NHL Power Rankings: Blues move to top spot
NHL Power Rankings: Blues move to top spot
It’s been a glorious week simply because the NHL is back, but it’s also come at a toll for so many hockey teams.
Whether it’s because of the intensity of the World Cup or any other number of other reasons, the NHL is losing some of their best players to injuries just a couple of days into the new puck year. Sidney Crosby was knocked out before the season even started with what was described as “a freak play” that led to a concussion, and Jack Eichel was done before the season opener because of a serious high ankle sprain suffered in practice. Jon Quick is on the shelf indefinitely for the Kings with a groin injury, and Carey Price hasn’t played a game yet for the Canadiens with what’s being termed as “the flu.” There are more, of course: Patrice Bergeron has yet to play for the Bruins, and Evander Kane is out for Buffalo as the Sabres get besieged by injuries.
That is the start of an All-Star team with the players on the injured list, and there doesn’t really need to be any more added. So let’s hope the hockey gods go a little easy on the injuries entering the first full week of the NHL regular season with some big, exciting things on the horizon for all 30 teams.
1. St. Louis Blues (3-0-0, previous ranking: 9)
Three goals in three games for Vladimir Tarasenko, and three wins for the Blues in three tries. The 11 goals overall is a veritable offensive explosion. Not bad at all.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins (2-0-0, previous ranking: 2)
No Sid, no problem thus far. So far Evgeni Malkin is picking up the slack, and it looks like Crosby will be back sooner rather than later for the defending Stanley Cup champs.
3. San Jose Sharks (2-0-0, previous ranking: 2)
The Sharks are undefeated, and Martin Jones has picked up where he left off last season with San Jose having allowed just three goals in their two games. Combine that with the hillbilly beards for Joe Thornton and Brent Burns, and the Sharks still have last year’s mojo working.
4. Florida Panthers (2-0-0, previous ranking: 7)
Whoever had Jonathan Marchessault leading the Panthers in goals after the first week of the season can take a long, self-congratulatory bow. Florida is off to a strong start with expectations high this season.
5. Arizona Coyotes (1-0-0, previous ranking: 22)
Super-young GM, super-young roster out in the desert. It is completely impossible to forecast how the Coyotes will fare this season, but the upside is there for a very high jump in the standings.
6. Tampa Bay Lightning (2-0-0, previous ranking: 1)
Wins over the Red Wings and Devils show that the Tampa Bay Lightning are still vying for Eastern Conference supremacy, and will be able to hold things together under the salary cap for this season at least. There are just so many weapons on this team, this year.
7. Washington Capitals (1-0-1, previous rank: 4)
If the Washington Capitals are getting two-goal games from people like Daniel Winnik, then they are going to be a handful again during this regular season. The overriding question is about the playoffs, rather than the regular season, for the Caps.
8. Colorado Avalanche (1-0-0, previous ranking: 20)
So far, so good for an Avalanche team that managed to post six goals against the Dallas Stars. One gets the feeling things will be a lot better for the Avs now that they’ve ushered out Patrick Roy, and some of the sloppiness on the ice associated with his coaching style.
9. Ottawa Senators (2-0-0, previous ranking: 28)
It looked like the SOS (Same Old Senators) when Auston Matthews dropped four goals on Ottawa during NHL opening night, but they found a way to win that one while off to a solid 2-0 start. Let’s hope they enjoy the brief stay in the top 10 of the NHL power rankings this season.
10. Vancouver Canucks (2-0-0, previous ranking: 30)
Solid start for Brandon Sutter with the Canucks, and really a surprising opening to the year for a team that many believe is going to be among the worst in the league. See the previous entry about the Senators enjoying their brief stay in the top-10 of the rankings.
11. Philadelphia Flyers (1-0-1, previous ranking: 25)
Nobody suspended, or egregiously concussed, in the two regular season games played by the Flyers without the suspended cheap shot artist, Radko Gudas. Who could have guessed that?
12. Montreal Canadiens (1-0-1, previous ranking: 18)
Carey Price sits out the first two games of the season with the “flu”, but the Habs are still performing well enough. They probably can’t sustain it given what we saw happen without Price last season, but they’ll be a tougher out with Shea Weber and Andrew Shaw. By the way, should we start calling this the “World Cup Flu” at this point?
13. Edmonton Oilers (2-1-0, previous ranking: 30)
Okay, it’s time to start buying into the Oilers after watching Connor McDavid in the early going. The scrutiny being given to McDavid as 19-year-old captain vis-à-vis the decision to practice on a previously agreed, CBA-required off day isn’t going anywhere either, however. He’s a fiery competitor and the team’s best player, but that stuff wouldn’t fly on veteran-laden team.
14. Dallas Stars (1-1-0, previous ranking: 8)
It looks like a continuation of the playoffs with shoddy goaltending and suspect defense in Big D. Antti Niemi is off to a bad start, and that’s put a dark cloud on strong starts from both Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn in the first couple of games.
15. New York Rangers (1-1-0, previous ranking: 15)
Henrik Lundqvist off to a slow start between the pipes for the Blueshirts, who continue to look like they’re close to the very end point of their window for competing.
16. Toronto Maple Leafs (1-0-1, previous ranking: 26)
The early returns on Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner: The Maple Leafs are going to be pretty damned fun to watch this season, and they’ll upset a few good teams along the way. Playoffs might be a stretch, but Toronto is going to be tough to contain.
17. Boston Bruins (1-1-0, previous ranking: 19)
Brad Marchand looks elite, David Backes has been a factor early in the season and David Pastrnak looks like he’s ready to completely bust out in his third NHL season. Still, no defense though. Once they get Patrice Bergeron back in the lineup, we’ll be able to get a good gauge on what this edition of the B’s is going to be this season.
18. Minnesota Wild (1-1-0, previous ranking: 12)
The Wild seem to be the same team every year: not much offense, decent defense and hinging wildly (no pun intended) on the level of play between the pipes. A so-so start with Devan Dubnyk simply off to a “meh” beginning to his season, but at least Charlie Coyle is off to a strong opening week. That’s somebody the Wild need more from this season and beyond.
19. Nashville Predators (1-1-0, previous ranking: 16)
P.K. Subban off to a strong start offensively for the Predators, and his sartorial style is always off the chain with his yellow and blue suit. But Subban and Roman Josi are a combined minus-4 on the season, and that’s a big problem if they’re going to be Nashville’s top pair.
20. Winnipeg Jets (1-1-0, previous ranking: 23)
Blake Wheeler off to an incredibly strong start for the Jets after being named captain, but there is pretty obviously something missing in their own zone. The longer this Jacob Trouba situation wears on for Winnipeg, the worse off they are.
21. Buffalo Sabres (1-1-0, previous ranking: 21)
The Sabres were a hockey club that seemed to be on the verge of making some big steps this season, but then they watched Jack Eichel and Evander Kane go down in the span of a couple of days. Combine that with some very suspect players on the back end aside from Rasmus Ristolainen, and the Sabres look like they’re going to be in for more growing pains this season.
22. Carolina Hurricanes (0-0-2, previous ranking: 24)
The Carolina Hurricanes might be a team that can make a move forward this season, but they haven’t really shown it in the first couple of games. Justin Faulk and Lee Stempniak have been very, very good and the goaltending has been very, very bad from Cam Ward and Eddie Lack.
23. New York Islanders (1-2-0, previous ranking: 11)
One point in three games for John Tavares, and the top pairing of Travis Hamonic and Nick Leddy is a combined minus-10 after the first three games of the season. That’s not going to get it done for the Islanders if they’re hoping to take another step after last year’s two-round playoff run.
24. New Jersey Devils (0-1-1, previous ranking: 13)
Quiet start for left winger Taylor Hall a couple of games into his career with the Devils, but sooner or later he’s going to start exploding for them offensively. In the meantime, Cory Schneider is holding things together nicely as one of the best goalies in the league.
25. Chicago Blackhawks (1-2-0, previous ranking: 5)
Richard Panik is off to a hot start for the Blackhawks, but the defense, and secondary scoring, has been extremely suspect for a Hawks team that needs to find their footing. A grand total of zero goals through three games for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews isn’t ideal for the Hawks either.
26. Calgary Flames (0-2-1, previous ranking: 17)
If not for an amazing performance between the pipes by Chad Johnson, the Flames would be 0-3 right now and suffering the wrath of an irritated Brian Burke. Actually, they’re probably suffering that wrath anyway.
27. Anaheim Ducks (0-2-1, previous ranking: 10)
Hampus Lindholm sits at home unsigned while the Ducks attempt to climb out from another early season hole that they’re digging this season. Wasn’t the return of Randy Carlyle supposed to fix all this? At least Ryan Getzlaf is playing at a high level for the Ducks.
28. Detroit Red Wings (0-2-0, previous ranking: 14)
Life without Pavel Datsyuk isn’t going so smoothly for the Red Wings, who have struggled outside of Thomas Vanek, Danny DeKeyser, Darren Helm and Mike Green. This could be the year that the Winged Wheels really fall off the table in the Atlantic Division, and perhaps that was part of the reason for Datsyuk’s exodus.
29. Los Angeles Kings (0-2-0, previous ranking: 6)
Jonathan Quick looks to be lost for the next few months because of a lower body injury, and the Kings attack has scored a grand total of three goals in their two losses. LA, we might have a problem.
30. Columbus Blue Jackets (0-2-0, previous ranking: 27)
It’s probably a bad thing when head coach John Tortorella was completely exasperated with his hockey club after Game No. 1 of the season. It looks like it could be another long year of learning for the Blue Jackets after watching them blow a two-goal lead to the Bruins on opening night.