Power shifting back to the Atlantic Division
The power looks like it’s shifting back to the Atlantic Division at this early point in the season. While the LA Kings and Vegas Golden Knights are both surprise stories out in the West for the time being, it’s the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs starting to separate from the pack in the East. Steve Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov are 1-2 in the NHL in scoring over the first few weeks of the season, and Kucherov has 10 goals in nine games to lead the league in goals scored.
With that kind of offensive explosiveness, depth in their lineup and adequate defense and goaltending, the Lightning look like they’re fully back after missing the playoffs season. The Maple Leafs have been almost as dominant and, of course, have Auston Matthews and William Nylander leading the offense while they try to sort out their goaltending situation.
The Leafs roster might not be as well-rounded as the Lightning, but both teams look like they’re in for the long haul after they start making their move to pull away from the pack in the East.
Anyway, without further ado here are this week’s preseason power rankings:
1.Tampa Bay Lightning (regular season record: 7-1-1, rank last week: 5)
Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov are making a mockery of the rest of the NHL right now: 18 points in nine games for Stamkos, and 10 goals in those same nine games for Kucherov. The Bolts are back, and they’re back big in the Atlantic Division.
2. Toronto Maple Leafs (7-2-0, rank last week: 1)
The Leafs are off to a great start and their young stars are damn good, but their goaltending looks like it needs some help. The Leafs have some weak links to be exposed if their offensive slows down a little bit, but right now they’re scoring an absurd 4.6 goals per game.
3. Los Angeles Kings (6-1-1, rank last week: 3)
The Kings are off to their best start in franchise history, and so many of their core players are off to solid starts. It’s nice to see things are back to normal with the Kings at least for the time being.
4. St. Louis Blues (6-2-1, rank last week: 8)
With an assist from the officials and the NHL situation room, the Blues continue to climb in the power rankings after robbing the Colorado Avalanche of two points last week. Video replay is going to end up being the death of every single sport.
5. Vegas Golden Knights (6-1-0, rank last week: 4)
It looks like the Golden Knights are going to be that NHL team this season that will burn through a number of goalies. Injuries have knocked down Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban, leaving Oscar Dansk as the de-facto starter for the expansion team.
6. Chicago Blackhawks (5-2-2, rank last week: 6)
The Blackhawks busted out of a funk where they’d lost three of four games when they pulled out a decisive victory over the Arizona Coyotes, who seem to be a confidence-booster for a lot of teams that are on the skids.
7. New Jersey Devils (6-2-0, rank last week: 7)
Brian Boyle returned to practice this week to cheers from everybody, and that’s another feel-good moment for a Devils group that’s got plenty to feel positive about these days.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins (5-3-1, rank last week: 9)
The Penguins finally and mercifully pulled the plug on Antti Niemi this week as their backup goaltender, but they’re having goalie issues all over the place right now. Still, Matt Murray is 5-0-1 so it’s not hurting the Penguins as badly as it could be right now.
9. Ottawa Senators (4-1-3, rank last week: 10)
The Senators get Erik Karlsson back, but lose Bobby Ryan for the next month with a broken finger. Either way, they continue to grind, compete and look like they’ll be able to stay within shouting distance of the Leafs and Lightning in the Atlantic Division this season.
10. Columbus Blue Jackets (5-3-0, rank last week: 2)
Back-to-back losses to the LA Kings and the Tampa Bay Lightning where they’ve been outscored by a combined 8-4 aggregate is definitely a rough patch for John Tortorella’s crew. A blip on the radar or legit cause for concern?
11. Dallas Stars (5-3-0, rank last week: 19)
Four wins in a row where the Stars took care of business against Colorado, Arizona and Carolina isn’t a cause to start booking any Stanley Cup Final tickets, but it is a solid upturn for a Stars hockey club that certainly could have used a morale booster early in the season.
12. Philadelphia Flyers (5-3-0, rank last week: 14)
The Flyers have allowed five goals in their last four games, and seemed to have found some answers defensively along with an effective goalie tandem in Brian Elliott and Michael Neuvirth. Shayne Gostisbehere, Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds have all come to play this season.
13. Nashville Predators (4-3-1, rank last week: 15)
The Predators have won four of their last five with Pekka Rinne between the pipes, and appear to be getting their footing after a stumbling start to the season. The loss to the struggling Rangers in the last time out was pretty rough, though.
14. Washington Capitals (4-4-1, rank last week: 13)
The Washington Capitals are playing .500 hockey and Alex Ovechkin limped off the ice during practice earlier this week. It sure sounds like the Caps are going through a little something right now, doesn’t it?
15. Detroit Red Wings (4-4-1, rank last week: 12)
Great start to the season for the Wings, but they’ve lost four games in a row with a bad, bad 4-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks that saw Jeff Blashill read them the riot act after the game. It may be reality finally hitting in Hockeytown as they make their slow journey to the bottom third of the league.
16. New York Islanders (4-3-1, rank last week: 24)
Zero goals and a minus-4 in eight games for Jordan Eberle since joining on with the Islanders. It looks like the Isles are going to have to wait a while to get a return on their big deal with the Oilers. Rough, rough start for him.
17. Vancouver Canucks (4-3-1, rank last week: 21)
The Canucks have won three of four games, and outscored the Senators, Sabres and Red Wings by an 11-3 margin in the three wins, so there can’t be too many complaints about how they’re playing under Travis Green. The Canucks are amidst a pretty good East Coast swing right now.
18. Winnipeg Jets (4-3-0, rank last week: 18)
Connor Hellebuyck is taking over between the pipes, and the Jets have won all four games he’s started thus far this season. Once again Steve Mason shows up someplace just in time to lose his job pretty quickly.
19. Calgary Flames (4-4-0, rank last week: 11)
Back-to-back losses to the Hurricanes and Wild where the Flames have only scored three goals, and have dropped to .500 hockey. Mike Smith has also played every game between the pipes for the Flames this season, and he’s been pretty good for them as they slog through the early weeks of the season.
20. Colorado Avalanche (4-4-0, rank last week: 26)
Losses in three in a row to the Stars, Predators and St. Louis Blues have the Avalanche crashing back to Earth after they took advantage of a sleeping, injury-ravaged Bruins team early in the season.
21. Carolina Hurricanes (3-2-1, rank last week: 20)
Jeff Skinner off to a strong start with five goals in the first six games of the season, and the Hurricanes have a winning record early after playing just six games. So far, so good with a decent start for a team that really wants to make a move this season.
22. Anaheim Ducks (3-3-1, rank last week: 20)
The Ducks are scoring on only four percent of their power plays. Four stinking percent, which is obviously 30th in the NHL this season. A rough offensive start for the Ducks has them toward the bottom of the Pacific Division to start the season.
23. Boston Bruins (3-3-1, rank last week: 23)
The Bruins are being ravaged by injuries and inconsistency, and haven’t been able to take advantage against below average teams. That they’re struggling now doesn’t bode well for them if they don’t start picking up some points once the schedule starts picking up.
24. Minnesota Wild (2-2-2, rank last week: 22)
The Wild have been average in the first six games, and now it appears that Zach Parise might be opting for back surgery. It could be a rough start to the season for the Wild after a middling opening few weeks.
25. Florida Panthers (3-4-0, rank last week: 25)
Roberto Luongo is banged up and the Panthers haven’t exactly been all about defense in the early going. Strong starts from Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Vincent Trocheck have kept the Panthers offense going thus far, but they need to play at both ends of the ice.
26. San Jose Sharks (4-4-0, rank last week: 26)
Seven goals and 10 points in eight games for Logan Couture, who is leading the way for a Sharks team that may or may not be playoff-worthy when it’s all said and done. It’s going to be a competitive situation for the Sharks and a few other teams out in the Pacific Division.
27. New York Rangers (2-6-2, rank last week: 28)
The Rangers are having issues defensively in the early going, the goaltending has been average and some players are really struggling. Mats Zuccarello is a minus-11 in 10 games. Ouch, babe.
28. Buffalo Sabres (2-5-2, rank last week: 29)
Jason Pominville, Evander Kane and Jack Eichel are all off to strong starts for the Sabres, but they’re going to need some defense and goaltending to work around those three staying hot offensively. Right now it looks like just another sad sack hockey season in Buffalo.
29. Edmonton Oilers (2-5-0, rank last week: 30)
Probably the most disappointing start of any team to this season is up in Edmonton. Cam Talbot hasn’t been very good, Leon Draisaitl is hurt and Connor McDavid can’t carry everything all by himself.
30. Montreal Canadiens (1-6-1, rank last week: 27)
The Habs are scoring 1.5 goals per game (last in the NHL) and they’re allowing over four goals per game this season (29th in the NHL), which is going to lose you a lot of hockey games. Man, I’m not sure Claude Julien knew he was signing up for this when he took the job in Montreal.
31. Arizona Coyotes (0-7-1, rank last week: 31)
The Coyotes are still searching for their first win of the season, and once again look like one of the doormats of the league. When do all those glowing reports on John Chayka at the start of his GM tenure in Arizona begin to go the other way when the Coyotes continually stink in the desert?