Weekly Power Rankings: Eastern Conference dominance going into holiday break
Checking in on where everybody is as the league enters the 2022-23 NHL holiday break.
The NHL’s holiday break is here, which is also very close to the halfway point of the 2022-23 season. There are two interesting developments at this point.
The first is that the Eastern Conference has been the superior conference through the first half of the season, with most of the top-10 teams in both the standings and my weekly rankings (we know which one is more important!). Boston, Carolina, and Toronto have really started to distance themselves from the rest of the pack, while the Western Conference only has a handful of top-tier teams. And even they have some flaws at the moment.
The other is that even within the Eastern Conference we are starting to see a very definitive line be drawn between the playoff teams and the non-playoff teams. It was around this same point last year where the same thing started to happen, and it made the playoff races in the Eastern Conference relatively anticlimactic.
Just consider at the moment that the second Wild Card team in the East (Washington Capitals) is currently on pace for 95 points and is on a rapid upward trend now that it is starting to get healthy. Only one team on the outside of the playoff picture (the New York Islanders) is on pace for more than 90 points. The Islanders are also trending in the wrong direction.
With the exception of maybe New Jersey replacing Florida, we very well might see the exact same playoff teams as a year ago.
As for this week’s Power Rankings, there is a very clear trio of teams at the top with Boston still leading the way.
Where does your team rank?
To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!!
1. Boston Bruins. At some point they will slow down, but they are currently on a 140-point pace this season. The next closest team in the league is only on a 120-point pace. Just a total power house right now. My only concern is if the goaltending holds on the way it has.
2. Carolina Hurricanes. They are on a roll right now and have recently been playing without their best player, Sebastian Aho, and still have not received a single game from Max Pacioretty yet. Could they be this year’s Colorado? The talented team that finally breaks through after some earlier-than-expected playoff exits?
3. Toronto Maple Leafs. I wonder how many people realize they are second in the league in preventing goals, allowing just 2.41 per game. Only Boston has been better.
4. Vegas Golden Knights. Currently the best team in the West, but for as good as they are I still feel like they are step below the big-three in the Eastern Conference right now.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning. I have to eat some crow on Brandon Hagel. I thought that was a really bad addition, but he has produced with some talented players around him. The Lightning needed that added scoring depth.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins. They need a new third-line center and they need to greatly reduce Brian Dumoulin’s role. Also they need to win some games in overtime.
7. Dallas Stars They are starting to become my Western Conference pick for the Stanley Cup Final. That top line is as good as it gets in the NHL, Jake Oettinger is a game-changer, and now they have some secondary scoring to balance the lineup.
8. New Jersey Devils. They are trending in the wrong direction. Defense is very banged up, but they have been slumping for a couple of weeks now.
9. Winnipeg Jets. Connor Hellebuyck is the biggest story here, but Josh Morrissey has emerged out of nowhere as a potential Norris Trophy candidate. He is leading a team with some very high-end forwards in scoring. As a defenseman. What a season for him.
10. New York Rangers. They are back to the formula that worked well for them a year ago. Get badly out-shot and out-chanced and wait for your all-world goalie to take over. He was not earlier this season. Now he is. The winning has returned.
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