| Sun 11/02/2018 - 15:20 EST

NHL Power Rankings: 2018 Playoffs Race Preview

NHL Power Rankings: 2018 Playoffs Race Preview

NHL Playoff Power Rankings

1. Tampa Bay Lightning

5-5-0 L10 – 75 Points

Parity in the modern NHL makes it nearly impossible to go through the regular season without blemish. Tampa Bay’s the best team in the league and no exception to the rule, dealing with bumps in the road which allow the Knights, Jets, Predators and Bruins to sneak up on the Lightning. Until they’re overtaken, the Bolts remain atop the rankings.

2. Vegas Golden Knights

6-3-1 L10 – 74 Points

Vegas managed to stay strong on the road after climbing atop the western conference standings with one of the best home records in the NHL. The Golden Knights have proven themselves against most of the best teams in the league, although a recent loss against the Penguins served as a reminder of Pittsburgh’s reign over the Stanley Cup.

3. Winnipeg Jets

6-2-2 L10 – 73 Points

Winnipeg’s managed to overcome the loss of Mark Scheifele to remain on top of the Central Division. The Jets rival the Lightning as the deepest team on paper, sending a constant wave of fast, young forwards over the boards. Goalie Connor Hellebuyck appears to be realizing his potential, while Winnipeg’s blueline ranks among the finest in the NHL. Beware the Jets when Spring arrives.

4. Nashville Predators

8-1-1 L10 – 71 Points

There’s no hint of a Stanley Cup hangover in Music City. After barely making the playoffs last year, the Predators leveraged confidence earned during their first trip to the finals with a superb regular season. Nashville possesses underrated scoring depth and P.K. Subban will earn serious Norris consideration. The western conference is full of killers, but the Preds have experience finishing off playoff prey. Consider them western favorites when the post season arrives.

5. Pittsburgh Penguins

7-3-0 L10 – 63 Points

The Pittsburgh Penguins started to play like the team which pulled off consecutive Stanley Cup wins when the calendar turned to 2018, winning 11 of 15 matches. Evgeni Malkin might be playing the best hockey of his career since January 1st, scoring 16 goals and 10 assists. Despite impressive competition, the champs should be considered favorites to three-peat.

6. Boston Bruins

9-1-0 L10 – 74 Points

Coach Bruce Cassidy would receive consideration for the Jack Adams award under normal circumstances, but Gerard Gallant will be a lock because of the incredible season enjoyed by the Golden Knights. Cassidy’s gotten the most from his lineup, turning Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak into one of the best lines in the league. Will the Bruins sustain this level of play during the post season?

7. St Louis Blues

6-4-0 L10 – 67 Points

The Blues occupy the tier below the elite of the western conference, possessing sufficient talent to challenge the Golden Knights, Jets and Predators. Goaltending and scoring depth will be areas that St. Louis attempts to rectify before the trade deadline, even if Carton Hutton continues to play relatively well.

8. Dallas Stars

7-2-1 L10 – 66 Points

Dallas might have another gear remaining in their transmission, especially when defenseman Marc Methot returns to the lineup. The Stars check off every box that denotes a contender: elite scoring depth, solid defense and a good goaltending duo in Bishop and Lehtonen. Dallas will be one of the best dark horses in the playoffs.

9. Toronto Maple Leafs

7-2-1 L10 – 69 Points

Auston Matthews continues to produce above the pace of his fantastic, Calder-winning season, while Frederik Andersen stands on his head every night to cover for the Maple Leafs youthful mistakes. Toronto’s a strong team, but their defensive coverage remains spotty on too many nights. Maybe they’ll scoop defensive help at the trade deadline. Until then, the Maple Leafs are unlikely to be more than playoff participants.

10. Anaheim Ducks

6-3-1 L10 – 62 Points

Anaheim possesses one of the strongest trio of centers in the league, with Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler and Adam Henrique patrolling the ice. Rakell’s turned into an elite sniper, while Perry, Silfverberg and Kase pitch in much-needed secondary scoring. Anaheim’s defense is steady but not spectacular, similar to their goaltending duo of Gibson and Miller. The Ducks will be tough to eliminate in the post season.

11. Minnesota Wild

7-2-1 L10 – 63 Points

Minnesota grasps a wild card in the western conference, bunched with five teams between 62-64 points. The Wild have been hot, winning seven of their last ten to put themselves in a great position for the home stretch. Unless they strike a stunning trade deadline deal, the Wild shouldn’t be considered among the top Stanley Cup contenders, but they’ve got a solid shot at the playoffs.

12. Calgary Flames

4-2-4 L10 – 62 Points

The Calgary Flames have been a bit of a mysterious team this season, next to unbeatable on the road, but disappointing at home. Calgary possesses one of the best bluelines, but could use a boost in wing scoring to help them win more one-goal games. Keep an eye on Calgary, who may turn into a legitimate force over the next month.

13. Washington Capitals

4-4-2 L10 – 67 Points

After so many years of playoff disappointment, gathering enthusiasm for a long post season run will be difficult for the Washington Capitals. The Caps are still a good team, but they just don’t have the same firepower as past iterations of the club. Expect the Penguins to eclipse the Caps for first place in the Metro Division.

14. Colorado Avalanche

6-3-1 L10 – 62 Points

Kudos to the Avalanche, who’ve maintained their position in the race to the playoffs without Nathan MacKinnon. Traditional western conference powers should be wary of Colorado when MacKinnon returns, because the Avalanche could be a dark horse threat in a stacked Central Division.

15. Columbus Blue Jackets

3-6-1 L10 – 58 Points

Coach Tortorella pulled no punches, admitting that the Blue Jackets have been slipping lately. He isn’t panicking, instead standing by his players and his belief that they will turn things around soon. Columbus has been relegated to a wild card spot, but might be able to catch the Devils for third in the Metro when the Jackets improve.

16. San Jose Sharks

4-4-2 L10 – 64 Points

Jumbo Joe Thornton offers much more than point production for the San Jose Sharks. He provides key leadership in the locker room, which will be sorely missed after Joe underwent knee surgery. Thornton was enjoying a solid year before his knee blew, and the Sharks may slowly drop out of playoff contention without Joe.

17. New Jersey Devils

5-5-0 L10 – 62 Points

New Jersey has scratched their way into third place in the Metro, outperforming pre-season expectations. A standout season from Taylor Hall along with a strong rookie year from Nico Hischier helps to lift the Devils out of playoff purgatory for now, but the team may find themselves running out of gas over the remainder of the schedule.

18. Philadelphia Flyers

5-4-1 L10 – 59 Points

The Flyers have one of the most dynamic top lines in the league, but don’t appear to possess the scoring depth needed to break into the top ranks of the eastern conference. Goaltending will also remain a question mark, the same situation faced by Philly faithful since the legendary Bernie Parent guarded the goal for the Board Street Bullies of the 1970s.

On The Playoff Bubble

Los Angeles Kings

5-5-0 L10 – 63 Points

Chicago Blackhawks

3-5-2 L10 – 56 Points

New York Islanders

4-4-2 L10 – 58 Points

Carolina Hurricanes

4-5-1 L10 – 57 Points

Out Of Playoff Contention

Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Vancouver Canucks.

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