NHL Power Rankings: Streaking Sabres on the Come Up
Image Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Hope you had a happy turkey day because here come this week’s NHL Power Rankings. After two weeks, the top two teams are unchanged, but a nine-game win streak has propelled a fifth Atlantic Division team into the top 13. Meanwhile, the Canucks have regressed to being the classic Canucks, biting and all, and the defending champs are making their move while their archrival flounders behind them in the steel city. Here we go with this week’s rankings.
1. Nashville Predators (17-6-1) Previous Rank: 1
Nashville remains on top for now, but the gap has definitely shortened. The Predators are still tied for the most points in the league though so they will stay for now. Nashville has been hit hard by injuries as PK Subban, Viktor Arvidsson and Kyle Turris have all landed on injured reserve. Pekka Rinne has picked up since returning from injury, and Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg continue to be a lethal one-two punch. Nashville picked up a big win against our No. 2 team yesterday and officially established themselves as the class of the NHL.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning (17-6-1) Previous Rank: 2
Tampa Bay is No. 2, and why not? This team leads the best division in the NHL, and if it wasn’t for a 3-2 loss to the Predators, they would probably have the No. 1 spot. This team is lethal all throughout the lineup, with nine players with over 10 points, and an astounding 63 points from Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point, who rank fifth and sixth in the NHL respectively. The Bolts won’t have a chance to tighten their hold on the Atlantic until next month when they play the Leafs and the Bruins once each, but for now, they are barely holding off Toronto and our No. 3 team.
3. Buffalo Sabres (16-6-2) Previous Rank: 12
Who saw this coming? After years of disguised tanking, maybe all the Sabres were missing was Rasmus Dahlin. Of course, that and Jeff Skinner. Skinner is on an unreal pace right now, scoring 17 goals in his last 17 games. That isn’t the only thing pacing this Buffalo team that has won nine straight. Jack Eichel has 23 assists, and Dahlin already has 13 points in his rookie campaign. Will Buffalo fall off? Or is this the year they make their long-awaited playoff push?
4. Toronto Maple Leafs (17-8-0) Previous Rank: 5
Right behind two Atlantic teams…surprise! Another one. The Leafs are coming off a big win over the Bruins in Air Canada Centre Monday night, and finally won a game where they scored two or fewer goals. Auston Matthews is still shelved, but the offense is picking up the slack. The real situation to monitor is William Nylander. Nylander has been holding out since the start of the season, and with teams unwilling to meet Toronto’s steep demands, if the Leafs lessen their price they might be able to upgrade what is a truly putrid defense corps.
5. Minnesota Wild (14-7-2) Previous Rank: 3
The Wild have slowly been chugging along, still behind Nashville in the Central. Zach Parise is continuing his resurgence, with 10 goals and 20 points on the year. Minnesota is coming off a win against the Jets, with big games against the Blue Jackets, Flames and Maple Leafs ahead. This stretch, with Arizona and Vancouver sprinkled in, will prove to the rest of the league if the Wild are for real this year.
6. Washington Capitals (14-7-3) Previous Rank: 23
Even I can’t believe I put the Capitals so low on the previous rankings. However, they were second to last in the Metro and didn’t look energized. They responded by going 7-1 in their last eight, and now sit atop their division. No Evgeny Kuznetsov? No TJ Oshie? No problem for the team down in D.C., who have leaned on their stars this year to carry them while those two are hurt. Alex Ovechkin, John Carlson, and Nikolas Backstrom are all having monster seasons, and Tom Wilson and Jakub Vrana are having solid starts as well.
7. Boston Bruins (13-7-4) Previous Rank: 4
Speaking of injuries, where to start with the Bruins? Their best defenseman in Zdeno Chara is out for a month, and their blueliners continue to get hit hard as they are missing four of their top six defensemen. Their best forward and one of the premier centers in Patrice Bergeron is down for who knows how long. Not many other teams would be able to recover from that, but the Bruins keep on chugging. They are going to lose some games, as is to be expected, but as long as they hover around the edges of contention, this team could be scary with the returns of Chara, Bergeron, and Charlie McAvoy.
8. Colorado Avalanche (13-6-4) Previous Rank: 16
The Avalanche find themselves in third in the Central, and boasting the top line in hockey—something isn’t adding up. They are facing okay competition, but seem to be winning all the games they should and losing the games against teams like the aforementioned Capitals and Predators. The Avalanche will need to lean on the three-headed monster of Gabe Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen if they expect to get back into contention.
9. Calgary Flames (14-9-1) Previous Rank: 7
The Flames are the team no one talks about, probably because they are in Calgary. A notorious playoff choker, there isn’t really a star-studded lineup compared to some of the others around the NHL. Sure they have Mark Giordano and Johnny Gaudreau, but how far will that get them? A bright spot for the Flames? Goaltender David Rittich is on fire—pun intended. Rittich is 8-2-0 with a 2.04 GAA, and the Flames should ride the hot hand over the veteran Mike Smith for now.
10. San Jose Sharks (12-8-4) Previous Rank: 8
This is not a drill, I repeat, this is not a drill. Erik Karlsson scored his first goal as a Shark. It is time to party in San Jose…until they look up and still see Calgary ahead of them in the standings. The reason? Martin Jones has looked far from stellar so far this season. Jones is giving up an average of more than three goals a game which puts tremendous pressure on his offense to match goals during most of his games. This Sharks team is hard to figure out. San Jose beat Nashville in a 5-4 affair, but also got shut out 6-0 to the Knights and lost 4-3 to the Oilers. The Sharks seem like a home run hitting team—they either shut out opponents or give up four or more, and that will need to change if they want to hoist the Cup as I fully expect them to come June.
Here are the rest of the rankings:
11. Columbus Blue Jackets (14-8-2) Previous Rank: 10
12. Winnipeg Jets (13-7-2) Previous Rank: 11
13. Montreal Canadiens (11-8-5) Previous Rank: 9
14. New York Rangers (13-10-2) Previous Rank: 14
15. New York Islanders (12-9-2) Previous Rank: 19
16. Dallas Stars (12-10-2) Previous Rank: 13
17. Carolina Hurricanes (11-9-3) Previous Rank: 17
18. Anaheim Ducks (10-10-5) Previous Rank: 18
19. Vegas Golden Knights (12-12-1) Previous Rank: 26
20. Vancouver Canucks (11-13-2) Previous Rank: 6
21. Pittsburgh Penguins (9-8-5) Previous Rank: 21
22. Chicago Blackhawks (9-10-5) Previous Rank: 25
23. Detroit Red Wings (10-11-3) Previous Rank: 27
24. Edmonton Oilers (10-11-2) Previous Rank: 22
25. New Jersey Devils (9-10-4) Previous Rank: 30
26. Ottawa Senators (9-12-3) Previous Rank: 24
27. Philadelphia Flyers (10-11-2) Previous Rank: 15
28. Florida Panthers (9-9-4) Previous Rank: 29
29. Arizona Coyotes (9-11-2) Previous Rank: 20
30. St Louis Blues (8-11-3) Previous Rank: 28
31. Los Angeles Kings (8-14-1) Previous Rank: 31