Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: Hope is served
Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: At Thanksgiving, hope is served
Hope comes along with Thanksgiving this week. Teams in the top eight in either conference have a 75 percent chance of making the playoffs and that could mean good news for the Bruins, New Jersey Devils and Vancouver Canucks hanging on at the end of the playoff cut. But one thing to remember: the Bruins were in the top eight around Thanksgiving last season as well and ended up falling short in the last days of the regular season.
The same thing happened to the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Los Angeles Kings as well, and the New York Rangers, Washington Capitals and Minnesota Wild were able to be part of that 25 percent that pushes their way into the postseason. But the teams sitting more than five points out of a playoff spot this week, like the Blue Jackets and Edmonton Oilers, might have to start having some very real conversations about their roster.
The same goes for teams on the cusp like Carolina, Calgary and Colorado that are flirting on the brink of disaster after their horrendous starts to the season. With that happy thought, I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving to anybody and everybody whether you observe the U.S. or Canadian version of Turkey Day. It’s the best holiday of the year with no gifts, and all the turkey, beer and football that you can possible consume in a 24-hour period.
Without further ado, here are this week’s power rankings:
1. New York Rangers (16-3-2, rank last week: 1) - Nine wins in their last 10 games, and a more “relaxed” Henrik Lundqvist this season means some very real problems for the rest of the NHL.
2. Dallas Stars (17-5-0, rank last week: 2) – It’s about defense and goaltending making the difference for Dallas as the 2.38 goals against average is far better than last year’s talented club that ranked near the bottom of the league. Also, three of the top five scorers in the league are Stars players. That’s pretty good.
3. Montreal Canadiens (16-4-2, rank last week: 3) – The Habs get back Carey Price, but now lose Brendan Gallagher to a Johnny Boychuk rocket off his hand. Man, did that look like it hurt.
4. Washington Capitals (14-5-1, rank last week: 4) – The breakout party of a season continues for Evgeny Kuznetsov, who has 21 points in 20 games while cementing himself as a franchise-type center for the Caps.
5. St. Louis Blues (14-6-2, rank last week: 7) – If your last name ends with an “o” the chances are you’re having a pretty good season for the Blues. Right Vladimir Tarasenko and Colton Parayko?
6. San Jose Sharks (13-8-0, rank last week: 14) – The Sharks were treading water, but turned into a house of fire with a six game winning streak on their road trip through the Eastern Conference. It’s the first time they’ve ever gone a perfect 6-0-0 on a roadie like that.
7. Ottawa Senators (11-5-5, rank last week: 12) – Back-to-back shutouts for Craig Anderson as the Senators are starting to find the range defensively, and the wins are coming along with it.
8. Minnesota Wild (11-5-3, rank last week: 8) – A good win over the Predators last weekend was a nice statement for a Wild team that 100 percent looks for real this season.
9. Los Angeles Kings (13-8-0, rank last week: 6) – The Kings are allowing 2.2 goals per game, and that’s only good for second in the NHL. That is some impressive defense and goaltending from a group that looks like they’ve got their hunger back.
10. Nashville Predators (11-6-3, rank last week: 5) – Three losses in a row – including defeats to Minnesota and the New York Rangers – show that the Predators might need a little bit more this season.
11. Pittsburgh Penguins (12-8-0, rank last week: 11) – The Penguins have been far from impressive, but they’re still standing, better than they ever did. They’re looking like true survivors, and feeling like little kids. That 1980’s flashback brought to you by Elton John.
12. Detroit Red Wings (11-8-2, rank last week: 15) – Pavel Datsyuk finally got his first goal of the season last weekend in his sixth game back from injury, and the Red Wings look like they’re starting to roll.
13. Chicago Blackhawks (11-8-2, rank last week: 9) – The circus is in Chicago, and that means the Blackhawks are treading water on an extended road trip right now.
14. Boston Bruins (11-8-1, rank last week: 21) – Three wins in a row that the Bruins badly needed, and it looks like they’ll be in a playoff spot at Thanksgiving. Now they just have to stay there the way they couldn’t last season.
15. New Jersey Devils (11-8-1, rank last week: 13) – The Devils go down a few notches in the rankings, but even being this high at all is a surprise this season. New Jersey is in the mix, and that’s a victory in and of itself.
16. New York Islanders (10-8-3, rank last week: 10) – It will be interesting to see if the Travis Hamonic situation takes a toll on this team, but the issue seems to be some of the other players needing to step it up this year.
17. Tampa Bay Lightning (10-9-3, rank last week: 20) – Big wins over the Rangers and the Ducks have the Lightning feeling positive for the first time in what’s been an underwhelming start to the season.
18. Winnipeg Jets (10-10-2, rank last week: 17) – The Jets got a win they needed over the Coyotes, and Blake Wheeler is a top-10 scorer with 22 points in 22 games. It’s really impressive to see what he’s turned into in Winnipeg: a big, strong leader that can skate and shoot, and has turned into a leader of the Jets.
19. Arizona Coyotes (10-9-1, rank last week: 18) – A fun team to watch with Martin Hanzal, Anthony Duclair and Max Domi, and they’re hanging around the playoff conversation in the West.
20. Vancouver Canucks (8-8-6, rank last week: 19) – Two wins in their last 10 games, and three wins during the entire month of Vancouver. It looks like the Canucks are slowly sinking in the West.
21. Anaheim Ducks (8-10-4, rank last week: 24) – The Ducks are slowly crawling up the rankings, but can’t endure too many more losses like the 5-0 spanking they got from the Tampa Bay Lightning last week.
22. Philadelphia Flyers (7-9-5, rank last week: 23) – Philly suddenly seems like a bad fit for guys like Jakub Voracek (one goal in 21 games), and it will be interesting to see how long the Flyers ride it out with those players under Dave Hakstol.
23. Florida Panthers (8-9-4, rank last week: 16) – The Panthers haven’t really distinguished themselves this season when a little improvement could have really pushed them into the playoff picture. Instead they’re treading water at .500.
24. Carolina Hurricanes (7-10-4, rank last week: 29) – Three out of four points in their last two games vs. the Kings and Flyers may be a sign the Canes are starting to come together a little bit.
25. Toronto Maple Leafs (7-10-5, rank last week: 27) – The Maple Leafs were getting some great results until they ran into a desperate Bruins team acting as the buzzsaw in a home-and-home sweep. James Reimer is playing at a very high level right now.
26. Buffalo Sabres (8-11-2, rank last week: 22) – The Sabres have lost five games in a row, and are having their first real crisis of the new season.
27. Colorado Avalanche (8-12-1, rank last week: 25) – The Avs wrapped up their seven game road trip with a win over the Winnipeg Jets, so they’ve got that going for them...which is nice.
28. Calgary Flames (8-13-1, rank last week: 26) – People were ordaining the Flames as the best defensemen crew in the NHL before the season began. They are dead last in goals against average and penalty kill percentage. So much for preseason hype.
29. Edmonton Oilers (7-13-1, rank last week: 30) – Taylor Hall leads the Oilers in goals, points and plus/minus while leading the way until Connor McDavid heals up enough for a triumphant return.
30. Columbus Blue Jackets (8-14-0, rank last week: 28) – Interesting that the Ryan Johansen rumors are kicking up in Columbus. That’s something they could get quite a bit for on the trade market.