NHL Power Rankings: Habs jump to top spot
NHL Power Rankings: Habs jump to top spot
After each of the Canadian NHL teams failed to qualify for the playoffs last season much to the chagrin of my friends in the Great White North, it looks like that phenomenon won’t be repeating itself this time around. The Canadiens are ranked No. 1 in this week’s power rankings behind the triumphant return of Carey Price, and Cam Talbot has backstopped the Oilers to a surprising start featuring the dazzling Connor McDavid in Oil Country.
Even the Vancouver Canucks, who many prognosticators thought would be one of the worst teams in the NHL this season, are off to a promising 4-2-1 start even though Loui Eriksson has yet to score a goal for the Canucks. The Flames, Jets and Maple Leafs are in the bottom third of the rankings this week, but those fan bases at least get to watch Johnny Gaudreau, Patrik Laine and Auston Matthews on a nightly basis. That means good things await them in the near future, and what’s good for Canada is also good for the NHL.
Without further ado here are this week’s power rankings:
1. Montreal Canadiens (5-0-1, previous ranking: 12)
It’s truly amazing what can be possible when Carey Price is healthy, and returns between the pipes for Les Habitants. The Habs are looking like a team to reckon with in the Atlantic Division as long as Price can hold up his end of the bargain.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning (5-1-0, previous ranking: 6)
Save for one stinker against the Colorado Avalanche, the Lightning have been dominant through the first few weeks. They’ve outscored Atlantic Division opponents by a 20-11 margin while winning all four of those divisional games thus far. Bolts vs. Habs should be fun.
3. Edmonton Oilers (5-1-0, previous ranking: 13)
As good as Connor McDavid has been for the Oilers offensively, the work of Cam Talbot having played in all six games thus far has helped Edmonton shoot up in the standings this season. The question is whether they can sustain it with such a young group of players, and a defense that’s still a work-in-progress.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (4-2-1-, previous ranking: 2)
The return of Sidney Crosby after missing the first six games of the season puts the Penguins back in their rightful place near the top, and gives them a chance to see how good they can be while defending their Cup.
5. St. Louis Blues (4-2-1, previous ranking: 1)
The Blues have faltered a bit after a really strong start, but that’s through no fault of Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Steen, who have been marvelous in the first month of the season. The Blues may still be trying to replace the missed presence of guys like Troy Brouwer and David Backes, and that’s not easy.
6. Detroit Red Wings (5-2-0, previous ranking: 28)
After a couple of stumbles early, the Wings have ripped off five straight wins while climbing up the standings in the East to sit right behind Tampa and Montreal. Four goals and eight points in seven games for Thomas Vanek so far…who knew?
7. New York Rangers (4-2-0, previous rank: 15)
Jimmy Vesey and Mika Zibanejad needed to hop on board for the Blueshirts and make an immediate impact if the Rangers were going to start strongly this season, and that’s exactly what’s happened. Credit to Chris Kreider, who has also been very good for New York.
8. Washington Capitals (3-1-1, previous ranking: 7)
The defense has been strong with 10 goals allowed in five games, and Alex Ovechkin once again looks primed to score at least 40 goals for a Capitals team focused on their objectives this season.
9. Minnesota Wild (4-2-1, previous ranking: 18)
Sometimes you forget how good Ryan Suter is, and then he factors into a couple of goals, fills up his stat sheet and makes all the right plays in 27 or 28 minutes of ice time in a Wild win. He’s one of the best in the game at the top of his game for Minnesota right now.
10. Ottawa Senators (4-2-0, previous ranking: 9)
What the heck is a Ryan Dzingel, and how did the Senators acquire one? Sounds like a mystical hockey creature that scores goals and helps Ottawa get off to a very good start.
11. Dallas Stars (3-2-1, previous ranking: 14)
Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are a combined minus-6 on the season. That may be more a reflection of a tough defensive situation in Dallas than anything else, but they can’t sustain a winning trend if they’re playing that way.
12. San Jose Sharks (4-3-0, previous ranking: 3)
A long five game road trip to start the season took a chunk out of the Sharks, but they’ve begun regaining their footing at home. Maybe that shirtless walk around Pittsburgh gave Jumbo Joe a cold?
13. Florida Panthers (3-2-1, previous ranking: 4)
Who would have had Jonathan Marchessault, Mike Matheson and Shane Harper as three of the top-4 scorers for the Florida Panthers a couple of weeks into the season? An “ok” start for the Panthers, but clearly they’re looking for much more than “okay” this season.
14. Vancouver Canucks (4-2-1, previous ranking: 10)
Loui Eriksson has zero goals and is a minus-2 through the first seven games with Vancouver. I guess the Eriksson plus Sedin Twins combination hasn’t been as dynamic as the Canucks originally expected it to be.
15. Chicago Blackhawks (3-3-1, previous ranking: 25)
Fourteen power play goals allowed for the Blackhawks in seven games thus far this season. That is dumpster fire-level inadequacy for a Blackhawks team that usually doesn’t have any major weaknesses on their roster.
16. New Jersey Devils (3-2-1, previous ranking: 26)
Five goals and six points in six games for Taylor Hall, who looks like he’s out to prove a point with a Devils team that I still think is going to end up in the playoffs this season. He could be in for a monster season for the Devils.
17. Boston Bruins (3-3-0, previous ranking: 17)
The Bruins are dangling on by a thread, but an extended period with Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre between the pipes could completely demoralize this team. Their offense is top heavy, their defense is barely improved and now their goaltending is shaky. There’s not much there right now with all of the injuries.
18. Colorado Avalanche (3-2-0, previous ranking: 8)
The Avalanche are off to an okay start, but Semyon Varlamov needs to be better between the pipes. Matt Duchene is off to a particularly strong start for Colorado.
19. Los Angeles Kings (3-3-1, previous ranking: 29)
The Kings are having goaltending issues on a level with the Bruins as Jonathan Quick and Jeff Zatkoff are both out with injuries. They’ve managed to right the ship after a bad start, but will need to play at a high level to overcome the goalie attrition.
20. Philadelphia Flyers (3-3-1, previous ranking: 11)
Zero goals and a minus-5 rating for Claude Giroux in his first seven games with the Flyers this season show that the Broad Street Bullies have some things to work on. At least Travis Konecny has looked good in the early going for the Flyers.
21. Calgary Flames (3-4-1, previous ranking: 26)
Early struggles for Brian Elliott between the pipes have hurt the Flames in the early going. Chad Johnson has filled in ably with more playing time than he probably expected at first, and Troy Brouwer has turned into an excellent signing in the short term. But the Flames are less than they should be right now.
22. Anaheim Ducks (2-3-2, previous ranking: 27)
It’s difficult to get a read on a Ducks team that’s playing with less than their full roster right now, but at least they’ve rebound from a really brutal start. Resolving the Hampus Lindholm situation might go a long way toward fully removed the dark cloud from overheard.
23. New York Islanders (3-3-0, previous ranking: 23)
Does anybody else think this team is not exactly a bunch of happy campers with the situation at the Barclays Center? Nick Leddy and Travis Hamonic are a combined minus-13 and have been a disaster in the early going for the Isles as a top pair.
24. Nashville Predators (2-3-0, previous ranking: 19)
Somehow the Predators rallied to beat the Penguins despite much of the roster being beset by food poisoning around the same time. So credit Nashville for intestinal fortitude, no pun intended.
25. Columbus Blue Jackets (2-2-1, previous ranking: 30)
While the Blue Jackets have been just okay in the early going, rookie D-man Zach Werenski has been sensational through the first few weeks. He’s got two goals and five points in five games, and is averaging 21:26 of ice time as a top pairing guy right out of the chute. That’s impressive.
26. Winnipeg Jets (2-4-0, previous ranking: 20)
It’s pretty cut and dried: Connor Hellebuyck and Mike Hutchinson need to be a hell of a lot better than they’ve been between the pipes thus far for Winnipeg. The Jets forwards and defense are holding up their end of the bargain offensively, so it’s time to stop a few pucks.
27. Toronto Maple Leafs (1-2-3, previous ranking: 16)
Six goals and 10 points in six games for Auston Matthews. What a stud. Clearly the circle won’t be complete until the Maple Leafs are winning games consistently as well, but you see the building blocks for a really exciting, effective team starting to come together in the Big Smoke.
28. Buffalo Sabres (1-2-2, previous ranking: 21)
Give the Sabres credit for staying afloat without Jack Eichel and Evander Kane, but their defense is really suspect behind Rasmus Ristolainen right now. Robin Lehner has been shaky as well, and just hasn’t impressed me throughout his NHL career.
29. Carolina Hurricanes (1-3-2, previous ranking: 22)
It’s another season, and another year of the Hurricanes carrying up the rear in the Metro Division. Victor Rask and Lee Stempniak are off to excellent starts, but not enough of the other pieces are coming together for Carolina right now.
30. Arizona Coyotes (1-5-0, previous ranking: 5)
Six games into his stint with the Coyotes, Alex Goligoski is a team-worst minus-8 and Oliver Ekman-Larsson is being forced into playing 26 plus minutes per night. The organization tried to fortify their defense in the offseason, but it just hasn’t happened to this point.