Local Hockey Power Rankings- Week 16
It’s the last rankings before the All-Star break and some local teams are making pushes while others are stumbling. The Islanders now sit three points ahead of the Flyers who are the first team outside of the playoffs while the Rangers and Devils still sit far behind. We had two voters this week including myself.
1. Philadelphia Flyers: 8 points (2 first-place votes) Last Week: 4
Record: 26-17-6 (3-1-0) Week MVP: Travis Konecny
The Flyers sit one point out of a playoff spot. If the NHL still used the old top-8-teams format, they would be in the playoffs. They had a fantastic week that began with one of the best games of the season; a game I had the pleasure of seeing in person. Trailing the Boston Bruins 5-2 with under seven minutes to play in the second period, the Flyers stormed back. Sean Couturier gave the Philadelphia crowd some life 13:12 into the middle frame and Connor Bunnaman pulled Philly within one goal 1:34 later. It was his first goal in the NHL. Travis Sanheim’s second of the evening tied the score at five midway through the third period. No one scored in overtime but Travis Konecny scored in the fifth round of the shootout before Brad Marchand flubbed the puck on the next attempt, ending the game. Keep your stick on the ice, kids. The Flyers then went out to St. Louis to face the defending Stanley Cup champs. After the Blues erased a 3-1 deficit in the third, Jake Voracek potted the overtime winner for the Philadelphia’s second straight win over a team that competed for the Cup last season. The Flyers hit a bump against Montreal the next night. After Joel Farabee opened the scoring late in the first, the Habs scored four unanswered to take a 4-1 decision. Philly got back on track in their final game of the week when they welcomed in the LA Kings. James van Riemsdyk had a goal and two assists to lead his team to a 4-1 win. The Flyers end the week in a good position to grab a playoff spot soon after the All-Star break. Before the break, however, they host the Penguins on Jan. 21.
2. New York Rangers: 6 points. Last Week: 3
Record: 23-20-4 (2-1-0 last week) Week MVP: Artemi Panarin
The Rangers had a huge week in terms of bragging rights as they defeated their crosstown rivals, the New York Islanders, twice. The first game was at Madison Square Garden. After Jordan Eberle scored just 18 seconds in, the Blueshirts rattled off six unanswered en route to a 6-2 win. Artemi Panarin shined in his first Rangers-Islanders game, tying a career-high with five points. Jesper Fast contributed three points of his own. Their next game was a return to Nassau Coliseum for the first time in almost five years. This game was more of a back-and-forth battle. With the game tied at two and under a minute to go in regulation, former Ranger Derick Brassard was called for cross-checking Fast. The Blueshirt’s power-play wasted little time as Chris Kreider banged home the game-winner with 24 seconds to go. They would hold on for their second straight victory over their New York neighbors. Alexandar Georgiev was fantastic, making 38 saves. The week ended on a sour note for New York, however, when they hosted the Columbus Blue Jackets. Brady Skjei got the scoring started late in the first and that score would hold until Oliver Bjorkstrand got his team on the board 6:08 into the third. The Danish winger would pot his second of the game with 27 seconds to go to hand the Rangers their first home loss since Dec. 20. Before heading into the All-Star break, the Blueshirts have one more game, and it’s another date with their rivals at the Garden on Jan. 21.
3. New York Islanders: 4 points. Last Week: 1
Record: 28-15-5 (1-3-1 last week) Week MVP: Brock Nelson
It was a busy week for the Islanders but it was filled with heartbreak. They began with a big 6-2 loss the Rangers, as previously mentioned. It was a big blow to the team’s pride but they would come back with their highest offensive output under Barry Trotz in an 8-2 rout of the lowly Detroit Red Wings. The Islanders set the tone early with goals from Jordan Eberle, Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson within the first eight minutes. Noah Dobson notched his first career NHL goal in this one as well. Their second game against the Rangers stung just a bit more as a controversial penalty call gave their rivals a power play that ultimately led to the game-winning goal with 24 seconds to go. The low point of the week, however, was most likely the game against Washington. Up 4-1 after two periods and controlling play, the Isles gave up five straight, including an empty netter, and lost 6-4. Alex Ovechkin had a hat-trick and moved into a tie with Steve Yzerman for ninth place on the all-time goals list. They finished the week getting a point in Carolina thanks to Anders Lee’s game-tying goal in the second period. Unfortunately for New York, they couldn’t secure a second point as they lost in an eight-round shootout. Plenty of adjustments to be made as the Islanders limp towards the All-Star break but they aren’t there yet as they still have to face the Rangers for the third time in eight days on Jan. 21.
4. New Jersey Devils: 2 points. Last Week: 2
Record: 17-24-7 (0-3-0 last week) Week MVP: Blake Coleman
This week could not have gone much worse for the Devils on the ice. They were out-scored 17-6 in three games. Four of those six goals came off the stick of Blake Coleman. The games got progressively less competitive as the week went on. Starting in Toronto, Coleman had a hat-trick. It was the highlight of the Devils’ week. Unfortunately, Auston Matthews also had a hat-trick. After the latter made it 6-1 early in the third, the former scored twice along with one from PK Subban but it was too little too late. Matthews would cap the 7-4 Leafs win off with an empty netter. In Washington two nights later, Alex Ovechkin torched New Jersey for a hat-trick to reach 30 goals for the 15 year in a row. Yes, that is the second Ovechkin milestone in this article. After Coleman brought the Devils within one early in the third, the Caps grabbed the next two to secure a 5-2 win. New Jersey finished the week against white-hot Elvis Merzlikins and the Blue Jackets. The goalie secured his third shutout in four games, making 41 saves en route to a 5-0 victory for his team. Cam Atkinson had two goals and an assist for Columbus. The Devils are done until after the All-Star break. They’ll look to use the time off to regroup from a very rough week.