In the opening round of the playoffs, a lot can change in a week. The balance of power stays pretty consistent over the course of a full season — we know who the good and bad teams are — but that shifts quickly in a single series, especially as some teams get eliminated or are put on the brink of elimination.
Here at Power Rankings HQ, it’s our job to sort all that out — and we of course do it perfectly every week. No notes. That’s what all 200 comments say every week: “This is exactly right, I have no complaints at all.” As always, we thank you for your unwavering support of our ranking ability.
This week, we’ve got 14 teams still in it, two that are freshly banished and new, feathered friends for the rest of the field.
Series: Won 4-0 against Nashville
Last week: 1
Dom rank: 1
Sean rank: 1
Dom: Dominate Round 1 against an inferior opponent? Check. One of their superstars is being thrown into the “best player in the world” conversation? Check. Sudden question marks in net? Check. Avalanche Playoff Bingo is off to a strong start.
Personally, I’m hoping “lose in Round 2 once again” does not get checked off this year. This team is far too much fun to watch and a lengthy run would be what’s best for the game.
Sean: The Avs have a question mark in net, in the sense that eye injuries are scary and weird — but Darcy Kuemper really does seem to have gotten lucky here. He’ll be ready for Game 1 of Colorado’s second-round series after narrowly avoiding having his eyeball scooped out by Ryan Johansen.
That’s great for a bunch of reasons. It’s also, obviously, huge for the Avs. That’s not breaking any ground — they’re good, and Kuemper is their goalie. He’s not some hidden gem. At the same time, I’m not sure that folks realize just how solid he was this past season, especially after the first couple months. In 41 appearances after Dec. 8, Kuemper’s goals saved above expected was 18.33, third in the NHL, and his .927 save percentage was second among starters. The Cale Makar Show has been special. All those goals are a blast. Kuemper is what makes it matter.
Series: Up 3-2 on Washington
Last week: 3
Dom rank: 2
Sean rank: 2
Dom: There have been several worrisome stretches for the Panthers in this series where they just didn’t look like themselves. Slow, tentative and not very engaged. It was weird to watch from the league’s most dynamic and explosive team, but that’s playoff hockey for you. It can stifle even the most creative offensive teams and it took a bit for the Panthers to find an answer for Washington.
Games 4 and 5 were a lot closer to that, a callback to a regular season full of comebacks. Is it a bad sign that the Panthers are down and need to come back as often as they do? Probably. But damn if they aren’t really, really good at it. Two minutes left in the game on Monday? No problem. Down three goals on Wednesday? No worries. That’s…
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