Haggerty's Power Rankings - Things get real
It remains to be seen which of the surprise teams stick around among the 16 NHL teams destined for the playoffs, but this month’s Thanksgiving holiday is when it starts to become realistic for those Cinderella teams. The New Jersey Devils certainly look good and they’ve even survived an early injury to Corey Schneider along with Brian Boyle’s cancer diagnosis. Also, the L.A. Kings certainly appear to be back with their energized core group and a healthy Jonathan Quick.
Can teams like the Vegas Golden Knights, the New York Islanders, the Philadelphia Flyers and the Vancouver Canucks stick around in playoff positions as the dog days of the hockey season begin to set in as the regular season schedule gets moving? We shall see, but some of them are certainly getting tested now with Vegas getting forced to dig into their junior hockey organizational depths for a goalie after Marc-Andre Fleury, Malcolm Subban and Oscar Dansk all went down with injuries after they lost another goalie to the waiver wire.
That, my friends, is the kind of adversity that can expose an expansion team that was off to a solid start and appeared to take a
lot of NHL opponents by surprise. They’ve lost a couple of games in a row, and in true Vegas fashion, it appears like the House is beginning to catch up with a team that was bucking the odds at the beginning.
Anyway, without further ado, here are this week’s power rankings:
1. Tampa Bay Lightning (10-2-1, rank last week: 1)
Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov have put up a combined 45 points in in the first 13 games of the season for the Lightning. I’d say that’s pret-ty, pret-ty, pret-ty, pret-ty good.
2. St. Louis Blues (10-2-1, LW: 4)
Everybody is talking about the great start for Jaden Schwartz with the Blues this season and rightfully so, but Vladimir Sobotka has also been a big addition to the Blues giving them secondary offense and another forward that’s very tough to play against.
3. Los Angeles Kings (9-2-1, LW: 3)
It’s pretty uncanny how a return to prominence for Jon Quick (third in the NHL with a 1.89 goals-against average and .942 save percentage) has been a catalyst for the Kings to again be one of the best teams in the Western Conference. Goaltending is so important to their winning formula.
4. New Jersey Devils (8-2-0, LW: 7)
Not even David Puddy could have guessed that the Devils would be so strong to start this season. The question now becomes whether this is an early-season adrenaline shot or something they can sustain. It’s more great news that Brian Boyle will be returning to the team soon.
5. Columbus Blue Jackets (8-4-0, LW: 10)
The Blue Jackets are off to a pretty good start, but it sure looks like scoring is going to be a problem with an average offense, and a power play that’s ranked 31st in the league. That means a whole lot of pressure on the shoulders of Sergei Bobrovsky, doesn’t it?
6. Winnipeg Jets (6-3-2, LW: 18)
Blake Wheeler and the Winnipeg Jets are winning hockey games and finally starting to live up to their very high potential. It remains to be seen how long they can do that for, but it’s undeniable that the talent is there if they get even average goaltending.
7. Vegas Golden Knights (8-3-0, LW: 5)
Vegas has dropped two in a row and they’ve lost another goaltender in Oscan Dansk. They were a great story to start the season, but it sure looks like the expansion team blues might be setting in. It certainly doesn’t help when three goalies have dropped due to injuries.
8. New York Islanders (7-4-1, LW: 16)
John Tavares doesn’t seem all that distracted or concerned about where he’s going to be playing next season. Eleven goals in 12 games kind of ensure that he’s going to be able to play wherever he wants for a whole lot of money next season and beyond and the Isles are winning hockey games in the short term as well.
9. Ottawa Senators (5-2-5, LW: 9)
The Senators aren’t quite keeping pace with the Lightning, but they’ve shot up toward the top of the Atlantic Division with Erik Karlsson healthy and producing once again. The Sens are showing that last season’s playoff run was no one-hit wonder from a talented, well-coached group.
10. Pittsburgh Penguins (7-5-1, LW: 8)
Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang are a combined minus-28 to start this season. That feels like it might be an issue for a Penguins team that looks like back-to-back Stanley Cup runs have taken a chunk out of them.
11. Dallas Stars (7-5-0, LW: 11)
I’m not the biggest Ben Bishop fan around, but there’s no doubt he’s been a difference-maker early with the Stars while stabilizing things on their back end. Dallas looks like world beaters when they’re on the power play (tops in the league scoring 30 percent of the time), and that should take them far this season.
12. Toronto Maple Leafs (7-5-0, LW: 2)
The Leafs have dropped three games in a row, and Mitch Marner has one goal and a minus-9 rating in 11 games. It looks like some of their defense and goaltending issues are coming home to roost
13. Anaheim Ducks (6-4-1, LW: 22)
The Ducks are coasting along and waiting for some of their defensemen to get healthy, so credit them for keeping things stable while also absorbing a Ryan Getzlaf injury over the first month as well.
14. Vancouver Canucks (6-3-2, LW: 17)
I have just one question about the Canucks right now. What kind of deal with the devil did Derek Dorsett have to make in order to score six goals in the first 11 games of the season for the Canucks?
15. Detroit Red Wings (6-6-1, LW: 15)
Impressive start for Anthony Mantha, who gives the Red Wings another strong young player to go along with Dylan Larkin as Detroit looks to keep reloading their roster.
16. Philadelphia Flyers (6-5-1, LW: 12)
Brian Elliott has an .884 save percentage and a goals-against average over three to start the season for the Flyers, who can’t seem to ever get things right with their goaltending. It feels inevitable at this point.
17. Nashville Predators (5-4-2, LW: 13)
Pekka Rinne is off to a really strong start, but goal-scoring has been a little bit of an issue after watching James Neal go away in the expansion draft last summer.
18. Chicago Blackhawks (5-5-2, LW: 6)
The Blackhawks were supposed to have addressed all their issues with the offseason improvements, but there are still plenty of danger signs with this team. Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith are both minus players and look like they’re struggling without their traditional shutdown partners on D.
19. San Jose Sharks (6-5-0, LW: 26)
The Sharks have stabilized with a couple of wins in a row, but zero goals and a minus-8 rating for Brent Burns in 11 games this season. What is the deal with that?
20. Colorado Avalanche (6-5-0, LW: 20)
The Avalanche aren’t terrible, but they aren’t exactly good either. It’s a hockey team that continues to need a makeover, but seems afraid or unwilling to make the big moves that are required.
21. Calgary Flames (6-6-0, LW: 19)
Just five games and a couple of assists thus far for Jaromir Jagr, who has not been able to really spread his hockey joy to the fans of Calgary quite yet. They’re certainly looking solid enough with Mike Smith in net and Johnny Gaudreau creating plenty of offense thus far.
22. Boston Bruins (4-3-3, LW: 23)
The Bruins are wildly inconsistent right now from game-to-game and period-to-period, and it looks like it’s going to be Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride for them for quite some time. That’s the byproduct of the youthful talent that the B's are introducing into their lineup this season.
23. Washington Capitals (5-6-1, LW: 14)
The Capitals have lost five of seven, including blowout losses at the hands of the Flyers and the Canucks. Something just doesn’t feel right with a group that has way more talent than this, and just isn’t playing winning hockey right now.
24. Minnesota Wild (4-4-2, LW: 24)
The Wild are getting a lot of players stepping up with Zach Parise out of the lineup with back surgery, but they’re going to have to keep it disciplined and low-scoring in front of Devan Dubnyk if they want to win hockey games.
25. Carolina Hurricanes (4-4-2, LW: 21)
Everybody was on board with the Hurricanes after last summer’s moves, but they’re still 24th in the NHL in offense with just 2.7 goals per game. This feels like the same old Hurricanes just with some different names on the jerseys, doesn’t it?
26. Florida Panthers (4-6-1, LW: 25)
If the Panthers have to roll with James Reimer and Antti Niemi for a while between the pipes, they are going to be in pretty tough shape. They had better hope the thumb injury isn’t a serious one for Roberto Luongo, or they could fall back quickly in the Atlantic Division.
27. Montreal Canadiens (4-7-1, LW: 30)
The Habs have won a couple of games in a row, but Shea Weber is their leading scorer through the first month of the season. That is absolutely not the way that they’ve drawn it up on Claude Julien’s chalkboard.
28. New York Rangers (4-7-2, LW: 27)
The Rangers are a mess and the firing rumors are swirling around Alain Vigneault. It sure feels like a change is coming for the Blueshirts with King Henrik no longer good enough to carry them in their weaker moments.
29. Buffalo Sabres (3-7-2, LW: 28)
Something tells me we’re going to see more videos of Jack Eichel snapping sticks over his knee before it’s all said and done. The Sabres once again simply don’t look ready for prime time, and they’re in a division with some very strong teams in Tampa, Ottawa and Toronto among others.
30. Edmonton Oilers (3-6-1, LW: 29)
Only three Oilers (Connor McDavid, Patrick Maroon and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) have more than two goals on the season. It’s clear that Edmonton needs more from more players across the board, and they’re just not getting it right now in a disastrous follow-up to last season.
31. Arizona Coyotes (1-11-1, LW: 31)
The Coyotes finally have a win on the ledger and have Clayton Keller wowing people with his offensive skills. But they are far, far away from a winning product on the ice. The fact that Zac Rinaldo is even on their roster is proof positive of that.