Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: First week in the books
Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings
There’s not too much to be gleaned from the first week of NHL action when perusing the win-loss records or the standings, so the power rankings are pretty volatile at this point. It’s more about individual observations where it looks like Alex Ovechkin (seven goals) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (eight points) are primed for massive offensive seasons, and perhaps the reports of the Washington Capitals’ demise were a little premature.
On the other end of the spectrum, seeing names like Brayden Point, Brandon Saad and Evander Kane at the top of the scorer’s lists makes you wonder if either one of them can maintain that pace, or if they’re simply riding the wave of a strong first couple of games this season.
It certainly looks like teams like the Capitals, Maple Leafs and Blackhawks are going to score a lot of goals this season no matter which players heat up or cool down moving forward.
Anyway, without further ado here are this week’s preseason power rankings:
1. Toronto Maple Leafs (regular season record: 3-0-0, rank last week: 12)
The Leafs are undefeated and have an NHL-best 19 goals scored after the first week of the season, and indeed look like they’re ready for the next step. Austin Matthews didn’t score four goals in his first game of the season, but he’s been dominant to start the year.
2. Chicago Blackhawks (3-0-1, rank last week: 2)
The Blackhawks certainly look like they’re a pissed off group after last year’s first-round playoff departure, and they’re playing like it in the early going. With four goals in the first three games of the season, it sure looks like bringing Brandon Saad back into the Chicago fold was the right thing to do.
3. St. Louis Blues (4-0-0, rank last week: 13)
Some of the names change, but the Blues continue to play solid hockey with Vladimir Tarasenko leading the offense. Alex Pietrangelo is off to one of the best starts of his NHL career, and looks like a potential Norris Trophy candidate right off the hop.
4. Washington Capitals (2-0-1, rank last week: 3)
Clearly the message was received with Alex Ovechkin, who reeled off hat tricks in each of the first two games of the season while looking leaner and faster than in years past. The question is will it make the ending any different for Washington this year?
5. Los Angeles Kings (2-0-0, rank last week: 23)
Jonathan Quick has allowed one goal in two games thus far this season with a .983 save percentage. The Kings could win a lot more games than previously anticipated if Quick is healthy and at the top of his game for most of the season.
6. New Jersey Devils (2-0-0, rank last week: 27)
Nico Hischier looks like the real deal right out of the gate, and so does defenseman Will Butcher. That means the Devils might be able to sneak up on a few people this season given some of their other high-end players.
7. Tampa Bay Lightning (2-1-0, rank last week: 17)
With three goals and seven points in his first three games this season, I am majorly kicking myself for not taking Brayden Point in my fantasy hockey drafts. You could see the talent last season, and I should have had more faith in my ability to recognize a sleeper for this season. Now he’s just another gifted offensive forward to add to the Lightning mix.
8. Detroit Red Wings (2-1-0, rank last week: 28)
It may not be a long stay for the Red Wings in the top-10 of the power rankings, but credit them for taking care of business in the first couple of games. Something tells me Jimmy Howard won’t keep the .961 save percentage all season, but let the Wings have their fun in their new building while it lasts.
9. Calgary Flames (2-1-0, rank last week: 11)
The Flames have some players off to good starts like Johnny Gaudreau, but new goalie Mike Smith looks like he could be a real difference-making change for the Flames this season.
10. Vegas Golden Knights (3-0-0, rank last week: 29)
One thing that could really allow the Golden Knights to surprise this season is Marc-Andre Fleury between the pipes. He’s been outstanding for the Golden Knights, and good for a Vegas city that could really use all the feel-good moments they can muster these days.
11. Philadelphia Flyers (2-2-0, rank last week: 22)
Four goals in three games to start the season for Wayne Simmonds, who is an absolute beast out of the starting gate for the Flyers. Many Bruins fans watch Simmonds do his thing in Philly, and wish he could somehow be magically transformed into the next big, bad Bruins power forward.
12. Pittsburgh Penguins (1-1-1, rank last week: 1)
The Penguins got stomped by the Blackhawks in the first week of the season, and then take a very controversial visit to the White House as well. It hasn’t been the Pens’ best by any means, but they’re still the back-to-back Cup champs and that counts for a lot in the power rankings.
13. Carolina Hurricanes (1-0-1, rank last week: 18)
The Hurricanes got off to a good start with an opening night win and they’re a trendy pick to make the playoffs this season, so this feels like the right place for them after one game played.
14. Boston Bruins (1-1-0, rank last week: 14)
Tough to make a judgment on this team based on two wildly different results to start the season. This might be Boston’s lot in life until some of those younger players get a little more experience, and that might mean a lot more boom and bust in the early going for the Black and Gold.
15. Colorado Avalanche (2-1-0, rank last week: 31)
This can’t possibly sustain itself, right? The Avalanche do have some very good young players and Semyon Varlamov is a talented goaltender. But one senses that the Avs are a ticking time bomb of a hockey club until they can find a way to resolve the Matt Duchene situation.
16. Vancouver Canucks (1-0-1, rank last week: 26)
This is another team that probably doesn’t have a long stay up this high, but it’s a stick salute for winning their first game out of the chute. It’s nice to see former Bruins forward Travis Green up in the NHL circuit once again. Nice start for Bo Horvat this season.
17. Columbus Blue Jackets (2-1-0, rank last week: 10)
The Blue Jackets are definitely as advertised with Sergei Bobrovsky and a gritty, hard-working team, so they should be back in the top-10 in a matter of weeks. Sonny Milano off to a great start for the Blue Jackets.
18. Ottawa Senators (1-0-2, rank last week: 9)
A credit to Ottawa for picking up points with Erik Karlsson still unable to play, and just trapping and waiting for their game-changing defenseman to return to the fold. I still get a funny feeling when I read about Karlsson’s foot and possible long-term implications for his career, but we’ll see when he gets back out there.
19. Anaheim Ducks (1-1-1, rank last week: 6)
Corey Perry is back at the top of the Ducks scoring list and Anaheim looks primed for another solid season even though they’re currently missing a couple of very good D-men due to injuries.
20. New York Islanders (1-1-1, rank last week: 20)
While the talk around the Islanders is about the future of John Tavares, it looks like he’s focused on the now with a pair of goals in the first three games for the Islanders. New York should push for the playoffs again this season, but they’re going to need some help to get there even with the addition of Jordan Eberle.
21. Minnesota Wild (0-1-1, rank last week: 7)
Eric Staal off to another strong start with the Wild, which makes you wonder just how unhappy he must have been during those final few years with the Hurricanes. He looks reborn in a genuine, snowy hockey market for the second year in a row.
22. Florida Panthers (1-1-0, rank last week: 25)
Jared McCann is looking like a good pick-up from Vancouver after a strong training camp, and a couple of points in the early going for the Panthers. This team may sneak up on some people in the Atlantic Division this season.
23. Edmonton Oilers (1-2-0, rank last week: 4)
Not a great start for Cam Talbot between the pipes, but the crème will definitely rise to the top for the Oilers. Connor McDavid is scoring and the rest will start falling into place soon. At least that’s what Edmonton is banking on after such a positive step last season.
24. Winnipeg Jets (1-2-0, rank last week: 16)
Mark Schiefele and Nikolaj Ehlers are flying to start the season for the Jets, but it’s the same old problems for Winnipeg when it comes to defense, goals allowed and goaltending. Steve Mason is off to a brutal start for the Jets, and that shouldn’t be much of a surprise to people that have actually watched him play before.
25. Arizona Coyotes (0-2-1, rank last week: 30)
A decent start for the Coyotes as they look to regain some respectability in the Western Conference. Goals from young guys like Anthony Duclair, Max Domi and Clayton Keller certainly are a nice, promising first step.
26. Montreal Canadiens (1-3-0, rank last week: 21)
The Canadiens look like a mess right now. They have a group of forwards without a dominant talent up front, and they have a new-look defense with a few too many weak links. They do have Carey Price and Claude Julien, but that’s not even close to enough for Les Habitants at the start of a very important season for them.
27. New York Rangers (1-3-0, rank last week: 8)
Mika Zibanejad has four goals to start the season, which is one of the few things that the Rangers have going for them to start the season. Henrik Lundqvist on the other hand? The less said about him the better.
28. Buffalo Sabres (0-2-1, rank last week: 24)
Not sure what got into Evander Kane, but he’s got four goals, six points and 26 shots on net in his first three games of the season. It looks like he’s been spurred into actually playing up to his potential start this season for as long as that ends up lasting. Otherwise, it’s been same old, same old for the Sabres in Buffalo.
29. Nashville Predators (1-2-0, rank last week: 5)
There’s not a lot to like about the start to the season for the Nashville Predators as it feels like there’s a hangover there after getting to the Cup Finals last season. Viktor Arvidsson has been very good in the early going, but so many other impactful players for the Preds have been average or worse to start the season. PK Subban is a minus-4 after two games, and Roman Josi is already banged up as well.
30. San Jose Sharks (0-2-0, rank last week: 19)
Martin Jones (5.17 goals against average and an .864 save percentage) has stumbled out of the gate with a poor first couple of games to start the season, and the Sharks find themselves without a win in the early going as well. These two things are not mutually exclusive.
31. Dallas Stars (1-2-0, rank last week: 15)
When John Klingberg and Devin Shore are the two leading scorers for the Stars after the first couple of games this season, you know that things aren’t the way Dallas has drawn it up to start the year. Jamie Benn, in particular, has been pretty invisible in the early going for Ken Hitchcock and a Stars group that’s not expected to play a 200-foot game.