With the conference finals set to begin Friday night, theScore’s Sean O’Leary put together the second installment of NHL Playoff Rankings. (Rankings 9-16 unchanged from the last edition.)
1. Winnipeg Jets
It was the seven-game war we all expected, but the Jets’ thrashing of the Presidents’ Trophy winners in their rink to close out the most anticipated series of the playoffs puts them in the top spot heading into the conference finals.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
That 6-2 loss to the Bruins in Game 1 sure seems like an eternity ago, doesn’t it? After the surprising result, the Bolts quickly found their groove, getting contributions from all areas and looking like the team that led the standings for the majority of the regular season.
3. Vegas Golden Knights
It seems most people are still waiting for the Golden Knights to fall back to earth, yet here they are, four wins from a Stanley Cup Final berth in Year One. On top of stellar netminding from Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas controls 53.57 percent of expected 5-one-5 goals so far in the playoffs. Why stop now?
4. Washington Capitals
It’s hard not to feel good for Ovi and the Caps, finally getting past their mortal enemies in Pittsburgh. Ideally the momentum of slaying their biggest dragon carries them forward, as a draw against the Lightning for Eastern Conference supremacy is yet another tall task.
5. Nashville Predators
Throughout their 117-point regular season, the Predators lost just nine games at home in regulation, which leaves one baffled looking at their three losses to the Jets at Bridgestone Arena in Round 2. Shaky goaltending can sink even the best of teams.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins
You know you’ve been dominant when a second-round elimination results in a longer-than-usual summer break. Hats off to the Pens, whether you love ’em or hate ’em, falling short of a three-peat can hardly be considered a failure.
7. Boston Bruins
The Bruins got hit hard by injuries at a tough time, helping lead to the demise of an incredibly deep roster that winds up a lick or two short of competing for a championship.
8. San Jose Sharks
Credit where it’s due: The Sharks actually managed a playoff win over the Golden Knights, which is more than their in-state rivals can say, but they got shutout twice as well, so that doesn’t help their cause.
- 9. Toronto Maple Leafs
- 10. Colorado Avalanche
- 11. Columbus Blue Jackets
- 12. Philadelphia Flyers
- 13. New Jersey Devils
- 14. Minnesota Wild
- 15. Anaheim Ducks
- 16. Los Angeles Kings
(Photos Courtesy: Getty Images)