Halfway through the first round, our first Playoff Power Rankings are here!
1 – Boston Bruins
After a shaky start, the Bruins answered the bell in Florida with back-to-back wins to take a 3-1 series lead. With captain Patrice Bergeron out and David Krejci missing games three and four as well, Boston’s depth at forward has come to the forefront. The team’s top three scorers through four games are Taylor Hall, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Jake DeBrusk. If Boston can take care of business in Game 5, they should have about a week of rest time before the second round. If that’s the time that Krejci and Bergeron need to get back in the lineup, this forward group will be almost impossible to stop.
2 – Carolina Hurricanes
With a dominating win on Sunday, the Hurricanes took control of their series in New York and will now look to finish it off on Tuesday at home. Sebastian Aho became the franchise’s leader in playoff goals, but it’s the defence and special teams making the biggest difference in this series. Carolina has been able to completely neutralize the Islanders’ power play, and if they can stick to the game plan for sixty more minutes, they should be moving on. Unfortunately for the Canes, they’ll be dealing with a much more offensive team in the second round with either the Devils or Rangers on the way.
3 – Colorado Avalanche
Ever since the Avalanche took the ice in the second period of Game 2, they’ve been a team on a mission once again against the Kraken. The speed and depth of Seattle has given the team issues for sure, but Colorado’s top end players are beginning to prove why this team can absolutely not be counted out in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. With Nathan Mackinnon and Mikko Rantanen leading the forward group and Cale Makar headlining a very dynamic core on the back end, Colorado is still the Western Conference’s top team in our Playoff Power Rankings.
4 – Toronto Maple Leafs
Despite being outplayed for most of Game 3, the Maple Leafs found a way to win the crucial bout in overtime to take a 2-1 series lead against Tampa Bay. The mid-season acquisition of Ryan O’Reilly paid off big time in the game as the veteran forward tied things up with a minute to go in the third before Morgan Reilly ended things late in the first overtime period. Of course, this team has seen a 2-1 series lead plenty of times in the past, but with Ilya Samsonov on his game, maybe this time they can finally put the first-round demons to rest.
5 – New York Rangers
The Rangers fell at MSG in overtime on Saturday, but they’ll have another chance to put the Devils on the ropes tonight. The star-studded offensive unit gets a lot of attention, but the team defence and goaltending from Igor Shesterkin has been clinical in the first three games of this series. Through 9.5 periods of play, the Rangers have allowed just four goals on 80 shots. If they can continue this kind of play, New York will be very difficult for any team to beat over the span of four games.
6 – Vegas Golden Knights
They almost choked it, but the Golden Knights survived the whiteout in Winnipeg on Saturday and now have a chance to take a stranglehold on the series heading back home. Before their third period collapse, they looked like the much better team and the score showed exactly that. However, this game needs to serve as a reminder that no lead is safe in the NHL Playoffs. With a less-than-stellar goaltender to rely on and some shaky moments throughout the series, Vegas sits at 6th in our Playoff Power Rankings.
7 – Edmonton Oilers
Sunday night was nearly a disaster for the Oilers, but they’ll come back home with momentum on their side following a thrilling overtime win in Los Angeles. Leon Draisaitl has been the best player of the series for either team, scoring 9 points in four games. He’s also been on the ice for every Oilers goal of the playoffs. Despite their stars up front, Edmonton has had issues defensively and will now face question marks in goal for the first time after Jack Campbell’s performance in relief of Stuart Skinner. They’ll also need their secondary scorers to continue contributing if they want to go far this year. They’re a team with a very high ceiling, but nothing will come easy against the Kings.
8 – Dallas Stars
Wrapping up our Playoff Power Rankings are the Dallas Stars. This team is locked in a very tight battle with Minnesota right now, but with home-ice advantage for the last three games and a goalie like Jake Oettinger, they’re currently very slight favorites to win the series. They did get a little fortunate with some mind-boggling penalty calls against Marcus Foligno in Game 4, but you can’t blame a team for taking advantage of opportunities. Both Dallas and Minnesota are very good teams that will be up to challenge anyone they face in the Western Conference.
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