NHL
Kirill Kaprizov has taken control of the Calder race; now he and the Minnesota Wild look to make some noise in the approaching Stanley Cup Playoffs. (Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Welcome to the first (and hopefully only) May edition of NHL power rankings. I say hopefully this will be the only May edition because this is a regular-season series, and usually we’d be nearing the end of the second round of the playoffs at this point of the NHL calendar. Thanks to COVID, we’re just wrapping up the regular season in the U.S. divisions, with some of the Canadian teams concluding a little bit later due to the Canucks’ outbreak. But the grind of this shortened season and all of the quirks that came with it are coming to an end.

Thirteen of the NHL’s sixteen playoff spots have already officially been clinched: three of four in the North, Central, and West, and all four in the East. None of the remaining spots are really up for grabs; every team in a playoff spot but hasn’t clinched has a magic number of three or less. So we’ve basically got our sixteen playoffs teams for 2021. Make sure to stay tuned here at Vendetta for coverage of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, which should be one of the most unique tournaments in NHL history. Until they begin, here’s another set of power rankings by myself and our own Gavin Daly. And new for this month, an “X” next to their name have officially clinched a playoff spot.

31. Buffalo Sabres (15-32-7, April: 31)

Andrew: 31, Gavin: 30

Since snapping their 17-game losing skid on March 31, the Sabres are a pedestrian 7-9-2. That may not be much, but interim coach Don Granato has at least made this team somewhat watchable, which felt like a miracle a month ago. Yes, the meek return they got from Taylor Hall is aging like spoiled milk with how hot he’s been in Boston. But here’s a feel-good story for 28-year old journeyman goalie Michael Houser to cheer you up.

30. Anaheim Ducks (16-30-7, April: T-28)

Andrew: 29, Gavin: 31

It’s not being talked about enough just how much of an offensive black hole Anaheim has been this season. Anaheim is on pace to be the first team with a power-play below 10% since the 2000-01 Minnesota Wild. They’re also dead last in shots per game and 30th in goals scored per game overall. At least Ryan Miller got a feel-good send-off to his legendary NHL career. Same for David Backes.

29. New Jersey Devils (18-28-7, April: 27)

Andrew: 30, Gavin: 27

Trivia question: who has the longest regulation losing streak in the NHL this season? You probably guess the Sabres, and you’d be correct. Well, half correct. New Jersey matched Buffalo’s 9-game regulation losing streak before closing the month with a 3-0-1 run over the Flyers. They’re fully into the “try every prospect in the pipeline to see what they’ve got” stage (not like they’re the only ones, though), but at least Jack Hughes is trending upward.

28. Ottawa Senators (21-27-5, April: T-28)

Andrew: 28, Gavin: 28

The Sens are still the Sens, and I could easily copy and paste the paragraph from my first power rankings article in November 2018 and it would mostly still apply (I was actually too optimistic about them that month). As they wrap up a fourth consecutive finish in the NHL’s basement, the pressure will mount to show progress next season. At least they got to spoil Vancouver’s playoff hopes.

27. Columbus Blue Jackets (17-25-12, April: 26)

Andrew: 27, Gavin: 24

What a gong show the Blue Jackets have been, to the point of being leaped by Detroit for last in the Central. Jarmo Kekkalianen isn’t admitting it publicly, but it’s all but a foregone conclusion John Tortorella won’t return as head coach. Losing Joonas Korpisalo for the end of their season is just the latest blow of adversity.

26. Detroit Red Wings (18-27-9, April: 30)

Andrew: 21, Gavin: 29

In three years of doing NHL power rankings, this is easily the highest I’ve ever placed Detroit. Granted, it more has to do with a lot of other teams stumbling over their own two skates. But Jakub Vrana’s four-goal game was awesome, and if nothing else, Jonathan Bernier deserves credit for carrying this team on his back for the last few seasons.

T-24. San Jose Sharks (20-26-6, April: T-22)

Andrew: 26, Gavin: 22

The cold truth is the Sharks might be in a playoff spot right now if Doug Wilson hadn’t royally messed up the goaltending situation. That last playoff spot in the West was being passed around like a hot potato, but the Sharks goalies kept letting said potato squeak through their five-holes, as the club has dropped eight of ten. Also, about that Erik Karlsson contract…

T-24. Arizona Coyotes (22-25-6, April: 20)

Andrew: 22, Gavin: 26

Turns out the light I thought the Coyotes could see last month was a mirage. A five-game losing streak and two consecutive losses to San Jose later in the month have unofficially taken the Coyotes out of the race. This is what happens to this team when Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta aren’t standing on their heads. Rick Tocchet is a stealth candidate to be fired behind the bench this offseason.

T-22. Vancouver Canucks (19-25-3, April: 24)

Andrew: 22, Gavin: 22

The fact that Vancouver is even playing right now is great, considering they went through probably the worst COVID outbreak in the four major sports. Back-to-back wins in their return over Toronto gave them faint hope of reaching the playoffs. Losing three of four (all in regulation) to Ottawa immediately erased it. Especially with Elias Pettersson done for the regular season with an injury.

T-22. Philadelphia Flyers (23-23-7, April: 21)

Andrew: 25, Gavin: 21

They were eliminated from the playoffs before the Senators and a Claude Giroux carried comeback is the only reason they didn’t lose four straight to the lowly Devils. Carter Hart’s nightmare season came to a premature end as the Flyers look to wrap up the worst team save percentage in twenty decades, clocking in at a ghastly .876 mark. All the pressure is on GM Chuck Fletcher to turn things around with big moves in the summer. The future is officially in doubt, and it will be up to Fletcher to save it. No pressure.

T-20. Los Angeles Kings (20-24-6, April: T-22)

Andrew: 24, Gavin: 20

Quinton Byfield is finally in the NHL, which is exciting… unlike LA’s play over the last few months. The Kings are one of the worst possession teams in the NHL (44.84% Corsi, 45.05% xG), and both special teams units are well below-average. At least Cal Petersen has emerged as a solid starter, both now and for the future.

T-20. Calgary Flames (22-25-3, April: 25)

Andrew: 19, Gavin: 25

Montréal’s struggles have delayed the inevitable, but the Flames are what they are: not a very good NHL team. The mix just isn’t right here, and it’s up to Brad Treliving (or whoever replaces him) to change that. Running it back isn’t an option anymore.

19. Chicago Blackhawks (22-25-6, April: 16)

Andrew: 20, Gavin: 19

The only way the Hawks were making the playoffs this year was if Kevin Laankinen kept standing on his head until the season’s end. Laankinen did his best, but teams that are 29th in shot attempts percentage (Corsi) and dead last in Expected Goals just don’t make the playoffs. I’m sorry to see Andrew Shaw retire from the NHL the way he has to, though.

18. New York Rangers (26-22-6, April: T-17)

Andrew: 17, Gavin: 17

Crazy the team with the 14th best record in the NHL and a +23 goal differential won’t make the playoffs. Even crazier that they fired their GM and president two days after Tom Wilson received a slap on the wrist ($5K fine) for punching Pavel Buchnevich and ending Artemi Panarin’s season. Last night’s line brawl with the Capitals was ugly, but also predictable. The Department of Player Safety didn’t take care of the situation, so the player did, to the tune of 100 penalty minutes in the first period. Just hope James Dolan doesn’t get power hungry and turn you into the late 2010s Knicks.

17. Montréal Canadiens (24-19-9, April: 15)

Andrew: 18, Gavin: 15

It seemed for a while the Habs didn’t even want to make the playoffs. But they’re waking up now and are back to being a lock. They’re dealing with a ton of injuries right now; no Carey Price, no Brendan Gallagher, no Shea Weber. It at least sounds like those three will be back soon, but the status is less certain around Jonathan Drouin, who is out on a personal leave of absence — I wish nothing but the best to him. If the Habs are looking for positives, Cole Caufield has arrived, and his first two NHL goals were nothing short of magical; both were OT winners.

16. Dallas Stars (21-18-14, April: T-17)

Andrew: 14, Gavin: 18

Make no mistake about it, the Stars are back. The question is whether or not they came back in time, and sadly, the answer is almost certainly no. Ben Bishop and Alexander Radulov are officially done for the year, which pretty much ends any shot the Stars have of going deep again. But Tyler Seguin on the verge of returning and Jason Robertson muscling into the Calder conversation, the Stars have a (fading) shot of making their third straight trip to the playoffs.

15. Nashville Predators (29-23-2, April: 14)

Andrew: 15, Gavin: 16

Jusse Saros didn’t put up a .962 save percentage as he did in March, but the Predators are still hanging tough in the bid for the last playoff spot in the Central. If Nashville misses the playoffs, special teams will be a huge reason why. If they make it, special teams are a huge reason they’ll probably lose in the first round. The Preds rank just 25th on the power-play and 29th on the PK despite their vaunted defensive core. Does their finish impact whether or not they trade one of their top-four defensemen before the expansion draft?

14. Winnipeg Jets – X (27-21-3, April: 11)

Andrew: 16, Gavin: 14

Connor Hellebuyck can’t carry this team forever, and Winnipeg’s unimpressive possession numbers (25th in Corsi, 27th in xG) are finally catching up to them. Losing Nikolaj Ehlers for the year is a massive loss — he was playing well enough to get a few fourth or fifth place Hart votes. The Jets haven’t had trouble scoring (12th in goals per game, 4th on the power-play), and they can’t afford to start now with their weak blue-line. The biggest problems are they’ve lost 7 of their last 10 and will likely have to face their kryptonite (Edmonton) in the first round. Though they actually might lose their way to the fourth seed and a meeting with the Maple Leafs. I don’t want to say they’re falling apart, but Winnipeg is certainly trending down at the worst time possible.

13. St. Louis Blues (24-19-7, April: 19)

Andrew: 13, Gavin: 11

About time you took control of your season. I thought the Blues might let what looked like a playoff spot handed to them on a silver platter slip away to the Coyotes of all teams. Jordan Binnington rediscovered his A-game, posting a .927 save percentage in April and helping the Blues to a 6-3-1 mark in their last 10. With the rest of the West slipping on banana peels all of April, it’s almost certainly good enough to get the 2019 champs back to the playoffs.

T-11. Edmonton Oilers – X (32-17-2, April: T-12)

Andrew: 10, Gavin: 13

Connor McDavid simply isn’t human. The guy is a highlight machine who might just put up 100 points in this shortened season. Mike Smith has made me look stupid all season, putting up a career-high .924 save percentage, which ranks 8th in the league. The fact that he also has a career .934 save percentage in the playoffs makes the Oilers a team not to be trifled with. Even if their depth is still a bit suspect.

T-11. New York Islanders – X (31-16-6, April: 9)

Andrew: 11, Gavin: 12

At 4-4-2, they have the worst record of any of the four East playoff teams in their last 10, but it’s not exactly like the Isles are in freefall. Under Barry Trotz, they’re a team who always step it up when the playoffs arrive, and I’m expecting more of the same this year. That being said, they desperately need more from Kyle Palmieri (1 goal, 1 assist in 12 games); Mat Barzal can’t score all of their goals, after all.

10. Minnesota Wild – X (33-14-5, April: 10)

Andrew: 12, Gavin: 8

I don’t know what to think about the Wild anymore. They haven’t lost more than two in a row all year. But they also went 22 consecutive games without outshooting their opponent. Last month, I said I was comfortable penciling them in as a first-round out to Colorado or Vegas, whichever juggernaut they matched up with. I still think that will ultimately be their fate, but I was probably a bit too harsh. They’re playing better than the sum of their parts right now, and with a top-five goalie tandem, they could make one of those powerhouses sweat. The keyword here is could.

T-7. Toronto Maple Leafs – X (33-13-6, April: 6)

Andrew: 5, Gavin: 10

Despite a five-game losing streak and a power-play that’s allowed almost as many goals (3) as they’ve scored (4) since the start of April, the Maple Leafs remain the class of the North Division. McDavid will deservedly run away with the Hart, but Matthews is doing the same with the Rocket Richard and could touch 40 goals with a strong finish. Frederik Andersen’s status and role for the playoffs remains unclear, though.

T-7. Washington Capitals – X (34-14-5, April: 4)

Andrew: 9, Gavin: 6

Anthony Mantha couldn’t have started his Caps career any better, becoming the first Capital to score in their first four games with the club. The Capitals have looked good top to bottom all season, and they’re in the mix for a fifth straight division title in 2021. Washington will need more out of Ilya Samsonov (.895 SV% in April, .902% on the season) to go on another deep run, though. It would also be nice if Tom Wilson stopped trying to kill people; the fact he didn’t receive a suspension (especially considering his history) for the aforementioned acts on Buchnevich and Panarin blows my mind. But let’s talk less about that and more about T.J. Oshie scoring a hat-trick in the first game after the passing of his father. Rest in peace, coach Oshie.

This is what it’s all about right here. Nothing but the best to the Oshie family.

T-7. Florida Panthers – X (35-14-5, April: 8)

Andrew: 6, Gavin: 9

Ultimately, I think losing Aaron Ekblad will do them in during the playoffs. But you have to respect the season Florida’s put together. The Panthers have been just as good since Ekblad’s injury (.672 points percentage) than before it (.686 points percentage). Aleksander Barkov will likely run away with the Selke. But Spencer Knight’s stellar start gives them another wrinkle in a complicated goaltending situation. Sergei Bobrovsky needs to pick it up, to say the least.

6. Boston Bruins – X (31-14-7, April: T-12)

Andrew: 7, Gavin: 7

Playing on a great time for the first time in his career, Taylor Hall has thankfully reminded everyone he’s actually good. Hall has fit in seamlessly with 10 points in 11 games as a B. Boston is 4th in goals per game since Hall’s debut with 3.64; they were 14th (2.92) beforehand. The Bruins have put the Rangers in their rearview mirror and are in a position to challenge for home-ice in the first round (maybe two, but that’s doubtful) down the stretch.

5. Tampa Bay Lightning – X (36-14-3, April: 2)

The Bolts drop a few spots mostly because there were a couple of teams on fire right now that I wanted to elevate. However, they only had a pedestrian month on the ice and lost Steven Stamkos to a lower-body injury. He’s expected to be back before the playoffs, but then again, that’s what we were told last season. Victor Hedman’s play also hasn’t been as strong as usual lately. The combined result of all this is losing control of the Central and likely facing Florida in the first round instead of Dallas or Nashville.

4. Carolina Hurricanes – X (36-10-7, April: 5)

A ten-game points streak (7-0-3) has separated Carolina from their Floridian foes and given them the inside track to first in the Central and the President’s Trophy; they’re currently first in the NHL. It’s been a status quo year from the Hurricanes; tremendous underlying numbers and underrated goaltending from Petr Mrazek have led the charge. Just make sure you don’t galaxy brain this Rod Brind’Amour extension, Dundon.

3. Pittsburgh Penguins – X (35-16-3, April: 7)

Andrew: 4, Gavin: 3

What a difference two months make. The Pens have gone from being a bubble playoff team in the East to the top of the division. The usual suspects like Sidney Crosby are still going strong, and Jeff Carter has a solid 6 points in 10 games since coming over from L.A. Once they get Evgeni Malkin back in the lineup, watch out.

2. Vegas Golden Knights – X (37-13-2, April: 3)

Andrew: 1, Gavin: 4

Thanks to a 10-game win streak, the Golden Knights have taken a strong grip of first place in the West. Robin Lehner has returned to peak form, giving the Knights elite goaltending no matter who they go with in the playoffs. A head-to-head meeting with the Avs on May 10 could go a long way in determining who takes the top spot in the West. It’s hard to bet against Vegas right now (pun intended).

Make sure to check this out to get familiar with which new faces could have an impact on the approaching Stanley Cup Playoffs.

1. Colorado Avalanche – X (34-13-4, April: 1)

Andrew: 2, Gavin: 1

Even with Mikko Rantanen on the COVID list and several key contributors out, the Avs are still going strong. Colorado leads the NHL in, goals for, shots for, and shots against per game. They certainly have the resume of a contender ready to go on a deep run after consecutive Round 2, Game 7 heartbreaks. Though it looks like we’re on in for a rematch of one of the more underrated playoff series in recent memory.

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