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1-32 poll, players under most pressure

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Playoff races are getting tighter. So is the race for teams that are jockeying for position ahead of the NHL draft lottery. Because this is what happens when the NHL is in the midst of its final full month of the season.

Don’t forget the players. There are a number of them who are also going to be under watch for one reason or another — either in those playoff races or as they approach free agency. That’s why for this week’s edition of NHL Power Rankings, we have identified the players who are under the most pressure as the regular season draws to a close.

How we rank: A panel of ESPN hockey commentators, analysts, reporters and editors rates teams against one another — taking into account game results, injuries and upcoming schedule — and those results are tabulated to produce the list featured here.

Note: Previous ranking for each team refers to the most recent edition, published March 10. Points percentages are through Thursday’s games.

Previous ranking: 1
Points percentage: 79.85%
Next seven days: @ MIN (March 18), @ BUF (March 19), vs. OTT (March 21), vs. MTL (March 23)

Can the whole team be the answer? And that’s a serious question. Are the Bruins really about to go wire-to-wire and win it all? What they’ve done places them in the discussion to be one of the all-time great regular-season teams that can be an all-time great team should it win a championship. Of course, there is that caveat about how the past nine Presidents’ Trophy recipients haven’t won the Stanley Cup. The Bruins know this because it has happened to them twice since the 2013-14 season. Plus, we just saw it recently in 2018-19, when the 128-point Lightning were eliminated in the first round. Is this the team that becomes the next Icarus or does it torch everything and everyone in its path?

Previous ranking: 2
Points percentage: 72.73%
Next seven days: @ TOR (March 17), @ PHI (March 18), @ NYR (March 21), vs. NYR (March 23)

Jesse Puljujarvi has a rather strong case. The Hurricanes were already without Max Pacioretty for the rest of the season and announced earlier this week Andrei Svechnikov would also miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Losing two top-six forwards within months is a serious blow to any team, let alone one challenging for the Stanley Cup. It’s not to suggest Puljujarvi can be the quick fix. But any offensive contributions he could provide would be welcomed.

Previous ranking: 4
Points percentage: 69.85%
Next seven days: @ FLA (March 18), @ TB (March 19), vs. MIN…

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