2013-14 NHL Power Rankings: Week 5
There is a distinct theme to our Week 5 edition of the NHL power rankings: the ascendant West.
Three Western Conference teams, led by the Colorado Avalanche, made big moves up the charts this week, and the West has a firm hold on the top spots—something that should not come as a surprise given that Western Conference teams currently inhabit the top four positions in the NHL standings and that nine of the top 11 teams come from that conference.
Read on to see how we've ranked the hottest teams in the league and which clubs are sliding to make way for them.
30. Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 30
Why They’re Here: The Sabres are without question the worst team in the league. Buffalo managed to cobble together its second win of the season, one where the team was outshot 45-20 but finished the night with a 3-1 win thanks to Jhonas Enroth (44 saves) and an empty-net goal.
No such miracle was in the offing in the Sabres' other two games, though: The team was outshot 73-38 and outscored 8-4 in a pair of losses.
29. Florida Panthers
Last Week: 28
Why They’re Here: The Panthers had the chance to make up some ground after a rocky start to the season with a five-game home stand. It hasn't worked out that way; Florida has a single shootout win in that stretch and dropped all three games it played this week, picking up points for forcing shootouts in two cases but failing to collect any wins.
By The Numbers: The Panthers would love to see highly touted Jacob Markstrom—the 31st overall pick in 2008—claim the starting role, but it's been no dice in the early going. In nine games played, the 23-year-old has gone 1-4-2 with an .887 save percentage; he lost both his starts this week.
28. Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 25
Why They’re Here: Edmonton went 1-2-1 on the week, which really isn't good enough for a team that dug itself an early hole that it can't seem to get out of. There is a case to be made that the team should have won against Phoenix on Saturday if not for goaltending, but on the other hand, the team didn't deserve even the single point it got against Los Angeles on Sunday.
By The Numbers: Goaltender Richard Bachman, recalled thanks to an injury to starter Devan Dubnyk, was thrown to the wolves on Sunday. With a tired Edmonton team playing a rested Kings squad in Los Angeles, the Oilers ended up getting outshot 48-18. Somehow, they got away with a 2-1 shootout loss as Bachman made 47 stops.
27. New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 24
Why They’re Here: The Devils picked up their second win of the season on Saturday, a 4-3 victory over a tough Boston Bruins team, to somewhat redeem a week that has looked too much like previous ones this season. It started off with a one-sided loss to the Blue Jackets in Columbus and then a shootout loss to a Vancouver team battling injuries and trying to close out a long road trip.
The Devils need more, and quickly.
By The Numbers: The Devils continue to do a good job of outshooting their opposition, but they have other problems, one of which is finishing ability. So far this season, New Jersey has scored on just 6.4 percent of its shots five-on-five, well below the NHL average. In the last six seasons, the Devils have only once been an above-average finishing team at even strength (8.5 percent, 13th in the NHL).
26. Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 17
Why They’re Here: A pair of losses and, at least as importantly, confusion in net has the Hurricanes sliding down this week's power rankings. Carolina put in creditable performances on the road against Colorado and Minnesota but ended up losing those two games by a combined score of 7-3.
In net, Justin Peters is the team's starter for the moment. The Hurricanes announced on their official website that Cam Ward would be on injured reserve for most of the next month, while the site's Michael Smith reports there is no time frame for Anton Khudobin (who was expected to be back already).
By The Numbers: Peters has played 49 games for Carolina over the last five seasons; he has a lousy .896 save percentage over that span. He is also only a career .906 save percentage goaltender in the AHL, though over the last two seasons, he's been significantly better, posting a .915 save percentage at that level. In no way is he the kind of player an NHL team with playoff aspirations wants to lean on.
25. New York Rangers
Last Week: 25
Why They’re Here: The struggling Rangers are starting to show sings of life, despite a mediocre 1-1 record on the week. The team started the week with a 2-1 loss to the cellar-dwelling Flyers, but with Steve Mason turning aside 30 of 31 shots against, perhaps that understandable. They ended the week with a win over Detroit on Saturday and again showed an ability to get shots on net, putting 40 on Jimmy Howard.
By The Numbers: It's finally over. The Rangers started the year on an epic nine-game road trip, which is basically the worst possible way for any team to start a season. Add in that the majority of the games (five of nine) came against the tougher Western Conference, and the makings of a deep hole were there. New York went an ugly 3-6-0 but can now look forward to playing nine of its next 12 at home, with only two of those games coming against Western Conference teams.
24. Calgary Flames
Last Week: 27
Why They’re Here: The Flames had a tough week, with four games, including three on the road, against Pacific Division rivals. They came out of it not bad, going 2-2. Among the wins was a victory over the Kings in Los Angeles and a one-sided defeat of the Capitals in Calgary, while one of the losses saw a tired Flames squad fall to Phoenix.
By The Numbers: Jiri Hudler is the Flames' somewhat surprising scoring leader, with 13 points through 11 games to date. A lot of that is tied to his 27.8 shooting percentage, almost exactly double his career high; given that his shot totals are right inside his normal range, it would be a surprise if his goal scoring continued. The Flames also have an elevated shooting percentage overall with Hudler on the ice that likely will not last.
23. Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 29
Why They’re Here: Philadelphia had a perfect week, beating the Rangers in a close one at home before going on the road and scoring a season-high five goals in a win over the Islanders (though, admittedly, facing Kevin Poulin in net probably didn't hurt there).
By The Numbers: Vincent Lecavalier went from a terribly slow start to the top of the Flyers' scoring chart in a single night with a hat trick against the Islanders. Nearly one-third of his shot production on the season (seven of 22) and fully three-quarters of his goal scoring (he has four on the season) came in that contest, and with six points in seven games, he's now just a hair below a point-per-game pace.
22. Winnipeg Jets
Last Week: 26
Why They’re Here: It was a week of close scrapes for the Jets.
All four of Winnipeg's games were decided by a single goal. The team split shootout decisions, picked up another point with an overtime loss and then fell 3-2 in regulation against Colorado on Sunday. The team's best game might have been the shootout loss at home to Washington, as Capitals goalie Braden Holtby made 43 saves for a 5-4 victory.
By The Numbers: The Jets currently sit 29th in faceoff percentage. With the exception of Jim Slater, all of their regular pivots are well under 50.0 percent on the dot, with rookie Mark Scheifele (39.2 percent) particularly struggling.
21. Nashville Predators
Last Week: 18
Why They’re Here: Nashville slipped out of a playoff spot this week and now sits three points back after picking up a single win in three games. The Predators posted convincing losses against Minnesota and St. Louis and barely won an overtime decision over Winnipeg on the back of goalie Carter Hutton's 34-save performance.
Worse for the Predators is the available news on star goaltender Pekka Rinne. Already expected to miss nearly a month, Rinne told the Finnish magazine Urheilulehti (the comments were translated for The Tennessean's Josh Cooper by author Sam Savolainen) that he was battling a "very serious" bacterial infection.
By The Numbers: The Predators are resting their hopes in goalie Carter Hutton. Hutton's track record isn't the kind that inspires confidence, because while his career NHL save percentage (.920) is very good, it's based on just five NHL games, and in his last three AHL seasons, he has posted middling (.908, .917, .902) save percentages.
20. Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 13
Why They’re Here: Just looking at the schedule, it was obvious the Senators were in for a tough week, with a road game against Detroit and then home games against the Ducks and Sharks. The record says Ottawa went 1-2-0, but that understates things. The Senators did OK.
The team started with a convincing 6-1 win over Detroit and finished with a 5-2 loss to San Jose that saw Craig Anderson make just 24 saves to Alex Stalock's 38. In between came a one-goal loss to a pretty decent Anaheim club. Still, that's cold comfort for a team slipping down the Eastern Conference standings.
By The Numbers: Despite the Senators' poor start, the team has generally been getting high-end performances from its goaltenders. Craig Anderson has a middling 4-3-2 record but an excellent .920 save percentage, while Robin Lehner has turned aside 103 of 110 shots faced but is 0-2 on the year.
19. Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 24
Why They’re Here: Columbus is making the most of a homestand after a road-heavy start to the season. This week, they won two of three games by convincing margins, beating the Devils and Leafs by a combined score of 9-3 before losing a third contest by a single goal to the Ducks.
A matchup against Pittsburgh this coming Friday looms large; with a win, the Jackets could move to within two points of the Metropolitan Division lead, while a loss could conceivably leave them significantly outside the playoff picture.
By The Numbers: James Wisniewski has had his share of ups and downs since signing with Columbus but looks to be coming around. Not only is he scoring (nine points in 11 games), but the Jackets have fared significantly better with him on the ice this season than they have with him on the bench in terms of outshooting their opponents.
18. Dallas Stars
Last Week: 21
Why They’re Here: The Stars' schedule this week was not especially taxing, with just two games on the slate and both of those taking place at home. The team did reasonably well, coming away with a 1-0-1 record. Dallas' first matchup came against Calgary, when the Stars scored three goals in just 1:01 of the second period, powering their way to a 5-1 win. The team's second game, against Winnipeg, was less successful, as Dallas picked up one point in a 2-1 shootout loss.
By The Numbers: Alex Goligoski has been up and down since being acquired in the James Neal trade with Pittsburgh, and right now he is decidedly down. His boxcar numbers show zero points and a minus-10 rating through nine games, and the Stars have been badly outshot with him on the ice.
17. New York Islanders
Last Week: 15
Why They’re Here: The Islanders had sort of a listless week on the ice, though general manager Garth Snow had a major impact off it by acquiring top rental player Thomas Vanek from the Buffalo Sabres.
On the ice, the Islanders lost in overtime to the red-hot Vancouver Canucks, barely won in Pittsburgh thanks to a 39-save performance from Evgeni Nabokov and then were dealt a lopsided 5-2 defeat by the hitherto cellar-dwelling Philadelphia Flyers.
By The Numbers: Frans Nielsen, long considered one of the league's better defensive forwards, is on the ride of his life right now. The 29-year-old Dane has never scored 50 points at the NHL level, but with 15 points through 11 games, he finds himself tied with Alexander Ovechkin and Alex Steen for fourth in NHL scoring.
16. Washington Capitals
Last Week: 19
Why They’re Here: An Eastern Conference team coming away with a 2-1-0 record over the first three games of a Western Conference road swing can generally count itself lucky, but given that the Capitals were playing Winnipeg, Edmonton and Calgary, the results are decidedly less impressive.
Washington leaned hard on an exceptional performance by Braden Holtby to get the win over Winnipeg, took advantage of a weak outing by Devan Dubnyk in Edmonton and then got smoked in Calgary by the Flames.
By The Numbers: There can be no question of who is driving the bus for Washington. Not only does Alexander Ovechkin lead the team with 10 goals and 15 points, but he has taken a remarkable 72 shots. The rest of the forward group has combined for only 156 shots, meaning that essentially one out of every three shots by a Washington forward this season have come off Ovechkin's stick.
15. Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 11
Why They’re Here: The Canadiens slide this week after dropping two of three contests at the tail end of a five game homestand. Montreal's lone win (by a 4-1 score) came off a 31-save performance by Carey Price against Anaheim; they dropped a close decision to the Oilers and were soundly thumped when the San Jose Sharks came to town on Saturday.
By The Numbers: P.K. Subban continues to provide exceptional value for Montreal on his current bridge contract. The Canadiens' best defenceman is averaging a hair under 25:00 per game and leads all NHL defencemen in scoring with 11 points.
14. Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 8
Why They’re Here: The Red Wings slide this week after picking up two points but no wins in three home games.
Detroit did well in a high-profile game against San Jose to start the week, losing 1-0 in the shootout to what might be the best team in the NHL right now. Unfortunately, they followed that up by getting blown out by the Senators and needing 37 saves from Jimmy Howard to land the single point against the Rangers.
By The Numbers: It is entirely valid to debate the validity of the NHL's real-time statistics, both because the collection of them varies wildly from rink to rink and because the connection between a statistic like hits or blocked shots or giveaways seems to correlate very weakly to winning. With that said, Pavel Datsyuk being credited with a league-leading 22 takeaways seems a mark in favour of the RTSS numbers.
13. Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 2
Why They’re Here: Pittsburgh's strong start to the season came sliding to a halt in Week 5, as the team with only one loss on the year quickly dropped three in a row.
Admittedly, for an 0-3 team, the Penguins played exceptionally well. They outshot Colorado 34-14 in a 1-0 loss, outshot the Islanders 42-25 in a 4-3 loss and outshot Toronto 38-29 in a 4-1 loss.
That will happen sometimes.
By The Numbers: Tanner Glass is an interesting study. On the one hand, he provides a physical presence (team-leading 47 hits) and kills penalties. On the other hand, a Pittsburgh team that outshoots its opposition 241-175 with him off the ice finds itself getting peppered by a 47-36 margin with him on it. Maybe the Penguins feel it's only sporting to let the other team get shots in every once in a while.
12. Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 16
Why They’re Here: Outshot in all three games they played (albeit barely against Anaheim), the Leafs stubbornly refused to lose, winning two of their three contests on the week. A 5-2 loss to Columbus was book-ended by wins over strong Ducks and Penguins teams.
The results on the ice were soured somewhat by more injury news, with the Canadian Press reporting that centre Tyler Bozak is expected to miss a week or more with a lower-body injury.
By The Numbers: One of the statistics most highly valued by hockey numbers people is score-close-shot-attempts ratio—how well a team does at outshooting its opposition at five-on-five while the game is still in question. It's a number that's been shown to be predictive time and again, and the Leafs have to hope it isn't in their case, because only the Buffalo Sabres are worse than the Leafs, a team that only manages to get 43.6 percent of the shots in those situations.
11. Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 7
Why They’re Here: The Kings started the week slowly with a home loss to Calgary but heated up as time went on. First came a season-high seven-goal game against Phoenix, and then the team finished the week with remarkable domination of a tired Edmonton team, outshooting the Oilers 48-18. Thanks to the heroics of Richard Bachman, Los Angeles had to settle for a 2-1 shootout victory, but there was never any question as to which team was in control of the game.
By The Numbers: Jonathan Quick is still looking to find his regular-season form of two years ago. Last season, he posted a .902 save percentage that came close to costing the Kings a playoff spot, and through 11 contests this season, he has a 7-4-0 record but only a modest .907 save percentage. There is an interesting dichotomy between those results and his status as Team USA's presumptive Olympic starter, but of course, that's because Quick has been almost unbelievably good in the postseason.
10. Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 20
Why They’re Here: There were some close games, but at the end of the week, the Lightning had managed to find a way to win all three contests they played.
An overtime win against the Blackhawks leaned heavily on some spotty play from Chicago backup Nikolai Khabibulin (he allowed six goals on 25 shots), while a 3-2 win against the Sabres happened despite a very strong night from Ryan Miller (36 saves). A night after beating the Sabres, the Lightning traveled to Miami for a tilt against a rested Florida team and was able to eke out a shootout win.
By The Numbers: Ben Bishop appears to have finally plugged a goaltending hole in Tampa Bay that, with one brief exception (a 41-year-old Dwayne Roloson in 2010-11), has been plaguing the team since Khabibulin's departure after the 2004 Stanley Cup win. Over eight games, Bishop boasts a 7-1-0 record and a .914 save percentage—not outstanding numbers, but far better than the Lightning are used to seeing.
9. Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 6
Why They’re Here: Anaheim comes out of Week 5 with a modest 2-2 record, which should perhaps be seen as better than it sounds given that the Ducks a) won the shots battle in all four contests and b) played all four games on the road. After an incredible start to the season that saw the Ducks pile up the wins at home, sawing off on the road is good enough.
By The Numbers: Traditionally a strong power-play team, the Ducks have struggled in the early going this season, converting just 8.2 percent of their power-play opportunities. The main problem is an NHL-worst 4.5 shooting percentage; no team in the NHL was even half that bad last season, and the Ducks were more than three times as likely to score a goal on any five-on-four shot they took in 2012-13. The team is still getting shots through; this number is going to go up in a major way very shortly.
8. Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 3
Why They’re Here: The Blackhawks might have been expected to tear through a pair of Florida teams during a two-game Eastern swing; instead, they had to settle for a shootout win and an overtime loss. Capping the week off was a 5-3 loss at home to the Minnesota Wild where 'Hawks starter Corey Crawford looked shaky on just 25 shots.
By The Numbers: The Blackhawks may only be sitting at ninth in the NHL, but they are at the top in one important category: score-close Corsi. In other words, no team in the league does a better job of outshooting its opponents in situations where the game is still in question; the Blackhawks take three shot attempts to every shot their opposition manages in these situations.
7. Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 9
Why They’re Here: After all this time, it should not be a surprise to find the Coyotes in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. Dave Tippett's team is consistently competitive, and it won two of its three Week 5 battles, topping the Calgary Flames at the start of the week and handing Edmonton a defeat on Saturday.
The Coyotes' lone setback came on Thursday, when they were lit up for seven goals by the Los Angeles Kings.
By The Numbers: A trio of high-scoring defenceman have had a major impact on the Coyotes' season so far. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, unsurprisingly, leads the way with nine points, while Keith Yandle has eight. The unexpected contributor has been Derek Morris, with seven points through 10 games. The three rank third, 10th and 15th, respectively, in scoring among NHL defencemen.
6. Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 14
Why They’re Here: The Wild have been on the short end of the stick a few times this season, outplaying their opponents but coming away with the loss anyway. This week that changed, as Minnesota strung together three consecutive wins and started climbing the Western Conference standings.
The bad news is that Josh Harding, one of the NHL's best stories in the early going, had to leave a game against Carolina with what the Star-Tribune's Michael Russo reported as a lower-body strain.
By The Numbers: The Minnesota Wild have been a surprise to those tracking advanced statistics because while they have traditionally been a poor team at controlling shot differential this year, they trail only Chicago in outshooting their opponents at even strength with the score still close.
5. St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 5
Why They’re Here: It was an odd week for the Blues. After losing to Winnipeg in the shootout last Friday, they sat until this Friday when they played a tired Canucks team in the second half of a back-to-back. Then they played again on Saturday against a fresh Predators team in Nashville.
The results were odd, too. St. Louis dropped an overtime decision at home to Vancouver but then lit the Predators up for six goals in a convincing victory. The overall record (1-0-1) is quite good, but how the team got there a little surprising.
By The Numbers: Alexander Steen continues to astonish with his prodigious scoring. With 15 points, he's tied with Alexander Ovechkin and Frans Nielsen (another surprise) for fourth in the NHL; the top three players are Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos and Henrik Sedin. That's heady company for a player that has only topped 50 points once in his career (51 points in 2010-11).
4. Boston Bruins
Last Week: 4
Why They’re Here: It was a successful, if costly week for the Bruins. Boston hammered Buffalo on Tuesday but lost Loui Eriksson to a dirty hit; to date, the Bruins star has missed two games with a concussion, and head coach Claude Julien told The Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa that there was no firm timeline for the player's return.
"You keep your fingers crossed that it’s going to get better sooner than later for his sake," he said.
The Bruins followed the win over Buffalo up the very next day with a game at home against a very good, very rested team from San Jose, but they managed to win thanks to a 38-save performance from Tuukka Rask. The week ended on a down note with a one-goal loss to New Jersey, but overall, the Bruins must be happy with their record and especially so given the circumstances.
By The Numbers: Milan Lucic scored seven goals last season; 10 games in, he already has six this season. The biggest reason is simply shooting percentage. Lucic is a low-volume, high-percentage shooter who last year shot at roughly half his career rate. Because he doesn't fire often, he ended up with lousy goal totals. This year, he's firing a little more, but the pucks are going in at twice his career rate.
3. Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 12
Why They’re Here: Vancouver had a fantastic week, particularly given the circumstances.
This was one where the NHL schedule makers clearly had it in for the Canucks. The seven-game road trip the team just finished spanned 11 days total, and the last five of those contests were crammed into a seven-day stretch. This week saw an already tired Vancouver team play three games in four days.
The Canucks won them all. It took overtime or the shootout in all cases, but they beat the Islanders, Devils and, even more impressively, a rested St. Louis team in quick succession. Overall, the club went 5-1-1 on the sojourn.
By The Numbers: Like Anaheim, Vancouver typically ices a strong power play but has struggled this year. It would be a mistake to blame head coach John Tortorella for the team's terrible five-on-four shooting percentage (5.3)—that's less than half the team's rate a year ago. The Canucks have been one of the league's best teams at getting shots on net during the man advantage; eventually, that will translate into success.
2. Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 10
Why They’re Here: The Avs just keep winning. They eked out a narrow win over Pittsburgh on the back of Jean-Sebastien Giguere's 34-save shutout to start the week (the Penguins allowed one goal on 14 shots the other way) but then put together stronger efforts in wins at home over Carolina (4-2) and Winnipeg (3-2).
By The Numbers: With a 22.2 percent success rate, Colorado's power play sits comfortably inside the top 10, but do not expect that to last. The problem is that the unit simply does not shoot enough; no team in the West is worse at getting shots through to the net five-on-four, and only Florida and New Jersey trail in the East. The Avs have scored on a high percentage of those shots in the short term, but that is unlikely to continue.
1. San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 1
Why They’re Here: The Sharks continued to roll over the league this week. They played the first four games of a five-game road trip and came away with three wins: a narrow shootout victory over Detroit, a 2-0 win over Montreal and a 5-2 triumph over the Senators.
The Sharks' lone loss came versus Boston, and it was something else. Not only did the Sharks outshoot the Bruins by a 39-17 margin, but David Krejci's game-winner in a 2-1 game came with only one second remaining.
By The Numbers: Everything has been going right for the Sharks, and that includes the power play. While the Sharks currently sit a modest 10th in the league on the man advantage, they are by any measure the best in the NHL at getting shots to the net.