Well, just like that we have hit the final week of THW’s 2022-23 Power Rankings! While it feels like October was only a few days ago, the NHL’s regular season will reach its end when the Buffalo Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets along with the Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators play their makeup games on Friday, April 14th. After those finish, it will be a quick turnaround for the start of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs, which are expected to kick off on April 17th.
However, this will not be the last Power Rankings of the season. Before the festivities start on Monday, we will post one more Ranking outlining the 16 playoff teams, to see who we think will be the favorites to reach the Finals and eventually win it all.
Before we get to that point, though, we will wrap up the regular season to see which of the remaining teams manage to claw their way into the playoffs. So, let’s knock out one more complete Power Rankings for 2022-23, and send this memorable season off with a bang!
32-21: Every Win Feels Like a Loss?
32. Anaheim Ducks (Last Ranking: 31) – Eliminated
31. Chicago Blackhawks (Last Ranking: 32) – Eliminated
30. Columbus Blue Jackets (Last Ranking: 29) – Eliminated
29. Arizona Coyotes (Last Ranking: 30) – Eliminated
28. San Jose Sharks (Last Ranking: 28) – Eliminated
27. Washington Capitals (Last Ranking: 24) _ Eliminated
26. Montreal Canadiens (Last Ranking: 27) – Eliminated
25. Detroit Red Wings (Last Ranking: 26) – Eliminated
24. Philadelphia Flyers (Last Ranking: 25) – Eliminated
23. Ottawa Senators (Last Ranking: 22) – Eliminated
22: Vancouver Canucks (Last Ranking: 23) – Eliminated
21: St. Louis Blues (Last Ranking: 21) – Eliminated
While it took all the way to the final Power Rankings, we have finally peeled back the first group of teams on this list as they have all been officially eliminated from the postseason. While most of these franchises were sellers at the deadline and have been looking towards the 2023 NHL Draft since the All-Star Break, there was still an outside chance that a few of them could go on an unprecedented run and steal a playoff spot.
Of the eliminated teams this week, it’s worth pointing out that this will be the first time the Washington Capitals will miss the playoffs since 2014, which was tied for the second-longest active streak in the NHL. Now, they suffered a constant rotation of key injuries throughout the season which led to this elimination, but it also feels like a big miss when you have Alex Ovechkin entering the twilight of his NHL career. So, they will likely need to find a way to retool on the fly this offseason in order to maximize his remaining competitive window.
Outside of the Capitals, not a lot of note happened for the teams in this section of the Rankings. They lost a lot of games, typically by wide margins, and they all seem very ready to reach the offseason to try again next year. Despite this uninspired play lately, I still expect some of these franchises to quickly rebound, especially if they manage to win the draft lottery and select Connor Bedard.
20-12: Final Games Will Decide 2023 Playoff Wild Cards
20. Nashville Predators (Last Ranking: 18)
19. Buffalo Sabres (Last Ranking: 20)
18. Calgary Flames (Last Ranking: 16)
17. Pittsburgh Penguins (Last Ranking: 17)
16. Winnipeg Jets (Last Ranking: 19)
15. New York Islanders (Last Ranking: 15)
14. Florida Panthers (Last Ranking: 14)
It’s amazing that we are entering the final days of the regular season, and we still have so many teams alive for the final Wild Card positions in both the Eastern and Western Conferences. First, let’s discuss the Buffalo Sabres and Nashville Predators, who fought valiantly, but will shortly be eliminated as they simply hit the end of the runway just a few points short of their goal. Both teams should be proud of how they fought through their seasons, and they have a lot to look forward to in the future.
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After those teams, we have three remaining spots in the playoffs for five teams, who are all separated by just one point in the standings. The margin of error for all of these teams is zero, as the loss of even a single point over their remaining games would spell disaster.
Now, let’s have some fun and take a guess at where this all shakes out in the coming days.
First, it feels like the final wild card in the West is all but set for the Winnipeg Jets, as they have one point on the Calgary Flames and a game in hand. For the Flames this would be a devastating end to a rough season, but this is what happens when you give up points to teams like the Blackhawks at critical times of the season.
In the East, things are more complicated. The Florida Panthers currently hold the first Wild Card in the Eastern Conference, but they have a significantly harder schedule to end the regular season when compared to the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders. With zero room for error, they control their own destiny but I would expect them to drop a game against their difficult opponents.
So, with this in mind, I think the Islanders and Penguins will win out on their remaining games against bottom-feeders, where the Panthers will lose one game in regulation and miss the postseason by a point.
Really, this is just a reminder of how important it is to earn points at the start of each season. While it feels like they count for double once you reach April, the two teams that miss the playoffs will ultimately be able to look back at a game this season and lament a lost point or two that cost them their postseason chance.
11-2: Playoffs Locked Down and Matchups Forming
13: Tampa Bay Lightning (Last Ranking: 12) – Clinched Playoffs
12: Minnesota Wild (Last Ranking: 10) – Clinched Playoffs
11. Seattle Kraken (Last Ranking: 13) – Clinched Playoffs
10. Los Angeles Kings (Last Ranking: 4) – Clinched Playoffs
9. Carolina Hurricanes (Last Ranking: 5) – Clinched Playoffs
8. Toronto Maple Leafs (Last Ranking: 9) – Clinched Playoffs
7. New Jersey Devils (Last Ranking: 8) – Clinched Playoffs
6. New York Rangers (Last Ranking: 6) – Clinched Playoffs
5. Vegas Golden Knights (Last Ranking: 7) – Clinched Playoffs
4. Dallas Stars (Last Rankings 11) – Clinched Playoffs
3. Edmonton Oilers (Last Ranking: 3) – Clinched Playoffs
2. Colorado Avalanche (Last Ranking: 2) – Clinched Playoffs
Over the last few weeks, the Western Conference has returned to this Ranking with a vengeance. After having as few as two Western teams in the Top 10, we now have four in our Top 5. This isn’t to say that teams in the Eastern Conference are playing that poorly, but that they are losing a few more games than before, whereas the top teams in the West just keep winning game after game, and pulling down key points in their Divisional races.
Of the teams that clinched this week, the Seattle Kraken are far and away the biggest story. The fledgling franchise posted just 60 points in their first NHL season but committed a near 40-point turnaround in Year 2, something no one expected. Even if they won’t be favored to win their first playoff series, this is a special outcome for the Kraken and should provide a solid base to build upon in the coming years.
Another team to keep an eye on in their remaining games are the Edmonton Oilers, who still have the opportunity to de-throne the Vegas Golden Knights for first place in the Pacific Division. However, I have to note that Connor McDavid posted his 150th point, which is the first time that has happened since 1996, and he also has a chance to break Ovechkin’s post-lockout goalscoring record if he manages to pot two more in his final two games so there is a lot to look forward to in the Oilers’ remaining games.
It’s not all good for teams at the top of the standings, however. The Tampa Bay Lightning followed up a week where they gave up one goal in three games with a devasting 19-goals against in three games this week. The Minnesota Wild, Los Angeles Kings, and Carolina Hurricanes are also backing their way into the postseason, but their issues appear minor compared to how poorly the Lightning have looked in recent games.
1. Boston Bruins – Clinched Presidents’ Trophy
Last Ranking: 1
Well, it happened. The Boston Bruins knocked down one historical wall when they beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-3 on Sunday, giving them 63 wins and sole possession of the most wins in a single season in NHL history. Next, all they need to do is earn two more points in order to dethrone the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens for most points in a season, so they still have a lot to accomplish with their remaining games.
If this truly is the last dance for the Bruins, then they put together quite the season to go out on. Sure, this will mean nothing if they don’t lift the Stanley Cup come June, but at the same time, you shouldn’t overlook what this team has done based solely on their postseason success. No matter what, this was an incredible regular season, and it will be one no one forgets across the hockey world.
NHL Wraps Up the 2022-23 Regular Season
And just like that, we’ve hit the end of the 2022-23 Power Rankings. When we started this season, I don’t think anyone thought we’d have a player post 150 points, see the Bruins win 63 games, or watch the playoff race come down to the last games for five different teams, yet here we are.
This season has been fantastic for fans of the NHL, and we at THW are excited to discuss the 2023 NHL Playoffs in the coming days.