Welcome back hockey fans to one final edition of the NHL Power Rankings recap. Thank you for tuning and checking in through the journey that was the 2022-23 season. Let’s take one final look around the league on the eve of the puck drop of the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs. Looking up and down the standings, some teams exceeded expectations, and some fell short. In the final recap article, let’s take a look around the league at a few teams on the season that was.
The End of an Era for the Pittsburgh Penguins
For the first time in 16 seasons, the NHL postseason will not feature the Pittsburgh Penguins. It is truly the end of an era and a great disservice that the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang are not in the playoffs.
For most of the season, it looked as if the Penguins would extend their competitive window by another year. Through Christmas, Pittsburgh was in a playoff spot and appeared to be well on their way to a 17th consecutive berth in the postseason. But over their last 35 games, the team went ice cold. A 16-16-3 record dropped them one point shy of a wild card spot.
The organization made quick work of making a show of this being unacceptable as they have already cleaned house, relieving Brian Burke, Ron Hextall, and Chris Pryor of their duties in the front office. Is this going to be an attempt at a quick retool to bounce back for next season? Or will it signal the start of a rebuild while the team still has its previous core?
Pittsburgh will be drafting in the first round for just the third time in nine drafts, assuming they keep their pick. Since they already still have most of their picks, it makes sense to try and bring in some NHL ready prospects as soon as possible to rebound for next season.
Boston Bruins Ignoring the Clock to Set Records
Not many people expected the Boston Bruins to be a major competitor this season, especially in the Atlantic Divison. But they proved us all wrong all season long to ultimately set the all-time NHL record for most wins and points in a single season. Their 65-12-5 record, good for 135 points, is an incredible show of what this team is apparently capable of.
David Pastrnak and Linus Ullmark led the way all season long for the Bruins. The former finished second in the league with 61 goals, and third with 113 points, to drive the offense of the Bruins. The latter managed to put up a 1.89 GAA (the fourth lowest single season total for a goalie who played in over 41 games since 2000-01). And his .938 SV% is tied for the highest in those same conditions.
Both of these players can and should receive consideration for the Hart Trophy, and Ullmark is almost certainly a shoo-in for the Vezina Trophy.
The Bruins had eight players score 50+ points, the equivalent of their top two forward lines and top defensive pairing. Incredible scoring depth to go along with their punishing defense that was only made better at the trade deadline and the best goaltending tandem in the league is a recipe for success. The only question remaining is how well this will translate to the playoffs. Top teams like this don’t always have the greatest track record in the postseason.
What Happened for the Calgary Flames?
After winning the Pacific Divison in 2021-22, expectations were high for the Calgary Flames heading into 2022-23. Despite some major roster turnover, the team still looked strong on paper and there was no real reason to believe anything to the contrary. That could not have been farther from the truth.
Despite a late push, the Flames just missed out on the playoffs, falling two points shy of the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild card spot.
Much has been made of what happened to this team. Was it coaching? Apparently, some players were rubbed the wrong way by Darryl Sutter’s comments at times, including a remark about Jakob Pelletier’s debut. Was it goaltending? The Flames had the second-lowest save percentage at 5 on 5 play. And despite having a positive ratio of scoring chances for and a positive goal differential, they could not get the saves they needed to win games.
Ultimately, it seems a case of a collection of issues that just piled on top of each other and no one thing was the only cause. The long offseason will give the players and organization some time to reflect and reset. This is not a roster that should be struggling the way they did this past season.
That wraps things up for the NHL Power Rankings this season! As always, drop a comment down below with who you think is ranked too high. And enjoy the playoffs, it is bound to be an amazing couple of months of hockey.
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