2013-14 NHL Power Rankings: Week 7
When last we looked, the Colorado Avalanche sat atop our weekly power rankings. Despite an incredible season to date and a near-perfect week, however, the team has been displaced as the hottest franchise in the NHL.
That's not the only change. The Buffalo Sabres, the 30th-ranked team in each ranking the last five weeks, managed to climb out of the that spot. Two Stanley Cup contenders made dramatic moves, one up and one down, based on extremely divergent performances.
Read on to see all the moves this week.
30. Florida Panthers
Last Week: 28
Why They’re Here: It's been nine games since the Florida Panthers last won. Eighteen games into the season, they have three wins all year, and one of those came in the shootout. This week, the team lost four games, including a defeat at home to the extremely poor Edmonton Oilers.
The Panthers responded by firing head coach Kevin Dineen and two of his assistants, but their problems run much, much deeper.
By The Numbers: The Panthers are one of just two teams in the league (the other is Edmonton) with a sub-.900 save percentage five-on-five.
29. Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 30
Why They’re Here: The Sabres are, without question, the worst team in the NHL today. But, shortly before posting two losses, they did pull of a shocking win by beating the Sharks in San Jose earlier this week. The 5-4 victory required the shootout, as well as the officials completely missing a goal the Sharks actually scored in overtime, but it was still a major positive for Buffalo.
By The Numbers: Matt Moulson has played six games with Buffalo, during which time he has a total of six points. That places him second in team scoring, behind only Cody Hodgson (13 points).
Interestingly, after a tough start by that duo (as well as linemate Tyler Ennis) in a game against Anaheim, head coach Ron Rolston decided to bench that entire line for the last half of the contest. Huh?
28. Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 29
Why They’re Here: The Oilers actually started the week rather well. They beat the Panthers in Florida, then outplayed the Tampa Bay Lightning but were stymied by goaltender Ben Bishop. Unfortunately for the team, its success stopped there; the Oilers were handily outplayed by both the Flyers and Blackhawks to close out the week.
The two losses came on the heels of a trade that saw Edmonton ship one of its few reliable veteran defencemen out in a trade for marginal prospects.
By The Numbers: No team in the league has had worse goaltending than the Oilers, a club with a .885 save percentage at five-on-five. To help remedy the problem, shortly after trading away Ladislav Smid, the club signed Ilya Bryzgalov. Time will tell whether the desperate move pays off or not.
27. Calgary Flames
Last Week: 22
Why They’re Here: Calgary surprised most everyone by rocketing off to a red-hot start, but the rebuilding team has fallen back to earth in recent weeks with just a single win in its last nine games.
The trend continued this week, as Calgary played the final three games of a four-game road trip and dropped all three decisions by a combined score of 12-5.
By The Numbers: The Flames' decision to keep Sean Monahan looks less wise by the day.
On October 22, we wrote here about the difficult decision Calgary was facing. Monahan was the team's leading scorer, thanks to a combination of good play and even better percentages, but the safe play was to return him to junior. Since that article, Monahan has played eight games, recording three points and a minus-four rating.
26. Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 24
Why They’re Here: A recent four-game homestand that offered the Blue Jackets a chance to get back into the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race has gone very badly. Columbus dropped three of four games (two of them this week) and only managed a single win, beating the New York Islanders Saturday.
By The Numbers: At the best of times, forward Jared Boll adds little more than a physical presence, and this season has not been the best of times. Through 14 games, Boll has no points and a minus-five rating that is tied for the worst among Blue Jackets forwards.
With Boll on the ice at five-on-five, the Jackets are outshot by an average of 28-22 per hour; with Boll on the bench, the shots are 31-30 in favour of the Jackets.
25. New York Islanders
Last Week: 17
Why They’re Here: A four-game road trip against Eastern Conference opponents saw the Islanders lose a lot of four-point games.
New York dropped consecutive decisions to Washington, Carolina, Columbus and Montreal, getting outscored by a 16-6 margin. The Islanders were also outshot in all four contests, despite trailing for much of each game (something that normally inflates shot totals for the trailing team).
By The Numbers: Colin McDonald, the 6'2", 214-pound winger who was such a nice find for the Islanders last season, is off to a wretched start with the team this year. Through 12 games, he has just a single point and a club-worst minus-nine rating. His underlying numbers aren't pretty, either, as he's been outshot worse than nearly any other forward on the team.
24. Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 26
Why They’re Here: The Flyers are a long way from out of the woods, but week seven was kinder to them than the NHL season's first six were. Philadelphia picked up a point in an overtime loss in Raleigh, then split decisions at home, losing 3-0 to New Jersey before winning 4-2 over the Oilers in a game the Flyers completely dominated.
By The Numbers: Claude Giroux scored. Finally.
The Flyers captain, an 11.5 percent shooter on his career, had been stopped on 31 consecutive shots before Saturday's game versus Edmonton. Devan Dubnyk robbed him twice early in the game on glorious chances before Giroux scored to end a long (though as our own Rob Vollman points out, hardly unprecedented) drought.
23. Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 18
Why They’re Here: Montreal drops five spots this week, mostly thanks to some strong performances by other teams around this range rather than their own struggles. After all, the Habs did manage to get St. Louis to the shootout, and they beat the Islanders at the end of the week. But they did fall in regulation to Ottawa.
By The Numbers: It seems odd to say that the defending Norris Trophy winner doesn't get the respect he deserves, but it sometimes feels that way with P.K. Subban, at least in Montreal. Subban leads the Canadiens in shots (62), assists (14) and points (17), but his coach has taken to benching him late in games.
More than that, Sean Gordon of The Globe and Mail writes that when asked whether Subban was a "world class" player or deserved to be on Canada's Olympic team, Michel Therrien sidestepped the questions rather than give the player a public vote of confidence.
22. Winnipeg Jets
Last Week: 25
Why They’re Here: Winnipeg climbs four spots after winning three of four games in week seven. More impressively, the Jets faced tough opponents every night and managed to beat Detroit, Nashville and San Jose in Winnipeg. The lone loss came against the Stanley Cup champions in Chicago.
By The Numbers: Dustin Byfuglien leads all NHL defencemen with 64 shots through action on Sunday. Surprisingly, he has only scored a single goal for the Jets, though he has picked up 11 assists.
21. New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 23
Why They’re Here: The Devils picked up five of a possible six points over the last week and put an exclamation point on that success with a 5-0 shutout win over the Nashville Predators Sunday in which Martin Brodeur only had to turn aside 15 shots.
The Devils also outshot Philadelphia and Toronto in a win and an overtime loss, respectively.
By The Numbers: We noted last week that Brodeur had started to salvage a save percentage that had fallen badly to start the year, and with 37 saves on 37 shots over two games this week, that trend continued. His .908 save percentage is now respectable, and if this keeps up, it could be still better than that.
20. Washington Capitals
Last Week: 16
Why They’re Here: Washington had picked up five of a possible six points in three games this past week and split shootout decisions in the two games it played against opponents from the stronger Western Conference. Then on Sunday, the Caps suffered a regulation loss to Colorado, and that record fell to 2-1-1.
By The Numbers: After an injury-filled season that saw him miss 46 games (including the playoffs), the early indications are that 30-year-old Brooks Laich isn't the player he once was. Through 18 games, Laich has just three points and a team-worst minus-nine rating. The underlying numbers offer little hope; Laich is right around his career shooting-percentage average, and the Capitals have been dominated on the shot clock with him on the ice.
19. Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 27
Why They’re Here: When we last left Carolina, the Hurricanes were mired in a five-game losing streak. In week seven, they took advantage of the start of a five-game homestand, beating the Flyers and Islanders early in the week and then forcing the shootout against Minnesota before losing to the Wild Saturday.
Without the five points the 'Canes picked up this week, the team would have been tied with Philadelphia for 11th in the East; instead, they were just one point out of the playoffs after Saturday's contest.
By The Numbers: The news wasn't uniformly good for Carolina this week. According to Chip Alexander of The News & Observer forward Jeff Skinner is expected to miss two more weeks with a hand injury. The 21-year-old Skinner has played only 10 of 17 games but leads the Hurricanes with nine points and a plus-five rating.
18. Nashville Predators
Last Week: 14
Why They’re Here: Nashville started the week very well, beating one of the NHL's hottest teams—the Colorado Avalanche—in Denver, but that was without question the highlight of the week.
What followed were a pair of very different 5-0 losses. Against the Winnipeg Jets on Friday, Nashville mustered 41 shots but no goals in defeat. Against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday, the Preds were able to create only 15.
By The Numbers: Viktor Stalberg picked up two points in the Preds' win over Colorado, and they were doubtless a relief to both player and team. Stalberg was inked as a free agent this summer in the hopes that he would add some size and scoring to Nashville's forward corps, but Stalberg has been a bust to date with just those two points through 11 games.
The big winger is snakebit, and to make matters worse, his shot totals have fallen off dramatically, from nearly three shots per game in Chicago to less than two with Nashville.
17. Dallas Stars
Last Week: 22
Why They’re Here: The Stars are in tough spot to make the postseason in a ridiculously competitive Western Conference, but they showed they weren't going away with three wins on the their most recent road trip, two of which came this week.
The caveats here are that all of those wins were against Eastern Conference teams, all of them required overtime or the shootout and that Dallas lost 5-2 to Chicago when it returned home Saturday.
By The Numbers: Some of the underlying numbers suggest that Dallas is actually a much-improved team over one year ago. For example, score-close Fenwick (a plus/minus of shots and missed shots) is generally seen as a key indicator and has a close correlation with winning; Dallas has gone from 23rd in the league a year ago to ninth. The bad news is that seven of the eight teams ahead of the Stars play in the West.
16. New York Rangers
Last Week: 19
Why They’re Here: The Rangers continue to atone for a terrible start, winning three of four contests this week and only losing to an exceptional Ducks team by a single goal Monday. The club has now own six of eight games since ending the nine-game road trip that started the season on such a sour note.
By The Numbers: The struggles of Henrik Lundqvist, which caused some concern early in the year, are safely in the rear-view mirror now. Since allowing a season-high six goals October 10, the New York goaltender has posted a .937 save percentage, two shutouts and allowed more than three goals in a game only once.
15. Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 21
Why They’re Here: Have the Senators finally found some traction?
After struggling early—and with a five-game losing streak entering this week—Ottawa reeled off three consecutive wins. That's certainly good news for a team that has underperformed, but it does come with a caveat. With the exception of a win over Florida, the Sens were badly outshot and owe most of the points this week to Robin Lehner, who was exceptional.
By The Numbers: A little more on Lehner, who was 0-2-2 entering the week and 3-2-2 coming out of it. He's been ridiculously good for the Sens, and a .945 save percentage on the season to date has given them a chance to win every night he's played. That's a literal comment: Lehner has played eight games and has yet to record a save percentage under .900.
14. Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 7
Why They’re Here: The offseason switch of John Tortorella and Alain Vigneault as head coaches in New York and Vancouver attracted a lot of attention early when the Canucks were cruising and the Rangers were sinking fast, but the two teams have swapped roles since then, and this week brought them closer together in the standings.
The Rangers' improved play was a big part of the closing gap, but Vancouver has done its share of losing, too. A four-game road trip this week saw the Canucks drop three of four games.
By The Numbers: Vancouver has been getting some scoring from unexpected places this year. Forwards Mike Santorelli and Brad Richardson were depth additions on cheap contracts—with CapGeek showing cap hits of $550,000 and $1.15 million, respectively—and Santorelli has 12 points through 20 games, while Richardson has 10. Santorelli is averaging nearly 20 minutes per night.
13. Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 12
Why They’re Here: Toronto played only twice in week seven, beating the Devils in a shootout Friday and following that up with a regulation loss to the Boston Bruins Saturday.
The Leafs' seemingly habitual pattern this season—getting outshot but winning thanks to great goaltending and opportunistic scoring—slipped a little, too; the team did better on the shot clock but struggled to score. Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer were excellent in both games.
By The Numbers: The sample is still awfully small—especially with each goalie only getting half of Toronto's starts—but the Maple Leafs have been getting Vezina-calibre performances out of both Bernier and Reimer this season. Bernier's record is 7-4-0 with a .936 save percentage; Reimer is 4-2-0 with a .942 save percentage.
12. Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 5
Why They’re Here: A week ago, the Red Wings were surging, fresh off three straight regulation wins. They gave most of that advantage back this week, losing all three contests they played (though Detroit still managed to salvage a pair of points in overtime losses).
By The Numbers: Detroit dodged a bullet when it turned out that Niklas Kronwall wasn't seriously injured on a brutal hit from Cody McLeod. In the eight games Kronwall has played since the incident, he has four points, a plus-four rating and has never played less than 21:36 in a game. He's topped the 25:00 per-game mark four times in that eight-game span.
11. Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 15
Why They’re Here: The Kings haven't had an especially good start—after their game Saturday, they were still outside the playoff picture in the West—but they went some way toward righting the ship with wins in both games they played this week.
The Kings shut out the hapless Buffalo Sabres Thursday but did even better with a real test Saturday, convincingly beating the Vancouver Canucks by a 5-1 score.
By The Numbers: It was also a bounce-back week for Jonathan Quick, who has been a big part of the Kings' problems. In stopping 44 of 45 shots he faced in those two Kings wins, Quick managed to bring his save percentage up from a wretched .896 to a significantly better—albeit still not especially impressive—.906 number.
10. Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 3
Why They’re Here: Pittsburgh tumbles after a tough week where it was outscored by a combined 7-2 margin and failed to take a single point.
The New York Rangers controlled a Wednesday matchup, and while the Pens kept the score close against St. Louis—losing by only a single goal—they barely tested Jaroslav Halak, while Marc-Andre Fleury faced 32 shots.
By The Numbers: Evgeni Malkin has 15 points in 17 games. While that total would be great for 90 percent or more of NHL players, Malkin's incredible talent means he'll always be judged by a different standard.
The good news? A big chunk of that relatively low production is related to his shooting percentage. Malkin, a career 12.7 percent shooter, is at just 6.5 percent this season. The goals will come, and his point totals will look more like what he's posted in past seasons.
9. San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 8
Why They’re Here: The San Jose Sharks that have lost five consecutive games would probably like to get back to being the San Jose Sharks that went 10-1-1 to start the year.
This week's team lost twice in the shootout—including to the Buffalo Sabres, though league officialdom helped there by completely missing a San Jose overtime goal—and fell in regulation to Vancouver, further burning away the nice lead on the rest of the league that the Sharks built up early.
By The Numbers: Marc-Edouard Vlasic's strong play isn't exactly a surprise—after all, he's been a very good defenceman for a long time—but he seems to have found another gear this season. The Canadian Olympic dark horse has 11 points and a plus-11 rating through 17 games, and his underlying numbers are simply outstanding.
8. Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 2
Why They’re Here: The Coyotes drop quite a few spots, despite winning two of their three games this week. They went toe-to-toe with Vancouver and Washington, eventually prevailing after regulation in both cases, but were badly beaten by a red-hot Ducks team.
By The Numbers: The shootout has very much been the Coyotes' friend this season, especially of late. After dropping its first shootout to Anaheim in mid-October, four of Phoenix's last five gams have ended in shootout victories. Radim Vrbata, who has three goals in four attempts this year, is the only Coyotes forward with a particularly impressive long-term record in the event.
7. Boston Bruins
Last Week: 13
Why They’re Here: The Bruins kicked off five games at home in fine fashion. After losing to Dallas in a shootout Tuesday, Boston beat the Lightning and Maple Leafs handily. The team's 10-5-1 record on the season presently has it outside playoff home ice in the East, but the plus-15 goal differential is one of the best totals in the league and suggests the Bruins haven't reached their peak position in the standings just yet.
By The Numbers: Reason number 2,163 not to blindly trust plus/minus: with a minus-one rating, Zdeno Chara is the only regular Bruins rearguard in the red.
The reason has nothing to do with Chara's play—Boston actually outshoots the opposition by a ridiculous rate with Chara on the ice—but rather with the percentages. While every other Boston defenceman has a combined on-ice shooting and save-percentage number well north of 100 percent (Dennis Seidenberg, for example, is at 110.2 percent), Chara is sitting at 97.9.
Those numbers bounce around but eventually regress to the mean (somewhere near 100, depending on the player involved and the minutes he's playing), at which point Chara's plus/minus will dramatically improve.
6. Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 11
Why They’re Here: It is almost unfair how the Wild's strong performance has been mostly overlooked in an insanely strong West. Today finds Minnesota tied for eighth in the West despite the fact that it would be tied for first in the Eastern Conference.
This week saw the Wild put together another good performance, hammering the Flames at home and then splitting shootout decisions on the road.
By The Numbers: At some point, one imagines the carousel has to stop, but Josh Harding's early numbers are ridiculous. He sits 9-2-2 on the season with a .947 save percentage; the door opened a crack thanks to injury, and Harding's kicked it down.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 9
Why They’re Here: It was a slow week for the Lightning but one where the team won both games it played. The wins over the Oilers and the Red Wings pushed Tampa Bay's record to an impressive 12-4-0, the best numbers of any team in the Eastern Conferece.
By The Numbers: It was quite the week for Ben Bishop, the Lightning starter who might be a dark horse for a goaltending job with Team USA in Sochi this year. Bishop was named first star in both of Tampa Bay's wins, turning aside 25 of 27 shots in an overtime victory against Detroit and even more impressively making 38 saves on 40 shots in a game against Edmonton where the Bolts were thoroughly outplayed.
4. Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 1
Why They’re Here: Last week's top team falls out of first place for one simple reason: It was less than perfect.
It's not that Colorado had a bad week; the Avs won two of the three games they played and scored 12 goals over that span. It's just that some of the league's other top teams managed to win every contest they played.
By The Numbers: PDO—the combination of five-on-five shooting and save percentage—is generally seen by the statistically inclined as one of the best measures of luck in the NHL standings, mostly because it has proven extremely difficult for an NHL club to maintain both its shooting and save percentage well above the league average of 100. No team in the league has a higher PDO than Colorado today.
3. St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 10
Why They’re Here: St. Louis just keeps piling up the wins.
This week, St. Louis beat Montreal on the road before defeating Calgary and Pittsburgh in St. Louis. The perfect week bumps them up to 11-2-2, and the only reason they aren't higher in the standings is because no team in the league has played fewer games.
By The Numbers: With 21 points in 15 games, Alexander Steen is just six shy of his full-season total in 2012-13. Entering action Sunday night, the Blues' surprising forward was tied for first in the NHL in goals and sat fourth overall in points. With a 26.9 shooting percentage, he's also converting shots to goals at nearly triple his career average.
To put it mildly, it's not a bad start, particularly for a pending unrestricted free agent.
2. Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 4
Why They’re Here: The defending Stanley Cup champions climb for the second week in a row thanks to three wins in three games.
The Blackhawks posted convincing wins over Winnipeg (4-1) and Dallas (5-2) to start the week, and while the score was closer in Sunday's game against the Oilers (5-4), Chicago was dominant, outshooting and outchancing Edmonton by a wide margin.
By The Numbers: It's noteworthy that Chicago starter Corey Crawford got both of the Blackhawks' back-to-back games this weekend. Sunday's game against Edmonton seemed like a logical start for backup Nikolai Khabibulin—not only are the Oilers an exceptionally weak opponent, but as Khabibulin's old team, one might expect the veteran to have a little extra motivation.
Instead, head coach Joel Quenneville opted to leave the backup and his .818 save percentage on the bench. Which prompts this question: If Khabibulin can't play against Edmonton, is there a circumstance where Quenneville would feel comfortable starting him?
1. Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 6
Why They’re Here: The very impressive Anaheim Ducks unseat Colorado as the top team in this week's power rankings. Head coach Bruce Boudreau's team was a juggernaut, beating the Rangers, the Coyotes, the Sabres (by a ridiculous margin) and the Canucks over the course of the week.
The four wins move the Ducks to 7-0-1 in their last eight games.
By The Numbers: Seven different Ducks are in double-digit plus/minuses, with the surprising team leader being Dustin Penner. Penner missed time to injury this year but has 12 points in 12 games and a staggering plus-18 rating. More remarkable still is the fact that he's doing it all in just 13:30 per game.