NHL Power Rankings: Atlantic Division showing unexpected depth
Are the Sabres for real?
So far it’s been impressive the way they’ve been winning games and going neck and neck with the Bruins for the top of the Atlantic Division. Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner, Sam Reinhart and Victor Olofsson have given them depth in scoring, and Marcus Johansson has really added something as a free agent signing from Boston. That’s right, the Atlantic Division looks nothing like we thought it was going to prior to the start of the season.
Sure, the Bruins are there at the top and No. 1 in the power rankings this week as they should be. And the Sabres are right behind them at No. 3. But the other Atlantic power brokers, Toronto and Tampa, are down in the middle of the pack while working out some serious issues with their respective teams a month into the season.
There are also clear indicators that Florida and Montreal are better this season and will overtake the Maple Leafs or Lightning if either one of them really falters. It remains to be seen if it plays out this way all year, but the Sabres are definitely messing with the traditional power structure in the NHL’s top division.
Now on to the power rankings:
31. Ottawa Senators
(3-7-1, rank last week: 31)
Connor Brown is the leading scorer for the Senators, which is a pretty good indicator of the way things are going in Ottawa. It’s another lottery season for the Sens.
30. New Jersey Devils
(2-5-2, rank last week: 25)
The Devils have finally won a few games to call of the dogs a bit, but the specter of what they’re going to do with Taylor Hall hangs all over this hockey club right now.
29. Los Angeles Kings
(4-8-0, rank last week: 22)
Is it bad defense or is the .849 save percentage for Jonathan Quick just a sign that the Kings need much, much better goaltending? Maybe it’s a combination of both, but it’s definitely bad for LA.
28. Minnesota Wild
(4-8-0, rank last week: 28)
The Wild have played a ton of road games in the first month and are 1-7-0 away from their friendly home rink. That’s going to leave a mark.
27. Chicago Blackhawks
(3-6-2, rank last week: 24)
It looks like Robin Lehner is taking over the goaltending duties for the Blackhawks and that could be a very good thing for Chicago. The .936 save percentage is sterling.
26. San Jose Sharks
(4-8-1, rank last week: 26)
The Sharks look soft defensively and old and slow in places where they used to be explosive and deep on the attack. Maybe they can pull it together, but boy, do they have some bad contracts if they don’t.
25. Detroit Red Wings
(4-8-1, rank last week: 30)
The Red Wings are an Eastern Conference-worst minus-16 this season in goal differential and have two wins in their last 10 games. It could be another rough year in Hockeytown.
24. New York Rangers
(4-5-1, rank last week: 29)
The Rangers are averaging 3.5 goals per game, and will need to tighten up if they hope to really make a move this season. They certainly have some pieces in place to graduate from the rebuild if they do.
23. Dallas Stars
(5-8-1, rank last week: 25)
What in the world is going on with Jamie Benn? One goal and six points in 14 games is way off where he should be right about now. The Stars seem destined for a change of some kind.
22. Philadelphia Flyers
(5-5-1, rank last week: 23)
The Flyers are 1-4-1 on the road and are going to have to pick it up away from home with their young team if they want any hope of the playoffs this season.
21. Winnipeg Jets
(6-7-0, rank last week: 21)
The Jets are 23rd in offense and 22nd in defense this season. That’s not going to get you very far in the NHL. It looks like Winnipeg is stuck in neutral right now.
20. Columbus Blue Jackets
(5-4-2, rank last week: 19)
Pierre Luc-Dubois looks like he’s ready to shoulder more of the load offensively for the Blue Jackets, but they just don’t have enough to withstand what they lost from last season.
19. Tampa Bay Lightning
(5-4-2, rank last week: 24)
The Bolts have been really top heavy with the scoring this season, haven’t been locking down on defense and are middle of the pack in the NHL offensively. They’re just not playing up to their level right now. Simple as that.
18. Montreal Canadiens
(5-4-2, rank last week: 16)
The Habs are winning hockey games while Carey Price has been… well… average. That’s odd to see, but perhaps a good sign better things are to come.
17. Florida Panthers
(5-3-4, rank last week: 14)
The adjustment to Joel Quenneville’s system hasn’t been seamless, but the Panthers are in a decent spot in the toughest division in hockey. Not a bad place to be.
16. Calgary Flames
(6-6-2, rank last week: 17)
The Flames have lost two in a row and continue to struggle while sitting 25th in the NHL in offense. How is a team this talented not able to put the puck in the net?
15. St. Louis Blues
(6-3-3, rank last week: 15)
The Blues were grinding along even before they got the horrendous news about Vladimir Tarasenko. It’s starting to look like a repeat isn’t going to be in the cards for the reigning Cup champs.
14. Toronto Maple Leafs
(6-5-3, rank last week: 13)
The Leafs got some sage advice from Alex Ovechkin: Stop playing individuals and start playing like a team. We’ll see if they actually take those words to heart.
13. Vancouver Canucks
(7-3-1, rank last week: 9)
Who has the best goal differential in the Western Conference? That’s right — it’s the Vancouver Canucks, who are playing some solid defense this season to go along with their young star power.
12. Arizona Coyotes
(7-3-1, rank last week: 12)
The Coyotes are chugging along at a pretty good clip, but they’ve got just one goal in 11 games from Clayton Keller after showing him the money this offseason. That needs to change if they’re going to sustain this.
11. Anaheim Ducks
(8-6-0, rank last week: 11)
Six goals and nine points for Ryan Getzlaf to start this season as he appears to have found the fountain of hockey youth out in Anaheim. Perhaps the Ducks are going to be a surprise team this year?
10. Pittsburgh Penguins
(8-5-0, rank last week: 8)
Sidney Crosby has been in Hart Trophy overdrive (five goals and 17 points in 13 games) since the very start of the season with all of the injuries hitting the Penguins. Still great after all these years.
9. Vegas Golden Knights
(8-5-0, rank last week: 7)
Reilly Smith has as many goals as Mark Stone and the Golden Knights are winning hockey games with a deep, varied attack. They look like a handful in the Western Conference once again.
8. New York Islanders
(8-3-0, rank last week: 18)
The Isles have won seven games in a row and once again look like the hard-working, overachieving group that they were last season under Barry Trotz. Semyon Varlamov is definitely helping with their style of play.
7. Nashville Predators
(8-3-1, rank last week: 10)
The Predators have won four games in a row and two defenseman (Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi) are their top two leading scorers. And Josi is a lot richer these days.
6. Edmonton Oilers
(8-4-1, rank last week: 5)
The Oilers have lost a couple in a row and are 3-3-1 on the road. I’m not saying they are a flash in the pan, but I’m not exactly all in on the Oil as a playoff team quite yet either.
5. Carolina Hurricanes
(8-3-1, rank last week: 6)
The Hurricanes went through a little trick-or-treat skit for Tuesday night’s Storm Surge after another win on home ice. Cute to see the jerks are still proudly doing their jerk thing.
4. Colorado Avalanche
(8-2-1, rank last week: 2)
It looks like the Avs have successfully built some depth behind that top line of theirs and it’s reflected in the way they’ve started this season. Cale Makar is off to a very good start.
3. Buffalo Sabres
(9-2-2, rank last week: 1)
Great start for the Sabres, but the question now is whether they can sustain it with the goaltending tandem of Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark. So far, so good for Buff.
2. Washington Capitals
(9-2-3, rank last week: 3)
When exactly did Alex Ovechkin become Hockey Buddha willing and able to bestow wisdom on teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs? Oh yeah, after he finally won a Cup. That’s how it works.