NHL Power Rankings: B/R Experts' Week 26 Poll

Jonathan Willis@jonathanwillisNHL National ColumnistApril 14, 2014

NHL Power Rankings: B/R Experts' Week 26 Poll

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    This is it, our final rankings of all 30 NHL teams for the 2013-14 season. 

    A week ago, Boston held the top spot in these power rankings. Has anybody done enough to unseat them? How are teams faring as they enter the postseason? There has been plenty of movement this week as teams alternatively surge or slump their way into the playoffs.

    As always, while there is only a single writer for these rankings, the numbers are derived from consensus voting. Our entire panel convened this week: Adrian DaterDave LozoSteve MacfarlaneAllan MitchellLyle RichardsonCarol SchramRob Vollman and me, Jonathan Willis.

    Read on to see how we see the teams entering this year's tourney for the Stanley Cup.

30-26: Buffalo Sabres—Carolina Hurricanes

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    30. Buffalo Sabres (Last Week: 30). The Sabres record a shootout win on April 1; it was to be the team's last victory of a season that ended with seven consecutive losses. 

    29. Florida Panthers (Last Week: 29)Nick Bjugstad finished the season as Florida's leading scorer with 38 points, and a loss in Game 82 of the season secured 29th overall in the NHL.

    28. Edmonton Oilers (Last Week: 28)Ryan Smyth left his final NHL game a winner, celebrated by teammates, fans and opponents alike at an emotional contest at Rexall Place. It was a nice moment for the longtime Oiler, but it resulted in the team leapfrogging Florida in the standings. 

    27. Toronto Maple Leafs (Last Week: 26)Toronto turned victory into defeat with a 2-12-0 run over its final 14 games, falling out of the playoffs and into irrelevance with the most memorable collapse of any NHL team since Game 7 of last year's playoffs. 

    26. Carolina Hurricanes (Last Week: 27)Two wins at the end of the season have slightly harmed Carolina's likely draft position and not done much else. Of note, leading scorer Eric Staal hit a career low in power-play goals, tallying just one. He still led the team in overall points with 61.

25-21: Calgary Flames—Phoenix Coyotes

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    25. Calgary Flames (Last Week: 23)An impressive run of four consecutive wins came to an end this week, with a hard-working Calgary team dropping its final two contests (and allowing a combined 10 goals in them).

    24. Vancouver Canucks (Last Week: 22)The Canucks lost in Edmonton on the second to the last night of the season, during which time the Oilers bade farewell to Ryan Smyth in an emotional night for that team. Vancouver bounced back on Sunday, closing out a disappointing campaign with a win over Calgary on a night where Pat Quinn was honoured. 

    23. New York Islanders (Last Week: 24)Three wins in the Islanders' final three contests put a final positive spin on the season (even if two of them came in the shootout) but with New York so far out of it the only real impact is on draft position (and that impact was negative). 

    22. Winnipeg Jets (Last Week: 25)The Jets are up this week after closing out the season with wins over Boston and Calgary, halting an ugly slide. After a resurgence under new head coach Paul Maurice (who is still looking for a contract for next season), the team posted just four regulation wins in its final 20 games. 

    21. Phoenix Coyotes (Last Week: 16)Phoenix did end up winning a game in April, but it was only once it no longer mattered. A 0-4-3 run in the seven games preceding Sunday's meaningless victory over Dallas handed the final playoff berth in the West to the Stars.

20-17: Washington Capitals—Nashville Predators

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    20. Washington Capitals (Last Week: 19). Washington finishes as first runner-up to the playoffs in the East. Remarkably, only the Sabres, Panthers, Islanders and Oilers had fewer non-shootout victories than the Capitals.  

    19. Ottawa Senators (Last Week: 21)Ottawa won its final five games of the season, though the only positive result was moving ahead of disgraced provincial-rival Toronto in the Eastern standings. Trade-deadline acquisition Ales Hemsky showed very well, though, posting 17 points in 20 games and making a case for a new contract with the Senators. 

    18. New Jersey Devils (Last Week: 17)It might have been Martin Brodeur's final game in New Jersey—or possibly even in the NHL—and if it was, he ended on a winning note, with the Devils posting a 3-2 victory over Boston. He might possibly have worked his way into another postseason game in New Jersey if the team hadn't gone a remarkable 0-13 in shootouts. 

    17. Nashville Predators (Last Week: 20)Whatever else there is to be said about the Predators' disappointing season, they did not go gentle into that good night. With a 9-1-2 run over the last 12 games, Nashville even managed to climb out of the basement and to within sight of the postseason.

16. Philadelphia Flyers

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    Last Week: 18

    First-Round Opponent: New York Rangers

    Recent Trend: Philadelphia backed into the postseason, losing two of its final three games (though the lone win came against Pittsburgh). 

    By the Numbers: It's easy to forget what a rough start Claude Giroux had to the season. He went 15 games without a goal, picking up a minus-11 rating over that stretch. He finished the season with 28 markers and behind only Sidney Crosby and Ryan Getzlaf in total points NHL-wide. 

15. Dallas Stars

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    Last Week: 14

    First-Round Opponent: Anaheim Ducks

    Recent Trend: It's been an uninspiring stretch for Dallas. With a playoff spot at least theoretically on the line (fortunately for the Stars, Phoenix was even less impressive) and a list of middling opponents (plus St. Louis), the Stars managed just a single regulation win in its last five games. 

    By the Numbers: Few teams can match the one-two punch Dallas has offensively. Jamie Benn finished tied for eighth in NHL scoring with 79 points, while Tyler Seguin finished fourth with 84. 

    Interestingly, two other teams had a pair of players in the top 10 of NHL scoring. One of them was Anaheim, the team Dallas will face in the first round.

14. Detroit Red Wings

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    Last Week: 15

    First-Round Opponent: Boston Bruins

    Recent Trend: The Red Wings weren't great in April, but they were good enough to hold on to a playoff berth in the East. It must be said that a 3-0 win over slumping St. Louis (a team which really needed the win) was a nice way to cap off the regular season.  

    By the Numbers: Detroit has won three consecutive games over Boston after dropping their first contest against the Bruins this season.

13. Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Last Week: 11

    First-Round Opponent: Pittsburgh Penguins

    Recent Trend: Four wins in its final five games really isn't a bad way for Columbus to end the regular season. 

    By the Numbers: The play of Sergei Bobrovsky will be critical to the Blue Jackets' hopes for their first series win (and first win in the playoffs, period). If they get the exceptional goaltender who has provided the team with 0.926 save percentage goaltending, they should be in good shape (particularly with Marc-Andre Fleury at the other end of the ice). 

    But if they get the guy who posted a 0.848 save percentage over seven postseason games in Philadelphia, the Blue Jackets will be in real trouble.

12. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Last Week: 10

    First-Round Opponent: Columbus Blue Jackets

    Recent Trend: With a massive lead on the rest of the mediocre Metropolitan Division, Pittsburgh had the ability to fritter away the last month of the regular season without consequence. That turned out to be fortunate, given that the club managed only one regulation win in April. 

    By the Numbers: According to Hockey-Reference.com, 28 active goalies have 20 games or more of playoff experience. Of those 28, none have a save percentage lower than Fleury's 0.903 (Ray Emery is tied).

    It isn't an exaggeration to say that he's been the Pens' biggest postseason problem in recent years, and that needs to change this season.

11. Minnesota Wild

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    Last Week: 13

    First Round Opponent: Colorado Avalanche

    Recent Trend: A 7-3 loss to Nashville in a (meaningless) Game 82 ended a nice run for the Minnesota Wild, a team that had won four consecutive contests. 

    By the Numbers: Ryan Suter played an average of 29 minutes and 24 seconds in his 82 games this season in Minnesota. That average total is more than two full minutes ahead of the NHL's second-ranked player (Ottawa's Erik Karlsson) and more than two full minutes ahead of last season's top-ranked player (that would be Suter, again).

10. Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Last Week: 12

    First Round Opponent: Montreal Canadiens

    Recent Trend: The Lightning closed out the 2013-14 campaign with four straight wins, enough to put them one point ahead of Montreal and guarantee them home ice in the first round of the playoffs. 

    By the Numbers: Nathan MacKinnon is getting most of the rookie-of-the-year love, but Ondrej Palat's season is worthy of notice, too. The 2011 seventh-round draft pick finished second in rookie scoring with 59 points and led all first-year players with a plus-32 rating.

9. Montreal Canadiens

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    Last Week: 7

    First-Round Opponent: Tampa Bay Lightning

    Recent Trend: Montreal had been firing on all cylinders, but it had a five-game winning streak snapped by Tampa Bay on April 1. The team ultimately won half of its games in April. 

    By the Numbers: Max Pacioretty finished the season with a modest 60 points, but sits fourth overall on the NHL's goal-scoring list with 39 markers. In the Eastern Conference, only Alexander Ovechkin scored more.

8. New York Rangers

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    Last Week: 9

    First-Round Opponent: Philadelphia Flyers

    Recent Trend: New York closed out the season around the 0.500 mark, winning two of its last four, three of its last six and four of its last eight contests. 

    By the Numbers: It's easy to forget that the Rangers started the NHL season with a 3-7-0 run. In its last 72 games, New York has posted a 42-24-6 record, a 103-point pace over a full season.

7. Chicago Blackhawks

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    Last Week: 2

    First Round Opponent: St. Louis Blues

    Recent Trend: The word is "torpor." Chicago frittered away a healthy position in an incredibly competitive Central Division over the season's last 20 games and closed out the regular season with losses to Washington and Nashville. 

    By the Numbers: When we looked a week ago, no team in the NHL had a better record against the league's top goal-differential teams. Ignoring shootout results, Chicago had won nine of 12 contests, something that may bode well for a very, very difficult first-round series against the Blues.

6. St. Louis Blues

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    Last Week: 6

    First-Round Opponent: Chicago Blackhawks

    Recent Trend: Ugh. Six consecutive losses is not the way any team wants to enter the playoffs. In this case, it cost the Blues a first-round matchup against a random Western bubble team and instead forces them to take on the defending Stanley Cup champions in their opening series. Fun. 

    By the Numbers: At least St. Louis has won three of five meetings with Chicago. Of course, two of those wins came in the shootout, the other was by a single goal and in the last two contests between these two teams Chicago outscored St. Louis by a combined total of 8-2.

5. Los Angeles Kings

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    Last Week: 4

    First Round Opponent: San Jose Sharks

    Recent Trend: Last week, we talked about the wheels coming off a bit after a crazy-good run. This week, we talk about Los Angeles dropping four of its final five games, with the only exception being a victory over the woeful Edmonton Oilers. 

    By the Numbers: Marian Gaborik has 16 points in 19 games since being picked up from Columbus at the trade deadline. He's added some needed firepower to a Kings team that, while always stifling, too often looks stifled.

4. Colorado Avalanche

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    Last Week: 5

    First-Round Opponent: Minnesota Wild

    Recent Trend: The Avs were a spectacular 8-0-1 in their last nine games, but they hit a speed bump at the end of the regular season, dropping a pair of contests to San Jose and Anaheim, respectively. 

    By the Numbers: Patrick Roy rightly gets a lot of credit for the turnaround in Colorado, but perhaps no individual played a greater role than Semyon Varlamov. In a difficult year on a personal level, Varlamov still managed to post a 0.927 save percentage (Vezina contender numbers), a vast improvement from last year's 0.903.

3. Anaheim Ducks

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    Last Week: 8

    First-Round Opponent: Dallas Stars

    Recent Trend: Anaheim rebounded nicely from a difficult start to April (which included losses to Edmonton and Nashville), winning its final four games. Even more remarkably, the last three wins came against San Jose, Los Angeles and Colorado. 

    By the Numbers: Who starts in net for the Ducks? Jonas Hiller, the incumbent, has struggled of late and has a 0.911 save percentage on the season. Frederik Andersen has better totals (0.923 save percentage) but has only 28 career games under his belt.

    What about the third option? John Gibson, who prospect people describe something like the second coming, went 3-0-0 with a 0.954 save percentage in his NHL debut this week.

2. San Jose Sharks

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    Last Week: 3

    First-Round Opponent: Los Angeles Kings

    Recent Trend: San Jose rebounded from a loss in Anaheim on Wednesday to close out the week with wins over Colorado and Phoenix.

    By the Numbers: Joe Pavelski is one of just three 40-goal scorers in the NHL this year. His 41 goals represents a career-best mark for the 2003 seventh-round draft pick, who had only topped 30 once previously in his career.

1. Boston Bruins

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    Last Week: 1

    First-Round Opponent: Detroit Red Wings

    Recent Trend: The Bruins didn't close out the year perfectly, despite picking up points in five of their six last games, but there aren't any shootout losses in the playoffs. 

    By the Numbers: Boston's 117 points ended up being just enough to win the Presidents' Trophy over Anaheim (116). More impressive was the Bruins' plus-84 goal differential, a whopping 27 goals better than Anaheim or St. Louis. 

    Unless otherwise noted, statistics are courtesy of NHL.com.