Haggerty's Power Rankings - Matthews coming into his own
Haggerty's Power Rankings: Matthews coming into his own
Everybody is going crazy these days for Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs, and why not?
Matthews is filling up the scoreboard with six goals and 10 points in seven games along with a plus-10 rating, and the Leafs are beginning to run away with the Atlantic Division as the Tampa Bay Lightning tries to stay within striking distance.
It’s not like he’s being propped up by the other wonder kids from the Maple Leafs as William Nylander has been good (two goals and seven points in seven games) and Mitch Marner has been slow-starting (one goal and four points along with a minus-7 in seven games). But it appears that Matthews is taking that dominant step forward to be the East’s version of Connor McDavid with a bit more of a size/strength over speed bent to his game, and even beginning to threaten Sidney Crosby for top player honors in the Eastern Conference.
It’s still early now and the Maple Leafs will clearly have some challenges along the way, but this may become the season where Matthews becomes the NHL’s best player in the league’s signature city. It’s all happening in front of us right now, and the rest of the teams in the East are taking notice at this early point in time.
Anyway, without further ado, here are this week’s power rankings:
1. Toronto Maple Leafs (regular season record: 6-1-0, rank last week: 1)
The Maple Leafs are tops in the NHL averaging almost five goals per game, and Auston Matthews can do no wrong in the hallowed hockey city of Toronto. Clearly, they’re not going to be able to maintain this kind of pace all season, but the Leafs are well on their way to becoming a powerhouse.
2. Columbus Blue Jackets (5-1-0, rank last week: 17)
The Blue Jackets have allowed two goals or less in four of their six games, and have as good a goalie tandem in the NHL as you could want in Sergei Bobrovsky and Joonas Korpisalo. They’ve yet to get pushed by the other Metro Division power brokers, so the Blue Jackets are having a nice ride.
3. Los Angeles Kings (4-0-1, rank last week: 5)
It looks like pride is kicking in with some of the Kings’ best players as Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty and Jon Quick are off to strong starts for LA this season. They look like a much better hockey team this season.
4. Vegas Golden Knights (5-1-0, rank last week: 10)
James Neal has six goals in six games and Gerard Gallant’s system has Vegas playing some stout defense around the front of the net, as expected. They aren’t going to be able to maintain it for very long if Malcolm Subban is their main goalie even if he’s gotten himself off to a decent start with his new team.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning (5-1-1, rank last week: 7)
While Steve Stamkos is back and healthy for the Lightning, Nikita Kucherov continues to be the guy stirring the drink for the Lightning with his dominant play. Both Stamkos and Kucherov have a dozen points apiece in the first seven games of the regular season.
6. Chicago Blackhawks (4-2-1, rank last week: 2)
It’s like no time has passed for the Blackhawks as they’re winning hockey games, and Brandon Saad is back to producing offense with the usual suspects within the familiar core group. It sure looks like Chicago has done a good job addressing whatever needs they had after their playoff elimination.
7. New Jersey Devils (5-1-0, rank last week: 6)
Will Butcher has nine assists and a plus-6 rating in six games thus far for the Devils. That’s certainly part of the surprising start for the Devils this season along with other young players like Jesper Bratt and Miles Wood, and some holdovers in Jersey from the last couple of seasons.
8. St. Louis Blues (5-2-0, rank last week: 3)
Jaden Schwartz lighting it up for the Blues, who once again look like they’re going to be strong in the Central Division with good depth, solid goaltending with Jake Allen and the explosive scoring you need at the top of the lineup.
9. Pittsburgh Penguins (4-2-1, rank last week: 12)
The Penguins look strong again this season, but it does appear that young Matt Murray is feeling a little more heat now that the goaltending chores are solely up to him.
10. Ottawa Senators (3-1-2, rank last week: 18)
A solid start for the Senators, and now they have Erik Karlsson back healthy as well after his offseason foot surgery. Nothing flashy or particularly interesting about the group in Ottawa outside of Karlsson, but they are a varied, high-effort group of players including Kyle Turris and Mark Stone.
11. Calgary Flames (4-2-0, rank last week: 9)
C’mon, Calgary...Release The Jagr already will you? It’s not like it takes that long for a 45-year-old to just hop into NHL game shape, or then again maybe it does after all.
12. Detroit Red Wings (4-3-0, rank last week: 8)
The Red Wings are off to an encouraging start in Hockeytown, but it would be a stretch to think they’re going to be able to maintain things like Jimmy Howard’s play or youngsters like Martin Frk and Anthony Mantha continuing to produce at a high rate like they are right now.
13. Washington Capitals (3-3-1, rank last week: 4)
The Capitals are getting major production from Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom at the top of the lineup, but their defense and penalty aren’t getting it done right now.
14. Philadelphia Flyers (4-2-0, rank last week: 11)
Claude Giroux is having a nice bounce-back season for the Flyers after some were beginning to write him off last season. The Flyers, in general, are off to a pretty strong start with performances up and down the roster, and some legitimate energy and skill being brandished by No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick as well.
15. Nashville Predators (3-2-1, rank last week: 14)
The Predators have done a good job of pushing forward after the opening night loss to the Bruins, and Filip Forsberg is carrying the Nashville offense right now. It looks like the reigning Western Conference champs are just beginning to round into form.
16. Colorado Avalanche (4-3-0, rank last week: 15)
The Stars and the Predators both kicked around the Avalanche over the last couple of games and brought them back to reality a little bit. Clearly, the Avs are better than they were last season, but there could be a lot of yoyo-type activity from a team that was dreadful last season.
17. Carolina Hurricanes (2-1-1, rank last week: 13)
The Hurricanes have played the fewest games in the league, so it’s difficult to get a read on a team that supposed to be the trendy pick to make the playoffs this season. We shall see about that.
18. Winnipeg Jets (3-3-0, rank last week: 24)
Once again Winnipeg is one of the worst teams in the league as far as keeping the puck out of their own net. A lot of it is certainly goaltending, but some of it is also on players that just aren’t digging in defensively. Hard to see how any of this is going to change with them unless something significant shifts within the Jets organization.
19. Dallas Stars (3-3-0, rank last week: 31)
Tyler Seguin dropped the gloves in Dallas. There should a Texas state holiday after that kind of thing because you’re only likely to see it once a year, or maybe once in a lifetime like Halley’s Comet.
20. Anaheim Ducks (2-3-1, rank last week: 19)
The Ducks are 29th in the NHL in offense and haven’t scored a power-play goal yet this season with Andrew Cogliano as the team’s leading scorer right now. Anaheim, I would say that we have a problem.
21. Vancouver Canucks (2-2-1, rank last week: 20)
One goal, four points and a combined minus-6 in 10 games for the Sedin Twins out in Vancouver might be the beginnings of the end for their dominance as players. Loui Eriksson is off to another feeble start as well for the Canucks out in Vancouver, so it’s a credit that they’re even playing .500 hockey right now.
22. Minnesota Wild (1-1-2, rank last week: 21)
It’s a modest start for the Wild, who have played in the fewest games in the NHL to date along with the Carolina Hurricanes. Who would have thought Chris Stewart and Tyler Ennis would be their leading scorers a couple of weeks into the season?
23. Boston Bruins (2-3-0, rank last week: 14)
The Bruins have lost to the Avalanche twice and to the expansion Vegas Golden Knights and looked pretty bad doing it in their defeats. Combine that with the key injuries early to Patrice Bergeron and David Backes, and the B’s are really stumbling out of the starting gate in pretty much all phases of the game. There’s been no consistency whatsoever.
24. New York Islanders (2-3-1, rank last week: 4)
No goals in six games for big offseason acquisition Jordan Eberle and John Tavares has just three points to start the season as well. A lot of the big wheels are slow to get going in Brooklyn similar to last season’s sluggish opening as well.
25. Florida Panthers (2-3-0, rank last week: 22)
The Florida Panthers are in the middle class of the Atlantic Division at this point, and looks like they’re being left behind in the dust by Toronto and Tampa Bay just like everybody else. Some slow starts to a lot of their young guns like Aleksander Barkov and Owen Tippett.
26. San Jose Sharks (2-3-0, rank last week: 30)
Could this be the season that San Jose finally drops back out of the playoff picture and truly starts the rebuilding process in earnest? Time will tell but it hasn’t been an encouraging start with Brent Burns looking a little slow out of the gate this season.
27. Montreal Canadiens (1-5-1, rank last week: 26)
The Habs have been absolutely god-awful this season, and nobody has scored fewer goals in the Eastern Conference this season than the 11 produced by Montreal’s offense. They look small up front, woefully undermanned on the back end and Carey Price hasn’t been good enough at all to save them.
28. New York Rangers (1-5-1, rank last week: 27)
Zero goals, zero points and a minus-1 in seven games for Jimmy Vesey with the Rangers to start this season. Remember those Vesey sweepstakes of a few seasons ago with the hype and the teams chasing him? Yeah, me too.
29. Buffalo Sabres (1-4-2, rank last week: 28)
The Buffalo Sabres are once again losing and sitting at the bottom of the Atlantic Division once again. They may be better than they’ve been the last couple of years and both Evander Kane and Jason Pominville are off to great starts, but things just don’t seem any different for the poor Sabres.
30. Edmonton Oilers (1-4-0, rank last week: 23)
The most disappointing team to date this season has to be the Edmonton Oilers. They’ve underachieved amid big expectations and Leon Draisaitl is out with concussion symptoms after sustaining an eye injury.
31. Arizona Coyotes (0-5-1, rank last week: 25)
The last NHL team to still be searching for a win is the Coyotes, who appear like they’re going to be in for another tough season in the desert. And now they welcome Zac Rinaldo back to that mix after he served his five-game suspension from two seasons ago, so they’ve got that going for them. Yikes.