Boston Bruins, Dustin Byfuglien, Jason Zucker, Jonathan Drouin, Power Rankings, Top Story

NHL Power Rankings for March 2020

There’s been a major shake-up in this post-trade-deadline edition of THW’s Power Rankings. The Boston Bruins climb into Spot No. 1, with two brand-new entries in the top three. The New York Rangers also make some noise as the league’s biggest riser, but is it enough to salvage their playoff hopes?

Taking into account recent trends, the respective season outlooks for each team and, most importantly, where they place in the standings right now, here are THW’s Power Rankings for March 2020:

1. Boston Bruins (41-13-12) – Last month: No. 2

The Bruins as a whole are firing on all cylinders. It’s not just Hart Memorial Trophy-candidate David Pastrnak leading the way, but now-Vezina Trophy-candidate Tuukka Rask also getting in on the action to a greater degree. The Finnish netminder went 6-3 in February with two shutouts and a .929 save percentage.

Tuukka Rask Boston Bruins
Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask – (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Even the new guys are contributing with
trade-deadline-acquisition Nick Ritchie scoring a goal and an assist against
the Dallas Stars.

2 Tampa Bay Lightning (41-19-5) – Last month: No. 5

The Tampa Bay Lightning continue their ascent to the top of the Power Rankings, with a recent 11-game winning streak factoring in to this month’s rankings. Is this where they peak, though? They’ve lost four of their last five and captain Steven Stamkos is hurt and set to miss the remainder of the regular season (to start).

3. Colorado Avalanche (39-18-7) – Las month: No. 6

No No. 1, no problem for the Colorado Avalanche, who, despite losing goalie Philipp Grubauer to injury have won six straight. Backup Pavel Francouz has emerged as a potential usurper to the throne with a new team-friendly extension and .944 save percentage in that time.

4. St. Louis Blues (39-17-10) – Last month: No. 4

The St. Louis Blues hold steady at No. 4, with news surrounding Jay Bouwmeester’s cardiac episode justifiably stealing headlines from the team’s overall performance. They nonetheless keep rolling having now won seven consecutive games.

5. Washington Capitals (39-19-6) – Last month: No. 1

The Washington Capitals have fallen from
grace, largely due to a lack of clutch goaltending. All four of the team’s
February wins were credited to the struggling Braden Holtby, who earned an
overall save percentage of .900 in the month.

Braden Holtby Washington Capitals
Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby – (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Their usual saving grace had been backup Ilya Samsonov, but he went winless with an even worse mark of .877. Nevertheless, it’s not all on them, with the offense connecting for a mediocre 31 goals in 12 games last month. Not good enough. Even Alex Ovechkin, despite notching his 700th marker, managed six goals this past month, which is slightly off his pace.

6. Vegas Golden Knights (36-22-8) – (Last month: No. 7)

The Vegas Golden Knights were aggressive at the trade deadline and the moves have arguably paid off, as they’ve won both their games since acquiring defenseman Alec Martinez and goalie Robin Lehner.

More likely, it’s a matter of general manager Kelly McCrimmon recognizing his team’s window is fully open. Those two wins have come following six straight, translating into an eight-game streak overall, making them the hottest team in the league.

7. Dallas Stars (37-21-7) – Last month: No. 9

In sharp contrast, the Dallas Stars were quiet at the deadline acquiring only defenseman Emil Djuse from the Florida Panthers. Look at is as a vote of confidence for a team that won three of its last four immediately prior.

Even if they’ve gone 1-1-1 since, those two losses have come against the Boston Bruins (by one goal) and the Stanley Cup-champion St. Louis Blues (in a shootout). The Stars may slip under the radar, but they’re legit threats down the stretch.

8. Pittsburgh Penguins (37-21-6) – Last month: No. 3

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ acquisition of Jason Zucker has worked out, kind of. He has five goals and two assists since finding a new home, largely on Sidney Crosby’s wing. They proceeded to go 3-0-1. Since then, they’re winless, having been outscored 24-8 in the last six games. Zucker has two of those goals, for what it’s worth.

Pittsburgh Penguins Jason Zucker Sidney Crosby
Pittsburgh Penguins forwards Sidney Crosby and Jason Zucker – (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

9. Philadelphia Flyers (37-20-7) – Last month: No. 14

With five straight wins, the Philadelphia Flyers have emerged as a darkhorse of sorts. GM Chuck Fletcher opted to acquire depth pieces ahead of the deadline and it’s fitting. Their 22 goals in that stretch are impressive enough. What’s more telling is how they’ve come off the sticks of 10 different skaters.

10. Edmonton Oilers (34-23-8) – Last month: No. 12

In the six games Connor McDavid missed due to injury earlier this month, Leon Draisaitl scored 12 points making an (admittedly somewhat flawed) case for the Hart. The Oilers still went a simply mediocre 3-2-1 during the stretch (4-3-1 with McDavid in the lineup).

It did serve to prove the Oilers are more
than a one-man team, even if that team still has holes in it, regardless of GM
Ken Holland’s wheeling and dealing at the deadline. If it helps, they were 4-3
with Zack Kassian playing.

11. Vancouver Canucks (34-24-6) – Last month: No. 8

The Vancouver Canucks did acquire Tyler Toffoli, who’s been a good fit with four goals and two assists in his five games with the team. However, the loss of Brock Boeser had made it arguably a zero-sum game, worse with goalie Jacob Markstrom now out too.

Tyler Toffoli Vancouver Canucks
Vancouver Canucks forward Tyler Toffoli – (Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports)

Considered one of the best backups in the NHL early this season, Thatcher Demko has struggled in February. He went 1-3 in four starts with an overall save percentage of  .890. Markstrom may only be out for a few weeks, but the Canucks’ hopes of preventing a further slide down the standings rest largely on their No. 2 getting back into a groove.

12. Toronto Maple Leafs (35-23-8) – Last month: No. 10

Yes, the whole David Ayres, losing-to-an-emergency-backup situation has been embarrassing for the Toronto Maple Leafs. They’ve arguably put it behind them with three straight wins since, including a major upset against the Tampa Bay Lightning and a huge victory against the Florida Panthers, who are still directly behind them in the standings for the third Atlantic Division playoff spot, albeit now by five points.

13. Calgary Flames (33-26-7) – Last month: No. 15

The Calgary Flames addressed their defensive needs at the deadline, with Mark Giordano having just missed 10 games. It may have actually helped. With Erik Gustafsson and Derek Forbort in the lineup the Flames actually beat the top-ranked Boston Bruins 5-2, limiting them to 28 shots in the process.

The Flames then proceeded to lose to the hot-on-their-trails Nashville Predators and hot-as-hell Lightning with Giordano back in the lineup. So, who knows?

14. Nashville Predators (32-24-8) – Last month: No. 21

Don’t look now, but the Predators are in a wild-card spot. If they can pull this off, Roman Josi should receive Hart consideration. Nevertheless, the Swiss defenseman scored “just” nine points in February and slumped relatively speaking through a five-game scoreless stretch that coincided with the deadline.

Roman Josi Nashville Predators
Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi – (Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

Even without Josi producing up to his standards set this season, the Preds still scored a half-decent 34 goals since the last rankings (8-4-1). If this is a sign of things to come, the Preds are on track to live up to their massive potential (finally).

15. New York Islanders (35-21-8) – Last month: No. 11

The New York Islanders can definitely use Jean-Gabriel Pageau, but acquiring him at the cost they did reeks of desperation. They had won two straight heading into the trade deadline, but against the bottom-feeding San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings. They had lost four straight before that. They have lost three straight since then. Maybe desperation is what they need as they sit just three points up on ninth-place (but two back of the third-place Penguins).

16. New York Rangers (35-25-4) – Last month: No. 20

Following an impressive month, the New York Rangers are back in the playoff hunt, just two points behind the eighth-place Columbus Blue Jackets, with two games in hand. On paper, the Rangers had always been playoff contenders. They’re finally playing like it. With upstart goalie Igor Shesterkin injured, it remains to be seen if they can keep it up down the stretch.

17. Minnesota Wild (32-25-7) – Last month: 25

The Minnesota Wild had already begun their playoff surge before Bruce Boudreau was fired and replaced by Dean Evason. They’ve kept on winning, including five of the last six, most notably games against potential competition for the last playoff spot in the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers.

18. Winnipeg Jets (33-28-6) – Last month: No. 22

One has to wonder if the Jets’ inability to get anything for Dustin Byfuglien or terminate his contract to get his cap space, will come back to bite the Jets. It’s one of the few blemishes on Kevin Cheveldayoff’s sterling record as GM of the franchise, as he tries to navigate the franchise into the playoffs despite the huge turnover on defense in the offseason.

Winnipeg Jets' Dustin Byfuglien
Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien – (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Jeff Roberson)

Cheveldayoff’s acquisition of Dylan DeMelo to curb the team’s lack of depth on defense was highly regarded, especially by head coach Paul Maurice, but will it be enough? They’re right in the middle of the Western Conference playoff picture but have played more games than most of the teams against whom they’re competing.

19. Columbus Blue Jackets (31-21-14) – Last month: No. 13

Injuries are starting to pile up for the Columbus Blue Jackets at the worst possible time. Joonas Korpisalo is now back from injury and was technically the No. 1 to start the season, but he had effectively lost his starting position to Elvis Merzlikins, who went on to suffer a concussion the night of the trade deadline.

Nevertheless, in spite of his stellar play, the struggles date back to defenseman Seth Jones’ injury. Since he went down on Feb. 8, the Blue Jackets have gone 1-5-5. They’re still in a playoff spot, which is more of a testament to how much of a roll they had been on beforehand, not what’s in store for them moving forward.

20. Carolina Hurricanes (35-24-5) – Last month: No. 17

While the David Ayres’ win was a highlight-worthy moment, the Hurricanes are still without both of their goalies indefinitely (along with defenseman Brett Pesce). The good news is their goaltending has generally been suspect even with James Reimer or Petr Mrazek in net. Top-ranked goaltending-prospect Alex Nedeljkovic and Anton Forsberg are now firmly behind the eight ball with the rest of the team.

21. Arizona Coyotes (32-27-8) – Last month: No. 19

With goalie Darcy Kuemper back from injury,
the Arizona Coyotes are a playoff-caliber team. However, he was gone for two
months, during which the Coyotes were just okay, including a .500 month of
February.

Darcy Kuemper Arizona Coyotes
Arizona Coyotes goalie Darcy Kuemper – (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Critical recent wins against the Washington
Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning serve as proof of this team’s potential.
They’ve got just over a month to consistently reach it if they want to play
well into April.

22. Florida Panthers (33-25-7) – Last month: No. 16

The Florida Panthers aren’t dead yet. Nevertheless, recent losses to teams they need to beat (Toronto Maple Leafs) and ones they should be beating (Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks) have taken their toll on a team with playoff aspirations this season. They may not have been entirely realistic based on their free-agent signing of Sergei Bobrovsky, but few anticipated disappointment to this degree, as they currently sit in 11th place in the Eastern Conference

23. Chicago Blackhawks (29-28-8)- Last month: No. 18

After stringing together five straight wins
at the end of January to get a sniff, the Blackhawks fell right back out of it,
with five straight losses at the start of February.

GM Stan Bowman ultimately made the right call, selling Robin Lehner and Erik Gustafsson at the deadline. Nevertheless, there’s at least some risk the chickens come home to roost with regard to his tenure, seeing as the Blackhawks haven’t won a playoff game since 2016. They haven’t been out of the first round since 2015, when they won it all. Seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it?

24. New Jersey Devils (25-27-12) – Last month: 26

The Devils are officially rebuilding after effectively wasting the few years of Taylor Hall’s prime that they had. That’s one way of looking at it. Another? They used his secret talent at winning draft lotteries to secure the rights to two key pieces for the future in Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes.

The Devils are on their way to another draft lottery, but, having won five of their last eight, there’s a sense of optimism in the air. That’s especially true with another key piece, goalie Mackenzie Blackwood, having found his game again. Since Dec. 31, even before the New Year, he’s been lights out: 9-2-3 with a .934 save percentage. This season may already be over, but the calendar year is just beginning.

25. Buffalo Sabres (29-28-8) – Last month: 24

No team had more of a curious deadline than
the Buffalo Sabres. Despite being outside the playoff picture heading in, they
acquired Dominik Kahun and Wayne Simmonds, signaling something of an intent to
go for it. They then proceeded to lose three straight and fall out to a greater
extent.

You can see where GM Jason Botterill’s head
was at, though: They had won six of eight heading in and he decided to take a
chance, giving up arguable bottom-six pieces in Conor Sheary and Evan Rodrigues
for Kahun and a conditional fifth-round pick for Simmonds. The pick turns into
a fourth if Simmonds plays 10 games and the Sabres make the playoffs. So, just
a fifth then.

26. Montreal Canadiens (30-28-9) – Last month: 23

The Montreal Canadiens can blame injuries
all they want for their disappointing season. Most notably, Jonathan Drouin did
miss 40 games. However, not only are injuries a part of the game with which
almost every team must deal regularly, but successful ones have the depth to
survive when a notoriously inconsistent career-high 53-point-scorer goes down.

Montreal Canadiens Jonathan Drouin
Montreal Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin – (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)

Admittedly, Drouin had gotten off to a good start this season, but take into consideration how GM Marc Bergevin has been in charge of this team since 2012. He should have the depth pieces required in the pipeline by now. If you’re counting on that notoriously inconsistent 53-point-scorer to have a career year for your team to succeed, your team’s chances of survival in the ever-grueling race to the playoffs were already dead on arrival.

27. Anaheim Ducks (26-30-8) – Last month: 27

Four straight losses heading into the trade
deadline should have made Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray’s job an easier
one. All Ducks fans got was an eventful deadline, not necessarily a successful
one. They got their fair share of futures but had to deal the likes of Nick
Ritchie and Ondrej Kase to get them (Danton Heinen, Axel Andersson and a
first-round pick in a pair of deals with the Bruins).

In that sense, much like this season, it
could be interpreted as a huge disappointment. Obviously neither Kase nor
Ritchie had been living up to their potential, but the Ducks will have gone
three seasons since earning a postseason victory when all is said and done.
They’ve taken another step back this season.

28. San Jose Sharks (28-33-4) – Last month: 29

The hope is that the San Jose Sharks can turn it around this offseason and give Joe Thornton another shot at the Stanley Cup. It’s obviously not going to happen this season after 6-7 month of February, with the Sharks 12 points out. Injuries to Tomas Hertl and Erik Karlsson certainly haven’t helped, so that hope is realistic once they’re healthy, as long as GM Doug Wilson addresses the weakness in net.

29. Los Angeles Kings (24-35-6) – Last month: 30

To their credit, the Los Angeles Kings finished February on a high note with a 5-2-1 record. Even if the Jonathan Quick succession plan is arguably in full force with Jack Campbell having been traded and Cal Petersen promoted, the Kings’ No. 1 has admirably gotten his save percentage above .900. It’s not much, but the team’s faithful must learn to enjoy life’s small victories at this stage.

30. Ottawa Senators (23-31-12) – Last month: 28

Forward Bobby Ryan’s stellar three-goal return after a three-month absence due to sobriety issues was a feel-good story for the Ottawa Senators in a season largely devoid of them. Nevertheless, the Senators enjoyed a decent deadline and got a haul, especially from the Islanders for Pageau. At a 4-4 in their last eight, their focus must obviously be on next season and beyond.

31. Detroit Red Wings (15-47-5) – Last month: 31

While GM Steve Yzerman has his hands full
trying to make the most of a less-than-ideal situation in Detroit, he failed to
make much of an impression at the deadline.

Steve Yzerman
Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman – (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Yzerman did technically get futures for Mike Green and Andreas Athanasiou, but the returns were underwhelming. Plus, seeing as Athanasiou is just 25, he technically should have been the future, himself. Granted, Athanasiou’s defensive awareness (or willingness) is lacking, but that’s in part on the coaching staff and the team’s developmental system. Take it as a sign of a longer-than-expected rebuild.

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