NHL Power Rankings: Does the Penguins' trade for Jason Zucker make them Metro favorites?
The Metro looked like a lock for the Caps earlier in the year, but Pittsburgh has emerged as a true threat
The Pittsburgh Penguins have been one of the most surprising success stories of this NHL season. Yes, they still have Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and plenty of championship pedigree, but this has been no cake walk.
Pittsburgh has been dealing with significant injuries to its lineup all season long -- including extended absences from Crosby and Malkin -- but it has managed to stay in the hunt in an extremely tough Metropolitan division. Now, with the help of a key acquisition this week, the Penguins looking to win that division.
On Monday, the Penguins acquired Jason Zucker from Minnesota in exchange for Alex Galchenyuk, prospect Calen Addison and a first-round pick in 2020. Zucker, 28, is a speedy and skilled winger that Pittsburgh has coveted since last summer, when it tried to trade Phil Kessel to land him. (Kessel blocked that deal.)
Now that Zucker is in the fold, the Penguins have another legitimate threat to slot in on the wing beside Crosby and/or Malkin. That helps offset the loss of Jake Guentzel, whose status still remains up in the air after undergoing shoulder surgery earlier this season.
But does the addition of Zucker push the Pens past Washington? The Capitals have sat atop the Metro for most of this season and looked like a near-lock to win it when they were outpacing the 2018-2019 Lightning. But Washington has since come back down to earth and now the Penguins are right on their heels -- four points back with two games in-hand. Not such a lock anymore.
That'll be justof this season, but there are other teams and storylines to get to in this week's edition of Power Rankings. Let's roll.
|1||Lightning||Last week's analysis: The Lightning have lost just three games and have a +29 goal differential since Christmas. This week's analysis: The Lightning have lost just three games and have a +36 goal differential since Christmas.||--||40-18-5|
|2||Bruins||The Bruins sure are lucky they won't be heading toward a matchup with the Red Wings in the playoffs. They've lost five straight to Detroit, including a loss on Sunday that made them just the second team to lose multiple games to the Wings this season.||2||39-13-12|
|3||Penguins||The Penguins are creeping up on Washington in the Metro (four points back with two games in hand) and they just got significantly better (at least on paper) with the addition of Jason Zucker on the wing. I don't see why they can't win that division.||1||37-19-6|
|4||Avalanche||The Avs have been a streaky team but when they're on, they're dangerous. They're on a good swing right now, winning four in a row and seven of their last eight.||6||37-18-7|
|5||Capitals||Don't let Alex Ovechkin's chase for 700 distract you from the fact that the Caps have lost four of six, with their only wins coming against the Kings and Senators. That's not great, especially with Pittsburgh pushing.||2||39-18-6|
|6||Blue Jackets||Still confused how the hell the Blue Jackets are here? Same. They've lost two in a row but both were one-goal losses to the Avs and Lightning, so it's hard to really hold that against them. They're still playing well and have the league's second-best point percentage since Christmas.||1||31-20-14|
|7||Canucks||They lost their final three games of a lengthy road trip and then fell apart late in a loss to Calgary at home, but they bounced back by smoking Nashville. They're gonna want to be a little better on the road if they want to hang onto the Pacific throne, though.||1||34-22-6|
|8||Flyers||Don't look now but the Flyers have at least a point in their last five road games and Carter Hart is back in the mix. They're getting solid contributions throughout the lineup and have tightened up defensively. They look good.||3||36-20-7|
|9||Stars||Roope Hintz broke an eight-game goalless drought at a key time, scoring twice to help the Stars pick up a win over the Blues. The Stars are three points back of Colorado and six points back of St. Louis in the Central, so don't count them out if they can get their top guys going consistently.||--||37-20-6|
|10||Blues||They've lost eight of their last nine and the offense has been really unreliable while Jordan Binnington has struggled -- not a great combination. They're losing ground in the Central with Colorado and Dallas right on their tails so they've got to figure things out sooner rather than later. On the bright side, Vladimir Tarasenko is skating again.||2||37-17-10|
|11||Hurricanes||They're in the midst of a challenging stretch but they've averaged around four goals over their last six, winning four of those games. You'll take that.||1||35-23-4|
|12||Oilers||Connor McDavid banged up his left knee again but I'm sure it's nothing to worry about. No, I wouldn't worry about it. Definitely not worried. Not at all.||1||33-23-8|
|13||Panthers||The Panthers had a tough four-game stretch this week against CBJ, VGK, PIT and PHI. They lost all four and scored a combined five goals in that stretch. Not what you want to see from a team that relies on offense and is in the middle of a tight race for divisional positioning.||8||33-24-6|
|14||Islanders||They kicked off a brutal proving week with an impressive win against the Capitals. What they do over the next few games could help shape their deadline approach, so it's a pretty important stretch for an up-and-down team.||--||35-20-7|
|15||Maple Leafs||They improved their goaltending situation with the addition of Jack Campbell, and that's rather important considering their current situation. They also haven't won a game in regulation in two weeks.||1||33-23-8|
|16||Golden Knights||They capped a successful road trip (3-1-0) with a pounding of the Panthers in Florida but they've still only won four of their last 10. They've got to figure out a way to put it together more consistently and start pushing upward in a weak division.||2||35-22-8|
|17||Flames||The first half of a four-game road trip has seen the Flames record back-to-back 6-2 wins in Vancouver and San Jose, so that's pretty good. A couple more of those and they're in business!||--||33-25-6|
|18||Blackhawks||Chicago was making some progress in the Central but a three-game losing streak has sunk it back to the bottom of the division. The Blackhawks did get two loser points in those losses and they're still only five points back of the final wild-card spot in the West, but they're going to need every point they can get. The power play has been downright terrible lately.||3||27-28-8|
|19||Predators||The Preds continue to be a source of frustration. They put together a nice little run in which they won four of five and had us all wondering whether their playoff push was starting. Then they proceeded to drop two straight, including getting their doors blown off in Vancouver on Monday night. Figure it out, guys.||--||31-23-8|
|20||Rangers||If the Rangers were in the Western Conference they'd be playoff hopefuls. Unfortunately, they're stuck in a brutal Metro Division and are likely about to pull the plug on this season by being significant sellers at the trade deadline. Sometimes you're just in the wrong place at the wrong time.||1||34-24-4|
|21||Coyotes||Darcy Kuemper came tantalizingly close to returning to the crease before suffering a setback this week. If he doesn't get back between the pipes soon, the Coyotes may have very, very little room for error down the stretch.||1||31-27-8|
|22||Canadiens||The good news? They've won seven of their last 10 and aren't totally dead yet. The bad news? Shea Weber's outlook doesn't look good and he's not expected back anytime soon. Considering the Habs were already a long shot to make the playoffs before this development, I'd say things look pretty bleak in that department now.||--||29-27-9|
|23||Jets||The Jets have won three in a row and are now a single point out of the playoff picture. The Western Conference is so weird/bad.||2||32-27-6|
|24||Wild||The Wild should send Phil Kessel a fruit basket for blocking the trade that would have sent Jason Zucker to Pittsburgh last summer. Instead of some more high-priced vets that probably wouldn't do them much good, the Wild were able to get a low-risk player and a couple of strong futures for Zucker in their second try.||--||30-25-7|
|25||Devils||The Devils are going to be one of the most interesting potential sellers at this year's deadline. All things considered, pretty much everyone over the age of 25 on that roster should be up for grabs if the deal is right.||1||25-27-10|
|26||Ducks||The Ducks have six wins and points in eight of their last 10? That's interesting. Anyway, this team still stinks.||1||25-30-8|
|27||Sabres||Not only are they regularly losing games but everyone seems deeply, deeply unhappy. That's always good.||4||29-26-8|
|28||Sharks||The Sharks are also a really interesting deadline team. Brenden Dillon is almost certainly a goner, but would they trade Joe Thornton and/or Patrick Marleau?||--||26-33-4|
|29||Senators||They've lost five in a row.||--||21-31-12|
|30||Kings||They have also lost five in a row.||--||23-35-6|
|31||Red Wings||They beat the league's top team on Sunday and just like that their goal differential improves to -95.||--||15-46-4|
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