clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

NHL power rankings: Nashville Predators take over top spot

Capped by an impressive trade, a strong week pushes the Nashville Predators to the front of the pack.

Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Peter Laviolette's Nashville Predators, currently atop the NHL standings, are a team without any glaring holes. Pekka Rinne is one of the two best goaltenders out there. Shea Weber and Roman Josi form a top pairing worth heaps of envy. Young defensemen Ryan Ellis, Seth Jones and Mattias Ekholm are developing well, and the top-six is actually good for a change -- perhaps great.

But no team is perfect, and the Preds are no exception. Nashville has had to dress Victor Bartley and/or Anton Volchenov on a regular basis. Bartley is an objectively bad option, and Volchenkov has been disappointing in his own right. What's more, the third line has been awfully ineffective of late.

These weaknesses would go unaddressed in most years. They're small. Surmountable. On many nights, negligible. However, as locals who have never witnessed a team this exciting can attest, 2014-15 is not like most years.

So David Poile is going for it.

On Sunday, both aforementioned deficiencies were mitigated when the wily general manager shipped Olli Jokinen, Brendan Leipsic and his 2015 first round selection to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli.

Franson, a former Nashville draft pick who played two seasons in the Music City, further solidifies a talented blue line. When Ellis gets healthy, the Preds could dress six homegrown D-men. Quite a feat in this day and age. Mike Santorelli was also drafted by the organization and should be a steady third liner good for a point roughly every two games. He figures to be a considerable upgrade over Jokinen.

True, it's tough to part with Leipsic, a kid with lots of potential; a first-round pick, even a late one, is hard to let go of, too. That said, Nashville has what appears to be a championship-caliber roster. Poile had to push his chips to the center of the table.

Risers

The Preds' latest stretch has been among its most impressive of the season. After staying above water during Rinne's brief absence, Nashville is riding a five-game win streak that includes triumphs over the Lightning, Jets and Rangers, as well as a dominant performance against the Devils.

Save for a tough loss to Anaheim, Nashville has passed virtually every test thrown its way. And it's done so in convincing fashion.

Filip Forsberg continues to produce and remains the favorite to take home Rookie of the Year honors. He has four points in his last five and is now on pace for 72. James Neal also had an excellent week: the veteran left wing potted two goals -- the first of which gave the Preds a victory over Tampa Bay in the final minute of overtime.

While the Preds have been surprisingly good, the Kings have been surprisingly average. Despite elite possession numbers and a nearly identical group to the one that won the Cup last spring, LA has been dancing around the playoff periphery for a concerning amount of time.

But the Kings are not known for great win/loss records -- they finished third in the Pacific Division each time they won it all -- and will be a threat as long as they get into the postseason.

And get in they should: Four wins in a row have pushed the Kings to the edge, and as of Monday, they're three points behind the eighth-place Flames with a game in hand. A little reshuffling feels inevitable at this point.

SB Nation presents: Why the Predators will be taking home hardware this year

Fallers

After making some nice improvements since the turn of the calendar, Boston has taken a step back with three consecutive losses and four regulation defeats in its last five.

The power play is a significant problem. The Bruins have converted on only 17.2 percent of their chances on the man-advantage, ranked 23rd overall, and have scored during one of their last 11 power play opportunities.

The Bruins' goal differential is telling: with a plus-three total, they're at least 17 behind everyone ahead of them in the standings. Not surprising given their 2.58 goals per game clip.

Barring some major changes, it seems Boston's record reflects what this team can accomplish. The B's are worthy of a wild card position, yes, but they simply don't look like a genuine contender anymore.

On the other side of the continent, Boston's opponent in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final are in a similar situation. The Canucks, currently seventh in the West, are holding onto the spot in spite of some underwhelming results.

Vancouver has a number of issues, one being in net. Ryan Miller hasn't lived up to expectations since signing a three-year, $18 million deal, and at the age of 34, may never return to his old self again. In 42 appearances, the veteran netminder has posted a .913 save percentage, which, if it holds up, would be his worst mark since 2007-08.

1


+3

Nashville Predators

Team blog: On the Forecheck

Record: 38-12-6

2


-1

Chicago Blackhawks

Record: 35-18-4

3


Detroit Red Wings

Record: 31-13-10

4


-2

Tampa Bay Lightning

Team blog: Raw Charge

Record: 35-17-6

5


+1

St. Louis Blues

Record: 37-15-4

6


-1

Anaheim Ducks

Team blog: Anaheim Calling

Record: 35-15-7

7


New York Islanders

Record: 37-18-1

8


Montreal Canadiens

Record: 36-15-4

9


Pittsburgh Penguins

Team blog: Pensburgh

Record: 32-15-9

10


+1

New York Rangers

Team blog: Blueshirt Banter

Record: 33-16-5

11


+1

Washington Capitals

Team blog: Japers' Rink

Record: 30-17-10

12


+5

Los Angeles Kings

Record: 25-18-12

13


+2

Minnesota Wild

Record: 28-20-7

14


-4

Boston Bruins

Record: 28-20-7

15


-1

San Jose Sharks

Team blog: Fear the Fin

Record: 29-21-8

16


-3

Vancouver Canucks

Team blog: Nucks Misconduct

Record: 31-21-3

17


-1

Winnipeg Jets

Record: 29-19-10

18


Calgary Flames

Record: 31-22-3

19


+1

Dallas Stars

Team blog: Defending Big D

Record: 26-22-8

20


Florida Panthers

Team blog: Litter Box Cats

Record: 24-19-12

21


+1

Philadelphia Flyers

Record: 24-22-10

22


-1

Colorado Avalanche

Team blog: Mile High Hockey

Record: 23-22-11

23


+1

Columbus Blue Jackets

Team blog: The Cannon

Record: 24-27-3

24


+1

Ottawa Senators

Team blog: Silver Seven

Record: 22-22-10

25


-2

New Jersey Devils

Team blog: In Lou we Trust

Record: 21-26-9

26


Carolina Hurricanes

Team blog: Canes Country

Record: 19-28-7

27


Toronto Maple Leafs

Record: 23-29-5

28


Arizona Coyotes

Team blog: Five for Howling

Record: 20-30-7

29


Edmonton Oilers

Team blog: Copper & Blue

Record: 16-32-9

30


Buffalo Sabres

Team blog: Die by the Blade

Record: 16-37-3