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Columnists

MORE From TSN'S Hockey COLUMNISTS

Mar 12, 2018

The 7-Eleven Power Rankings: NHL-best Lightning the team to beat

Lightning remain atop 7-Eleven Power Rankings

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With just four weeks to go until the start of the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs, the league’s most consistent team all season long, the Tampa Bay Lightning, remains the team to beat.

Undefeated in regulation in their last 10 games, Tampa is the first team to reach 100 points in their season of NHL-bests: best overall record (48-17-4), most victories (48), most wins (40) by a goaltender (Andrei Vasilevskiy), top scorer (Nikita Kucherov) and the highest number of goals scored per game (3.58). The surging Bolts are also the best team this week in TSN’s 7-Eleven Power Rankings, according to consensus rankings formulated by the TSN Power Ranking panel of Ray Ferraro, Jeff O’Neill, Jamie McLennan, Craig Button and Darren Dreger. Tampa has been perched atop TSN’s power rankings more than any other team in 2017-18.

Just behind Tampa is the No. 2 Nashville Predators (last week’s top team), who had their 10-game win streak snapped by the New Jersey Devils in a shootout Saturday. The Predators, just two points back of the Lightning in the Presidents’ Trophy race with a game in hand, face one of their toughest tests of the season when they host Patrik Laine and the No. 4 Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.

Rounding out the top five this week are the No. 3 Boston Bruins, who are riding a six-game home winning streak but lost the first game of their four-game road trip to the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday (they face the Lightning on Saturday), and the No. 5 Vegas Golden Knights, who set a record for most road wins by an NHL team in its first season on Saturday and are second in the Western Conference standings with 93 points.

The Minnesota Wild had a strong week, leaping to No. 7 in the rankings from No. 13 last week, while the No. 10 Washington Capitals fell four spots from a week ago.

Winnipeg is still the highest-ranked Canadian team, followed by the No. 6 Toronto Maple Leafs, who beat the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday to set a franchise record with their 10th straight home win, and the No. 19 Calgary Flames, who are just two points out of the final wild-card spot and welcomed Mike Smith back to the lineup on Sunday after a lower-body injury kept him out for a month.

The five worst teams in this week’s TSN power rankings include the No. 27 Montreal Canadiens, followed by the Detroit Red Wings, Vancouver Canucks (No. 29), Ottawa Senators and the bottom-feeding Buffalo Sabres. Is it finally time for an overhaul in the front office (the No. 21 Carolina Hurricanes may have started something by moving GM Ron Francis upstairs last week) or a change on the bench for any of these losing teams?
 

Tampa Bay Lightning
1. Tampa Bay Lightning

  • 2017-18
    48-17-4
  • LAST 10
    9-0-1
  • POSSESSION
    51.4%
The Lightning are 9-0-1 since Feb. 20. Seven of those games have gone to extra time, and they won six of them. Brayden Point has scored in all four shootout games, including the game-decider in three.
Boston Bruins
3. Boston Bruins

  • 2017-18
    43-16-8
  • LAST 10
    7-3-0
  • POSSESSION
    54%
A six-game home winning streak for the Bruins featured three overtime wins, while they outscored their opponents 30-19. Brad Marchand had 11 points in those games, including two OT goals and a hat trick.
Winnipeg Jets
4. Winnipeg Jets

  • 2017-18
    41-18-9
  • LAST 10
    7-3-0
  • POSSESSION
    50.8%
What a goal-scoring run by Patrik Laine, who hit the 40-goal mark, and is tied with Alex Ovechkin for the NHL lead before Monday's games. He has 15 goals in 11 games (he scored 18 in his first 43).
Vegas Golden Knights
5. Vegas Golden Knights

  • 2017-18
    44-19-5
  • LAST 10
    5-4-1
  • POSSESSION
    51.1%
Ho hum, another record for the Golden Knights. Their win in Buffalo on Saturday was their 20th on the road, setting a record for most victories by an NHL team in its inaugural season.
Toronto Maple Leafs
6. Toronto Maple Leafs

  • 2017-18
    40-22-7
  • LAST 10
    5-3-2
  • POSSESSION
    49.4%
The Leafs set a new franchise record with their 10th straight home win. Mitch Marner leads the team in scoring in those games (8-9-17) and Frederik Andersen won nine of them with a .938 save percentage.
Minnesota Wild
7. Minnesota Wild

  • 2017-18
    39-23-7
  • LAST 10
    7-3-0
  • POSSESSION
    47%
The last time Eric Staal scored 40 goals was in 2008-09 with Carolina. In 2015-16 he had 13 goals in 83 games with the Hurricanes (63 games) and the Rangers (20). This year he has 37 with 13 games left.
Florida Panthers
8. Florida Panthers

  • 2017-18
    34-25-7
  • LAST 10
    8-1-1
  • POSSESSION
    49.1%
A shootout win over the Rangers was Florida’s eighth in a row at home, establishing a new team record. The top scorers in those games were Evgenii Dadonov (6-6-12) and Aleksander Barkov (5-7-12).
Pittsburgh Penguins
9. Pittsburgh Penguins

  • 2017-18
    40-26-4
  • LAST 10
    6-4-0
  • POSSESSION
    51.9%
Both the Penguins and Evgeni Malkin are in battles for first place – the Pens for the division, and Malkin for the scoring championship. Malkin leads the league (16-19-35) in 19 games since the all-star break.
Washington Capitals
10. Washington Capitals

  • 2017-18
    38-23-7
  • LAST 10
    5-5-0
  • POSSESSION
    48.1%
A 2-0 shutout in San Jose was the second of the year for the Caps, and the second for backup Philipp Grubauer. Braden Holtby has none ( he had nine last year) and a 3.03 GAA compared to 2.07 last year.
Dallas Stars
11. Dallas Stars

  • 2017-18
    38-25-6
  • LAST 10
    4-4-2
  • POSSESSION
    51.5%
Although not what a typical Stars team has looked like, it’s typical of a Ken Hitchcock-coached team. Since Feb. 1, they’ve scored 43 goals (second fewest) and have allowed 43 (also second fewest).
Philadelphia Flyers
12. Philadelphia Flyers

  • 2017-18
    35-23-11
  • LAST 10
    5-4-1
  • POSSESSION
    49.6%

After earning points in 12 of 13 games in February, the Flyers have had a tough time in March, winning only once in six games (1-4-1). But they’re still in a playoff spot and Claude Giroux is fifth in scoring.

Anaheim Ducks
13. Anaheim Ducks

  • 2017-18
    34-23-12
  • LAST 10
    6-3-1
  • POSSESSION
    48.1%
Three home wins in a row for the Ducks, and three consecutive road losses. Ryan Getzlaf scored his 50th point this season, the 11th time in his career, establishing an Anaheim Ducks record.
San Jose Sharks
14. San Jose Sharks

  • 2017-18
    36-23-9
  • LAST 10
    5-4-1
  • POSSESSION
    51%
Back-to-back 2-0 shutouts, one for (Blues) and one against (Capitals), were the only two games the Sharks played this past week, but the highlight was ending a 12-game power-play goal drought.
Columbus Blue Jackets
15. Columbus Blue Jackets

  • 2017-18
    36-28-5
  • LAST 10
    7-3-0
  • POSSESSION
    51.8%
The Blue Jackets run hot and cold. Right now they’re hot, with four consecutive wins, and in a wild-card spot. Blueliner Seth Jones (13-33-46) is second in team scoring and developing into a team leader.
Los Angeles Kings
16. Los Angeles Kings

  • 2017-18
    37-26-5
  • LAST 10
    6-4-0
  • POSSESSION
    49.9%
The Kings laid an egg, losing 7-2 to St. Louis in a key game to slip out of a wild-card spot. The only King not a loser that day was Jake Muzzin’s dog, Daryl, who beat other players’ dogs in an on-ice race.
New Jersey Devils
17. New Jersey Devils

  • 2017-18
    35-26-8
  • LAST 10
    4-6-0
  • POSSESSION
    49.1%
Taylor Hall was finally held without a point in 2018, ending a franchise-record 19-game official streak, and 26-game appearance streak. The Devils then ended a streak, stopping the Preds' wins streak at 10.
Colorado Avalanche
18. Colorado Avalanche

  • 2017-18
    36-24-8
  • LAST 10
    5-1-4
  • POSSESSION
    47.6%

The Avs are on a seven-game point streak (4-0-3) to keep them in contention for a playoff spot. Since returning from his injury on Feb. 18, Nathan MacKinnon is 8-12-20 in 11 games – tops in the league.

Calgary Flames
19. Calgary Flames

  • 2017-18
    34-26-10
  • LAST 10
    4-5-1
  • POSSESSION
    53.2%
A 5-1 victory over Buffalo and a 2-1 win over Ottawa aren’t earth-shattering, but may be promising for the Flames who were 3-5-2 before that. Mike Smith returned Sunday from an injury he suffered last month.
St. Louis Blues
20. St. Louis Blues

  • 2017-18
    36-27-5
  • LAST 10
    2-6-2
  • POSSESSION
    51.1%
After being shut out three times in a six-game span, the Blues unleashed their guns, getting goals from seven players, in a 7-2 win in L.A., chasing Kings starter Jonathan Quick from the net.
Carolina Hurricanes
21. Carolina Hurricanes

  • 2017-18
    30-27-11
  • LAST 10
    3-5-2
  • POSSESSION
    54.1%
Not only did new owner Tom Dundon kick GM Ron Francis upstairs, he also lauded coach Bill Peters and doesn’t plan a major rebuild of a team that's on track to miss the playoffs for a ninth straight year.
New York Islanders
22. New York Islanders

  • 2017-18
    30-29-10
  • LAST 10
    2-4-4
  • POSSESSION
    47.4%
The Islanders ended an eight-game skid – four in regulation, four in extra time – with a 5-2 win in Calgary, despite allowing 52 shots. That’s the fourth time in their last 12 they’ve allowed 50 or more.
New York Rangers
23. New York Rangers

  • 2017-18
    30-32-7
  • LAST 10
    3-5-2
  • POSSESSION
    46.1%
The Rangers are 3-2-1 since the trade deadline, winning their first three games, but they’re taking a beating on the shot clock. They’ve averaged 43 shots against in those six games.
Arizona Coyotes
24. Arizona Coyotes

  • 2017-18 RECORD
    22-35-11
  • LAST 10
    6-3-1
  • POSSESSION
    48.4%
Despite a 10-3-2 run since Feb. 8, the Coyotes still have the fewest points in the NHL. That’s because before their current run they were 12-32-9. Darcy Kuemper has a .927 save percentage this season. 
Chicago Blackhawks
25. Chicago Blackhawks

  • 2017-18
    30-32-8
  • LAST 10
    5-5-0
  • POSSESSION
    52.9%

How is it going to get any worse for the Blackhawks? A 7-4 loss in Boston on Saturday ran their record in their last 10 on the road to 1-8-1, with an incredible 48 goals against in those games.

Edmonton Oilers
26. Edmonton Oilers

  • 2017-18
    30-34-4
  • LAST 10
    6-4-0
  • POSSESSION
    51.3%

Three wins in a row is meaningless in terms of the long-gone playoff race, but Connor McDavid is still in the race for the league’s top scorer. Since Feb. 1 he’s 18-12-30 in 19 games and in third (84 points).

Montreal Canadiens
27. Montreal Canadiens

  • 2017-18
    25-31-12
  • LAST 10
    3-2-5
  • POSSESSION
    51%
The Canadiens have just one win in their last 12 road games, and have been outscored 44-24. They are 9-21-4 away from home in 2017-18. Compare that to their 24-14-4 road record last season.
Detroit Red Wings
28. Detroit Red Wings

  • 2017-18
    26-31-11
  • LAST 10
    2-6-2
  • POSSESSION
    48.6%
The Red Wings have the worst record (0-5-1) since the trade deadline and are on their way to their worst overall record since 1989-90 when they had a .438 points percentage, compared to .463 this year.
Vancouver Canucks
29. Vancouver Canucks

  • 2017-18
    25-35-9
  • LAST 10
    2-5-3
  • POSSESSION
    47.6%
A 4-11-3 record since Feb. 3 for 11 points is the fewest in the NHL during that span, and their longest winning streak since Feb. 1 is one game. The loss of star rookie Brock Boeser to injury has really hurt.
Ottawa Senators
30. Ottawa Senators

  • 2017-18
    23-33-11
  • LAST 10
    2-6-2
  • POSSESSION
    47.4%

Ottawa’s point percentage of .425 is their worst since the first four seasons of the team’s existence. Even if they won all of their remaining 15 games, they’d still earn 11 fewer points than last season.

Buffalo Sabres
31. Buffalo Sabres

  • 2017-18
    22-35-12
  • LAST 10
    5-4-1
  • POSSESSION
    46.9%

You take the good news wherever you can find it if you’re a Buffalo Sabre. The Sabres beat arch-rival Toronto last week, and also posted their first shootout win of the season in a victory over Ottawa.