Welcome back to this week’s NHL Power Rankings recap! As we sit just under two weeks out from the trade deadline, the rumours and rumblings are starting to heat up as players begin getting moved. This season’s trade deadline should be an interesting one. In this week’s recap, a quick introduction to the tight playoff race in the Pacific Divison and a look at what could be a tense few months for the Toronto Maple Leafs. But first, a few quick hits from around the league.
Ryan O"Reilly is off the trade market as he and Noel Acciari are off to Toronto. After a season full of difficulties, inconsistencies, and struggles, it is no surprise that the St. Louis Blues are selling. Vladimir Tarasenko was shipped off to the New York Rangers a couple of weeks ago, and now the team has made their future direction clear by trading away their captain. They’re looking to have a quick start to the rebuild, with five picks in the first three rounds of this year’s draft, including three first-rounders. And they still have a few more players, like Ivan Barbashev or Colton Parayko (who may be difficult to move due to a large contract), that may have some incoming calls inquiring about them.
The Washington Capitals’ season has taken a sudden turn after a winless week has dropped them just out of a playoff spot. After an unexpected hot streak late last year had them competing within their division, they now find themselves on the outside looking in on a wild card spot. With the Capitals slowing down, and the Florida Panthers, Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders, and Detroit Red Wings heating up, the team might be starting to look at selling some players in the coming weeks. Defenders Dmitry Orlov and Nick Jensen, both pending UFA’s, are possible rentals for teams needing some help in the back-end.
The Pacific Division Playoff Race
There is a tight playoff race that’s been brewing for a while now in the Pacific Division. The Vegas Golden Knights, Los Angeles Kings, Seattle Kraken, and Edmonton Oilers are all within five points of each other with about 25 games remaining in their schedules.
These teams have been swapping back and forth for the division lead for a while now, jumping between the Golden Knights, Kings, and even the Kraken at times.
In their remaining games, the Golden Knights have the most difficult schedule, followed by the Oilers, Kings, and then the Kraken with the easiest.
After a difficult slump that took Vegas down the standings a bit, they are now on a five-game win streak. The main issue that was contributing to them losing games, being a lack of offense, has corrected itself. For now, at least. In that five-game winning streak, they have scored 24 goals.
The Kings have been a steady team all season, and now are finally able to possess a positive goal differential. One key contributor to that is the play of goaltender Pheonix Copley. He may not be a star putting up Vezina-worthy numbers, but he is giving the team the level of goaltending they need to succeed with a solid, well-balanced team in front of him.
The Kraken have put together one of the deepest rosters in the league offensively, which bodes very well for them coming into the playoffs. They will not be reliant on a single line, and having three (or even four) lines capable of posing a scoring threat will make them a dangerous opponent for any team. They could be a team willing to make a splash for a star player at the trade deadline as well.
Lastly, the Oilers got off to a hot start in 2023 to catch up in the division, but have cooled off and find themselves lost in the mix of this competitive group of teams. They are still putting up points, as they are losing in overtime and shootouts a lot lately, but each missed point makes a playoff spot that much harder to attain. The team knows where it needs help, and has been involved in many trade rumours to try and fill the holes. But will it happen quick enough to solidify their chances?
Now or Never for the Toronto Maple Leafs
After six consecutive seasons of losing in the opening round of the playoffs (one being the qualifying round of the bubble postseason), the Toronto Maple Leafs are in desperation mode. Both Sheldon Keefe and Kyle Dubas are feeling the pressure of the situation as it is likely that the coach, at the very least, is on his last chance.
After Dubas made a bold move to acquire O’Reilly and Acciari for picks and prospects, he may be on his last chance as well. Bringing in a former team captain, who has won a Cup recently, to bolster the leadership and depth of the team that just can’t seem to bring it together in the postseason comes across as a last-ditch effort to make a deep playoff run and save his, and Keefe’s, job.
O’Reilly immediately slots in as the second-line centre, which gives them a face-off specialist and former Selke winner who remains a regular contender for the award, to play in their top-six. The Maple Leafs have a reputation of being built as more of an offense-based team, especially at the top of the roster, so he brings a different element to the existing core that will hopefully help them get through a round in the playoffs.
That wraps up another week of NHL Power Rankings! Who is ranked too high? Drop a comment down below!
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