NHL Power Rankings
With an 8-2-0 record in their last 10, the Nashville Predators have given GM David Poile something to think about for next Monday’s trade deadline. (Glenn James/National Hockey League/Getty)

We’ve officially reached the home stretch folks. The final full month of the 2021 NHL regular season is here. Excitement is high, but if you look at the standings, the tension is fairly light. When the 2019-20 NHL season shut down on March 12, 2020, with a month to go, about ten playoff spots seemed pretty locked up. We were robbed of what would’ve been an exciting fight to the finish for the last few spots, no doubt about it.

That number is closer to fourteen this year. Only the last spot in the Central (currently held by Nashville, with Chicago, Columbus, and Dallas in the mix) and in the West (held by St. Louis, with Arizona, LA, and even San Jose nipping at their heels) are really up for grabs. You could make an argument for the last spot in the East, currently occupied by Boston, potentially being up for grabs for the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers. But considering games in their hands and the strength of the roster, and it seems like the Boston Bruins probably have that wrapped up. The new division alignment (no wild cards this year) certainly plays a role in this. But there just isn’t as much parity in the playoff race as the NHL is used to.

That doesn’t mean the last twenty games or so for these thirty-one teams are meaningless. Even with smaller or now crowds, securing home-ice will be critical, as will being the number one seed, especially in the three-headed monster of the Central. Individual players will be fighting for bigger roles both this season and in the future. With the April 12 trade deadline rapidly approaching, NHL general managers will have to make the tough decision between buying and selling. Well, it won’t be a tough decision for some of them.

I’m the only one providing insight on my, Gavin Daly’s, and Emma Brown’s rankings, so if your favorite team is ranked too low, take it up with me. And again, here are some of the stats I use to make my rankings, while also factoring in injuries, schedule, momentum, and other factors.

31. Buffalo Sabres (8-23-6, March: 31)

Andrew: 31, Gavin: 31, Emma: 31

I haven’t even gotten Gavin and Emma’s rankings yet, but I have no doubt who’s dead last. It’s hard to go one-for-the-month, with that win coming on the last day of March, and not finish above the basement. It’s not just that the Sabres lost eighteen straight, but how they lost some of them. Multiple embarrassing blowouts, a blown 3-0 third-period lead just to say the least. Jack Eichel is out with an injury, which is the only thing keeping him out of trade rumors. The one excuse for the Sabres losing streak is they didn’t have their starting goalie, Linus Ullmark, healthy until the last two games. He should ensure they reach ten wins on the season, but prime goalie Patrick Roy couldn’t save this team. Now the question is what can they get for Taylor Hall?

30. Detroit Red Wings (13-22-5, March: T-29)

Andrew: 28, Gavin: 30, Emma: 30

The Yzerplan is still in its early stages, so hard to judge how well things are going when things aren’t supposed to be going well, at least in terms of wins and losses. It has been a disappointing year for some of their best players like Dylan Larkin (19 points), Anthony Mantha (18) and Tyler Bertuzzi (out with an injury since Jan. 30). Forwards Bobby Ryan, Luke Glendening and goaltender Jonathan Bernier should net Detroit even more darts for what figures to be an unpredictable 2021 draft.

T-28. Anaheim Ducks (11-21-7, March: 27)

Andrew: 29, Gavin: 28, Emma: 28

Not even goalie John Gibson can save this team from complete despair, but at least Trevor Zegras’ NHL career got off to a slick start. General manager Bob Murray has the unenviable task of deciding whether forward Ryan Getzlaf gets traded a hero or stays long enough to become the villain. Ok, Getzlaf definitely has the tenure to avoid the latter fate, even if he isn’t traded to chase after a second Cup. Former 30-goal scorer Rickard Rakell and right-handed defenseman Josh Manson are also on the block.

T-28. Ottawa Senators (13-22-4, March: T-29)

Andrew: 27, Gavin: 29, Emma: 29

Well, they’ve trolled Calgary right out of a playoff spot by winning five of seven head-to-head meetings. Other than that, it’s another rebuilding year near the bottom of the standings for Ottawa. Goalie Joey Daccord’s first NHL win was a feel-good story, but now he’s done for the year. At least prospect Filip Gustavsson has done a good job since being called up (.946 SV% in 5 games).

27. New Jersey Devils (13-17-6, March: 28)

Andrew: 26, Gavin: 27, Emma: 27

The New Jersey Devils lost a lot of their early-season momentum due to a COVID stoppage, but they’re a solid 5-3-2 in their last 10 games, with some solid wins against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers and the Boston Bruins mixed in. Kyle Palmieri figures to be one of the top forwards available at this deadline, and he’s sitting right now as the Devils plan a deal. Youngsters like center Pavel Zacha and defenseman Ty Smith are having great years, but the same can’t be said for their big offseason forward acquisition, Andreas Johnsson (8 points).

26. Columbus Blue Jackets (14-18-8, March: T-20)

Andrew: 24, Gavin: 24, Emma: 24

It’s been a nightmare year in Columbus. The return of center Pierre Luc-Dubois has netted Patrik Laine (1 goal in 18 games) and Jack Roslovic (healthy scratched Saturday). Their possession numbers are downright ugly; a 45.58% Corsi ranks dead last, while a 46.17%. Expected goals aren’t much better at 26th (5v5 only, score and venue adjusted). Head coach John Tortorella’s done some great work here over the years, but his shelf life has all but expired.

25. Calgary Flames (16-21-3, March: 22)

Andrew: 19, Gavin: 25, Emma: 25

They went 1-3-1 against the Ottawa Senators in March, and I honestly don’t know if there’s anything more to say. They’re just 5-7-0 under new head coach Darryl Sutter, who doesn’t exactly seem thrilled with their current core. It feels like the Calgary Flames are reaching last straw territory, and it will be interesting to see where general manager Brad Treliving, (or his successor), goes from here.

24. Vancouver Canucks (16-18-3, March: 24)

Andrew: 23, Gavin: 23, Emma: 22

A Thatcher-Demko-infused hot-streak crept them back towards the race, but they’re still six points behind Montreal, who has played fewer than four games (at least they passed the Flames!) Center J.T. Miller scored this goal-of-the-year candidate in overtime. A much-needed highlight in an otherwise disappointing step backward of a season.

T-22. San Jose Sharks (17-16-4, March: 25)

Andrew: 25, Gavin: 21, Emma: 21

This team would probably be in a playoff spot if general manager Doug Wilson didn’t half-ass fixing the goalie situation in the offseason. If he acquired goalie Anton Khudobin, one of the Columbus goalies or Thomas Greiss (who admittedly has struggled in Detroit) instead of goaltender Devan Dubnyk, the Sharks probably wouldn’t have a .895 team save percentage (25th in NHL). At least forward Evander Kane is playing really well, even if his off the ice situation isn’t exactly swell.

T-22. Los Angeles Kings (14-17-6, March: 18)

Andrew: 22, Gavin: 19, Emma: 26

They’re still hanging around near that last playoff spot in the West, but the fact they’re not even at Bettman-.500 suggests their rebuild needs more seasoning. They could probably get a decent bit for trading someone like forward Alex Lafallo but would sending a message that they’re keeping their good players to ensure the franchise keeps moving forward be better?

21. Philadelphia Flyers (18-14-5, March: 10)

Andrew: 30, Gavin: 20, Emma: 15

Lots of teams had a bad March, but few were as miserable as the Philadelphia Flyers. A brutal 17-games in 31 days due to a February COVID outbreak definitely hurt, but it was far from the main culprit. When you lose not once, not twice, not thrice but four times by five or more goals, including once to the 18-straight loss Buffalo Sabres, there’s something seriously wrong. 

Goaltender Carter Hart was dead last in goalies with at least three games played in March with a ghastly .815 save percentage. Goalie Brian Elliott was second last with a .847 mark. For reference, goalie Matt Murray was third-worst at a still bad but much better .862 showing. They allowed a franchise-record 75 goals during March. None of their six wins were by more than one goal. Two of them required multi-goal comebacks against Buffalo. Only two of those six wins were in regulation. They’re being ranked below inanimate objects in other power rankings articles. What a mess.

20. Arizona Coyotes (19-15-5, March: T-20)

Andrew: 21, Gavin: 26, Emma: 16

If I am a Coyotes fan or player, I can see the light. They’ve opened up a five-point lead over a St. Louis Blues team with a nightmare schedule to finish the year (albeit one with two games in hand). Playoff hockey hasn’t been around in the desert since 2012. If the Arizona Coyotes don’t end that drought this year, they’ll have no one to blame but themselves.

19. St. Louis Blues (16-16-6, March: 12)

Andrew: 16, Gavin: 17, Emma: 23

I’m ranking the St. Louis Blues above Arizona because they have the superior roster on paper, but they haven’t played up to their potential lately as their playoff chances are fading by the day. Fourteen of their last eighteen games are against Colorado, Vegas, or Minnesota. Forward Vladimir Tarasenko hasn’t produced much since returning from injury. Is it possible last year’s best regular-season team in the West could sell? There’s precedent for it.

T-17. Dallas Stars (13-13-10, March: 19)

Andrew: 18, Gavin: 16, Emma: 20

Another month goes by and I still don’t really know what to think about the Dallas Stars. They have a ton of overtime losses, which is both good and bad. Getting forward Tyler Seguin and goalie Ben Bishop back could boost them into that fourth playoff spot in the Central that’s begging to be claimed. But eventually, they’re just gonna run out of race track. The last Stanley Cup finalist to miss the playoffs the following year were the 2014-15 Los Angeles Kings.

T-17. New York Rangers (17-15-5, March: 26)

Andrew: 20, Gavin: 15, Emma: 19

No team made a bigger leap in these rankings over the past month than the New York Rangers. Their ten-spot lead is tied with another team above them. It’s more than just those shiny 9-0 and 8-3 wins over the Philadelphia Flyers giving them a boost, and while the Flyers were very bad in those games, the Rangers were also very good in their own right. With the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers sputtering, they’re hanging around in the East playoff mix. This year still feels like a prelude to a potential breakout in 2021-22 to me.

16. Chicago Blackhawks (17-17-5, March: 15)

Andrew: 17, Gavin: 18, Emma: 18

This is very likely the team that’s ranked too high this month. The inevitable fall from a Kevin-Lankinen-caused-PDO-bender grace may be underway. Forwards Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat are still going strong, but their lack of defense is predictably coming back to haunt them. General manager Stan Bowman has a lot of options at the deadline.

15. Montréal Canadiens (17-9-9, March: 17)

Andrew: 12, Gavin: 22, Emma: 13

Montreal’s record hasn’t vastly improved under new coach Dominique Ducharme, but their previously strong underlying numbers remain strong. Adding center Eric Staal should help, but it seems weird to acquire another center when they already have Nick Suzuki, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Philip Danault. The cap-strapped Habs should attempt to replace defenseman Ben Chiarot, who out for about the rest of the regular season with hand surgery.

14. Nashville Predators (20-18-1, March: 23)

Andrew: 14, Gavin: 14, Emma: 17

Their recent hot streak doesn’t change how I think of them long-term, but if nothing else, it’s got them in a playoff spot with just over a month to go. That’s something. After a putrid February (.880 SV%), goalie Jusse Saros turned things around big-time in March. He’s probably not going to throw up a .963 SV% like he did last month the rest of the way, but he should be solid. That might be enough to get Nashville back to the playoffs, especially if they hold on to defenseman Mattias Ekholm and others.

T-12. Boston Bruins (19-10-6, March: 6)

Andrew: 13, Gavin: 10, Emma: 14

The Boston Bruins have somehow reverted back to mid-2010s-one-good-line form at the worst possible time. Their left side on defense looks weak, as does the right with defenseman Brandon Carlo still out from this hit. But they’re top-five in goals and shots against and have the league’s best penalty-kill. It’s their forward depth, which is strong on paper, that’s letting them down, with players like Craig Smith, Charlie Coyle, and Jake DeBrusk underwhelming so far.

T-12. Edmonton Oilers (23-14-2, March: 8)

Andrew: 15, Gavin: 11, Emma: 11

This ranking is probably a little low for Edmonton, but I like Montreal’s depth come playoff time, and goalie Connor Hellebuyck could carry the Winnipeg Jets through a round or two. Granted, center Connor McDavid and forward Leon Draisaitl could, too. Executive Ken Holland was pretty aggressive at last year’s deadline, but I’m honestly not expecting them to make a major move.

11. Winnipeg Jets (23-13-3, March: 9)

Andrew: 11, Gavin: 12, Emma: 12

Like Edmonton, they’re lurking the shadows behind Toronto but weren’t able to make up much ground head-to-head in March, going a good but not amazing 2-1-1. Their underlying numbers still aren’t very good, but goalie Connor Hellebuyck still doesn’t care. General manager Kevin Cheveladyoff is usually passive, but he’s dealt his 1st round pick at two of the last three deadlines. To what lengths will he go to acquire another defenseman?

10. Minnesota Wild (23-12-2, March: 14)

Andrew: 10, Gavin: 13, Emma: 10

There are few teams I feel as comfortable evaluating as the Minnesota Wild. They’re a good team, maybe even a very good one. But being outscored 11-1 in two games against Colorado raises concerns about their ceiling. They were better; not great, but better in four games against Vegas in March (2-2-0, -2 goal differential, outshot 120-119). They have a high floor and are a playoff lock, no doubt. Maybe I’m underrating their ceiling but it’s lower than the next twelve teams on my list, hence their ranking.

9. New York Islanders (24-10-4, March: 13)

Andrew: 7, Gavin: 7, Emma: 7

Losing forward captain Anders Lee for the year is a devastating blow, but the New York Islanders have still looked like the Islanders in his absence. I’d expect general manager Lou Lamoriello to be aggressive in replacing him, especially after New York’s strong playoff run last year. Forward Kyle Palmieri could be a great fit here, assuming the New Jersey Devils are ok with trading within their division.

8. Florida Panthers (26-9-4, March: 7)

Andrew: 9, Gavin: 8, Emma: 4

Speaking of good teams who lost one of their best players to a devastating injury. Just when everything was going right, the league’s biggest surprise lost their top defenseman, Aaron Ekblad, for twelve weeks to a devastating leg injury. The Florida Panthers will probably try to add help on their blue-line (they may have even done so before the Ekblad injury), but there’s no one on the market that can do what Ekblad did for this team. At least goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is turning things around; his .914 save percentage in March is his second-highest in any month as a Panther (December 2017 – .917 SV%). They’d be higher on this list with the same record if Ekblad hadn’t gone down.

7. Pittsburgh Penguins (24-12-2, March: 16)

Andrew: 8, Gavin: 3, Emma: 9

Yeah, I was more right than I thought I was when I said “the Penguins are the one team I probably should have higher on my list” last month. All Pittsburgh did in March was finish tied with Colorado for the best record in the league, nothing special. They’ve essentially traded places with Boston as a playoff lock in the East despite being without forward Evgeni Malkin for the last two weeks just as Geno looked to be turning a corner.

6. Toronto Maple Leafs (26-10-3, March: 1)

Andrew: 6, Gavin: 9, Emma: 3

Toronto went through their first major losing streak of the year, losing six of seven early in the month. But they’ve rebounded since, going 4-0-1 to end the month, thanks in large part to the emergence of legitimately good starting goalie Jack Campbell. He’s emerging as a true starting goalie with Frederik Andersen on the shelf with some sort of nagging injury. The Toronto Maple Leafs could add a forward, defenseman, goalie, or no one, and it wouldn’t be surprising.

5. Carolina Hurricanes (25-9-3, March: 4)

Andrew: 4, Gavin: 5, Emma: 8

I’m proud to say I was ahead of the “Hurricanes are elite” bandwagon, at least in terms of Vendetta writers. Everyone worries about the Carolina Hurricanes’ goaltending, but then a guy like goalie Alex Nedeljkovic tosses up a .947 SV% and wins rookie of the month. A well-deserved extension for head coach Rod Brind’Amour should be coming in the near future.

4. Washington Capitals (25-9-4, March: 5)

Andrew: 5, Gavin: 6, Emma: 5

So much for my whole “the Caps might fall off at 5-on-5 and miss the playoffs” preseason prediction. Washington looks as dialed in as ever as a team and is one of just four clubs with single-digit regulation losses. As long as goalie Ilya Samsonov (.920 SV% in March) keeps getting back on track, the Caps should still be a dangerous team moving forward.

3. Vegas Golden Knights (25-10-2, March: 2)

Andrew: 3, Gavin: 4, Emma: 6

The Golden Knights dropping one spot has virtually nothing to do with what they did in March, but what the teams ahead of them did. Vegas is probably too capped-strapped to make any moves at the deadline, but it’s not like they really need to. They’re a well-oiled machine with depth and talent across the board. Is the fourth time the charm to get over the hump? Not if our first-ranked team has a say.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning (26-10-2, March: 3)

Andrew: 2, Gavin: 2, Emma: 2

For the first time this season, I’m moving the Bolts out of my top spot. Again, just like with Vegas, it’s not because of anything they’ve done wrong. Tampa Bay is as stacked as ever and would be on cruise control if not for the fierce competition with Florida and Carolina for seeding in the top-heavy Central. But one team just burst the doors down so fiercely to give these rankings their first unanimous number one.

Check out Gavin’s latest Three Majors and a Minor to further fulfill your NHL needs.

Colorado Avalanche (26-8-4, March: 11)

Andrew: 1, Gavin: 1, Emma: 1

Now, this is the team I was expecting to see when I picked the Avs to win the Cup. Colorado jumped ten spots in these rankings thanks to an absurdly good month. They lead the NHL in 5-on-5 score-adjusted Corsi (59.96%) and Expected Goals (60.53%). If you’re not an advanced stats person, they’re first in goals for (3.63) and against per game (2.26). Colorado is on another level right now. General manager Joe Sakic should probably get a better backup goalie as Philip Grubauer insurance, but other than that, the Avs are a juggernaut.

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