Published On: Thu, Apr 26th, 2018

NHL Playoffs Power Rankings: Sharks, Jets prove their might in 1st round

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The first installment of theScore’s NHL Playoffs Power Rankings was put together by NHL editor Craig Hagerman.

1. San Jose Sharks

The Sharks did it all in the first round en route to their series sweep of the Anaheim Ducks. The club averaged four goals per game, highlighted by a crushing 8-1 win in Game 3.

San Jose has five players averaging a point per game in the playoffs, while Martin Jones has put up a save percentage of .970, second in the postseason only to Marc-Andre Fleury.

2. Winnipeg Jets

Excepting a 6-2 smackdown in Game 3 to the Minnesota Wild, the Jets cruised to their first series win in franchise history. In fact, it was after this game that Connor Hellebuyck took his play to another level, turning in two consecutive shutouts to close out the series.

The Jets are also averaging the best shot differential in the playoffs, while Adam Lowry was the only series regular who failed to record at least a point. Facing a potent offense and an elite goalie, the Nashville Predators have their hands full in Round 2.

3. Vegas Golden Knights

Fleury didn’t need to prove anything more to the people of Las Vegas regarding his value to the team, but he made sure to anyway. The 33-year-old put up two shutouts in four games and allowed just three goals in the four-game sweep of the Kings.

The rest of the team could use a few more goals than they put up in Round 1, but that likely has more to do with the Kings’ goaltending than it does the Golden Knights‘ offense.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins certainly look up to the task of competing for a third straight Stanley Cup.

The club finished the first round having registered just shy of five goals per game. Sidney Crosby looks to be in Conn Smythe Trophy form with 13 points in six games while Jake Guentzel, on the back of a four-goal output in Game 6, has equaled that tally.

5. Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning didn’t steamroll the Devils in the first round, but they did make short work of them, needing just five games.

Nikita Kucherov continues to do his thing offensively, with five goals and 10 points in Round 1, and Andrei Vasilevskiy, who admitted to feeling fatigued toward the end of the season, appears no worse for wear, posting a 2.01 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage.

6. Nashville Predators

The Avalanche gave Nashville a bit of a scare in the opening round, but when it came down to it, the Predators flexed their muscles and hammered Colorado in Game 6.

Pekka Rinne proved to be human through the first five games, but with a shutout in the sixth, he’s helped calm the nerves. The hope now is it’s that version of Rinne we see in Round 2.

7. Washington Capitals

After dropping the first two games of their opening series to the Blue Jackets at home, the Capitals reeled off four straight wins to advance to the second round for the fourth consecutive year.

Of course, they are now poised to take on their playoff nemesis in the Penguins, but perhaps the desire to finally exercise their playoff demons will propel them past the reigning Cup champs. If John Carlson, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Nicklas Backstrom can continue their blistering pace – the quartet combined for 33 points in Round 1 – that’s a distinct possibility.

8. Boston Bruins

When the Bruins lost a game to the Maple Leafs in the first round, it was tight, but when they won, it was generally in commanding fashion.

The top line of Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Patrice Bergeron further proved they are the best line in the NHL today, and that if you don’t keep them in check, they’ll make you pay. Meanwhile, David Krejci, Torey Krug, and Jake DeBrusk combined for 24 points; the Bruins are no one-trick pony.

9. Toronto Maple Leafs

It wasn’t 4-1-in-the-third-period painful, but the Maple Leafs’ third-period unraveling in Game 7 that saw them give up a 4-3 lead en route to a 7-4 defeat to the Bruins certainly sunk Toronto fans.

That being said, Toronto put some doubt into a strong Boston team by coming back from a 3-1 deficit to force Game 7.

10. Colorado Avalanche

It didn’t end the way the Avalanche wanted, but they took the Presidents’ Trophy winners to six games after needing the penultimate night of the regular season to nail down a playoff spot.

Considering the club finished with the worst full-season record in the salary cap era just one year ago, this season was most definitely a success for the Avs.

11. Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets appeared destined for a different playoff fate after finally drawing an opponent other than the Penguins.

Unfortunately, after taking the first two games on the road, the same old problem arose: Sergei Bobrovsky struggled in the playoffs. He finished the series with a 3.18 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage. The fact those are better marks than his career playoff averages says it all.

12. Philadelphia Flyers

When the Flyers won against the Penguins, they looked great. When they lost, they looked pitiful.

They gave up nearly five goals a game (28 in six contests) and managed a success rate of just 9.5 percent on the power play. That’s not a winning formula.

13. New Jersey Devils

The Devils didn’t make things easy for the Lightning, which is an achievement in itself.

However, the fact was unless Taylor Hall scored 12 goals in the series, New Jersey didn’t stand much of a chance against the top club in the Eastern Conference.

14. Minnesota Wild

The Wild are ranked ahead of a couple teams here because they actually managed to win a game, and did so in commanding fashion.

They defeated the Jets in Game 3 by a 6-2 margin, but that was all the life they had. They laid a massive egg in the first period of Game 5, and that about says it all.

15. Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks averaged one goal per game and four against, and you just can’t do that.

Of course, taking an average of seven penalties a game doesn’t help your chances either.

16. Los Angeles Kings

It’s surprising Jonathan Quick was able to skate off the ice of his own accord night in and night out after carrying the Kings throughout the entire playoffs.

He did all he could, but in the end, it’s physically impossible to win a playoff series when you only score three goals.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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