Nobody stays at the top forever, and for the first time in weeks, the Colorado Avalanche has relinquished the top spot after a loss to the Caps on Monday. It snapped a nine-game winning streak and paved the way for the Panthers to return to the top spot thanks to an 11-game winning streak.
It’s important to enter the playoffs with some momentum, so it’s unlikely that teams at the top will take their foot off the pedal other than to give their starters a break. There are some that are still trying to find their groove, such as the Lightning, who are 4-4-2 in their past 10, and some that are still vying for a playoff spot.
It’ll be an interesting finish to the season, the first time in three seasons all teams will have played 82 games.
(All fancy stats are 5v5 and courtesy naturalstattrick.com)
1. Florida Panthers (55-15-6, +100. CF%: 1st, xGF%: 2nd. PR: 2)
They’ve won 11 straight in spite of some uncertainty in net, but the biggest news item is the return of Aaron Ekblad, who looks like he might be ready for Game 1 of the playoffs.
2. Colorado Avalanche (55-15-6, +87. CF%: 7th, xGF%: 11th. PR: 1)
Like the Panthers, the Avs have been rotating goalies but there’s no doubt their starter will be Kuemper even though Francouz is a great insurance policy. Only the Panthers and Avs have a chance to win 60 games this season, something only on team has ever done (Lightning in 2018-19) in the cap era.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs (51-20-6, +63. CF%: 6th, xGF%: 4th. PR: 5)
It’s a really good sign they can win even without Matthews. Campbell is back and he’s getting the results, but there seems to be very little chance he returns to his early-season form given his injury history and an unprecedented workload.
4. St. Louis Blues (46-20-11, +68. CF%: 25th, xGF%: 25th. PR: 8)
The Blues will be a very popular dark horse playoff pick with a deep lineup, solid goaltending from Husso and they’re peaking at the right time; they have not lost in regulation since March 26. It’s an easy schedule the rest of the way, too; asides from a road game against the Avs, the remaining four are against teams currently outside the playoff picture.
5. Minnesota Wild (48-21-7, +48. CF%: 11th, xGF%: 7th. PR: 4)
The Wild have lost just once in regulation in April, though quite a few games have been very close. Fleury and Talbot might be the best tandem heading into the playoffs, but note that they’re 0-1-2 against the Blues this season, who they will face in the first round.
6. New York Rangers (50-21-6, +47. CF%: 24th, xGF%: 24th. PR: 7)
Two straight shutouts pretty much solidifies Shesterkin for the Vezina… the question is, does he also win the Hart? The Rangers’ possession numbers have improved since the trade deadline, but their bread and butter remains their brilliant goaltending.
7. Calgary Flames (47-20-10, +82. CF%: 3rd, xGF%: 3rd. PR: 3)
Credit to Gaudreau and the Flames for the (soon to be clinched) division title, but note they haven’t beaten a team with a winning record since April 4 against L.A. They’ve slipped from being the second-best team in the West to being third or fourth-best behind St. Louis/Minnesota.
8. Washington Capitals (43-23-10, +38. CF%: 15th, xGF%: 15th. PR: 13)
The Caps can be hard to figure out because they’ve won so many games in spite of their average goaltending. Their .738 P% since March 1 ranks third in the league and they also rank fourth in GF/GP. The problem? They’ve had blowout losses against some very good teams, and ranking them this high does indeed feel very odd for a team that could be the East’s eighth seed with a good chance of exiting in the first round.
9. Boston Bruins (47-24-5, +31. CF%: 4th, xGF%: 1st. PR: 9)
The Bruins stumble a bit having lost four of five games prior to their two-game winning streak. Neither Swayman nor Ullmark have looked particularly sharp, but that’s been offset by really solid performance from DeBrusk in the second half of the season.
10. Tampa Bay Lightning (46-22-8, +37. CF%: 12th, xGF%: 9th. PR: 11)
Vasilevskiy has lost five straight games, and it feels weird just typing that sentence. Elliott, meanwhile, has won three straight and earned a one-year extension. It’s been a pretty mixed back for the two-time Cup champs, and it feels inevitable that a new team will be crowned champion this season.
11. Carolina Hurricanes (49-20-8, +66. CF%: 2nd, xGF%: 5th. PR: 8)
The injury to Andersen could be potentially devastating if it lingers into the playoffs, and the Canes are very vulnerable right now playing at a .560 P% pace – 17th in the league – since March 1.
12. Edmonton Oilers (44-26-6, +29. CF%: 8th, xGF%: 12th. PR: 16)
Just when you think Mike Smith is done, he just keeps coming back. That’s two straight shutouts for the 40-year-old vet and he has not allowed more than two goals in five straight games. His save percentage by month: .920, .865, .906, .889, .902, .955. Based on that, he’ll implode in May, just in time for the first round of the playoffs!
13. Dallas Stars (43-28-5, -6. CF%: 19th, xGF%: 14th. PR: 10)
It was not a great week for the Stars, who went 1-1-1 and may have a goalie controversy brewing with Wedgewood making three appearances in their past four games.
14. Nashville Predators (44-28-5, +20. CF%: 16th, xGF%: 16th. PR: 12)
They’re just a streaky bunch, and with two back-to-backs remaining, how much can they rely on Saros? He allowed four goals in one period against the Blues starting for the second straight night, and their secondary scoring has dried up with Johansen and Duchene scoring more than two goals in their past 10 games.
15. Pittsburgh Penguins (43-23-11, +39. CF%: 10th, xGF%: 6th. PR: 15)
Jarry may not return for the rest of the season, but note DeSmith has played quite well and been in the same situation before when he had to take over for Matt Murray in 2018-19 for stretches. The big worry? Any more slippage would mean facing the Panthers in the first round instead of the Rangers or Hurricanes.
16. Vancouver Canucks (38-28-11, +16. CF%: 17th, xGF%: 18th. PR: 19)
A shootout loss to the Sens on Tuesday was particularly crushing as it ended a six-game winning streak and took their playoff destiny out of their own hands. Still, they’ve been showing a lot of gumption against all odds without their captain, and there’s a lot to be proud of when the season ends.
17. Los Angeles Kings (41-27-10, -3. CF%: 5th, xGF%: 8th. PR: 18)
The 9-3 loss to the Avs was particularly ugly, and they had to grind out 2-1 wins against the Jackets and Ducks. They’re still in playoff position thanks to a weak Pacific, otherwise, they may be the weakest playoff team in the West.
18. New York Islanders (35-31-10, -3. CF%: 30th, xGF%: 21st. PR: 14)
They’ve lost five of their past eight though none of it should be on Sorokin, who has been very good all season. There’s been no consistency at all with a normally predictable team.
19. Vegas Golden Knights (41-31-5, +17. CF%: 9th, xGF%: 10th. PR: 20)
Injuries played a role, but even with their big three in the lineup – Eichel, Pacioretty and Stone – the Knights have lost four of their past six. Call it karma, but you just don’t trade players like they’re baseball cards and expect everything to go smoothly.
20. Buffalo Sabres (29-38-11, -59. CF%: 20th, xGF%: 28th. PR: 21)
When the season is over, the Sabres should have a ton to be proud of. They’ve won three of their past four and the O’Reilly trade doesn’t look lopsided at all anymore.
21. Winnipeg Jets (35-31-11, -13. CF%: 18th, xGF%: 17th. PR: 17)
Nobody’s really talking about it, but over the past five seasons Hellebuyck has made a league-high 291 starts, 21 more than Vasilevskiy. He’s allowed 13 goals in his past two games and the workload may be catching up to him.
22. Seattle Kraken (25-44-6, -63. CF%: 14th, xGF%: 20th. PR: 28)
Their biggest highlight of the season might be Marshawn Lynch doing donuts. To be fair, for an inaugural franchise, it was probably more important to connect with the community and build a fanbase than winning games, though winning games definitely could’ve helped.
23. Ottawa Senators (29-41-7, -41. CF%: 22nd, xGF%: 22nd. PR: 24)
They’ve lost five of their past eight, which is nothing new, but they could really end the season on a high note. They’ve got talent, a new path for the future with (potentially) new owners and an easy schedule the rest of the way.
24. New Jersey Devils (27-42-7, -46. CF%: 13th, xGF%: 13th. PR: 23)
Is it bad my interest in the Devils is close to zero without Jack Hughes? They’ve won three of their past five, but also lost nine of their past 13.
25. San Jose Sharks (30-34-12, -45. CF%: 31st, xGF%: 23rd. PR: 25)
A 3-2 win against the Jackets snapped an ugly 10-game losing streak, but the future remains bleak because they’re still dead in the water until their new GM figures out a new direction. Since March 1, Kahkonen and Reimer have four wins in 18 starts.
26. Columbus Blue Jackets (35-36-6, -38. CF%: 23rd, xGF%: 30th. PR: 22)
We were told Elvis would start all of the remaining games, but how quickly that changed. Since March 1, they’ve allowed the sixth-highest GF/GP and rank 23rd in P%.
27. Montréal Canadiens (20-46-11, -100. CF%: 26th, xGF%: 29th. PR: 27)
Good news: Price is back. Bad news: They’ve provided him with literally zero goal support.
28. Arizona Coyotes (22-49-5, -106. CF%: 32nd, xGF%: 32nd. PR: 26)
They’ve lost seven in a row and have scored more than two goals just once during that span. Only five Coyotes in the cap era have managed to score over 60 points in a season, and only two of them have managed to do it more than once: Clayton Keller and Shane Doan. The others: Ray Whitney, Radim Vrbata and Mike Comrie. That’s it.
29. Detroit Red Wings (30-37-10, -76. CF%: 28th, xGF%: 26th. PR: 29)
Losing Larkin for the season will end their season on a pretty sour note considering their strong start. The bright side: Seider seems like a lock for the Calder, and Vrana, Raymond and Zadina have combined for 10 goals in their past 10 games.
30. Chicago Blackhawks (25-40-11, -69. CF%: 29th, xGF%: 31st. PR: 30)
Reorder the bottom six teams any way you want, but it’ll be an interesting draft lottery, that’s for sure. Lankinen and Delia have won just three games since trading Fleury, who has six wins with the Wild already.
31. Anaheim Ducks (30-34-14, -35. CF%: 21st, xGF%: 19th. PR: 32)
For the third straight season, Gibson will finish with a losing record a negative GSAA value. Among those who have played at least 100 games over the past three seasons, he ranks 19th out of 21 goalies in save percentage and 20th in GAA, joining Carter Hart and Martin Jones in the bottom three in both categories.
32. Philadelphia Flyers (23-43-11, -85. CF%: 27th, xGF%: 27th. PR: 31)