2013-14 NHL Power Rankings: Week 6
It finally happened. After weeks of dominance from the San Jose Sharks, another team finally usurped them for the top spot in our NHL Power Rankings.
That wasn't the only significant move this week, either. A few teams moved upward in a big way, some of them early underperformers finally putting things together and some of them contenders that showed precisely how good they are over the past seven days.
Read on to see which teams are rising and which teams are falling in their wake.
30. Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 30
Why They’re Here: Despite the best efforts of new addition Matt Moulson—he had two goals and two assists in three games this week—the Sabres still can't win. Buffalo lost 4-3 to Dallas, 2-0 to the Rangers and 6-3 to Anaheim in a week that confirmed the team as the worst in the NHL.
By The Numbers: The Sabres aren't finishing games well, but they're starting them poorly, too. The Sabres have scored first in only two of their 16 games. It hasn't helped them either; they're 0-1-1 when they do put home the game's first goal.
29. Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 28
Why They’re Here: It isn't just that the Oilers lost both games they played this week. It's that they lost by such margins. After a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Toronto that prompted a player meeting, the team took on a Red Wings squad playing its third game in four nights...and lost by a lopsided 5-0 score.
The injured list is already lengthy and getting longer by the game, and what's left seems incapable of competing with NHL teams.
By The Numbers: One of the most remarkable things about the Oilers' season is how bad they have been when scoring first. Last year, no team finished worse than .500 when scoring the first goal (that was the Oilers again, with a 12-6-6 record); this year, Edmonton sits at 1-5-2 when tallying the first goal of a game.
28. Florida Panthers
Last Week: 29
Why They’re Here: The Panthers' losing streak stretched to five games with a pair of losses this week. They got thumped 4-0 by the powerhouse Blues on Friday after some time off, then dropped a shootout decision to Washington on Saturday. The team has just two regulation wins on the season, and only one in the 13 contests since its opener in Dallas.
By The Numbers: Of the 23 goalies to appear in at least 10 games this season, none has performed worse than the Panthers' de facto starter Jacob Markstrom. Markstrom's 0.881 save percentage lags behind the rest of the pack, and with third-stringer Scott Clemmensen performing well in the 3-2 shootout loss to Washington, it's fair to speculate he may see more action going forward.
27. Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 26
Why They’re Here: With three losses this week—by a combined score of 11-2—things are coming unraveled in Carolina. Two of the three games were at home, and the Hurricanes were outshot in all of them.
The team couldn't muster much offence, couldn't win the possession battle and had mediocre (or worse) goaltending to boot.
By The Numbers: The Hurricanes are now 0-5-0 since Justin Peters took over the starting job from the injured tandem of Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin. His 0.890 save percentage is a near-perfect match for the 0.891 number he posted last season while going 4-11-1 for Carolina.
26. Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 23
Why They’re Here: What a week.
The Flyers lost a one-goal game to Anaheim and won a one-goal game over New Jersey, but in between came a 7-0 loss to Washington. That loss that saw a line brawl, a goalie fight between combatants both willing (Ray Emery) and unwilling (Braden Holtby) and injuries to Steve Downie and Vincent Lecavalier.
By The Numbers: Major penalties seem to be correlated with failure this year. Philadelphia is tied for the league lead—with the Buffalo Sabres—with 14 major penalties early in the NHL season. That's as many as the league's last-place team (Edmonton) had last year.
25. Winnipeg Jets
Last Week: 22
Why They’re Here: The Jets' opponents this past week—St. Louis and Chicago—would be nobody's idea of easy marks, and that's something that has to be considered when weighing Winnipeg's 0-2 record over that span.
The Jets actually did a pretty decent job of staying in it in St. Louis, falling to the Blues by a single goal, but got smoked 5-1 at home by the Blackhawks.
By The Numbers: After briefly looking like a starter-calibre goalie in Atlanta, Ondrej Pavelec is well on his way to a fourth lousy season in five years. In a league where the average save percentage routinely exceeds 0.910, Pavelec has posted 0.906, 0.914, 0.906, 0.905 and now a 0.902 number over his last five seasons.
24. Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 19
Why They’re Here: The Jackets slip five spots after losing both of their games this week to Pittsburgh. In the first game of back-to-back contests, Columbus made it awfully difficult for Marc-Andre Fleury, hammering 39 shots in all at the Pittsburgh net after falling behind early. Its second effort was much weaker, as Jeff Zatkoff had to make just 19 saves for both his first career win and his first career shutout.
By The Numbers: It's been a long wait for 2010 fourth overall pick Ryan Johansen, but there are signs the big centre is finally starting to put it together in Columbus. With eight points through 13 games, Johansen sits tied for second in team scoring.
23. New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 27
Why They’re Here: The Devils didn't have a very good week. A number of teams below them did worse, but that can only carry a club so far. The team won a one-goal game over Tampa Bay, lost by the same margin to Philadelphia and then got smoked by Minnesota on Sunday.
Especially discouraging—particularly for a team that has struggled to generate shots—was the Devils' inability to get pucks on net. While they did succeed in limiting chances against, the Devils averaged only 18 shots per game this week.
By The Numbers: Martin Brodeur started salvaging a save percentage that had been ravaged in the early going in his two starts this week. The veteran netminder allowed only two goals on 38 shots against, and while his 0.888 total on the season isn't especially good, it's a lot better than it was.
22. Calgary Flames
Last Week: 24
Why They’re Here: Calgary hasn't put together an overly impressive record on the season so far, but it has proven one thing: It can't be taken for granted. The Flames only came away with a single victory in three tries, but they did test Toronto goaltender Jonathan Bernier often, outshooting the Leafs 43-21, and managed to sneak away with a win over the defending champion Blackhawks on Sunday night.
By The Numbers: Reto Berra was named the first star in his first career NHL start, turning aside 42 of 44 shots against in a 3-2 overtime win over Chicago on Sunday night. It's a nice change for the 26-year-old goalie, who had a mediocre 0.908 save percentage in 13 AHL games and had run up middling numbers in his last three seasons in Switzerland.
21. Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 20
Why They’re Here: Much more was expected of this team, but it continues to underperform, only hanging around the playoff picture because of the comparative weakness of the Eastern Conference (the Senators would be tied with Winnipeg for second-to-last if they played in the West).
This week saw Ottawa drop all three games it played. The situation is a little less bleak than the record—all of the losses were by a single goal and two of those games were decided in a shootout—but the Sens cannot afford to keep dropping points.
By The Numbers: Robin Lehner quite unfairly has a 0-2-2 record on the season. He has provided strong goaltending—witness the 0.938 save percentage—but the Senators have been unable to capitalize on it. The latest example came Friday, when the young goalie made 53 saves but was only able to get a shootout loss against the Islanders after the Senators went 0-3 on their attempts.
20. Dallas Stars
Last Week: 18
Why They’re Here: The Stars played in four one-goal contests this week and split them right down the middle, posting a regulation loss (Montreal) an overtime loss (Colorado) a shootout win (Ottawa) and a regulation win (Buffalo). It's the NHL equivalent of treading water, and that's not good enough for a team with some ground to make up.
By The Numbers: On Sunday, Tyler Seguin's faceoff performance—already quite poor (37.0 percent on the season)—hit a low point on Sunday when he went 1-of-14 in the circle. Head coach Lindy Ruff sharply criticized the young player, telling Mike Heika of The Dallas Morning News that Seguin simply wasn't competing hard enough.
19. New York Rangers
Last Week: 25
Why They’re Here: The Rangers didn't exactly face murderers' row this week, but they did collect three desperately needed wins and just like that found themselves back in the playoff picture. After losing to Montreal on Monday, New York beat the Islanders Tuesday, the Sabres Thursday and the Hurricanes Saturday, outscoring those three opponents by a 10-3 score.
By The Numbers: Brad Richards is having a nice bounce-back season after being a compliance buyout candidate in the summer. Through 13 games, he has five goals, 10 points and one of the few positive plus/minus ratings on the team. His underlying numbers are also solid, with an on-ice five-on-five Corsi rating of 53.8 percent that leads all New York forwards.
18. Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 15
Why They’re Here: The Canadiens started the week very well, beating New York on Monday, then heading home and beating the Stars on Tuesday. The team's second set of back-to-backs, later in the week, was less successful: a 4-3 loss to Minnesota on Friday followed by a 4-1 loss to Colorado on Saturday.
Still, 50/50 on a week with two back-to-backs and three of four games on the road isn't awful, either.
By The Numbers: P.K. Subban slipped to second in scoring among NHL defencemen this week. Despite his very creditable 14 points and 47 shots in 15 games, he fell one point back of Ottawa's Erik Karlsson (15 points in 14 games, 45 shots).
17. New York Islanders
Last Week: 17
Why They’re Here: After a Tuesday loss to the Rangers, the Islanders finished strong, beating Ottawa in a shootout win in which they fired 57 shots on the Senators' net and following that up with a creditable 3-1 win over the Boston Bruins. That record elevates the Islanders to seventh in the Eastern Conference, but thanks to the weak Metropolitan Division, if the playoffs started today, they'd slot second in the division and start the postseason with home ice advantage.
By The Numbers: Thomas Vanek hasn't been quite as hot as Matt Moulson has in Buffalo, but he is off to a pretty good start in his own right, with three points in three games and a plus-two rating. The Islanders are also doing exceptionally well with Vanek on the ice, outshooting the opposition 36-19 so far five-on-five.
16. Washington Capitals
Last Week: 16
Why They’re Here: Without question, the Capitals' highlight of the week was a 7-0 rout of the Philadelphia Flyers. The team's other games—a shootout win over the lowly Panthers, a loss to the Canucks—were much less impressive.
Worthy of mention, however, is the fact that Washington managed to go 2-0 in games without Alexander Ovechkin, who is nursing an upper body injury.
By The Numbers: The Capitals currently sit second in the NHL with a 90.7 percent efficiency rating on the penalty kill. The primary reason for their success short-handed lies with strong goaltending performances; despite allowing a subpar 58 shots per hour four-on-five, the Capitals have a 0.966 save percentage in those situations.
15. Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 11
Why They’re Here: The Kings slid four spots this week, losing games in Phoenix and then at home to the Nashville Predators. In between those defeats, Los Angeles was able to eke out a 4-3 overtime win over the San Jose Sharks.
Trading wins and losses has been the Kings' modus operandi since the season began. The team hasn't had a losing streak longer than two games and only once has made a winning streak last three (and even that streak only had one regulation win).
By The Numbers: Los Angeles is hovering right around the playoff bubble in the Western Conference, despite having a nice run in the shootout. After winning only twice last season, the Kings are already 4-0 in the shootout in 2013-14.
14. Nashville Predators
Last Week: 21
Why They’re Here: Nashville played only twice last week.
It posted a 3-0 first period lead over Phoenix but let it slip away; the Coyotes were able to score four times on the 16 shots the Predators allowed in the final two frames (Nashville had 27 shots of its own in that span and outshot Phoenix 40-25 on the night). The game ended in a shootout win for the Coyotes.
Saturday's game again featured a Predators lead (3-1 at the midpoint of the game), but unlike in Phoenix, Nashville a) got heavily outshot the rest of the way and b) won the game. Carter Hutton redeemed himself with 35 saves on 38 shots against and Nashville got away with a 4-3 win.
By The Numbers: Sometimes the margin of victory in the NHL can be pretty narrow, and the Predators illustrate that as well as anybody. Last season, the team went 7-7-9 in one-goal games, a 0.304 win percentage that ranked them 29th in the NHL. This season, the club is fourth with a 0.750 win percentage and a 6-0-2 record.
13. Boston Bruins
Last Week: 4
Why They’re Here: The Bruins tumble after a rough week that saw them drop two of three and just barely force overtime in their lone shootout win. Boston was outshot and outscored early by both the Islanders and Penguins in losses to those Eastern Conference rivals, and the Bruins never held a lead in either contest. Even against Anaheim, the Ducks held the lead for much of the game before the Bruins were able to tie it up in the dying minutes of the third period, after which Jarome Iginla's shootout goal was the difference.
By The Numbers: Ryan Spooner, still technically a rookie after getting into four games last season, saw his first action of 2013-14 with Boston and fared pretty well, putting up two assists in two games this week despite limited ice time.
12. Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 12
Why They’re Here: It was the same old story for Toronto: despite being heavily outshot, the team won two of three games.
Over the course of a road swing through Western Canada, the Leafs managed to run up a 133-69 shots deficit. Jonathan Bernier made 41 stops in a 4-2 win over Calgary, and James Reimer made 43 saves in a 4-0 win over Edmonton. Reimer would match that 43-save performance against Vancouver, but the Canucks managed to put four goals past him and hand Toronto its only loss of the trip.
By The Numbers: There is an exceptionally strong correlation between a team's five-on-five score-close Corsi rating (the combination of shots, missed shots and blocked shots for vs. against) and its point totals this year, a correlation that stands at 0.61 through Sunday's games. The only team with a worse score-close Corsi number than Toronto this season is Buffalo.
11. Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 6
Why They’re Here: The Chicago Blackhawks managed to avenge a loss to Minnesota late last week, stomping the Wild 5-1 on Monday. Despite the loss, Minnesota would bounce back later, beating both Montreal and New Jersey.
Josh Harding, meanwhile, continued his almost unbelievably strong play, winning both of his starts and shutting out New Jersey.
By The Numbers: The Wild's impressive 8-4-3 record is backed by strong underlying numbers, In score-close situations five-on-five, the Wild have one of the league's best shot attempt plus/minuses at +379/-308.
10. St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 5
Why They’re Here: A Saturday loss to Tampa Bay tarnished what was otherwise a pretty good week for the Blues, featuring a 3-2 win over Winnipeg in which St. Louis handily outshot the Jets and then a convincing 4-0 win over the Panthers.
Incredibly, even with a 8-2-2 record, the Blues rank only eighth in the Western Conference; a good chunk of that is a lax early season schedule that has seen them play only 12 games, but even so, it shows the difficulty of securing a playoff spot in the NHL's toughest conference.
By The Numbers: Alex Pietrangelo is already well-known as one of the league's top defenders, but this year he's also in contention for the NHL's defensive scoring title. With 12 points in 12 games, he's one of only two defencemen (Erik Karlsson is the other) with at least 10 games played and more than one point per game.
9. Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 10
Why They’re Here: The Lightning are the surprise leaders of the strongest division in the Eastern Conference, and they held that title this week by winning two of three games, including a 4-2 home win over the West's St. Louis Blues—notable because wins by the East over the West have become a rarity in the early NHL season.
By The Numbers: Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis are doing what they always do, but the Lightning have a pleasant surprise in Alex Killorn. The 24-year-old isn't technically a rookie after playing 38 games last season, but he has 12 points in his first 14 games this year and contributed five points to Tampa Bay's two wins this week.
8. San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 1
Why They’re Here: Finally, signs of weakness from the Sharks! San Jose dropped two of three games this week and falls out of the top position in our power rankings.
With that said: Even in a week with two losses in three games, the Sharks came away with four points, forcing the extra frame in one-goal losses to both Phoenix and Los Angeles and beating Ottawa 5-2 in the week's first game.
By The Numbers: San Jose is now one point out of first place in the NHL, but it still holds the lead league in another important category: goal differential. With a plus-26 rating as a team through 14 games, San Jose leads second-place Colorado by three goals and nobody else is even close.
7. Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 3
Why They’re Here: Inevitably, the Canucks cooled a little after a ridiculous run on their most recent road trip. They didn't cool a lot, though: The team's lone loss was a one-goal defeat at the hands of the Red Wings, and it bookended that defeat with a narrow win over Washington and a convincing 4-0 rout of Toronto.
The win over Toronto, in particular, was a nice way to celebrate the retirement of Pavel Bure's No. 10 on Hockey Night in Canada.
By The Numbers: Head coach John Tortorella has been riding his star forwards to a degree almost unparalleled in the NHL today. Three of the league's top four forwards in ice time per game—Ryan Kesler (22:57), Henrik Sedin (22:47) and Daniel Sedin (22:25)—play in Vancouver. and so far it is a strategy that has paid dividends for the Canucks.
6. Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 9
Why They’re Here: The long road trip the Ducks are on seems not to have phased them at all. After splitting four games at the start of the trip, Anaheim won two of three this week, beating cellar-dwelling teams in Buffalo and Philadelphia. Additionally, the only loss came in a shootout, and that was against a pretty good Boston team.
By The Numbers: Mathieu Perreault, a 25-year-old who has only ever posted middling numbers in Washington, has been exceptionally good for Anaheim this season. Through 14 games, he has 13 points and a plus-eight rating and sits behind only Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry on the Ducks' scoring chart.
5. Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 14
Why They’re Here: A perfect week from Detroit has it rapidly climbing our power rankings.
Making that week even more impressive was this: Three-game road swings out West have generally spelled doom for Eastern teams, but the Red Wings managed to buck the trend. They won one-goal games against Vancouver and Calgary before thumping the pitiful Oilers 5-0 in Rexall on Saturday.
By The Numbers: As so many older stars have, Daniel Alfredsson looks rejuvenated in Detroit. Through 15 games, he has 13 points, and with a shooting percentage slightly lower than his career average, there's a chance those numbers could even improve. It's a big jump from his 26-point campaign in 2012-13 with Ottawa.
4. Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 8
Why They’re Here: A near-perfect week was spoiled by Reto Berra on Sunday, as the Flames rookie goaltender made 42 saves in the first NHL start of his career, forcing Chicago to settle for a 3-2 overtime loss.
Still, if it was a sour note, it was the only one. Chicago scored five-plus goals in each of its other three games, winning all of them and netting seven of a possible eight points on the week.
By The Numbers: On a team as good as Chicago, Patrick Kane's terrible minus-nine rating stands out. Partially it is a reflection of some poor play on Kane's part—remarkably, he has one of the worst on-ice shot rates on the team—but mostly it's a function of percentages. The Blackhawks have only a 0.894 five-on-five save percentage with Kane on the ice.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 13
Why They’re Here: Pittsburgh had a perfect week. The Penguins topped Carolina, Boston and then Columbus twice in a pair of back-to-back games, outscoring their opposition by a 13-5 margin over the course of the week.
By The Numbers: On assists alone, Sidney Crosby would rank 14th in NHL scoring. Add in the fact that he has eight goals and there's no question he's been the most dominant offensive player in the NHL. His 23 points in 15 games gives him a comfortable three-point lead on second-ranked Steven Stamkos.
2. Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 7
Why They’re Here: Another team that enjoyed a perfect week. Phoenix didn't have an easy list of opponents, either; it had to beat Los Angeles, Nashville and San Jose.
The Dave Tippett-coached team has been one of the early surprises of 2013-14; with a 10-3-2 record, it now sits tied for fourth in the NHL.
By The Numbers: The Coyotes offence has been powered by depth rather than a single high-profile star. Nobody on the team is scoring at a point-per-game pace, but seven different players—including three defencemen—are in double-digits.
1. Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 2
Why They’re Here: It was a week that included its share of off-ice distraction, but on the ice nothing changed: The Avalanche just kept on winning. A 3-2 overtime win over Dallas on Friday was quickly followed by a convincing 4-1 win over Montreal on Saturday.
Gabriel Landeskog, in particular, looked impressive in the Avs' two games this week, picking up three points and firing 10 shots.
By The Numbers: One of the interesting items this year is the Avs' success closing out leads. When scoring first in 2012-13, Colorado had the second-worst record in the NHL last year at 9-4-3. This season, the club is perfect at 10-0-0.