NHL Power Rankings: Consistency at the Top
Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images
There is finally a new team at the top of this week’s NHL Power Rankings. The Lightning tightened their hold on the top, while the rest of the standings are finally starting to settle down after a tumultuous first month plus. The Atlantic continues to be the deepest division in hockey, but the biggest letdowns this year definitely have to be in the Pacific in the Sharks, Kings and Golden Knights. With that being said, there is plenty of time to turn things around for those teams, but too late to be slotted higher in this week’s ranks.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning (24-7-1) Previous Rank: 2
Tampa Bay finally wrested control of the top spot after multiple weeks of trailing Nashville. A league-best 9-1-0 in their last ten, Steven Stamkos achieved a personal milestone last night when he scored his 700th point against the Rangers. The Lightning boast the deepest roster in the NHL and have beaten the likes of the Bruins, Sabres, and Avalanche in their last six. Nikita Kucherov is doing Nikita Kucherov things, and if fans thought there was no excuse for last year’s Lightning team not to win the Cup, then the expectations must be even loftier this year. The Bolts made four of the last seven Conference Finals, but have one Final appearance to show for it. It’s Cup or bust down in the Sunshine State.
2. Toronto Maple Leafs (20-9-1) Previous Rank: 4
Toronto finally has their third star back in William Nylander as the pair finally agreed to a mega-extension before the deadline, and now Toronto is back at relatively full strength. Auston Matthews will still miss games, which makes the addition of Nylander that much more important. Toronto will also miss Zach Hyman for two games because of suspension for his questionable hit on Charlie McAvoy in the Leafs’ 6-3 loss in Boston Saturday night. Toronto is the best five on five team in hockey, and expect that to continue as the new year rolls around.
3. Nashville Predators (19-10-1) Previous Rank: 1
Injuries have finally taken their toll on the Predators. Turns out losing your No. 1 defenseman in PK Subban, one of your top wingers Viktor Arvidsson and third line center Kyle Turris can hurt you—go figure. The Predators have really felt the loss of those players on the road. After winning their first eight road games, they are a miserable 0-5-1 since. Add to that the problem that goaltender Juuse Saros can’t stop a nosebleed right now, and you find yourself with a Predators team that is sorely needing to right the ship.
4. Washington Capitals (17-9-3) Previous Rank: 6
Don’t look now, but here come the defending champs. Washington’s wagon has kept rolling after an early season slide and has catapulted the Capitals to the top of the Metro. No surprise, but Alex Ovechkin is already at 20 goals. The Capitals will go as far as their stars can take them, and TJ Oshie is expected to make his return from a concussion soon to bolster an already blistering offense. Most importantly, Washington solidified their hold on the Metro with a 4-0 shutout of the Blue Jackets Saturday who sit second in the division.
5. Colorado Avalanche (17-8-5) Previous Rank: 8
Don’t look now, but here come the Avalanche. Colorado is starting to remind me a lot of last year’s Bruins—an incredible top line, little to no depth scoring and decent goaltending. Semyon Varlamov is holding down his end of the bargain, and Colorado owns the best line in hockey. Rantanen is leading the NHL in points, and McKinnon and Landeskog also rank in the top 20. This team will go as far as the top line can take them, and in a Central Division that has seen the Jets regress might be primed for a top two seed.
6. Calgary Flames (19-10-2) Previous Rank: 9
Calgary has quietly assumed the top seed in the Western Conference, but it is just so hard for me to take them seriously. Sure they beat the Predators, but does that mean a lot with Nashville so shorthanded? Like Colorado, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Elias Lindholm rank in the top 20 in points, but again I don’t buy it. Calgary is the 11th youngest team in the NHL, and I still think they are a year away. In their next seven, they face the Wild, Lightning, and Jets so it will be interesting to see if Calgary is extinguished like usual.
7. Buffalo Sabres (17-9-4) Previous Rank: 3
The Sabres won a million in a row… and then proceeded to lose five straight. Now, those losses include defeats against the Lightning, Leafs, and Preds, so that number might be a little misleading. However, I think it is pretty safe to say the Sabres don’t measure up to quality competition for the most part. Jeff Skinner has enjoyed a career resurgence in Buffalo, but for now, the rest of the team is just pretenders or too young to make significant noise.
8. Boston Bruins (16-10-4) Previous Rank: 7
If Bruins fans thought last year was bad in terms of injuries, this year would make last year pale in comparison. Patrice Bergeron might be done for the year already, and Zdeno Chara is out at least another month. The Bruins defensive corps was largely made up of their AHL affiliate until recently when Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy returned. Throughout it all, David Pastrnak has kept producing and made plays all over the ice and hopefully combined with suddenly scorching David Krejci the Bruins can begin to make up points on the Sabres, Leafs, and Bolts.
9. Winnipeg Jets (18-9-2) Previous Rank: 12
The Jets are starting to get hot like the Avalanche, but I think they are still due for an overall regression. No one really jumps out aside from Mark Scheifele in terms of points, and Connor Hellebuyck has struggled to regain his Vezina form. The Jets sit just one point behind the Avalanche and Predators, but I think the loss of Paul Stastny will rear its head before the regular season is out and again in the playoffs. Stastny put Winnipeg over the top last year, and his loss will be this year’s downfall.
10. Anaheim Ducks (16-11-5) Previous Rank: 18
Everyone including myself wrote off the Ducks after the start of the year. The Bruins of the Western Conference, the Ducks already had Corey Perry shelved, but then suffered more including most notably top defenseman Cam Fowler. Somehow, the Ducks suddenly find themselves in the thick of the middling Pacific, second only to the Flames. The signature win for Anaheim? A 6-5 comeback win against the Capitals in a game in which they were originally down 5-1. Fowler is out indefinitely after suffering a facial fracture, but if the Ducks keep on coming they will fulfill my preseason prediction of them being one of the Pacific playoff teams come year’s end.
Here are the rest of the rankings:
11. Columbus Blue Jackets (16-11-2) Previous Rank: 11
12. San Jose Sharks (16-11-5) Previous Rank: 10
13. Montreal Canadiens (15-10-5) Previous Rank: 13
14. Dallas Stars (16-11-3) Previous Rank: 16
15. Vegas Golden Knights (17-4-1) Previous Rank: 19
16. Minnesota Wild (15-12-2) Previous Rank: 5
17. New York Islanders (14-11-4) Previous Rank: 15
18. Edmonton Oilers (16-12-2) Previous Rank: 24
19. New York Rangers (14-13-3) Previous Rank: 14
20. Pittsburgh Penguins (13-10-6) Previous Rank: 21
21. Carolina Hurricanes (13-11-4) Previous Rank: 17
22. Detroit Red Wings (14-13-4) Previous Rank: 23
23. Vancouver Canucks (13-16-3) Previous Rank: 20
24. Ottawa Senators (13-4-4) Previous Rank: 26
25. Arizona Coyotes (13-13-2) Previous Rank: 29
26. Philadelphia Flyers (12-13-3) Previous Rank: 27
27. Florida Panthers (11-11-6) Previous Rank: 28
28. New Jersey Devils (10-13-6) Previous Rank: 25
29. St Louis Blues (10-14-4) Previous Rank: 29
30. Chicago Blackhawks (9-17-5) Previous Rank: 22
31. Los Angeles Kings (11-19-1) Previous Rank: 31