1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

This is the second half for the 2021-22 NHL season. Here, hope springs eternally for all 32 teams.

That's right. Every franchise has at most one Reason For Optimism, and we are here to highlight that along with this week's power rankings. There's bound to something to smile about, from top performers to comeback stories and future considerations.

How do we rank?An ESPN hockey panel consisting of analysts, reporters, journalists, and commentators rates each team against the other — taking into consideration game results, injuries, and upcoming schedules — and tabulates those results to create this list.

Notice: Prior ranking for each team refers back to the February 2002 edition. Points paces will be determined after Tuesday's games.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 2
Points percentage 0.766
Next seven days:@ VGK (16 February), @ BUF (19 February 19), @ BOS (20 February 21).

RFO: Consistency and consistency are key.The Avs have not lost a regulation game in 20 games since 2022. Colorado was even more impressive. Nathan MacKinnonYou can easily detect's absences. Nazem KadriThis is a great (and potentially Hart Trophy-contending?) performance. Season only gets better. We should also mention that the season is only getting better. Cale MakarThis season has been even better. Top to bottom, Colorado stays consistent.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 1
Points percentage 0.734
Next seven days:@ CAR (Feb. 16),@ MIN (Feb. 18,), @ CHI (20), vs. NSH (22.2)

RFO: Goals are goals.To lead the league, the Panthers average over four goals per games this season. Florida is yet to be eliminated and has only had three (3)! Florida has not scored a goal on any of the three (3) occasions it has had this season. How can you beat that?

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 3
Points percentage 0.728
Next seven days:vs. FLA (16 Feb.), vs. NSH (18 Feb. 18), @ PIT (20 Feb. 20), @ PHI 21 Feb.

RFO: Sebastian Aho.Aho is the Hurricanes’ leading scorer. He already has 20 goals this season. It's the sixth consecutive campaign with 20 goals. Only Carolina Hurricane to ever have had more? Ron Francis (10). Aho is only 24. Aho is the present and future of the franchise.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 6
Points percentage 0.707
Next seven days: vs. PIT (Feb.17), vs. STL(Feb.19), @ MTL, (Feb.21), @ CBJ. (Feb.22)

RFO: The Big 2.Forget about the Core Four. It's all the Maple Leafs Big Two. Auston Matthews Mitch Marner. Both are playing fantastic hockey. Both teams are at the peak of their seasons. Both have attempted to pull Toronto through some recent struggles. As always, the question is: What can they do in the playoffs to make Toronto a better place? It could be quite a lot, but it is possible.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 7
Points percentage 0.700
Next seven days:@ TOR (Feb. 17, vs. CAR (Feb.

RFO: First place… and not fully stock?Pittsburgh took over the Metropolitan Division's top position last week. This would not normally be noteworthy unless the Penguins were fully healthy or in control. Recent developments include Evgeni MalkinHe has been absent from the lineup and there is still a search for his ideal linemates. There have been other players who have moved in and out. The Penguins have continued to improve, and they continue to hum along. Pittsburgh has resilience, which is a superpower during the playoffs.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 4
Points percentage 0.714
Next seven days: N/A

RFO: Count the Cups.Tampa is the best team to operate under pressure. Consistency in all phases is key to the Lightning's success — veteran leadership, depth and scoring, and MVP-caliber goaltending. If one person gives up, the other picks it back up. Tampa continues to grow. This group does a disservice by focusing on one player or one factor. The Lighting are truly the sum of their parts. They have taken them to places they should be excited about again.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 5
Points percentage 0.716
Next seven days:@ WPG (16 Feb.), vs. FLA (18 Feb. 18), @ EDM (20 Feb. 20), @OTT (Feb. 22).

RFO: Kirill Kaprizov.You can admit it. In the fall, Kaprizov was a bit of a concern. You were a little worried about Kaprizov back in the fall. Well, he's here. He has been amazing. Kaprizov launched 2022 with 21 points after 13 games. This made an already-strong Wild team dangerous. Are you looking for hope for today or tomorrow? Kaprizov is the man to call.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 11
Points percentage 0.618
Next seven days:@ PHI (17 Feb.

RFO: Ageless Alex Ovechkin.Ovechkin is the best player for a team that expects a lot from him, and he delivers. Ovechkin will be a key player for the Capitals in their fight for playoff seedings in the competitive Metropolitan Division.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 9
Points percentage 0.615
Next seven days: vs. COL (Feb. 16), vs. LA (Feb. 18), @ SJ (Feb. 20)

RFO: Jack Eichel.Eichel will make his debut in Vegas on Wednesday, after he was acquired from Buffalo. What will Eichel do for the Golden Knights? How big of an impact can Eichel have in the playoffs, given that we haven't seen him play before? This Vegas Hope-O-Meter is a must-see.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 14
Points percentage 0.652
Next seven days:vs. ANA, vs. SEA, vs. WPG (Feb. 21,

RFO: Jacob Markstrom.The person who said that defense wins championships never saw a goalie in the playoffs. Markstrom could make a big difference for Calgary. The Flames goalie has eight shutouts this season, which is more than the next closest goalie with four. He inspires the same kind of confidence that has led to major wins recently. Now imagine Markstrom's play with additional scoring support from the Tyler Toffoli trade? Calgary could have an exciting spring.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 8
Points percentage 0.688
Next seven days: vs. DET (Feb. 17), @ OTT (Feb. 20)

RFO: Silencing the critics.Are you hearing that? The Rangers are putting down all their haters. They claimed that the Rangers are not a top team. New York is only as good a goaltender as New York. Igor ShesterkinThey said so. The Rangers responded by putting in a huge effort to beat the league-leading Panthers, 5-2, to begin February. After a long delay between that game and their next, the Rangers had ample time to celebrate past successes and prepare for future ones.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 10
Points percentage 0.649
Next seven days:@ MTL (17 Feb.), @ TOR (19 Feb. 19), @ PEI (22 Feb.)

RFO: Ville Husso. We love a good goalie debate. This is not a great debate. Husso has outplayed Jordan Binnington. Yes, Husso is a Stanley Cup-winning goaltender. Husso is the winner, having lost only one game since December early. A tandem that has both postseason experience as well as a new player playing lights-out. That's what we all want!

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 13
Points percentage 0.617
Next seven days:@ NYI (Feb. 17, @ OTT (Feb. 19, vs. COL [Feb. 21]

RFO: Survive, AdvanceBoston is well-versed in bounce-backs. The Bruins' top players are often unavailable (see: Bergeron, Patrice; Marchand, BradThe team may be knocked out (say, Carolina 6-0), but generally there is a positive response (i.e. Jeremy SwaymanOttawa's shutout. Boston has been repeating this pattern all season. It finds clutch performances in its ranks to keep it moving forward. It's impossible to count out the B's.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 12
Points percentage 0.612
Next seven days:@ CAR (18 Feb.) @ FLA (20 Feb. 22).

RFO: Juuse Saros.Saros has been the Predators’ backbone this year and could continue to be so throughout the postseason. Nashville will have to be there most nights in order to keep its Central Division position.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 15
Points percentage 0.561
Next seven days:@ CGY, @ EDM (Feb. 17, @ EDM (Feb. 17), at VAN (Feb. 19, vs. SJ [Feb. 22]

RFO: Trevor Zegras.He is a unique hockey star-inthe-making in a passionately non-traditional market. Zegras has captured the attention of everyone. Anaheim's rebuild was accelerated by its young talent. No one will lead that torch into the future more than the charismatic freshman.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 17
Points percentage 0.573
Next seven days:@ VGK (Feb. 18, 18), @ ARI (19 February 19).

RFO: Phillip DanaultTakes the edge off.Danault was brought in by the Kings to help them offensively. Danault has stabilized L.A.’s second line as a shutdown centre with more offensive upside that he displayed in Montreal. Danault frees up Anze KopitarDanault seems to be content to carry more weight, and he thrives with less on his shoulders.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 18
Points percentage 0.574
Next seven days:@ CHI, Feb. 18; @ ARI, Feb. 20

RFO: Getting their R&R. That's (Jason) Robertson & Roope (Hintz)For the uninitiated. Dallas is home to the most ageless Joe PavelskiRobertson was the team's top scorer. However, a team is only as strong and diverse as its depth. Hintz and upstarts (and pending FAs) have helped to cover for less experienced contributions elsewhere in the lineup. Plus, they're great to watch.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 22
Points percentage 0.500
Next seven days:@ NYR (17 Feb.

RFO: The Future is (finally!) here.Detroit has built a solid foundation over many years. Red Wings have a competitive roster that includes a number of rookies, which gives them the ability to compete with other teams.Lucas Raymond), on the blue line (Moritz Seider) and in net (Alex Nedeljkovic). Dylan LarkinLooks more vibrant than ever. Tyler BertuzziHe is making his mark. Motown's wheels are turning once again and this team is on its way.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 16
Points percentage 0.585
Next seven days:vs. ANA (17 Feb.), @ WPG (19 Feb. 19), vs. MIN (20 Feb. 20).

RFO: It doesn't get any worse, right?Let's face the facts: The Oilers have had a difficult season. The losing streaks. The inability to keep up with the pace. The inability to find reliable goaltending. The high scoring (or inability to score) The coaching transition that Ken Holland, general manager, was forced to make after his poor performances. Edmonton is only going to get better. Right?

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 21
Points percentage 0.511
Next seven days:vs. VAN, vs. VGK, (Feb. 20), @ ANA(Feb. 22).

RFO: Tomas Hertl.San Jose requires Hertl. Not just for today, but also for the future. The Sharks are fortunate that the feelings seem to be mutual. Sharks' leading goal scorer has been a sensational player on the ice. Hertl is an unrestricted free-agent this summer and has spoken out about his passion for this club, fighting for it, and his desire for a fair deal that will allow him to stay for the long-term. San Jose has plenty to be hopeful with Hertl behind it.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 24
Points percentage 0.510
Next seven days:@ SJ (Feb. 17, vs. ANA, vs. SEA, vs. ANA (19), vs. SEA 21).

RFO: Building a better Front OfficeLet's forget about Vancouver's success on the ice with Bruce Boudreau as coach. Let's instead look at the industry-shifting changes that the Canucks are making in their front office. Cammi Granato, Emilie castonguay, and Cammigranato have been appointed assistant general managers. They bring a fresh perspective to an organization determined to realize its potential. While diversity is a common topic in many organizations, the Canucks embrace it. Vancouver's future is brighter for it.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 19
Points percentage 0.522
Next seven days:vs. MIN (16 Feb.), vs. SEA (17 Feb.), vs. EDM (19 Feb. 19), @ CGY (20 Feb. 21).

RFO: You are welcome back, scorers.Winnipeg has experienced some droughts in this season. There have been other droughts in Winnipeg. Kyle Connor Pierre-Luc DuboisConsistency was all you could do to be optimistic offensively. Recently, that has changed quite a bit. Mark ScheifeleFinding a groove is key. Andrew CoppIs becoming more involved Blake WheelerIt is recovering from an injury and Nikolaj EhlersIt will be, eventually. The Jets' outstanding players have been a great help throughout the season. There is hope that they will be back.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 23
Points percentage 0.465
Next seven days: vs. BOS (Feb. 17), vs. MTL (Feb. 20), @ SEA (Feb. 22)

Lou Lamoriello is the RFO.The Islanders are blessed with talented players. They have a great coach. They just haven’t been doing the job often enough. It might be necessary to make some changes in order to get the best from this team. New York has Lou Lamoriello, a seasoned general manager who is ready to crack the code. Lamoriello can find a way to fix this ship.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 20
Points percentage 0.500
Next seven days:@ CHI (17 Feb.), vs. BUF (20 Feb. 20), vs. TOR (22.22)

RFO: Patrik Laine? Are you sure?Laine's first 21 matches: six goals, fifteen points. Laine's next six games: seven goals, 12 points. The winger has provided timely offense, scoring against Montreal the equalizer with just 7.2 seconds remaining in regulation last Wednesday. Laine's awakening is all a weak Columbus team could wish for to push it back towards contention.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 25
Points percentage 0.439
Next seven days:CBJ (Feb. 17, DAL (Feb. 18, and FLA (Feb. 20, respectively)

RFO: Dylan Strome? Dylan Strome!You might not have believed this a month ago. Strome is now on a heater. Derek KingHe has accepted the equation that his predecessor coaches didn't: a top-six position + power-play opportunities = game-changing Strome. In 2022, Strome is averaging a points per game. Strome has suddenly become a valuable player, rather than being trade fodder. Or at the very least, his potential return on trades has gone way up.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 28
Points percentage 0.406
Next seven days:vs. WSH, Feb. 17, vs. CAR (Feb. 21), Vs. STL. (Feb. 22).

RFO: Trade season, plus blank checks.Chuck Fletcher, Flyers general manager, was given permission by ownership to do all he can to get the Philadelphia Flyers back on track. There are many holes to fill. A blank check could allow for creative moves that are born of desperation. This is a winning combination.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 26
Points percentage 0.390
Next seven days: N/A

RFO: The next wave.It's not about where they are right now. It's all about where a talented team of young players will take it. Jack HughesExudes confidence and already averages a point per game. Nico Hischieris growing into a solid centre who plays a 200-foot match. Dawson MercerHe has proven, especially in the fall, that he is a special player. Every Devils game predicts the team’s highly optimistic future.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 27
Points percentage 0.367
Next seven days:@ WPG (Feb. 17, @ CGY, (Feb. 19,), @ VAN(Feb. 21), vs. NYI [Feb. 22,]

RFO: It won’t stay like this forever.The Kraken will improve. Ron Francis, the general manager, and Dave Hakstol, the coach will determine a direction and set a pace with the rest. Players will move in and out according to their vision. Philipp GrubauerHe will find his form (he's just too good not to bounceback). Jordan EberleIt will stay. It will bring you far less pain.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 29
Points percentage 0.417
Next seven days:vs. OTT, vs. COL, (Feb. 18), @ CBJ(Feb. 20).

RFO: Rasmus Dahlin.The patience of the Sabres with Dahlin's growth is paying off. The blueliner is showing great promise and each game shows more of his growth. It's a sign of great things to come. Dahlin's confidence in his decisions and the fact that he can control the pace for 24-plus minutes per match is a wonderful sign.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 30
Points percentage 0.413
Next seven days: @ BUF (Feb. 17), vs. BOS (Feb. 19), vs. NYR (Feb. 20), vs. MIN (Feb. 22)

RFO: Stars are in the making Brady Tkachuk. Drake Batherson. Tim Stutzle. Thomas Chabot. The list goes on. The Senators have a lot of great players, and the team will continue to improve with time. Many thought Ottawa would be more advanced than the team. However, this doesn't mean that the Sens aren't talented. They're a team that is bound to improve.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 32
Points percentage 0.292
Next seven days: vs. LA (Feb. 19), vs. DAL (Feb. 20)

RFO: College town boundThere are many opinions out there about the Coyotes being granted retrofit approval and (temporarily?) play in an Arizona State University 5,000-seat arena next season. For true Coyotes fan, it's a win. Without ASU, the club wouldn't exist. In a perfect world this would be a temporary solution to build a permanent rink in Tempe.

1-32 poll plus reasons to be optimistic for each team

Previous ranking: 31
Points percentage 0.240
Next seven days:vs. STL, @ NYI (Feb. 17, 20), vs. TOR (Feb. 21).

RFO: Martin St. Louis.It was the appointment that no one expected, and it could be just what the Canadiens needed. Montreal lost by too large margins to accept pride for too much of their season. St. Louis is a strong competitor on the ice, with no coaching experience. However, he has the rest of the season to prove that he deserves more then an interim tag. You'll be interested to see what happens.

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