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NHL Power Rankings: Vanecek helps drive Capitals’ impressive start

Liam McHugh, Keith Jones and Anson Carter take a look at the NHL power rankings to start 2020-21, where the red-hot Canadiens and Capitals lead the way with the Golden Knights and Stars on the rise.

In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we look at the the Canadiens holding their spot at the top, the Capitals putting together an impressive week, and whether or not we should buy the Panthers’ fast start.

The big story this week is the Capitals, who despite playing various games without Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Ilya Samsonov, Dmitry Orlov, Lars Eller, and Tom Wilson (23 man games lost between that group) have still managed to record at least a single point in each of their first nine games.

The two most impressive developments are the fact that the power play has not really missed a beat without Ovechkin, and the fact that Vitek Vanecek has been sensational in net. Henrik Lundqvist not being able to play this season created a massive question mark in goal, but Vanececk has has been more than capable of being the solution so far. Despite having zero NHL experience when the season began, he has been put into a starting role and put together a 5-0-2 record with a .918 save percentage.

We take a look at all of that and more in this week’s Power Rankings.

Where does your team rank?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Montreal Canadiens. They finally lost a game in regulation, and even then they looked impressive. Just ran into a hot goalie that night.

2. Washington Capitals. A wildly impressive start considering how many top players they were missing for an extended period of time.

3. Colorado Avalanche. Injuries are mounting and their depth will be tested in the short term, but this is still one of the best teams in the league.

4. Boston Bruins. They were already looking great this season and now they have David Pastrnak back in the lineup.

5. Tampa Bay Lightning. Solid even if unspectacular start, and with their next five games against Nashville and Detroit a chance to really stack up some W’s.

6. Toronto Maple Leafs. They are winning a lot of one-goal games while their big-four carry the offense. The question is what happens when those four stars at the top hit a slump?

7. Carolina Hurricanes. They are 5-1 and closed out the week by winning three consecutive games against the two teams that were in the Stanley Cup Final.

8. Vegas Golden Knights. We will go a while without seeing them due to schedule changes, but when we do the goalie situation is going to be the story. Marc-Andre Fleury has had the better of the play this season.

[Related: Your 2020-21 NHL On NBC TV Schedule]

9. Dallas Stars. Denis Gurianov getting real ice-time this season is going to be fun to watch. All the guy does is score goals when they put him out there.

10. St. Louis Blues. Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas are going to give them some exciting young talent at the top of an already good lineup.

11. Florida Panthers. They are doing what they are supposed to do and beating the teams they should beat. They are 5-0-1, but their only six games have come against Chicago, Columbus, and Detroit. Not exactly an NHL murderer’s row here. And of those five wins three of them are in overtime or shootout. Their next four are against Nashville and Detroit, so there is a chance to bank even more points here. But let’s see what happens when the competition gets tougher.

12. Philadelphia Flyers. They don’t usually look good, but they keep winning. Results over process right now. James van Riemsdyk is off to a great start.

13. Winnipeg Jets. Nikolaj Ehlers is one of the most overlooked players in the league.

14. Pittsburgh Penguins. Defense injuries are mounting and they have barely held a lead all season, but the points keep coming. It is working for now, but the process has to get better.

15. Vancouver Canucks. They needed to take advantage of those three games against Ottawa, and wow did they ever do that. Brock Boeser is unstoppable right now.

16. Columbus Blue Jackets. No matter what chaos seems to be unfolding around them they always manage to stay in the hunt and be competitive.

17. Minnesota Wild. Players like Jordan Greenway and Joel Eriksson Ek having breakout years would be a significant development for the short-term and long-term outlook of this team.

18. Edmonton Oilers. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are on pace for over 100 points in a 56-game season, and the team still has a losing record and a negative goal differential. Ladies and gentlemen, the Edmonton Oilers.

[NHL On NBCSN: Pierre-Olivier Joseph shining for Penguins]

19. New Jersey Devils. Jack Hughes, Ty Smith, and Michael McLeod all making impacts. Great sign for the future.

20. Los Angeles Kings. They have been surprisingly competitive this season. Not sure it is enough to make the playoffs, but they are not a cakewalk right now.

21. Buffalo Sabres. They are only 2-4-1 in games not decided by a shootout, and the schedule is going to get really tough here over the next couple of weeks.

22. Nashville Predators. I don’t think they are playing horribly, but the results are just not there right now and the offense has been a struggle.

23. Calgary Flames. The best sign for them so far this season is that Jacob Markstrom has been exactly what they wanted.

24. New York Islanders. Things have unraveled a bit here over the past week with an 0-3-2 skid that resembles the way they finished the 2019-20 regular season (before getting white hot in the bubble).

25. San Jose Sharks. It is starting to look like the 2019-20 season was not a fluke, and simply a sign of where this team is headed.

26. Chicago Blackhawks. Kevin Lankinen has been a very pleasant surprise so far this season in goal.

27. Arizona Coyotes. They have allowed only six goals in their past four games. They have won only two of those games. This was always going to be the concern here. They can keep the puck out of their own net. But there is not enough offense.

28. Anaheim Ducks. John Gibson can only do so much on his own.

29. New York Rangers. They can not hold leads, they can not defend, and they have a Tony DeAngelo problem.

30. Detroit Red Wings. The best hope here is still young players developing and veterans playing well enough to be traded.

31. Ottawa Senators. The defensive play and goaltending on this team is barely NHL caliber right now. They have a sub-.850 save percentage through nine games. Terrible.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.