NHL Power Rankings headed into the all-important U.S. Thanksgiving
As always, it’s about U.S. Thanksgiving as a mile marker for the NHL regular season. In the past couple of decades, teams in a playoff spot by the end-of-November Turkey Day holiday have roughly a 78 percent chance of making the playoffs that season. There are surprises every year and the odds vary much more wildly for teams right around the bubble of the eighth spot, but the numbers bear that out just about every season. It will be interesting to see that calculus put to the test this season with both the Maple Leafs and Lightning out of the playoffs if the season ended today.
Coaching changes can radically change the trajectory of NHL teams and fly in the face of the “U.S. Thanksgiving theory”, so things may look much brighter for the Maple Leafs if they can string together some winning streaks under their new coach. And the Lightning are actually in a decent spot, having games in hand on just about everybody else in the league while sitting a point away from a playoff spot.
Does anybody believe that the Canadiens and Panthers are going to hold on to playoff spots over the Maple Leafs and Lightning when it’s all said and done? This could be one of those years where the Thanksgiving picture for the Atlantic Division doesn’t really look all that much like it will at the end of the regular season when it really matters.
Now on to the power rankings:
31. Detroit Red Wings
(7-16-3, rank last week: 31)
The Red Wings tried to stave off the slide into the NHL basement, but they have now lost six games in a row and continue to sink into No. 1 overall pick territory for the NHL draft. Maybe that kind of thing could turn things around for the franchise?
30. Los Angeles Kings
(9-13-2, rank last week: 29)
Anze Kopitar’s shoulders must be getting tired from carrying the rest of the Kings team on his back. L.A. has a talent problem and that’s reflective of their won-loss record these days.
29. New Jersey Devils
(8-11-4, rank last week: 28)
What has happened to P.K. Subban? Two goals and five points along with a minus-6 in 23 games? He’s not that old in terms of hockey players, but it seems like his game has really gone downhill in the last few seasons.
28. Minnesota Wild
(10-11-4, rank last week: 31)
The Wild have put an unlikely stop on their struggles with a 5-2-3 record in their last 10 games, and they have done it without the services of the injured Devan Dubnyk. That’s surprising.
27. Ottawa Senators
(11-12-1, rank last week: 26)
It’s good to see a talented player in Anthony Duclair find a landing spot in Ottawa where he’s got 10 goals already for the Senators, and is on pace for his best NHL season.
26. Columbus Blue Jackets
(10-9-4, rank last week: 25)
The Blue Jackets have won three out of four games and Oliver Bjorkstrand has picked up the offensive pace for Columbus as well. The Jackets don’t look like a playoff team, but they are hanging in there.
25. Anaheim Ducks
(11-11-3, rank last week: 23)
The Ducks have lost eight of their last 10 games and are beginning to really scrape for offense. Anaheim got off to a good start this season, but the margin of error is too slim for a team without enough offensive weapons.
24. New York Rangers
(11-9-2, rank last week: 27)
A couple of wins in a row including a comeback from four goals down against the Montreal Canadiens have the Blueshirts pointed to a good place. It looks like some of their young guys are finally getting it.
23. Calgary Flames
(11-12-4, rank last week: 22)
The Bill Peters issue is the kind of thing that could linger like a storm cloud over this team unless the Flames make the right decision. If all of the allegations are true, there is no place in the NHL for a coach like that.
22. Buffalo Sabres
(11-10-3, rank last week: 15)
Two wins in their last 10 games for the Sabres, who look like they are in the same freefall again this season after a pretty good start to the year. The concussion injury for Rasmus Dahlin could be a tough one.
21. Vegas Golden Knights
(11-11-4, rank last week: 17)
The Golden Knights have lost three games in a row and are currently outside the playoff picture in the Western Conference. This is surely not how they had drawn it up in the summertime.
20. Chicago Blackhawks
(10-9-5, rank last week: 21)
The Blackhawks are in a pretty good spot, but they have just one player (Patrick Kane) in double-digit goals and with more than 20 points on the season. That is a pretty one-dimensional offense reliant on one player. Jonathan Toews has fallen off the map offensively this year.
19. Toronto Maple Leafs
(11-10-4, rank last week: 19)
The Maple Leafs fire Mike Babcock and they rip off a couple of wins in a row with a group of skill players talking about the newfound freedom they have to play the game. Guess it was time with Babs, eh?
18. Montreal Canadiens
(11-8-5, rank last week: 11)
The Habs have lost five games in a row and look completely lost without Jonathan Drouin in the lineup. It doesn’t help that Carey Price looked completely ineffective in an 8-1 blowout loss to the Bruins where he was pulled after allowing five goals on 11 shots. Yikes.
17. Nashville Predators
(11-9-3, last week: 20)
The Predators have righted the ship and won a couple games in a row by sweeping a home-and-home against the reigning Cup champion Blues. That’s certainly worth moving up a couple spots in the standings.
16. San Jose Sharks
(13-11-1, rank last week: 24)
The Sharks looked like they were toast after their long road swing East in the first month of the season, but it’s not wise to ever count out a roster so talented. The Sharks are 9-1-0 in their last 10 games and rocketing up the Pacific Division standings.
15. Vancouver Canucks
(12-9-4, rank last week: 14)
The Canucks are still among the top-3 teams in the Pacific Division, but the 3-6-1 slide in the last 10 games has them trending in the wrong direction. It’s time to bust out of the slump.
14. Tampa Bay Lightning
(12-7-2, rank last week: 18)
The Lightning have won three games in a row and look like they are beginning to put things together. The slow, deliberate start isn’t surprising and may be a team that’s pacing themselves.
13. Florida Panthers
(12-7-5, rank last week: 9)
The Panthers are in a playoff position right now and Sergei Bobrovsky has an .888 save percentage. That bodes well for their chances to stick around in the postseason provided that Bob can get his stuff together, and that the Panthers can begin to play a shred of defense.
12. Philadelphia Flyers
(12-7-5, rank last week: 16)
Just one regulation loss at home this season for the Flyers, who are bouncing up and down the rankings week-to-week, as you might expect from a team full of young players.
11. Winnipeg Jets
(14-9-1, rank last week: 10)
Amidst some of the underperformance with the Jets this season, Connor Hellebuyck is enjoying one heck of a season between the pipes for the Jets. He’s tied with guys like Braden Holtby and Marc-Andre Fleury for the NHL lead with 11 wins on the season.
9. Pittsburgh Penguins
(13-7-4, rank last week: 13)
Sidney Crosby hasn’t played in a couple of weeks and he’s still second on the team in points. That’s a testament to Sid the Kid, but it also paints a picture of a team that needs other players to step up into the void.
8. Arizona Coyotes
(14-8-3, rank last week: 7)
The Coyotes have some interesting pieces and they are in a pretty good place playoffs-wise, but it looks like they will only go as far as Darcy Kuemper is going to take them. Phil Kessel with the minus-10 and just four goals looks just about right in the desert. ]
7. Dallas Stars
(15-9-2, rank last week: 12)
The big mover of the week is the Stars moving into the top-10 after going 8-1-1 in their last 10 games and finally living up to the potential that’s been there all season. It looks like Jamie Benn has finally woken up.
6. Carolina Hurricanes
(15-8-1, rank last week: 8)
It now makes much more sense why the Hurricanes are enjoying all of this newfound success after jettisoning Bill Peters as their head coach. They must have felt like they were let out of jail last season under Rod Brind’Amour.
5. St. Louis Blues
(14-5-6, rank last week: 4)
Guys like David Perron, Brayden Schenn and Ryan O’Reilly have done a good job keeping the Blues at the top of the Central Division, but the wonder is how long they can do this for without Vladimir Tarasenko as a game-breaker.
4. Edmonton Oilers
(16-7-3, rank last week: 5)
For all of the deserved talk about David Pastrnak lighting up the NHL with his 23 goals scored, the Oilers have the NHL’s two leading point guys with Leon Draisaitl (48) and Connor McDavid (47) just playing a killer two-man game right now.
3. New York Islanders
(16-4-2, rank last week: 3)
The Isles are no longer on an epic winning streak, but the 10-2-1 record on home ice this season is pretty impressive. They also hold games in hand against just about everybody in the league, so that makes their standing near the top even more impressive.
2. Washington Capitals
(16-4-5, rank last week: 1)
The Capitals have scored a grand total of two goals in back-to-back losses to the Canucks and the Rangers, so it looks like the offense is taking a little siesta before having their Thanksgiving turkey.
1. Boston Bruins
(16-3-5, rank last week: 2)
The Bruins are back in the high life again while riding a four-game winning streak and are doing it with a banged up Patrice Bergeron in and out of the lineup. That’s pretty impressive.