NHL Power Rankings: Flyers rise above the pack as playoffs begin
Following an exciting bunch of play-in series and round-robin games for seeding, the 16-team field for the NHL Playoffs has been set. Let’s rank the teams that are still fighting for the Stanley Cup below.
1. Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers, who went 9-1-0 over their last 10 games before the season was suspended, picked up where they left off as they went 3-0-0 in round-robin play to secure the top seed in the East. No fewer than 15 Philly skaters registered a point in that three-game span, with depth forward Scott Laughton leading the way at five points. The Flyers draw a plum first-round matchup with a thin Canadiens squad.
2. Vegas Golden Knights
The Golden Knights are on the fast track to their second Stanley Cup Final appearance in three seasons after going a perfect 3-0-0 in the round-robin tournament. They’ll play the eighth-seeded Blackhawks in the first round.
"We wanted the first seed after the round robin, and we got it done," Vegas forward Johnathan Marchessault told reporters on Saturday. "We’re really happy where our game is at as a team."
3. Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche beat both the Blues and Stars before dropping a heartbreaker in overtime to the Golden Knights on Saturday. It could be a blessing in disguise though, as they’ll face the Coyotes – who had a three percent chance of making the postseason prior to the season suspension – in the first round.
4. Boston Bruins
Despite winning the Presidents’ Trophy in the regular season, the Bruins will not be the top seed in the East after going 0-3-0 in the round robin tournament. However, head coach Bruce Cassidy is not concerned.
"Our guys are not in a bad place... We have a veteran group that knows what the ultimate goal is and what’s at stake," he told WEEI.com.
Indeed, four members from Boston’s 2010-2011 Championship team – Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, David Krejci, and Brad Marchand – are still a big part of this club’s title push. However, they’ll face a dangerous-looking Carolina team in the first round.
5. Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes dominated at all ends of the ice in their play-in series sweep of the Rangers. Goaltenders Petr Mrazek and James Reimer combined to turn away 84 of New York’s 88 shots over a three-game span. Carolina’s blueliners surrendered just 10 third-period shots in Tuesday’s elimination game. And forwards Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov combined for 13 points.
6. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lighting won two of three round-robin games to secure the No. 2 seed in the East, but they may lose defenseman Victor Hedman, who appeared to twist his ankle and left early in Saturday’s loss to the Flyers.
"It’s a little frustrating because we feel like we’re going in the right direction and to lose some of the star power we have... We’ve got to circle the wagons," head coach John Cooper told reporters.
7. St. Louis Blues
Vladimir Tarasenko’s return from what would have been a season-ending injury in most years didn’t appear to inspire the defending champion Blues, as they went 0-3-0 in round-robin play. They’ll face the Canucks in the first round.
8. Washington Capitals
The Capitals beat the Bruins on Sunday to salvage a victory in round-robin play and earn a date with the Islanders in the first round rather than the Hurricanes. Braden Holtby, a big area of concern between the pipes for the 2018 champs, struggled against the Flyers (.857 save percentage) but held his own against the Lightning (.929 save percentage) and Bruins (.968 save percentage).
9. New York Islanders
The Islanders enter their first-round matchup with the Capitals off a blowout 5-1 victory over the Panthers. The teams split their season series with Washington each of the last two years, suggesting the "Barry Trotz Bowl" could be closely-contested throughout.
10. Dallas Stars
The Stars prided themselves on defense during the regular season, but they surrendered nine goals to the Golden Knights and Avalanche alone in round-robin play. They’ll have to tighten things up again when they face the Flames.
11. Vancouver Canucks
Defenseman Quinn Hughes, a Calder Trophy candidate, stole the show in the Canucks’ series victory over the Wild, notching a team-high six-points. Vancouver should not be afraid to face the Blues in Round 1 based on their 4-0-2 regular season record against them over the last two years.
12. Calgary Flames
Sean Monahan (six points) and company broke out for 16 goals over four games in their series victory over Vezina frontrunner Connor Hellebuyck and the Jets. Their next matchup won’t be much easier though, as they drew Ben Bishop and the Stars in the first round.
13. Columbus Blue Jackets
Joonas Korpisalo and the Blue Jackets were, for the most part, able to neutralize a highly-potent Maple Leafs offense in their play-in series victory. They’ll face the Lightning in a rematch of last year’s quarterfinal series in which Columbus pulled off a stunning series sweep.
14. Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks shockingly dispatched the Oilers in four games to earn the eight-seed, which means they’ll face former netminder Robin Lehner and the Golden Knights in the quarterfinals. We’ll see if forwards Jonathan Toews (seven points) and Dominik Kubalik (six points) can replicate their fine play-in series performances.
15. Montreal Canadiens
Most gave the Canadiens no shot against the Penguins, but they won the series in four games anyway. Can Carey Price and company keep it going against the red-hot Flyers?
16. Arizona Coyotes
Barring a Hall-of-Fame performance from netminder Darcy Kuemper, it’s hard to envision the Coyotes’ offense – 23rd in goals per game (2.71) before the season suspension – keeping up with the Avalanche’s fourth-ranked attack (3.37 goals per game) that was undermanned most of the year.