NHL Power Rankings: Teams jockeying for position
NHL Power Rankings
With the Thanksgiving holiday in the books, most of the playoff teams are already in place with five months to go until the Stanley Cup playoffs. Since prior to the season lost to the lockout, roughly 78 percent of teams in a playoff spot at the Turkey Day holiday will hold on and end up qualifying as one of the NHL’s top 16 teams.
There are usually, however, a group of 3-4 teams in most seasons that end up rising up as the Ducks, Flyers and Panthers did last season to march into the playoffs after some disappointment at U.S. Thanksgiving. The Bruins, on the other hand, were one of the teams that dropped off the table after putting themselves in good position at Turkey Day. So what does all of this tell us about the NHL teams jockeying for playoff position and pushing forward after a quick respite for Turkey, stuffing and some spiked Egg Nog.
My candidates to drop off the face of the Earth down the stretch this season? Ottawa, Columbus and Edmonton, I’m looking at you. On the other hand, I think Toronto and Winnipeg are teams to look out for as Canada comes back with a vengeance and looks to fill up the playoff field with their homegrown teams north of the border.
Without further ado here are this week’s power rankings:
1. New York Rangers (16-7-1, previous ranking: 1)
Who knew that Michael Grabner would have so many goals on a team that’s exploded for so many goals? The Rangers have calmed down a bit, but they’re still setting the pace with 3.7 goals per game.
2. Montreal Canadiens (14-4-2, previous ranking: 2)
The Habs are 3-4-1 in their last eight games and have watched their offense dry up. It’s tough if it gets to a point where you’re asking Carey Price to throw shutouts every night.
3. Chicago Blackhawks (15-6-3, previous ranking: 3)
The Blackhawks have survived the seven game road trip for the circus, and lived to tell about it. They celebrated with a home win over a Florida Panthers club that's a bigger problem to worry about right now, and they even did it without Jonathan Toews.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (13-7-3, previous ranking: 7)
The Penguins are in a pretty good spot at this point while defending their Cup title, but Marc-Andre Fleury appears to be having a difficult time adjusting to a backup role. I guess it can’t all be roses and rainbows for the Penguins.
5. St. Louis Blues (13-7-3, previous ranking: 4)
The Blues have won six of their last seven games and are getting some strong goaltending from Jake Allen. There would appear to be no shot the Blues are going to be dealing Kevin Shattenkirk this season after all.
6. Washington Capitals (13-6-2, previous ranking: 6)
While Alex Ovechkin rightfully gets a lot of credit, Nick Backstrom doing a lot of heavy lifting for the Capitals offense right about now.
7. Columbus Blue Jackets (12-5-4, previous rank: 9)
The Blue Jackets post their best month of November in franchise history, and continue to show that they’re not any kind of fluke. Cam Atkinson and Alexander Wennberg have been outstanding for the cannon-blasting business in Columbus this season.
8. Ottawa Senators (14-8-1, previous ranking: 10)
The Ottawa Senators have been winning ugly, Guy Boucher-style games in the early going, so give them credit for playing the 1-3-1 trap to perfection. But can the Senators personnel continue to play that way night after night with anything approaching energy or enthusiasm? I guess they can if they’re winning like they are right now.
9. San Jose Sharks (14-9-1, previous ranking: 11)
Four straight one goal games for the Sharks, and they’ve won three of those four games. With Brent Burns signed, sealed and delivered, it’s full speed ahead for a Sharks team that’s playing some pretty good hockey.
10. Tampa Bay Lightning (13-10-1, previous ranking: 10)
Tampa Bay has lost three games in a row and has been outscored 14-5 over that three-game span. It looks like they’re hitting a bit of a funk with Steve Stamkos out for the long term.
11. Nashville Predators (11-8-3, previous ranking: 20)
The Predators have won seven of the last 10 games and it looks like Ryan Johansen is starting to catch fire. Johansen has been deadly on the PP for the Preds.
12. Anaheim Ducks (11-8-4, previous ranking: 12)
Big back-to-back wins over the Sharks and the Canadiens as the Ducks are back on the upswing after a slow start. Jonathan Bernier has been pretty darn good in a backup role with a 4-1-1 record and .933 save percentage.
13. Los Angeles Kings (12-10-1, previous ranking: 14)
The Kings have won five in a row, and it’s been the Jeff Carter and Peter Budaj show on many nights for the hockey royalty. This is not the same caliber of Kings team that won multiple Cups right now, but they can still be very effective.
14. Minnesota Wild (11-8-3, previous ranking: 17)
The Wild started a five game road trip with losses to the St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks, and are just treading water right now in the Western Conference.
15. New Jersey Devils (10-7-5, previous ranking: 18)
The Devils were a great story early in the season, but they’ve lost six of their last seven games while dropping back a bit in the Metro Division. The Devils are still in the playoff picture, however, even with all of the losing lately.
16. Boston Bruins (12-10-1, previous ranking: 13)
The Bruins can thank the glorious breakthrough of 20-year-old David Pastrnak for keeping them in the mix, but they need to start consistently producing more offense. Getting a healthy Zdeno Chara back would go a long way as well.
17. Philadelphia Flyers (11-10-3, previous ranking: 19)
The Flyers have got some very real issues with their defensive work and goaltending, but that power play is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. My man John Keats said that…John Keats.
18. Toronto Maple Leafs (10-9-4, previous ranking: 22)
After a tough start Frederik Andersen has really settled in between the pipes for the Maple Leafs, and is backstopping the Greatest Show on Ice with all their offensive talent.
19. Detroit Red Wings (11-10-2, previous ranking: 27)
It’s been a challenging season for the Red Wings. Their offense is near the bottom of the NHL, and talented players like Dylan Larkin and Frans Nielsen haven’t been all that great.
20. Florida Panthers (11-10-2, previous ranking: 16)
The Panthers better know what they’re doing because they’re straight up pissing off the rest of the hockey world. Say this one thing for them: they’re bound and determined to do it their way.
21. Winnipeg Jets (11-12-2, previous ranking: 29)
Mark Schiefele has been amazing for the Jets, but going 0-for-5 on their five game road trip with all regulation losses is the kind of thing that has long-lasting impact on a team.
22. Dallas Stars (9-9-6, previous ranking: 21)
How long do the Stars have to flounder about before Lindy Ruff’s seat starts to warm up a little bit? John Klingberg seems to be doing his own thing, and their offense hasn’t been enough to save them. 3-3-3 in their last nine games is just straight-up mediocrity.
23. Carolina Hurricanes (9-9-4, previous ranking: 21)
The Hurricanes are having a perfectly nice, perfectly polite .500 season, but once again this season it doesn’t really look like they’re going anywhere. Except maybe moving to a new home city if the reports of their financial struggles are in any way rooted in reality.
24. Buffalo Sabres (8-9-5, previous ranking: 24)
Guess who’s back? Eichel’s back. Guess who’s back, guess who’s back, guess who’s back, guess who’s back?
25. Vancouver Canucks (10-11-2, previous ranking: 25)
The Canucks are 4-1-1 since the Rangers put up a seven spot against them, so there’s still some fight left in the Vancouver outfit at the very least. Loui Eriksson has started picking up the production pace after a really slow start.
26. Edmonton Oilers (12-10-2, previous ranking: 8)
The Oilers have lost three in a row including the big Auston Matthews vs. Connor McDavid showdown, and we’re hoping dropping this low in the power rankings will snap them out of their funk. The Oil can’t afford to backslide after such an encouraging start.
27. Calgary Flames (11-13-2, previous ranking: 28)
There’s nothing better than a super-cranky Brian Burke debunking the Dougie Hamilton trade rumors, and taking shots at just about anybody and everybody along the way. The thing is, though, that the Flames have to do something with a team that’s doing nothing right now.
28. Arizona Coyotes (8-10-3, previous ranking: 30)
The Coyotes are struggling and Anthony Duclair’s name has started popping up in trade rumors, but they’ve beaten the Oilers a couple of times. So they have that going for them, which is nice.
29. Colorado Avalanche (9-11-1, previous ranking: 17)
It’s a new coach but the same old results for the underachieving Avalanche. It might just be time to start blowing things up with this group and deal off some of the long-rumored parts, like Matt Duchene, while rebuilding the core group they roll forward with.
30. New York Islanders (8-10-4, previous ranking: 26)
It’s rock-bottom for the Islanders and a coach in Jack Capuano that appears to have the not-so-dreaded, genuine vote of confidence from Garth Snow. Three wins in their last 10 games and a minus-13 goal differential for a team not doing much right at this point.