NHL Power Rankings: A top-five shakeup, plus every team’s April priority

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There are 32 NHL teams. By our highly unscientific, extremely official Power Rankings count, seven of them have a shot at the Presidents’ Trophy. With three weeks left in the regular season, that’s amazing.
Every team, though, is playing for something — even the ones that have 94 points or less. That’s our question for this week: What should each team’s priority be from now until April 18, aside from racking up more points than anyone else?
Last week: 1
Sean’s ranking: 1
Dom’s ranking: 1
Win their fourth straight division title. Sure, there’s only one other good team in that division, but it’s impressive all the same. In their final eight games, the Canes play Boston twice and Washington once. Other than that, they get all non-playoff teams. Closing a three-point gap between themselves and the Rangers is far from out of the question, especially for a team that’s 9-2-1 with a plus-20 goal differential since the trade deadline.
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Last week: 3
Sean’s ranking: 3
Dom’s ranking: 2
Get Jake Oettinger’s game in the right spot. Was he really good last season? Absolutely. Was he great in the 2022 playoffs against Calgary? Of course. Oettinger had a lot of preseason Vezina hype, too. It was deserved. Still, he’s been closer to a red flag for the Stars than a reason to believe in them. They’ve been good enough — and deep enough — to prop him up so far, but a sub-.900 save percentage and a putrid goals saved above expected (83rd in the NHL coming into Thursday night) is flat-out not gonna work once the playoffs begin. Maybe Thursday’s 27-save game in a 3-1 win over Vancouver is the pivot point.
3. New York Rangers, 49-20-4
Last week: 6
Sean’s ranking: 2
Dom’s ranking: 4
Chase the curse. A lot of people seem to believe the Presidents’ Trophy curse is real, but for the Rangers, it seems like it could be good luck. The ’94 champs were also Presidents’ Trophy winners and another combo victory would make for a fantastic story 30 years later. Plus, apparent Rangers hater Dom suggested that was a savvy bet before the season started — that would be a nice win at 20-to-1.
Last week: 2
Sean’s ranking: 4
Dom’s ranking: 3
Also win their fourth straight division title. Welp, we were all rooting for Nathan MacAltitude (sorry) to continue his epic home point streak, but that was unfortunately snapped Thursday night at 35 games. Just six away from an entire season has to sting. That means we’ll focus on team accomplishments for Colorado. Carolina isn’t the only team hunting for its fourth straight division title — the Avalanche have the opportunity to do the same. That’ll be the focus down the stretch, as the alternative is a tough battle against the third seed in the Central.
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Last week: 4
Sean’s ranking: 5
Dom’s ranking: 5
Another McArt Ross. And just like that, Connor McDavid is only two points behind Nikita Kucherov for the NHL’s scoring lead — in two fewer games. The Oilers have an outside shot to win the division, but the focal point here is still individual glory. If McDavid wins, it would be his fourth straight scoring title and sixth overall, tying him with Gordie Howe and Mario Lemieux for second all-time. Just unreal.
Last week: 5
Sean’s ranking: 6
Dom’s ranking: 6
Avoid the second seed. All of a sudden, the Panthers (3-6-1 in their last 10) are the No. 2 team in the Atlantic Division. That’d likely get them a first-round series against third-seeded Toronto or Tampa Bay. Two weeks ago, this team was on track to feast on the Red Wings/Caps/Islanders wild-card class. That’s a major downgrade.
7. Boston Bruins, 42-17-15
Last week: 7
Sean’s ranking: 7
Dom’s ranking: 7
Back-to-back division titles. Last season’s was a foregone conclusion by Christmas. This one would be a lot tougher, perhaps a little sweeter and, hopefully for Jim Montgomery and Co., portend slightly better things. Bright side: there probably won’t be a Panthers-level roadblock waiting in the wild-card round. Probably.
8. Vancouver Canucks, 45-20-8
Last week: 8
Sean’s ranking: 8
Dom’s ranking: 8
Win another Presidents’ Trophy. Remember the Canucks’ glory days, when they were routinely atop the league’s standings? This season represents a return to that era with Vancouver’s best team in over a decade. Why not parlay that into a Presidents’ Trophy? For Vancouver’s sake, let’s hope it ends closer to the 2011 version (a Cup final berth) than the 2012 version (a first-round exit).
9. Toronto Maple Leafs, 41-22-9
Last week: 11
Sean’s ranking: 11
Dom’s ranking: 9
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Find the right playoff mix. The Leafs, as usual, know exactly where they’re landing come playoff time. It’s unlikely they make a push for second in the Atlantic and it’s unlikely they fall to the wild card either. Their chances of finishing third are high and that means, as usual, a lot of late games will be meaningless. The only thing they can really do is find the right line combinations and defense pairings that will take them on a deep playoff run. Easier said than done with all the various ailments the roster is facing, but that has allowed them to test out some creative combos. Maybe one of them unlocks the team’s full potential.
Last week: 9
Sean’s ranking: 9
Dom’s ranking: 11
Start another streak. Thursday’s regulation loss over Arizona was the Preds’ first since the U2 concert affair. They’re still 17-1-2 in their last 20. So … not bad. If they get three or four points in their next two games (Boston and Colorado), it’ll be time to start talking about them passing Winnipeg for third in the Central. Forget the wild card.
Last week: 12
Sean’s ranking: 10
Dom’s ranking: 10
Get healthy and stay healthy. That’s it. It’s not just Mark Stone and newly acquired Tomas Hertl on the shelf. Alex Pietrangelo and Alec Martinez are banged up on the blue line, starting goalie Adin Hill is sidelined and quality depth forward William Carrier is out, too. That’s a combined Net Rating of roughly plus-25 goals out of the lineup right now. It’s a big reason the Golden Knights don’t currently look as dominant as many expected.
12. Tampa Bay Lightning, 40-25-7
Last week: 13
Sean’s ranking: 12
Dom’s ranking: 12
Continue cleaning up defensively. A big part of the Lightning’s early-season struggles: issues in their own end. Since March 1, they have the fifth-best expected goals against/60 in the league — 2.11, nearly a half-goal improvement on their first 62 games. Dropping the defensively mindful Brandon Hagel down to a line with Anthony Cirelli and Steven Stamkos (Anthony Ducliar replaced Hagel on the Brayden Point-Nikita Kucherov line) has helped, and Andrei Vasilevskiy’s play has improved, too.
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13. Winnipeg Jets, 44-23-6
Last week: 10
Sean’s ranking: 13
Dom’s ranking: 13
Give the fans a reason to believe. That’s five straight losses for the Jets, four of which were by three goals. The vibes are putrid in Winnipeg, as the team has quickly gone from “hey, maybe they’re a contender” to “yeah, no, this is a pretender” real quick. We know how good the Jets can be at their peak, but they’ve just been far too uneven lately to like them in a playoff series against almost anyone else in the West. Finish strong and restore the faith that this season won’t end as quickly as the others have.
Last week: 14
Sean’s ranking: 14
Dom’s ranking: 14
Keep Vegas at bay. The West is a “pick your poison” conference, where every potential matchup feels like a nightmare. The Kings are probably playing to finish as the Pacific’s third seed, but is locking in another first-round date with the Oilers really the way to go? It hasn’t worked out well for them the other two times. Regardless, no self-respecting playoff team is going to tank for lower seeding, so even if the Oilers aren’t the most desirable matchup, it’s still likely what the Kings are playing for over the final few weeks.
Last week: 19
Sean’s ranking: 17
Dom’s ranking: 15
Finish ninth in the West. In a recent mailbag, Jeremy Rutherford said that an offseason shake-up would be more likely if the Blues miss the playoffs. An offseason shake-up is what’s necessary, so missing the playoffs should probably be the goal.
16. Washington Capitals, 36-27-9
Last week: 16
Sean’s ranking: 15
Dom’s ranking: 17
Make the playoffs — against all odds. Washington didn’t look the part of a playoff squad Thursday night, getting smoked 5-1 by the Leafs. But that’s the beauty of this marvel of a team: when they lose, they lose big. The Caps know how to win the squeakers, and that’s how they’re holding down third place in the Metro despite a hilarious minus-30 goal differential. We are all rooting for the best bad team of all time.
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Last week: 15
Sean’s ranking: 16
Dom’s ranking: 16
Make the playoffs. At this point, why not? They get the Blackhawks, Islanders, Sabres, Blue Jackets and Canadiens in their next six games. If they lose their grip after that, imagine the reactions from Flyers Twitter. It’s not impossible, either! They just lost to Montreal!
Last week: 21
Sean’s ranking: 18
Dom’s ranking: 18
Run the table. Eighteen points in their last nine games would get the Devils in. Honestly, it’d take a lot less. They’re five points behind the Caps. Imagine what would’ve happened if they acquired a goalie with a pulse in, like, the third week of February. They’ve outscored opponents 24-16 in Jake Allen’s six starts.
Last week: 17
Sean’s ranking: 20
Dom’s ranking: 19
Finish strong. It’s been a mediocre season in Minnesota, and their placement in the Rankings has generally reflected that, but they still have an opportunity to lay down some tracks for 2023-24. That might start with goalie Filip Gustavsson; disappointing as he’s been overall, he’s put up a .942 save percentage in his last four starts.
20. Detroit Red Wings, 36-30-7
Last week: 18
Sean’s ranking: 19
Dom’s ranking: 20
Hit the brakes. At this point, we just feel bad. The Red Wings were solidly in a playoff spot at the end of February, but fate had other plans with a grizzly 3-10-1 skid. Detroit’s only goal? Stop doing its best impression of the 2013-14 Leafs (s/t to Prashanth Iyer, friend of The Rankings for that lovely comparison).
Those Leafs were famously bad at controlling play, but won games despite the glaring holes in their game and their roster. They, too, were solidly in a playoff spot — until they weren’t. The infamous “18-wheeler off a cliff,” as Bryan Burke so aptly put it, had Toronto going 2-12-0 to close the season. Seems familiar!
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There are some frightening similarities between where Detroit is now and where Toronto was then, in terms of ability and roster construction. The big difference is the Red Wings still have time to turn their 18-wheeler around. With nine games, left the competition doesn’t look very stiff either.
21. New York Islanders, 31-26-15
Last week: 20
Sean’s ranking: 21
Dom’s ranking: 21
Figure it out. Among the East sad-sacks begrudgingly in the playoff mix, the Islanders seem to be the one team that could feasibly make some noise if they sneak in. Or at least make a first-round series interesting. The other guys? Forget about it.
They have to actually make the playoffs first and here’s hoping the team’s six-game skid is in the rearview mirror. The Islanders won two of three this week, including an impressive one against Florida on Thursday night. The talent is there to make it and the competition is the opposite of fierce — they just need to put it all together.
Last week: 24
Sean’s ranking: 22
Dom’s ranking: 22
Commit to losing. The Penguins could use a blue-chip prospect to give a quick jolt to the prospect cupboards. What they could not use is a useless late-season push to ninth in the East. After back-to-back wins this week, it’s really starting to feel like this team is gearing up for the latter: a big winning run when it doesn’t matter.
23. Buffalo Sabres, 34-34-5
Last week: 23
Sean’s ranking: 23
Dom’s ranking: 23
Finish strong. Yet again, that’s all the Sabres can offer their fans. Tage Thompson has 10 points in his last nine games, at least.
Last week: 25
Sean’s ranking: 24
Dom’s ranking: 24
A closing kick from Matty Beniers. For the first time in a while, we’ve got some good news to report about Beniers’ offensive output. He had his second three-point game of the season on Tuesday against Anaheim. That’s … something. Still missing: consecutive multi-point games. His longest point streak, period, is three. Yikes.
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25. Calgary Flames, 33-34-5
Last week: 22
Sean’s ranking: 25
Dom’s ranking: 25
Stealth tank. That’s five straight losses and eight of their last 10 after the deadline. Folks, the Flames have thrown in the towel, and that’s done wonders for their draft stock. By points percentage, they’ve dropped from 14th from the bottom to 8th and that makes a world of difference. The goal: keep losing. They’re doing a pretty great job of it already.
Last week: 27
Sean’s ranking: 26
Dom’s ranking: 27
The usual late-season surge to spur belief that next year’s team will be playoff-caliber. And look at that, four straight wins! We’re cooking, baby!
27. Montreal Canadiens, 28-32-12
Last week: 26
Sean’s ranking: 27
Dom’s ranking: 26
Focus on the youth. There’s going to be a similar theme for a lot of the league’s weakerthans: the end of the season is all about what the young guys show. The Habs are on an impressive three-game winning streak, and in that time their best players have been Nick Suzuki and Kaiden Guhle, with Juraj Slafkovsky looking pretty good, too. Can those three be part of the foundation of a winning core?
28. Arizona Coyotes, 31-37-5
Last week: 28
Sean’s ranking: 28
Dom’s ranking: 28
Stay in the desert. It’s sad, but true — nothing on the ice really matters in Arizona. All that does, as another season comes to a close, is where that ice is located. The focus is on winning a Phoenix land auction (on a parcel starting at $68.5 million) and ending the arena saga.
29. Columbus Blue Jackets, 23-38-12
Last week: 29
Sean’s ranking: 29
Dom’s ranking: 29
Stop the free fall. We’re all for stacking lottery points, but fellas — come on. They’ve got one win in their last 10, and that came against the Sharks.
30. Anaheim Ducks, 24-45-3
Last week: 30
Sean’s ranking: 30
Dom’s ranking: 30
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Earn a franchise tag. As is tradition, the Ducks are looking for some glimpse of hope for the future. That means strong finishes from any of Trevor Zegras, Mason McTavish or Leo Carlsson. Zegras only just returned from injury, but the other two don’t really have excuses right now, with just one point each in the month of March. It’s time for these guys to show they were worth the high pick investment and that they can be the franchise cornerstones.
31. Chicago Blackhawks, 21-47-5
Last week: 31
Sean’s ranking: 31
Dom’s ranking: 31
Help their guy win the Calder. In the seven games since his five-point outburst against Anaheim, Connor Bedard has … five points. A season-ending pop of productivity will help guarantee that Minnesota’s Brock Faber doesn’t swoop in and win rookie of the year.
32. San Jose Sharks, 16-48-8
Last week: 32
Sean’s ranking: 32
Dom’s ranking: 32
Don’t be the biggest losers. Over the next 10 games the Sharks need just six points to avoid having the worst points percentage of the century, a title held by the 2019-20 Red Wings. That honestly feels impossible at this point with their current lineup.
(Top photo of Artemi Panarin and Zach Parise: Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)

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