NHL Power Rankings: The Kings are the best team in the West (right now)
Will they be when the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin is another question.
After slacking on the NHL Power Rankings for a couple of weeks (sorry about that) it would probably be unfair to keep labeling them the “weekly” NHL Power Rankings, so here we are.
This week we need to talk a little bit about the Los Angeles Kings, because they might be the best team in the Western Conference right now and look built for a deep Stanley Cup Playoff run.
Their record is among the best in the NHL with a .658 points percentage that places them seventh in the league and second behind only the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference. They also look like that team that is “peaking at the right time” as they are 15-2-3 since the NHL All-Star Break.
Their underlying numbers, especially defensively, are sensational and at a Stanley Cup level. During 5-on-5 play their expected goal share of 53.4 percent is sixth best in the league, while their 2.38 expected goals against per 60 minutes is second in the league only to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Since the All-Star break those numbers have only improved, with their expected goals share climbing to over 57 percent (third best in the league) while their expected goals against drop down to 2.29 per 60 minutes (still second best behind only Carolina).
They are also the fifth-highest scoring team in the league, averaging 3.45 goals per game. They have done that despite not getting the sort of breakout seasons they might have been hoping for from young players like Arthur Kaliyev and Quinton Byfield.
Kevin Fiala has been a game-changer of an addition, while recent veteran additions like Viktor Arvidsson and Phillip Danault continue to be great complements for their established veteran core of Anze Kopitar (who still has it) and Adrian Kempe.
The biggest question for the Kings all season has been whether or not they could find a goalie that could stop the puck at even a league average level. Joonas Korpisalo has only played five games since his acquisition at the trade deadline, but he might be capable of that. If he is,. this team would be an extremely tough out in the West.
They make the top-five in this week’s rankings, checking in at a season No. 4 spot.
Where does your team sit?
To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!!
1. Boston Bruins. They just keep winning and are not showing any sign of slowing down. They are laughably ahead of every other team in the league and the only question now is whether or not they set the single season wins record.
2. Carolina Hurricanes. The injury to Max Pacioretty hurts because he was supposed to give them another big-time finisher. The loss of Andrei Svechnikov is brutal because he IS one of their big-time finishers. They are still keeping pace for now, but I worry about them in the playoffs without those two.
3. New Jersey Devils. They are set up for success for a long time. I do still question the goaltending.
4. Los Angeles Kings. They do not need a goalie to steal games. They just need a goalie to not lose games.
5. Colorado Avalanche. Their overall record does not accurately describe the damaging potential this team has, if healthy, in the playoffs. They are starting to kick it into gear at the right time.
6. New York Rangers. I still do not fully trust their process and I still believe Patrick Kane was an unnecessary luxury when they could have used that salary cap space elsewhere, but you can not argue with the results at this point. They still seem to operate under the belief that “it doesn’t matter what we do because our goalie is better than yours.”
7. Vegas Golden Knights. They have made a constantly questionable goaltending situation work and they are on a roll in the stretch run. Jack Eichel is going to finally see playoff hockey. They need to hold off the Kings for the top spot in the Pacific Division though because there is a huge difference between playing Connor McDavid in the first round and playing Winnipeg or Nashville in the first round.
8. Toronto Maple Leafs. I do not love the way they are playing right now, and their goaltending still seems like a wild card. If they do not win a playoff round this year after that all-in trade deadline and with that core I am not sure what else you can say. They should still be heaving favorites against a Tampa Bay team that might finally be starting to slow down.
9. Edmonton Oilers. Sometimes I feel like I am too hard on the Oilers, but they really have squandered the prime years of the two most dominant offensive forces in the league right now. To their credit, they did fix a lot of their flaws this year, especially during 5-on-5 play and defensively. The only problem is that goaltending situation might completely ruin them this year.
10. Minnesota Wild. Their front office has handled a brutal salary cap situation as well as could have been expected. Probably even better than could have been expected. Way better. This is a legitimately good team that was able to add some intriguing pieces at the trade deadline. But here is a lukewarm take going into the playoffs: Filip Gustavsson should start over Marc-Andre Fleury. Or at least see the bulk of the playing time. Nothing against Fleury, who has been fine this year and really good lately. Gustavsson has simply been the better goalie this season. By a fairly significant margin as well.
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