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NHL Power Rankings Week 24 Recap – The Kings Have Goalies Now

Hockey fans, welcome back to another edition of our NHL Power Rankings weekly Recap! With just three calendar weeks left in the regular season, the playoff races are heating up. This week, as some teams start to heat up to clinch their spots, the Tampa Bay Lightning are struggling to find their game as they trudge through a couple of slumps late in the season. And, a look into the play of trade deadline acquisition Joonas Korpisalo heading into the playoffs with the Los Angeles Kings. But first, a few quick hits from around the league.

Quick Hits

The San Jose Sharks have officially taken over last place in the NHL as of Sunday morning, meaning they now have the best odds to win the Connor Bedard sweepstakes. The upcoming rebuild will be tricky as the Sharks do have a collection of good pieces to help them move through it quickly, but at the same time, they need more cap space to play with. And in a league where the cap is not rising much per season, it will be difficult for them to move some of the more significant, worse contracts.

The first batch of teams have clinched playoff spots now with the Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, and New Jersey Devils securing their spots in the postseason. For the Bruins, it will be their seventh consecutive appearance as they try to put a positive ending note on what has been an historic regular season. The Hurricanes will be making their fifth consecutive postseason appearance with Rod Brind’Amour behind the bench. They will be trying to make a deep run as the team has seemingly stagnated the past few seasons. Meanwhile, the Devils are making their first playoff appearance since 2017-18, and just their second in the past 11 seasons.

For the Vancouver Canucks, they seem to have missed the memo on how to end the season as a bottom feeder team as they slowly creep up the standings. An 8-2-0 record in their last 10 games has jumped them a few places higher, and farther away from a high probability of winning the draft lottery. If they keep up at this pace, they might even manage to win their way out of the chance of getting the number one pick in the upcoming draft.

Trials and Tribulations of the Tampa Bay Lightning

It was bound to happen at some point, right? The Tampa Bay Lightning hitting a rough patch and looking fallible for the first time in a few seasons? This might be that moment.

After an unbelievable stretch of hockey from the organization winning two straight Stanley Cups and making the finals in three consecutive seasons, the Lightning had been strong for the first bit of the 2022-23 season. However, starting with a loss to the Arizona Coyotes on February 15th, Tampa Bay has gone 7-10-4. A pace of just 74 points over a full season.

Luckily, the team had been strong enough earlier on to maintain a comfortable seat in the playoffs and are still in no danger of missing out. And once they hit the playoffs, anything can happen.

What is going on for the Lightning through this stretch? On a quick glance, people always talk about fatigue after a team goes through a bunch of deep playoff runs in a short span. The extra couple months of playing combined with less time in the offseason to recover and train can take a toll on the energy levels and conditioning of the players.

Also a factor when a team has a lot of success is a difficulty in sustaining it. Even though the Lightning have future Hall of Famers at every position, over time the depth begins to suffer. Tampa Bay have lost quite a few players, prospects, and draft picks over their stretch of success that will ultimately catch up with the team.

Looking at the on-ice performance, one thing that stands out is the team’s goals against. Their season average is giving up 3.08 goals per game. But through this difficult 21-game stretch, that has risen to 3.5. Something, either defensively or in net, is not working as well as it had in the past. With just 10 games left in the regular season, they need to figure it out quickly. Their first-round matchup against the offensively packed Toronto Maple Leafs, themselves going into the playoffs with high expectations, will prove to be a great challenge.

Did the Los Angeles Kings Fix Their Goaltending?

At the trade deadline, the Los Angeles Kings acquired Vladislav Gavrikov and Joonas Korpisalo from the Columbus Blue Jackets. For the entire season up until that point, goaltending had been the biggest problem on the Kings’ roster. Their entire group of goalies was one of, if not, the worst in the league. But somehow, the team was still competitive, despite a negative goal differential for a large portion of the season.

Since the beginning of December, Pheonix Copley has been the starter in Los Angeles. He was a significant improvement on the previous duo of Jonathan Quick and Calvin Petersen. But he is still not quite enough, which is where Korpisalo comes in.

Korpisalo has put up very respectable numbers on some bad Blue Jackets teams so he now gets a chance on a competitive team to show what he can do. And early results are extremely positive.

In his first five appearances, he has split time with Copley thus far, he is 4-0-1 with a .929 SV% and 1.77 GAA. And, on the season as a whole, Korpisalo is 14th in the league with 10.2 goals saved above expected.

The Kings were already a good team before this trade. And the addition of Gavrikov helps solidify their defense, while Korpisalo gives them a legitimate goaltending tandem with Copley. With 10 games left on the season and a three-point lead and a game in hand on the Edmonton Oilers, the Kings are in a good position to enter the playoffs with home-ice advantage. The looming rematch with the Oilers in round one should be another hard fought battle.

That wraps up things for this week"s NHL Power Rankings recap. Who is ranked too high? Drop a comment down below!

Main image credit Embed from Getty Images

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