NHL Power Rankings: At the quarter mark of the season
NHL Power Rankings
The NHL has officially hit the first quarter mark, and a few things stand out to those that follow the best hockey league on Earth. Among the most obvious are that the Western Conference isn’t nearly as dominant as they’d been in the recent past, and now it would appear that the East Coast elite are running the show again across the NHL.
Five of the top seven teams in this week’s rankings are Eastern Conference teams, and it’s the usual suspects in New York, Montreal, Tampa Bay, Washington and Pittsburgh that have been in the mix for the better part of the last 10 years. Even the Western Conference teams near the top of the rankings, St. Louis and Chicago, feel much more East than West, and always have through their runs in the Central Division.
These things go in cycles and it will be interesting to see if the East’s dominance over the West continues all season, but it’s trending in that direction with roughly 25 percent of the regular season in the books for most teams across the league.
Without further ado here are this week’s power rankings:
1. New York Rangers (14-6-1, previous ranking: 1)
Kevin Hayes is leading the Rangers with his 18 points on the season, and has them evenly split between goals and assists. What does this mean? The New York Rangers beat the Bruins head-to-head in the Hayes showdown.
2. Montreal Canadiens (14-4-2, previous ranking: 2)
The Canadiens are coming back to Earth a little bit lately, but the 11-1-1 record at the Bell Centre is no joke at all. They had a goal of being tougher to play against this season, and it’s mission accomplished.
3. Chicago Blackhawks (13-6-2, previous ranking: 3)
The Blackhawks have righted the ship, but they’ve also had a couple of shutout stinkers recently against Winnipeg and Edmonton sandwiched around easy W’s against Calgary and Vancouver.
4. St. Louis Blues (11-7-3, previous ranking: 15)
The Blues have won four games of their last five games including their first meeting with former captain David Backes, and quality wins over the Sharks and the Predators as well.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning (13-7-1, previous ranking: 11)
So far things have been okay for the Bolts without Stamkos, but managing just a single goal against Nashville in their last loss might be a harbinger of modest offensive days to come.
6. Washington Capitals (12-5-2, previous ranking: 8)
The Capitals are doing it again this season, and they’re doing it while Evgeny Kuznetsov has gone completely MIA to start the season. Eight points in 19 games just ain’t so hot for a very skilled offensive player.
7. Pittsburgh Penguins (12-5-3, previous rank: 4)
The Penguins have lost three of five games, and got slapped around by the Capitals and Rangers before gaining revenge on the Blueshirts. Giving up seven goals to an arch-rival like Washington is a shocking slap upside the head.
8. Edmonton Oilers (11-8-1, previous ranking: 7)
The long, lonesome five game losing streak is over, and the Oilers are starting to make the climb upward again after kicking the crap out of the Blackhawks.
9. Columbus Blue Jackets (10-5-3, previous ranking: 16)
The poor Blue Jackets put together a strong stretch of winning hockey, and all of the fancy stats lads are crapping all over them while waiting for the team to fall back to the mean. There is just no pleasing people.
10. Ottawa Senators (11-7-1, previous ranking: 10)
The Senators are a tough team to figure out at this point, but they’re doing what’s necessary to stick around near the top of the Atlantic Division. A big win over Montreal was a perfect example of that.
11. San Jose Sharks (11-8-1, previous ranking: 9)
So now that the Golden Knights are being branded as the Vegas Golden Knights, does that mean we can go forward with the Jose Sharks as well?
12. Anaheim Ducks (9-7-4, previous ranking: 13)
The Ducks are floating along in a much weaker Pacific Division right now, but it wouldn’t surprise anybody to see this group turn it on at some point later in the season.
13. Boston Bruins (11-8-0, previous ranking: 5)
The Bruins have been one of the best defensive teams in the NHL this season after a brutal performance last year, but that was with Zdeno Chara at the forefront. All bets are off until he rejoins the lineup after his lower body injury.
14. Los Angeles Kings (11-9-1, previous ranking: 24)
A Jeff Carter hot streak has brought on some wins for the Kings, and a push upward in the standings for a division that’s ripe for the taking.
15. Dallas Stars (8-8-5, previous ranking: 19)
Players oversleeping and missing morning meetings. Injuries all over the place for Dallas and some serious lapses in defensive play from their best players. There seems like trouble here this season.
16. Florida Panthers (10-9-1, previous ranking: 18)
Is age starting to catch up to 44-year-old Jaromir Jagr with just two goals in 20 games? It certainly seems like that might be the case.
17. Minnesota Wild (10-7-2, previous ranking: 12)
A 5-5-1 month of November doesn’t have the Wild feeling all that hot headed into Thanksgiving, but they’re still clinging on to the edge of the playoff picture.
18. New Jersey Devils (10-6-3, previous ranking: 9)
Rough go of it in California for the Devils as they were swept by all three teams, and outscored by an 11-4 margin in the process. That’s a bit of humble pie for an underdog team.
19. Philadelphia Flyers (9-9-3, previous ranking: 20)
Someday the Philadelphia Flyers will get themselves a bona fide goaltender, and when they do it will be glorious.
20. Nashville Predators (9-7-3, previous ranking: 22)
Yannick Weber leads the Predators with a plus-7 rating this season. That is not something I saw coming, and probably says a lot about what this Nashville group has done thus far this season.
21. Carolina Hurricanes (8-6-4, previous ranking: 27)
The Hurricanes have won five in a row and Cam Ward has caught fire between the pipes. It feels like these two things have been synonymous in Carolina for a long, long time.
22. Toronto Maple Leafs (8-8-4, previous ranking: 21)
Three one-goal losses in a row for the Maple Leafs, who are trying to find ways to win hockey games with such a talented, young crew of players. They need at least one more defenseman to really start making some noise.
23. Colorado Avalanche (9-10-0, previous ranking: 22)
How are the Colorado Avalanche only averaging 2.2 goals per game? Some of it might be injury-related, but they are way too talented to be underachieving like this offensively.
24. Buffalo Sabres (7-8-5, previous ranking: 8)
Never has a team needed their star player back like the Sabres do with Jack Eichel and their pathetic 30th ranked offense, and their sub-.500 record in a season where they expected a healthy jump.
25. Vancouver Canucks (8-10-2, previous ranking: 25)
The Canucks are scratching and clawing for points in OT despite a roster that really isn’t expected to be anywhere close to the playoffs. At least give them credit for that much.
26. New York Islanders (6-9-4, previous ranking: 26)
Jack Capuano got the dreaded vote of confidence from Garth Snow and the Isles ownership group, but you have to wonder how long this team can underachieve for. It’s a tough atmosphere with the really inconvenient existence that Brooklyn makes it for all the Islanders players.
27. Detroit Red Wings (9-10-1, previous ranking: 14)
The Red Wings snapped a four game losing streak, but it seems like the flaws are finally starting to reveal themselves as their goaltending is crashing back to Earth a bit.
28. Calgary Flames (9-12-1, previous ranking: 30)
The Flames and the Canucks are an NHL-worst minus-20 in goal differential already this season. It’s a sad development for a Calgary team with some pretty decent young players, or at least we all thought they were decent young players after they made the playoffs a couple of years ago.
29. Winnipeg Jets (9-11-2, previous ranking: 17)
The Jets have lost four in a row and are getting their butts kicked on their current East Coast road swing. They completely no-showed in Boston over the weekend.
30. Arizona Coyotes (6-10-2, previous ranking: 29)
The Coyotes snapped a four game losing streak and have taken points in each of their last three games, and it’s coincided with the return of No. 1 goalie Mike Smith. Now they just need to find a way to get their roster all working together with a big group of new parts.