Well…that was not the way many of us saw the Qualifiers going. My previous rankings were a little off, so let’s fix those right now. 8 teams have left the bubble already, leaving 16 in contention for the Stanley Cup. Here are my power rankings for all the teams still alive in the Stanley Cup Playoffs:
#1 Vegas Golden Knights (previous ranking: 4 of 24)
3-0-0 in the round robin and they looked unstoppable the whole way through. 15 goals in 3 games says it all, so Chicago will be left with a task if they want to pull off another upset. Did I mention they put up a five goal average without Max Pacioretty? The team looked solid throughout the round robin, so there’s no doubt to why they shouldn’t be #1. I don’t see the momentum slowing down against a weak Blackhawks team, so expect a lot of damage done by Vegas.
#2 Colorado Avalanche (previous ranking: 5 of 24)
Their dominant offensive core was just as we expected: dangerous. Nathan McKinnon looks good which only adds fuel to their firepower. Who will be in goal for Colorado is still a question, but it shouldn’t be one that will make or break their round one series. Just let that power play get to work and they’ll be fine.
#3 Philadelphia Flyers (previous ranking: 7 of 24)
I kind of wasn’t expecting what the Flyers put together in the round robin. Before the break, Philadelphia was rolling but like every other team, nobody knew how much affect the pause would have on the team and the players. They looked like a team who wanted it more than anyone else, which makes them deserve the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Get the power play fixed and they will be a huge threat throughout.
#4 Carolina Hurricanes (previous ranking: 9 of 24)
Carolina wasn’t messing around in the play-in round. They played like they didn’t want to be there and absolutely tore apart New York. If the team continues to handle the puck like they did, they should continue to dominate. The defense looked good even without Dougie Hamilton. Goaltending is a little questionable, but Mrazek and Reimer played well enough to complement the team’s efforts.
#5 Tampa Bay Lightning (previous ranking: 2 of 24)
They came out like the Lightning I remember them being (not the ones from last year). The team’s injuries are keeping me from putting them any higher on the list. Stamkos is still recovering from his core surgery and his return is still unknown. Victor Hedman’s ankle injury in their final round robin game also proved to be a concerning factor into how far this team can go.
#6 St. Louis Blues (previous ranking: 3 of 24)
Don’t count out the defending champs just yet. Yes, they did look dry and flat offensively and not really much of a threat to the other top teams. The Blues had leads in all three of their games but blew each one. Consistency is a huge issue, and in a tournament where anything can happen, you need to be ready for anything.
#7 Dallas Stars (previous ranking: 11 of 24)
The Stars offense isn’t firing on all cylinders in the round robin stage, so business needs to pick it up if they want to make a push. Tyler Seguin and Ben Bishop were both listed as “unfit to play” so that’s something to watch as the playoffs progress. As long as the defense can hold their own and their goaltending keeps going strong, they might be able to stay afloat for some time in the playoffs. Not seeing much of a threat though considering their four goals in three games.
#8 Washington Capitals (previous ranking: 6 of 24)
The Capitals need a push and they need it soon. The games really matter now so it’s time for them to clean up the sloppiness and get back on track like the team they are usually. The team looked out of sorts and needed someone to step up after John Carlson got injured in their exhibition game. Carlson is a top scorer as well as being a Norris Finalist. They open up against the Islanders who proved to be a solid team in their respective series.
#9 Boston Bruins (previous ranking: 1 of 24)
Let’s just skip over these guys and let them regroup…
#10 New York Islanders (previous ranking: 17 of 24)
The Isles came out and played solid defensively. They do need to clean up the power play kill as they let Florida score on them four times. The offense put up enough to get past the Panthers, but there wasn’t that much of a “wow” factor from them. Consistency is going to be huge as they face a Capitals team whose wheels seem to be off the tracks.
#11 Arizona Coyotes (previous ranking: 20 of 24)
I saw this one coming, but they looked even better than I thought they would be. Nick Schmaltz wasn’t there to help Arizona, but they overcame that and scored 14 goals on Nashville. The bottom six on the offense stepped up to the plate to give the Predators constant offensive pressure and the goaltending by Darcy Keumper was solid. He will need to perform better though as he is going up against the high octane Avalanche.
#12 Calgary Flames (previous ranking: 14 of 24)
You can say Calgary lucked out by having both Patrick Laine and Mark Scheifele go down, but they did show some flashy signs of promise to do some damage in round one. The Flames scored 16 goals in their four game series so the production is there. If there’s help from the offense and defense and the goaltending remains good, the Flames will put up a good fight against Dallas.
#13 Vancouver Canucks (previous ranking: 19 of 24)
The youngsters came to play for this roster. Vancouver’s long rebuild might finally be paying off with guys like Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettreson and Bo Horvat stepping up and playing like elite players. But, this is for the future. The present, there’s still some work to do and become more disciplined if they want to make a push in the playoffs.
#14 Chicago Blackhawks (previous ranking: 24 of 24)
I shot low for this team because I didn’t expect both 5 seeds to be eliminated, but that’s March Madness in August for you! The young Kirby Dach looked stellar and Corey Crawford played like amazing in net, especially in the final game. It’s a young group of players surrounded by veterans like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. It’s going to have to be an all hands on deck kind of situation if they want to get past one of the hottest team right now in the Golden Knights.
#15 Columbus Blue Jackets (previous ranking: 22 of 24)
With their huge upset in last year’s playoffs, I wanted to see them pull off another one. Toronto is normally never good in the postseason so this one wasn’t much of a shocker, but a win is a win. The defense really stepped up and shut down Toronto’s offense. Don’t count this team out just yet, they might have one more upset in them…
#16 Montreal Canadiens (previous ranking: 21 of 24)
Am I fully convinced this team is actually that good? Not really, but hear me out. The Penguins were sloppy and barley showed up all four games. Carey Price stopped almost every shot on him (.940 save percentage) which is a huge reason as to why they advanced. Sure they looked good throughout, but they have to play the Flyers who are rolling right now and are arguably the hottest team. Price needs to do good once again to give the Habs a chance.