2013-14 NHL Power Rankings: Week 4

Jonathan Willis@jonathanwillisNHL National ColumnistOctober 21, 2013

2013-14 NHL Power Rankings: Week 4

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    This week's edition of the power rankings sees a new team rise to the top position.

    Unfortunately, at the other end of the scale, there has been very little change, as teams that struggled early keep digging themselves deeper holes.

    Still, there are some definite surprises, including a dominant Western Conference that contributes seven of the top-10 teams and has had really strong performances from a couple of teams that were not expected to be nearly this good this early on.

    Read on to see where everyone ranks four weeks through the season.   

    All stats courtesy of ExtraSkater.com unless otherwise noted.

30. Buffalo Sabres

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    Last Week: 30

    Why They're Here: For the third consecutive week, the Buffalo Sabres find themselves at the bottom of these rankings.

    They have one win in 10 games, despite getting exceptional goaltending from Ryan Miller (1-6-0 record, despite a gaudy 0.926 save percentage) and pretty decent work from backup Jhonas Enroth (0-2-1 record, 0.909 SV%). Only two players on the team have more than three points, however.

    By The Numbers: At the bottom of the roster, seven forwards have combined for 43 games played, zero points and a minus-17 rating. 

29. Philadelphia Flyers

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    Last Week: 29

    Why They're Here: The only team in the league currently sitting below the Sabres in the actual standings, Philadelphia has lost four consecutive games after picking up its only win in eight contests this season.

    As with the Sabres, the Flyers have received pretty decent goaltending from their starter, Steve Mason (1-5-0 record, 0.923 SV%), but almost no offensive production. Brayden Schenn has five points in eight games, but he is the only player on the roster with more than three.   

    By The Numbers: One of the few bright spots is the early play of 2010 fourth-round pick Tye McGinn. McGinn has seven shots and three goals in three games with Philadelphia.

28. Florida Panthers

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    Last Week: 28

    Why They're Here: Obviously, Florida is not off to the start it wanted. And after a rough 2012-13 campaign, it seems the team is ready to begin a fire-sale, at least according to The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch:

    Forwards Tomas Fleischmann, Kris Versteeg, Scottie Upshall, Shawn Matthias, Brad Boyes and Marcel Goc are among those available along with Tom Gilbert and Dmitry Kulikov, just to name a few.

    By The Numbers: The Panthers have been outshot in six-consecutive games since eking out a one-goal win over Philadelphia on Oct. 8. In this span, the club has run up a 197-147 shots deficit, while four of those six games were at home. 

27. Winnipeg Jets

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    Last Week: 25

    Why They're Here: Superficially, Winnipeg's 4-5-0 record doesn't look that bad, but there are wrinkles there. Seven of the team's 10 games have been at home, and the opposition it has played has been a mixed bag with plenty of softer matchups.

    They did beat a very good St. Louis team this week, but the Jets were rested and at home, while the Blues were coming off a tough loss in Chicago the night before. However, Winnipeg still needed the shootout to win. That was the team's only victory this week, as their other two games were losses to Montreal and Nashville. 

    By The Numbers: With 48 shots in nine games, Evander Kane currently sits third in the NHL in this category, behind a pair of pretty good players in Washington's Alex Ovechkin and Minnesota's Zach Parise.

    Dustin Byfuglien is second among NHL defencemen in the same category with 30 shots. Only Vancouver's Jason Garrison has fired the puck more frequently, and he's played an additional game.

26. Calgary Flames

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    Last Week: 27

    Why They're Here: After a three-game homestand where the Flames won two one-goal games, Calgary started a five-game road trip through the Pacific this past week.

    Goaltending let the team down in a loss to the Ducks, but the team was also thoroughly dominated by an impressive-looking Sharks squad over the weekend. 

    By The Numbers: Flames goaltenders Joey MacDonald and Karri Ramo have combined for an 0.887 save percentage through seven games.

25. Edmonton Oilers

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    Last Week: 23

    Why They're Here: In some ways, things started to turn around toward the tail end of the week for Edmonton. They got solid goaltending in three-consecutive games, with incumbent starter Devan Dubnyk posting a 0.947 save percentage in his last two starts. Also, much-criticized winger Nail Yakupov picked up his first point in a win over Ottawa.

    However, the team also lost Taylor Hall for an indefinite amount of time due to a knee injury, and if it is a lengthy injury, it will have a big impact on the team's fortunes.   

    By The Numbers: With a 73.5 percent success rate, Edmonton's penalty kill currently ranks 27th in the NHL. According to ExtraSkater.com, this poor number is not all due to the team's goaltending, either, as the Oilers have a higher shots against rate on the penalty kill than all but four other teams.

24. Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Last Week: 22

    Why They're Here: Columbus snapped a four-game losing streak with a Sunday win over Vancouver in their first game back after a disappointing three-game stint on the road.

    The club has had a lukewarm start, but they now get an opportunity to make up some ground with seven of their next eight games at home.

    By The Numbers: Jack Johnson, who spent his entire career in Los Angeles as a green jacket contender, is off to an ugly minus-8 start through eight games this year. Most of that probably isn't his fault this time, though, as his on-ice shot numbers are right around the team average, as the team is struggling to put pucks in the opposition's net with him on the ice.

23. New York Rangers

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    Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 21

    Why They're Here: New York did manage to pick up their second win this season in a 2-0 victory over Washington, but they book-ended that triumph with losses to St. Louis and New Jersey.

    The club has allowed four or more goals in five games this season, and they have yet to score that many themselves in a single night. There are just two games left in a road trip that the team will certainly be anxious to forget.  

    By The Numbers: The Rangers have their share of legitimate problems, but the team has also had some rotten luck. New York has the worst shooting percentage in the league at even-strength (4.0 percent) and the third-worst save percentage (89.4 percent).

    Both of those numbers are well below what even an awful NHL team normally posts. The logical read is that the bounces have been going against Alain Vigneault's squad early.

22. New Jersey Devils

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    Last Week: 17

    Why They're Here: The Devils keep losing hockey games, in no small part because they keep starting the legendaryand past his primeMartin Brodeur.

    Brodeur has yet to start a game this season where he's posted a 0.900 save percentage. Cory Schneider, meanwhile, is fresh off a shutout victory (the Devils' first win of the season) and should get the lion's share of the starts going forward.

    By The Numbers: New Jersey's anemic power play has converted on just 11.5 percent of its chances in the early season. While that's an ugly number, over such a short period, it might just be a product of not getting enough lucky bounces.

    More predictive and damning is the team's shot rates. In the early going, the Devils have both the worst shots-for rate (26.3) and shots-against rate (16.4) during 5-on-4 situations. If that does not change, their power play will be a critical flaw all season.

21. Dallas Stars

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    Last Week: 19

    Why They're Here: The Stars lost three of their four games this past week, but there was a bright spot: the lone win came over San Jose, making Dallas the only team to beat the Sharks this season (albeit in the shootout).

    A big part of the problem has been the absence of starter Kari Lehtonen. Dan Ellis is a competent backup but neither he nor call-up Jack Campbell compare well to Lehtonen.   

    By The Numbers: The early favourite for the NHL's worst penalty kill might be the Stars. With a 78.1 percent kill rate, they currently rank 24th in the NHL, but they are allowing a league-worst 78 shots against per-60 minutes in 4-on-5 situations. 

20. Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Last Week: 24

    Why They're Here: Tampa Bay is in the middle of a seven-game home stretch, but the three games they played this week all came against strong opponents.

    The Lightning did a good job in winning games against Los Angeles (5-1) and Minnesota (3-1). The club's 5-0 loss to Boston was less pleasant, but even in that contest, Tampa Bay managed to keep the Bruins down to just 22 shots.  

    By The Numbers: Over the last two seasons, the Lightning have averaged more than 30 shots against per game. In the early going this year, that number is 26.6. 

19. Washington Capitals

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    Last Week: 18

    Why They're Here: The Capitals were able to compensate for a slow start this week, winning two of the three games they played to move to 3-5-0 on the season.

    Now, they will have to try and keep that recent success going on the road, where they play their next five games. S far this season, the club has gone 0-2 away from Washington.

    By The Numbers: Washington's power play currently sits first in the NHL with a ridiculous 33.3 percent conversion rate. Naturally, that will not lastthe team is scoring on more than one in four shots that it takes 5-on-4but there is every reason to believe it will be one of the best units in the league.

    The Capitals are one of two teams (San Jose being the other) pumping more than 75 shots per-60 minutes at the opposition net during 5-on-4 situations.   

18. Nashville Predators

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    Last Week: 26

    Why They're Here: Nashville took a big jump up the rankings this week, winning three of four games and dropping the other in the shootout. Just like that, they went from four points on the season to 11. As a result, they have climbed back into a playoff spot in the Central Division. 

    By The Numbers: The Predators are the NHL's best faceoff team, winning 55.8 percent of their draws. Paul Gaustad wins more than 60 percent of his faceofss, while every other pivot on the team is over the 50-percent mark.

17. Carolina Hurricanes

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    Last Week: 20

    Why They're Here: After a successful week, the Hurricanes sit second in the NHL's Metropolitan Division. They dropped a shootout decision to Chicago before winning games against Toronto and the New York Islanders, giving them five of six possible points in the last seven days.

    By The Numbers: Jeff Skinner won the 2010-11 Calder Trophy and then had two mediocre seasons for Carolina, but he's the team's early season scoring leader with nine points in nine games. He has also posted a plus-six rating.

    Some of that is tied to solid on-ice shot numbers (51.0 percent), and some of it is the result of the team scoring on 14.0 percent of its shots with Skinner on the ice (along with the goalies posting a 0.966 even-strength save percentage). 

16. Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Last Week: 13

    Why They're Here: In terms of points percentage (which removes games played from the equation), the Leafs are currently tied with three other teams in the 8-11 slot in the NHL. One fewer win, and they would rank 16th, and it's very fair to argue that the Leafs deserve one fewer win than they have.

    Just this past week, the team got away with a win in a game where they were out-shot 37-14 by Minnesota, prompting head coach Randy Carlyle to say: "We know that is going to turn against us at some point if we continue to play at the level we're playing," per NHL.com.

    The team then went out and dropped its next two games and was badly outplayed in both.

    By The Numbers: The Leafs rank dead-last in the NHL in shot differential at even-strength (42.3 percent), and their next four contests come against the Sabres, Rangers, Panthers and Flyers.

    Suffice to say, it is not a positive indicator of what will happen to the team going forward if it cannot change the picture during 5-on-5 situations.

15. New York Islanders

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    Last Week: 15

    Why They're Here: Seven of the Islanders' eight games have been decided by a single goal, so it's almost certainly far too early to be reading too much into the fact that their record is only a mediocre 3-3-2. After all, if three goals had gone the other way, they would be sitting at 6-0-2 and be the toast of the NHL.

    Until they start moving one way or the other, it's likely best to leave them right around where they deservedly finished last season.

    By The Numbers: The Islanders have an 82.6 percent success rate on the penalty kill right now, which is respectable, but that number could be better. No team in the NHL has done a better job early at limiting shots against per-60 minutes (40.0).

    If the Islanders could get some saves, they would have a shot at being the league's best unit.

14. Minnesota Wild

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    Last Week: 14

    Why They're Here: It was a strange week for the Minnesota Wild. The team won only the first game of the four-game trip they made, but there is a decent argument to be made that the team should have gone three-for-four.

    James Reimer stood on his head in Toronto, turning aside 36-of-37 shots in a game where the Wild allowed only 14 total but still lost 4-1. It was a similar story in Florida, where Tim Thomas made 30 saves as the Panthers took home a 2-1 shootout decision in a game where they only managed 22 shots.

    By The Numbers: In all 5-on-5 situations, the NHL's top-five teams by shot attempts percentage is pretty impressive. It includes San Jose, Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles, but all four teams are behind the Wild. Minnesota has impressively built up a 367-257 edge in shot attempts at even-strength early in the season.

13. Ottawa Senators

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    Last Week: 11

    Why They're Here: Ottawa won two of three games last week, and they even managed to salvage the last game of a four-game swing through the Pacific Division that had seen them rack up three losses against the West.

    The team's lone loss to Edmonton saw the Senators pepper Devan Dubnyk with 36 shots (the Oilers managed only 21 the other way) but still fall just short. 

    By The Numbers: Clarke MacArthur is still searching for his first goal, but Ottawa is doing good things with him on the ice. So far, in 5-on-5 situations, the Senators have attempted 136 shots to their opposition's 76 with MacArthur on the ice, a nearly 2-to-1 advantage. MacArthur's team-leading plus-5 rating reflects this trend.

12. Vancouver Canucks

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    Last Week: 10

    Why They're Here: Vancouver is off to a pretty reasonable start on their seven game road-trip, winning two-of-four contests to date and adding a point in a shootout loss to Pittsburgh.

    That isn't bad, even though the wins came over Philadelphia and Buffalo. Roberto Luongo, a habitual slow starter, hasn't been great (4-3-1, 0.910 save percentage), but he's playing well enough. Also, dirt-cheap Mike Santorelli (10GP, 4G-2A-6PTS, +3) has been a pleasant surprise early.

    By The Numbers: When the Vancouver Canucks signed Jason Garrison as a free agent in the summer of 2012, it was somewhat fair to wonder if his 16-goal, 33-point season in Florida the year before had been a one-off.

    In the first 10 gmaes in 2013-14, though, he leads all NHL defencemen in shots (31) and sits second only to Montreal's P.K. Subban with nine points. 

11. Montreal Canadiens

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    Last Week: 7

    Why They're Here: The Canadiens are off to an interesting start. In terms of points percentage, they rank 12th in the NHL. But goal differential at the team level tells a very different story, with Montreal's plus-11 mark ranking them behind only Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference.

    Why the disconnect? The Canadiens have lost three one-goal games, and they have won five games by two goals or more, including four three-goal victories. Some of that is connected to a strong early-season ability to put the puck in the empty net (Montreal has three goals that way), but over time, we would expect the standings to reflect the team's strong goal differential.

    By The Numbers: P.K. Subban leads the Canadiens in scoring, and he also sits first among all NHL defencemen with 10 points through eight games this season. That figures ties him for 10th in scoring overall, with players like Alexander Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos and John Tavares at the same total.

10. Colorado Avalanche

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    Last Week: 16

    Why They're Here: Colorado keeps winning hockey games. Some of itfrankly, a lot of ithas to do with goalies Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who have a cumulative 0.956 save percentage.

    That will not last, but in the meantime, the Avalanche have also improved their shot totals at even-strength (50.5 percent), and that is an improvement that could be sustainable.

    By The Numbers: The Avs' 6-0 start under Patrick Roy gives the rookie head coach a share of the all-time record for best start to a coaching career. The guy he shares the record with is Mario Tremblay, who famously sparred with Roy in Montreal.

    Doubtless, Roy would have loved to one-up his old nemesis, but the team's loss to Detroit means that the two will be forever linked in a second way.

9. Phoenix Coyotes

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    Last Week: 12

    Why They're Here: The Coyotes 5-2-2 record is pretty impressive, superficially, but digging into the circumstances makes it look even better.

    Phoenix played two-thirds of those games on the road, and seven of them have come against playoff teams from last season. Phoenix is also managing to win without riding a percentage hot streak, which suggests their success could be durable.

    By The Numbers: It seems odd for a Dave Tippett-coached team, but the team's penalty kill was an area of weakness last season and looks like it could be again this year. Phoenix is currently sitting right around the league average with a 81.6 percent kill rate, but the team is also one of only three in the league to be averaging 70 shots or more against per-60 minutes in 4-on-5 situations.

8. Detroit Red Wings

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    Last Week: 8

    Why They're Here: The Red Wings had a pretty tough week ahead of them last Sunday, but they did quite a bit with it.

    On Monday came a visit to Boston, where Detroit had lost a little over a week earlier. This time around, though, the team came away with a 3-2 win. Teams generally lose the second game when they play two in two nights and face a rested team, but Detroit beat Columbus.

    The week's third game put Detroit in Denver against the 6-0 Avalanche, and the Red Wings handed Patrick Roy's squad its first loss of the year. If not for a Saturday loss to Phoenix, it would have been an awfully good week for Detroit.

    By The Numbers: Per usual, elite forwards Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are leading the way offensively for the Red Wings, with the duo both being tied for fourth in league scoring with 11 points.

    Free-agent addition Daniel Alfredsson hasn't been bad either; he has just a single goal, but with eight assists, he is keeping up a point-per-game pace.

7. Los Angeles Kings

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    Last Week: 5

    Why They're Here: The Kings are off to quite a decent start, but the team has yet to play its best Western Conference opponents. The only 2012-13 Western playoff team from last year to appear on the schedule so far was the No. 8-seed Minnesota Wild, a team the Kings beat in the shootout on opening night.

    On Oct. 30, when the Kings faceoff against the Sharks for the first time in 2013-14, it will be a game to see.

    By The Numbers: Here is a statistical oddity: the Kings centres seem positively snake-bitten. Outside of occasional centre Jeff Carter, the Kings pivot position has contributed 60 shots and not a single goal.

    Anze Kopitar (22 shots, eight assists) and Mike Richards (five assists) are finding other ways to contribute, though.  

6. Anaheim Ducks

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 9

    Why They're Here: The Ducks just keep winning, and in convincing fashion. After dropping the first game of the season in Denver, Anaheim has won seven consecutive contests.

    More than that, the Ducks are doing something they have not done in years: dominating puck possession. Score-close Corsi, which is the best current indicator of possession, has the Ducks as the sixth-best team in the league. Some of that is due to the team's schedule (lots of home games, which is not exactly a murderers' row of opponents), but it is still a very good sign.

    By The Numbers: Rookie Hampus Lindholm has flown under the radar to some degree in the early going, but his numbers are fantastic.

    Lindholm is averaging nearly 20:00 per game for a very good team and boasts two assists and a plus-9 rating. Naturally, a lot of that has to do with percentages (the Ducks are shooting 18.4 percent with Lindholm on the ice, while the goalies have yet to allow a goal), but even so, he's more than holding his own.

5. St. Louis Blues

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    Last Week: 4

    Why They're Here: After a perfect 4-0 start that had the Blues climbing the charts, they slipped a little this past week.

    St. Louis was routed by a red-hot Sharks team, squeaked out a shootout win over Chicago and then lost a shootout decision to Winnipeg. There has been very little evidence to suggest that the team is anything other than a Cup contender, however.

    By The Numbers: Alexander Steen has had a pretty good NHL career, but his play this season has been truly exceptional. Through seven games, the 29-year-old has scored seven goals and 11 points, giving him a share of the early season goal-scoring lead with Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Patrick Marleau and the surprising Tomas Hertl. 

4. Boston Bruins

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    Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 2

    Why They're Here: Boston slips a little bit this week, despite winning two of the three games they played.

    The club's toughest matchup this week was its second home game this season against Detroit, with the Red Wings avenging an earlier loss and coming away with a one-goal victory.

    By The Numbers: Tuukka Rask has played every game for the Bruins so far, and the results have been everything that Boston could have hoped, as Rask has a 1.29 GAA and 0.954 save percentage.

3. Chicago Blackhawks

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    Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 3

    Why They're Here: The defending Stanley Cup champions hold steady in the No. 3 slot this week after winning twice and losing once over the past week.

    The lossa shootout defeat at the hands of St. Louiswas their second one-goal defeat to the Blues. Matchups between these two are going to be interesting to watch for the rest of the season given that these two could potentially meet in a Central Division playoff series. 

    By The Numbers: Despite Chicago's strong start (5-1-2), the team's big guns have yet to really produce.

    Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp have combined for a reasonable 18 points in 32 man-games, but that quartet is capable of doing more, meaning that the 'Hawks could still hit another level.  

2. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Last Week: 1

    Why They're Here: Despite seven wins in eight games and three wins this week, Pittsburgh slips to No. 2 on this list, thanks to the continued dominance of the San Jose Sharks.

    Marc-Andre Fleury has won all seven games he has started, and the Pens are among the league leaders in most underlying statistics.  

    By The Numbers: Sidney Crosby has 17 points, giving him a staggering five point lead on second-ranked Joe Pavelski in just eight games played. He's tied for the NHL lead in both goals (seven) and assists (10).  

1. San Jose Sharks

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    Last Week: 6

    Why They're Here: Eight games into the season, San Jose has yet to lose in regulation. Their lone loss came in the shootout last week against Dallas, meaning that they still have not been outscored by their opposition over the regular course of a game.

    Not only is their record good, but the team is dominating possession, tooat even-strength no team does a better job of controlling shots in score-close situations (61.2 percent).

    By The Numbers: Five of the NHL's top-10 scorers play in San Jose. Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl (the last in a tie for 10th) all qualify. Brent Burns is the only member of the top-six not in that club, but he still has eight points in eight games.