied for last. The Senators just have the ignominy of being worse on paper than every team in the league. Also, they averaged 24 shots per game over the last week. Pathetic.

30. Columbus Blue Jackets (LW: 30)

29. Los Angeles Kings (LW: 31)

The other thing to say with these bottom five teams is that some of them are on weirdly-hot runs. The Kings went 3-0 this week, held opponents to just six goals, all that. They also outshot the competition. Not that they’re going to turn it around or anything like that. This is all just one of the quirks of the sport. But you certainly take the Ws where you can get them.

28. New York Rangers (LW: 27)

A very good thing about the ongoing Lias Andersson saga — just days after David Quinn gave him a pep talk about how much the organization likes him, then played him less than four minutes before sending him to Hartford — is that getting away from Quinn and the dead weight he was lugging around when he was getting literally any time at all with the big club.

He’ll assuredly get ice time he actually deserves (see also: more than 11 minutes a night) and his linemates won’t be Brendan Smith — who’s not an NHL defenseman, let alone an NHL forward — and Micheal Haley.

Quinn’s doing an awful job with all of this.

27. Detroit Red Wings (LW: 28)

Sure they’ve lost two straight, but can you really complain about two OT/SO losses following three wins? Not with this roster, you can’t. Unless you’re on Team Tank. Which I guess you should be. The good news: Even with eight points from last five games, they’re still only one point above the league basement. Pretty good.

26. Anaheim Ducks (LW: 26)

Beating the Blues in St. Louis to end a five-game losing streak is nice but it’s not the kind of thing you should count on with this roster. Also, their schedule in the next week is brutal: at Washington, at Florida, at Tampa, hosting the Islanders. All in seven days. No thanks!

25. Minnesota Wild (LW: 23)

Technically in the basement right now and that’s worse than even a lot of pessimists would have said to start the year, given how clearly defined the rest of the detritus at the bottom of the league was. That said: They’re better than they’ve shown and they were always going to struggle. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to simply “struggle worse.”

24. Buffalo Sabres (LW: 21)

23. Philadelphia Flyers (LW: 22)

Three losses in a row after four wins in a row. The good news is they have points from all but one of their last nine games. The bad news is even that has them hanging on tenuously to a playoff spot.

If the results aren’t there consistently in the near future, looks like even that Early Vigneault magic isn’t going to help them that much.

22. New Jersey Devils (LW: 24)

21. Chicago (LW: 25)

The tedium of the “They’re turning it around!” columns already emanating from the greater Chicago area should serve as a warning to us all: The only thing the hockey media ever cares about is goal difference, and by extension wins and losses. This 6-1-2 run has seen them get out shot by 98.

The nuclear Toews for Selke/Kane for Hart/Lehner for Vezina takes are days away.

Are all these Sabres hot streaks of the past few years not instructional here? Did we collectively forget Chicago’s seven-game win streak because it’s inconvenient to remember such things? Let’s put it this way: After last season’s start, this team had a seven- and five-game win streak that juuuuuust barely convinced the locals there was something here to build on. They went 9-14-6 in all the other games.

If you want to say they’re a bubble playoff team because Lehner is playing his ass off, go nuts, but any other pronouncements about this team’s potential should be deposited in the nearest trash can and taken to the dump.

20. Winnipeg Jets (LW: 19)

19. Vancouver Canucks (LW: 18)

18. Edmonton Oilers (LW: 17)

That offense is goin’, man. A big-time 23 goals in the last five games. McDavid and/or Draisaitl only had points on 17 of them. Maybe everyone else is getting it going? Just kidding.

Draisaitl and McDavid have 43 and 40 points, respectively, in 22 games. The next-closest scorers (in a four-way tie) have 15. It’s amazing.

17. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 20)

One thing you have to like about these guys is how aggressively they will pursue never being too good or too bad. Every time you think they’re trending in one direction or the other, they take a sharp turn and really surprise you with a 6-1 win or a 5-4 loss and you never know what’s coming next.

Fun for outsiders, but being inside that bubble has to be infuriating.

16. Arizona Coyotes (LW: 15)

I officially have no idea what to make of the Pacific anymore. The Oilers currently leading it — comfortably, I might add — has basically no chance at winning the Cup unless Draisaitl and McDavid can score three goals a night every night for the entire playoffs.

At least with the Coyotes, you say, “Well, there’s a goalie there.” And even then: That goalie is Darcy Kuemper and you have to be looking at your watch like, “He’s really not .935, right?” The offense is just not there with these guys and I can’t see any of this success so far lasting if Kuemper doesn’t do this all year.

15. Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: 12)

Did you know this is the best 5-on-5 xG team in the league? It’s incredible, really, given everything they’ve been through.

Well actually, I guess the incredible thing is that they’re only in fourth place in their division despite a league-leading goal difference. Same goal difference as Boston. Hockey’s tough, man.

14. Florida Panthers (LW: 13)

Meanwhile, the Panthers are third in what was supposed to be the toughest division in hockey having scored and allowed the same number of goals (74, a whopping 3.7 per game). Imagine you’re a team scoring 3.7 goals per game and you don’t know on any given night if that’s even gonna be enough. Brutal.

13. San Jose Sharks (LW: 14)

A six-game win streak isn’t enough to get them back into the playoff picture, which should tell you all you need to know about how awful they’ve been. Here’s a fun breakdown.

Before their current streak: 8.3 percent shooting, .881 save percentage.

Current streak: 15.5 percent shooting, .891 save percentage.

They’re also outshooting their opponents more consistently, but mostly, it’s that simple.

12. Calgary Flames (LW: 11)

We have every reason to believe in this group, and yet they keep saying, “Okay, but what if we gave you another reason not to?” They’re a point up on Chicago with three more games played. Like I said, I have no idea what to do with this division.

11. Dallas Stars (LW: 16)

Case in point: Let’s say you just woke up from a year-long coma and the last thing you remember is the Jim Lites rant. How can you expect them to believe both of these things simultaneously:

Everyone in Dallas agrees Benn and Seguin stink again.

They’ve won 10 of the last 12.

At any rate, I can’t have these guys rising too fast because, well, the way the West has gone this year, they could lose six straight and be below LA in the standings two weeks from now.

10. Nashville Predators (LW: 9)

Another case in point: Panic in Nashville, as four straight losses dropped them from comfortably in the divisional playoff picture to four points out of a playoff spot. The West is bonkers this year.

9. Colorado Avalanche (LW: 10)

Since these guys smoked Nashville at home a week and a half ago, it’s been the MacKinnon/Makar show. In five games, Nathan MacKinnon has 5-6-11. Makar has 4-6-10. You get the feeling these two guys could do it forever.

“No no, Mikka, take your time coming back. Don’t sweat it, Gabe. No worries.”

8. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 6)

Consider this a placeholder for that Babcock firing/major trade we all assume is coming but probably won’t because this is the NHL.

7. Vegas Golden Knights (LW: 5)

6. New York Islanders (LW: 8)

I don’t know if I’m looking forward to a home-and-home so far this season more than those Isles/Penguins games tonight and Thursday. Pittsburgh is the only team to beat these guys since Oct. 11, albeit in OT.

Then after that they hit the road for, let’ see here, 14 of the next 18. Well, that’ll tell us a lot, you gotta think.

5. Carolina Hurricanes (LW: 7)

Three wins in a row, 17 goals in those games, etc. This is just a good team that’s on the right track again.

But this is a lot like a mirror image of Chicago last year: Winning streaks follow losing streaks follow winning streaks. This year they’ve won five straight, lost one, won one, lost three straight, won three straight, lost four straight, now this. Pick a lane, fellas!

4. St. Louis Blues (LW: 3)

3. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: 4)

You can’t be losing to Winnipeg, but they’re mostly taking care of business against the dregs of the league lately, which is probably what they needed.

2. Washington Capitals (LW: 1)

A few non-regulation results too many of late. They’ve been to a shootout in three of the last four, four of the last six, and seven of the last 11. No way to go through life.

1. Boston Bruins (LW: 2)

Ryan Lambert is a Yahoo! Sports columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

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