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2021 NHL Power Rankings: Assessing each team as playoffs approach


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2021 NHL Power Rankings: Assessing each team as playoffs approach

The 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs are fast approaching, but there are still regular season games to be played.

Many of these games still matter, even though there are just three more postseason berths still up for grabs.

Playoff seeding is very important, and so is home ice advantage. The crowd factor won't be the same because most cities are not allowing arenas to be at full capacity, but having last line change and the comfort of being in your home environment (both at and away from the rink) are still advantages.

Where does each of the 31 teams stand as the playoffs approach? Let's take a look around the league in our latest power rankings.

Click here for our new 2021 NHL Power Rankings

Source: 2021 NHL Power Rankings: Assessing each team as playoffs approach

NHL Playoff Bracket Scenarios: West Division showdowns on Friday


Bergeron scores for the fourth straight game (0:24)

Patrice Bergeron opens the scoring for the Bruins in their 4-0 win over the Rangers. (0:24)

7:05 AM ET
  • Tim KavanaghESPN.com

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    Tim Kavanagh is a senior NHL editor for ESPN. He's a native of upstate New York.

  • Unlike previous nights, Thursday's action around the NHL did not result in any teams clinching a playoff berth or any others being eliminated. But that could change Friday, with all eight teams of the West Division taking the ice:

    Having reached the final stretch of the regular season, it's time to check in on all the playoff races -- along with the teams jockeying for position in the 2021 NHL draft lottery.

    Note: Playoff chances are via Money Puck. Tragic numbers are courtesy of Damian Echevarrieta of the NHL.

    Jump ahead:Current playoff matchupsRace for No. 1 pick

    imageEast Division imageplay

    1:08

    Jeff Carter lights the lamp four times in Pittsburgh's 8-4 win over Buffalo.

    Points: 75Regulation wins: 28Playoff position: E1Games left: 1Next game: vs. BUF (May 8)Playoff chances: 100%Tragic number: N/A

    Points: 73Regulation wins: 28Playoff position: E2Games left: 3Next game: vs. PHI (May 7)Playoff chances: 100%Tragic number: N/A

    2 Related

    Points: 71Regulation wins: 25Playoff position: E3Games left: 3Next game: vs. NYR (May 8)Playoff chances: 100%Tragic number: N/A

    Points: 68Regulation wins: 23Playoff position: E4Games left: 2Next game: vs. NJ (May 8)Playoff chances: 100%Tragic number: N/A

    Points: 58Regulation wins: 23Playoff position: N/AGames left: 1Next game: @ BOS (May 8)Playoff chances: 0%Tragic number: E

    Points: 53Regulation wins: 15Playoff position: N/AGames left: 3Next game: @ WSH (May 7)Playoff chances: 0%Tragic number: E

    Points: 45Regulation wins: 15Playoff position: N/AGames left: 2Next game: @ NYI (May 8)Playoff chances: 0%Tragic number: E

    Points: 37Regulation wins: 11Playoff position: N/AGames left: 1Next game: @ PIT (May 8)Playoff chances: 0%Tragic number: E

    Central Division imageplay

    0:30

    Alex DeBrincat's wrist shot beats Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek in the Blackhawks' 2-1 victory.

    Points: 80Regulation wins: 27Playoff position: C1Games left: 2Next game: @ NSH (May 8)Playoff chances: 100%Tragic number: N/A

    Points: 75Regulation wins: 29Playoff position: C2Games left: 3Next game: vs. DAL (May 7)Playoff chances: 100%Tragic number: N/A

    Compete for $9,000 throughout the NHL postseason! Make Your Picks

    Points: 75Regulation wins: 24Playoff position: C3Games left: 2Next game: vs. TB (May 8)Playoff chances: 100%Tragic number: N/A

    Points: 60Regulation wins: 19Playoff position: C4Games left: 2Next game: vs. CAR (May 8)Playoff chances: 96%Tragic number: N/A

    Points: 56Regulation wins: 16Playoff position: N/AGames left: 3Next game: @ TB (May 7)Playoff chances: 4%Tragic number: 2

    Points: 52Regulation wins: 14Playoff position: N/AGames left: 2Next game: vs. DAL (May 9)Playoff chances: 0%Tragic number: E

    Points: 46Regulation wins: 12Playoff position: N/AGames left: 2Next game: vs. DET (May 7)Playoff chances: 0%Tragic number: E

    Points: 45Regulation wins: 15Playoff position: N/AGames left: 2Next game: @ CBJ (May 7)Playoff chances: 0%Tragic number: E

    North Division imageplay

    0:21

    Auston Matthews nets his 40th goal of the season in Toronto's 5-2 win over Montreal.

    Points: 74Regulation wins: 28Playoff position: N1Games left: 3Next game: vs. MTL (May 8)Playoff chances: 100%Tragic number: N/A

    Points: 66Regulation wins: 30Playoff position: N2Games left: 4Next game: vs. VAN (May 8)Playoff chances: 100%Tragic number: N/A

    image

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    Points: 59Regulation wins: 22Playoff position: N3Games left: 4Next game: vs. OTT (May 8)Playoff chances: 100%Tragic number: N/A

    Points: 57Regulation wins: 20Playoff position: N4Games left: 3Next game: @ TOR (May 8)Playoff chances: 99.1%Tragic number: N/A

    Points: 47Regulation wins: 19Playoff position: N/AGames left: 5Next game: vs. OTT (May 9)Playoff chances: 0.9%Tragic number: 1

    Points: 47Regulation wins: 17Playoff position: N/AGames left: 3Next game: @ WPG (May 8)Playoff chances: 0%Tragic number: E

    Points: 43Regulation wins: 14Playoff position: N/AGames left: 8Next game: @ EDM (May 8)Playoff chances: 0%Tragic number: 3

    West Division

    Points: 76Regulation wins: 28Playoff position: W1Games left: 4Next game: vs. STL (May 7)Playoff chances: 100%Tragic number: N/A

    Points: 72Regulation wins: 30Playoff position: W2Games left: 5Next game: @ LA (May 7)Playoff chances: 100%Tragic number: N/A

    2 Related

    Points: 71Regulation wins: 27Playoff position: W3Games left: 4Next game: vs. ANA (May 7)Playoff chances: 100%Tragic number: N/A

    Points: 56Regulation wins: 17Playoff position: W4Games left: 5Next game: @ VGS (May 7)Playoff chances: 99.6%Tragic number: N/A

    Points: 50Regulation wins: 18Playoff position: N/AGames left: 2Next game: @ SJ (May 7)Playoff chances: 0%Tragic number: E

    Points: 48Regulation wins: 19Playoff position: N/AGames left: 5Next game: vs. COL (May 7)Playoff chances: 0.4%Tragic number: 3

    Points: 48Regulation wins: 15Playoff position: N/AGames left: 3Next game: vs. ARI (May 7)Playoff chances: 0%Tragic number: E

    Points: 41Regulation wins: 11Playoff position: N/AGames left: 2Next game: @ MIN (May 7)Playoff chances: 0%Tragic number: E

    Current playoff matchups East Division

    No. 1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 4 New York IslandersNo. 2 Washington Capitals vs. No. 3 Boston Bruins

    Central Division

    No. 1 Carolina Hurricanes vs. No. 4 Nashville PredatorsNo. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 3 Florida Panthers

    North Division

    No. 1 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. No. 4 Montreal CanadiensNo. 2 Edmonton Oilers vs. No. 3 Winnipeg Jets

    West Division

    No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. No. 4 St. Louis BluesNo. 2 Colorado Avalanche vs. No. 3 Minnesota Wild

    Race for the No. 1 pick

    The NHL uses a draft lottery to determine the order at the top of the first round, so the team that finishes in last place is not guaranteed the No. 1 selection. New for 2021, a team may move up a maximum of 10 spots if it wins the lottery, so only 11 teams are eligible for the draw for the No. 1 pick. Full details on the process can be found here.

    image

    • Who will be the top pick this summer? »• Early top-32 prospect rankings »• How COVID-19 will impact evaluations »

    Points: 37Regulation wins: 11

    Points: 41Regulation wins: 11

    Points: 43Regulation wins: 14

    Points: 45Regulation wins: 15

    Points: 45Regulation wins: 15

    Points: 46Regulation wins: 12

    Points: 47Regulation wins: 17

    Points: 47Regulation wins: 19

    Points: 48Regulation wins: 15

    Points: 48Regulation wins: 19

    Points: 50Regulation wins: 18

    Points: 52Regulation wins: 14

    Points: 53Regulation wins: 15

    Points: 56Regulation wins: 16

    Points: 58Regulation wins: 23


    Source: NHL Playoff Bracket Scenarios: West Division showdowns on Friday

    Ranking the top players, teams, coaches, owners, arenas we're rooting for in the 2021 NHL playoffs


    7:10 AM ET
  • Greg WyshynskiESPN

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    Greg Wyshynski is ESPN's senior NHL writer.

  • When it comes to rooting interests in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, we can all agree on one of them: the health and safety of everyone participating, after a regular season that saw a parade of players on the COVID-related absences list and plenty of interruptions to the schedule.

    But beyond that, we'd love to have these people, places and things that we're pulling for in the chase for the Cup. Here's our top 10:

    image

    The Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup last season. Unless you're a fan of dynasties or Tampa Bay as the sports epicenter of the universe, there's not really a compelling reason to root for the Lightning again. But I am rooting for Kucherov, because there's something absolutely delicious about the way the Lightning were able to navigate his injury.

    Kucherov had surgery before the season; his contract was placed on long-term injured reserve; the Lightning didn't have to blow up their team due to the flat salary cap; they managed to make the playoffs without the former Hart Trophy winner playing a millisecond of the regular season; and they likely will get a fully armed and operational Nikita Kucherov -- as well as a returning Steven Stamkos -- for the first round of the postseason.

    I'm not saying the surgery wasn't legit or inferring any cap shenanigans here. I'm just saying if Kucherov returns as his normal, dominant self, then this is one of the all-time inadvertent flexes in the NHL.

    9. Nassau Coliseum

    My father had a New York Daily News cartoon hanging on our wood-paneled basement wall that featured caricatures of New York Islanders players from their fourth straight Stanley Cup win. Three of those Cups were captured on Coliseum ice, where those dynasty teams were 11-1, and the arena was nicknamed "Fort Neverlose" by fans.

    The last time the Cup was hoisted at Nassau Coliseum was a week before "Return of the Jedi" was released in theaters for the first time. In other words, it's been a while. The 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs will be the final games played in the old "barn" before the Islanders move near the barns at Belmont Park next season. Here's hoping for a few more memories to be made (that don't involve the hockey-in-quicksand action we saw from the Islanders in the bubble last season).

    imageNo matter what percent capacity is allowed this postseason, the Islanders' home crowd is one of the more passionate groups in the league. Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images8. Colorado's health

    2 Related

    When the Colorado Avalanche were eliminated in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals last summer, they were missing forwards Gabriel Landeskog, Joonas Donskoi and Matt Calvert, goalies Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz and defenseman Erik Johnson. As they head towards the playoffs this season, they're without Johnson, Francouz and Calvert. Brandon Saad and Samuel Girard are hurt.

    The Avalanche are scary good. GM Joe Sakic has been lauded for meticulously constructing a roster that could win the Stanley Cup this season ... if healthy. That's the challenge, especially when it comes to goaltending. Grubauer was limited to seven playoff games last season. With Francouz out, the other options if Grubauer goes down are Devan Dubnyk, of the .838 save percentage, and Jonas Johansson, of the "never having played in the postseason before."

    Out: playoff bubbles. In: bubble-wrapping Philipp Grubauer for protection.

    The Wild's transformation into fun-time, goal-scoring party team remains one of the most jarring in recent memory, given the franchise's reputation for ... well, not emphasizing the offensive game all that much. That was pre-Kirill Kaprizov (or Ka-Pre-zov), as the rookie winger is the favorite for the Calder Trophy, and has helped the Wild to their highest goals-per-game average (3.25) in franchise history in this shortened season.

    Minnesota has lost once in regulation since April 10. We've all been anticipating a "Godzilla vs. Kong" battle between Vegas and Colorado for the West Division crown, and here come the Wild acting like (spoiler alert) Mecha-Godzilla to interfere in that showdown.

    Even if he's playing your team, rooting for Connor McDavid to do Connor McDavid things in the playoffs is rather easy. He's going to do them whether you want him to or not, so you might as well enjoy the nightly pantsing of opposing defensemen and bedazzling of goaltenders with his superior speed and stickhandling.

    McDavid has 18 points in 17 career playoff games and this is his sixth NHL season. Is it too much to ask for the Oilers to make a little run and give us maximum Connor?

    imageConnor McDavid has made Oilers games appointment viewing for even casual hockey fans. David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire

    Compete for $9,000 throughout the NHL postseason! Make Your Picks

    It hasn't been all that fun to be Taylor Hall recently. Sure, there was that MVP season with the New Jersey Devils. That was fun. But the past calendar year saw him go from belle of the free-agent ball to watching the market shrink due to the pandemic. So he went to the Buffalo Sabres for a season to make some big cash ($8 million) and pump up his stats while playing alongside Jack Eichel. Well, one out of two isn't bad.

    He landed a no-move clause from Buffalo, so when the Sabres imploded and turned into sellers, Hall controlled his next destination. And by next destination, we mean "Boston," which is where he's wanted to end up for years.

    So at the end of this free-agent gambit, Taylor Hall will have (a) gotten paid big, (b) gotten to audition in person for a new contract with the Bruins and (c) had a chance to play in the postseason with a team that has a slightly better chance as competing for a championship than the 2018 Devils and 2020 Coyotes did, the teams which account for Hall's 14 career playoff games. This was basically Machiavellian.

    4. Bill Foley

    Four years into their existence, the "Golden Misfits" have cleaned up, put on a tie and gotten a job at the bank. It's all business and that business is winning the Stanley Cup. That's been the goal of owner Bill Foley from his first expansion fee payment to the NHL through the last check he cut to free-agent coup Alex Pietrangelo.

    He's invested heavily in this franchise in every way possible, turning what many expected to be a team for comp tickets and high rollers into the city's most beloved franchise (Sorry, Raiders.). Maybe we just want to see what raising the Cup sounds like in a packed T-Mobile Arena this summer -- Foley says the team could have 100% capacity by the final round. Maybe we just want to see what a Stanley Cup parade down The Strip looks like.

    Maybe we just want to see an owner who had the audacity to believe an expansion team could become a perennial contender this quickly get his ring.

    Sid is averaging 1.13 points per game to lead the Penguins through various forms of adversity, from their usual spate of injuries to the departure of general manager Jim Rutherford. He won't win the Hart Trophy -- that's Connor, by a sizable margin -- but could easily be a finalist for MVP.

    The reason we're rooting for Crosby is because the sands keep falling through that hourglass. He'll be 34 in August. He's Sid The Kid in name only. Who knows how many more cracks he gets at a fourth Stanley Cup, matching Wayne Gretzky's career total? Let's enjoy it while we can.

    imageCrosby is having an amazing season, and he may not get too many more good cracks at the Cup. Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images image

    Catch NHL games streaming live every night (and on replay) this season on ESPN+. Click here for the upcoming schedule and to learn how to subscribe.

    Remember when Brind'Amour was hired as Hurricanes coach in 2018? He had never been a head coach. There was speculation that owner Tom Dundon would have a desk in his coach's office. It turns out that Rod Brind'Amour is actually really, really good at this coaching thing. He has a .638 points percentage through his first 203 games behind the bench.

    It's no secret that coaches enter a higher stratosphere when they win a Stanley Cup. That goes for league-wide reputation as well as finances -- and Brind'Amour is due a new contract for next season. The Canes are a likeable team, and Brind'Amour is the unassuming architect of their success.

    But mostly, we just want to see him recreate this Stanley Cup photo 15 years later.

    Every NHL postseason has a few candidates for "old guy that never won the Stanley Cup but we sure would like to see him do it." In the past postseason, it might have been Dallas Stars center Joe Pavelski, who fell just short. We go from "Little Joe" last summer to "Jumbo Joe" this postseason.

    The Toronto Maple Leafs have their best shot at winning their first Stanley Cup since 1967, both due to how good they are and the fact they may never have to see the Bruins across the ice. Thornton isn't the only veteran player seeking his first ring: Jason Spezza (37), Nick Foligno (33) and Wayne Simmonds (32) are among the others. But the 41-year-old center is the one we want to see lift the Cup the most, because it will be the perfect capper to a first-ballot Hall of Fame career.

    And, frankly, don't you want to see what Joe Thornton would do during his day with the Cup? Even if it's while looking through your fingers as you attempt to avert your eyes?


    Source: Ranking the top players, teams, coaches, owners, arenas we're rooting for in the 2021 NHL playoffs



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