The NHL opted out of competing at the Olympics, but the hockey world remains inextricably linked to the Winter Games. Flipping channels between gold medal winner Nathan Chen on the ice in Beijing and another gold medal winner Sidney Crosby on the ice in Pittsburgh seems natural, even if Crosby isn’t in Hockey Canada colors.
This week’s power rankings aim to bridge the gap between the NHL and the Olympics by relating each team to an Olympic athlete, competition or moment we’ve seen so far in Beijing.
32. Montreal Canadiens
Last week: 32
Figure skater turned coach Adam Rippon. The Canadiens fired coach Dominique Ducharme and named Martin St. Louis their interim coach Wednesday. The 46-year-old former player, who was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018, will look to steer the team out of the depths of the league, while Rippon will look to steer Mariah Bell to a medal.
31. Arizona Coyotes
Last Week: 31
Beijing’s big air venue. The big air events in skiing and snowboarding are taking place against a jarring backdrop. The Coyotes will find themselves in an odd venue as well, as they have reached an agreement to use Arizona State’s new 5,000-seat hockey arena as their temporary home.
30. Buffalo Sabres
Last week: 29
Ski jumper disqualifications. Five ski jumpers were tossed out of the mixed-team ski jump final due to their jumpsuits; the Sabres took themselves out of the running for the playoffs almost before the season began with continued mismanagement of their roster.
29. New Jersey Devils
Last week: 28
U.S. snowboarder Maddie Mastro. As Mastro showed on TikTok and Devils forward Jack Hughes showed at the All-Star weekend, these young stars can entertain, but Mastro failed to qualify for the halfpipe final, and Hughes and the Devils have failed to make progress this season.
28. Philadelphia Flyers
Last week: 30
Moguls. It’s been a bumpy season for the Flyers.
27. Detroit Red Wings
Last week: 27
Every cute childhood video of an Olympic athlete. The rookies who star for the Red Wings are not far removed from their own home-movie days.
26. Columbus Blue Jackets
Last week: 25
The margin of victory in men’s figure skating. U.S. skater Nathan Chen won gold by more than 22 points over Yuma Kagiyama, who beat bronze medal winner Shoma Uno by more than 17 points. The Blue Jackets, in fifth place in the Metropolitan Division with 43 points, are 22 points out of first place and 16 points behind the fourth-place Capitals.
25. Seattle Kraken
Last week: 26
American Samoa flag bearer Nathan Crumpton. The 36-year-old drew attention for his traditional Samoan outfit at the opening ceremony, but he’s unlikely to make waves in the skeleton competition. Similarly, the Kraken are drawing eyeballs in their debut season, but they won’t be making a run for the playoffs.
24. Chicago Blackhawks
Last week: 23
Monobob. With 27 goals, more than twice as many as the next closest Blackhawks player, Alex DeBrincat might feel like he’s on one of the monobob’s one-person sleighs.
23. San Jose Sharks
Last week: 22
U.S. skier Ryan Cochran-Siegle follows in his mother’s footsteps. Barbara Ann Cochran won gold in the slalom at the 1972 Olympics, and her son won the gold in the Super-G in this year’s Games. Sharks rookie center Jonathan Dahlen is also following in a parent’s footsteps, playing for the same team that his father, Ulf Dahlen, played for from 1993 to ’97.
22. Ottawa Senators
Last week: 24
Bing Dwen Dwen. The Beijing Olympics’ panda mascot is cute and supremely nonthreatening. The Senators, even after winning two in a row and three of their last four, are far from competing for a playoff spot.
21. New York Islanders
Last week: 21
Mikaela Shiffrin’s disappointing start. Shiffrin failed to finish her first, and best, two events in Beijing, skiing out in the slalom and the giant slalom. She slayed some of the demons from that inauspicious start by finishing ninth in the Super-G, and she has two events left (downhill and alpine combined) to go for a medal. The Islanders also had a down start, and now they, too, will look to claw back into contention.
20. Winnipeg Jets
Last week: 19
Danish men’s hockey team. Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers helped the Danish team earn its first Olympic berth, with nine points (five goals and four assists) in three qualifying games. But with the NHL opting out of the Winter Games, the team won its first game in Beijing without him, beating the Czech team 2–1 on Wednesday.
19. Vancouver Canucks
Last week: 20
That segment where NBC used skis to cut fruit. Is this video funny? Sure. Is it entertaining? Mildly. Is it pointless? Definitely. Much of the same can be said about this Canucks’ season, which has offered a pleasant but middling product that will end without a playoff berth or a high draft pick.
18. Anaheim Ducks
Last week: 15
Double McTwist 1260. Snowboarder Shaun White’s signature trick brings a wow factor, with three and a half rotations and two flips. Even with two feet firmly on the ice, Ducks rookie Trevor Zegras can bring the same sizzle, as he did with his remarkable blindfolded goal at the All-Star Skills Competition.
17. Edmonton Oilers
Last week: 18
Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir. The dynamic duo should announce everything for NBC, but the dynamic duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl shouldn’t have to do everything for Edmonton. The Oilers must agree, as they fired coach Dave Tippett on Thursday as they try to find a spark.
16. Dallas Stars
Last week: 17
French skater Adam Siao Him Fa’s Star Wars short program. The 21-year-old performed to music from a galaxy far, far away, and all athletes and teams should take note: Sports need more Star Wars crossovers, and Dallas has the perfect name to start.
15. Los Angeles Kings
Last week: 16
U.S. snowboarder Shaun White. White and the Kings have been at the pinnacle of their respective sports for a long time. White finished just off the podium in his final run on the snowboard halfpipe, and the Kings are looking to show they can stay relevant as well.
14. Washington Capitals
Last week: 14
U.S. men’s curling team. These two veteran teams captured titles in 2018, but can they recapture the magic in 2022?
13. Boston Bruins
Last week: 11
Polish luger Mateusz Sochowicz. The luger overcame an injury he sustained at the Olympic venue in November to compete at the Winter Games. Though he finished in 25th place, his triumph was that he competed at all. The same can be said for Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, who battled back from a hip injury to play in four games this January before announcing his retirement Wednesday.
12. St. Louis Blues
Last week: 12
U.S. speedskater Erin Jackson. Jackson will go for gold in the 500-meter race Sunday, just more than one lap around the long track rink; Blues forward Jordan Kyrou won the fastest skater competition at the NHL’s All-Star skills contest, one lap around T-Mobile Arena.
11. Nashville Predators
Last week: 13
Cross-country skiing. Just watching the competitors in cross-country skiing is enough to make you exhausted, and the Predators’ grinding style of play can have the same effect—but it also wears down their opponents.
10. New York Rangers
Last week: 7
Skeleton. Like the skeleton riders who careen down a frozen course headfirst, the Rangers live on the edge: They have the worst possession metrics in the league (including the worst shot-attempt differential at even strength), and yet they’re tied for second in the Metropolitan Division with 64 points.
9. Vegas Golden Knights
Last week: 8
Lindsey Jacobellis’s long-awaited redemption. In her Olympic debut in 2006, she stumbled at the end of the race and had to settle for silver in snowboard cross; in her fifth Olympics, she finally claimed the gold medal. The Golden Knights fell just short of a championship in their inaugural season, but could the fifth season be the charm?
8. Pittsburgh Penguins
Last week: 9
Dutch speedskater Ireen Wüst. The Penguins seem as indefatigable as this 35-year-old, who made history when she won gold in the 1,500-meter race. She became the first athlete to earn individual gold medals in five different Olympics, a run that started at the 2006 Turin Games.
7. Calgary Flames
Last week: 10
Leslie Jones’s Olympic tweeting. The comedian nearly quit her popular social media reactions after some of her videos were blocked, but NBC Sports resolved the issue and encouraged the “super fan of the Olympics” to keep posting. Like Jones, the Flames have shown panache over a recent 7-2-0 stretch, but can they keep it up?
6. Tampa Bay Lightning
Last week: 5
Chloe Kim’s continued dominance. The U.S. snowboarding phenom won her second straight halfpipe gold medal, and the two-time Stanley Cup champion Lightning have displayed similar staying power.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs
Last week: 4
Winter pentathlon. The Maple Leafs possess the all-around strengths of the competitors in this sport, who competed in cross-country skiing, shooting, downhill skiing, fencing and horse riding at the 1948 Winter Olympics. However, that demonstration sport wound up as a one-off consigned to history books; the Maple Leafs are aiming for a bit more staying power.
4. Carolina Hurricanes
Last week: 3
Canadian women’s hockey team. While the Hurricanes aren’t quite the indisputable favorites for the Stanley Cup that Canada is for the gold medal, they’re at the top of the Metropolitan and the team every other squad in the division is gunning for.
3. Minnesota Wild
Last week: 6
U.S. biathlete Deedra Irwin. The sharpshooter managed the best individual finish for Team USA in the biathlon, coming in seventh in the women’s individual competition. The Wild have the second-highest shooting percentage of any team (11.4%), helped by Marcus Foligno’s absurd 29.3% on 58 shots this season.
2. Florida Panthers
Last week: 2
Snowboarding big air. Like this high-flying event, the Panthers are the definition of the high risk, high reward: They have both generated and allowed the most high-danger scoring chances this season.
1. Colorado Avalanche
Last week: 1
Nathan Chen’s delayed ascent to the throne. The Avalanche are looking to make good on the promise they have shown over the last four seasons. If they do so, they’ll follow in the skate tracks of Chen, who bounced back from a disappointing 2018 Games to take gold in men’s figure skating in Beijing.
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