2013-14 NHL Power Rankings: Week 9
The NHL's ninth week saw plenty of movement in the power rankings, and understandably so.
Seven teams went through the last seven games without recording a single win, including three that were in the top 10 last week.
At the other end of the scale, six teams posted a perfect record, including two that have spent time near the very bottom of this list in previous weeks.
Who rises? Who falls? And can the St. Louis Blues be the first team in four weeks to repeat at the top of the list? Read on to find out.
30. Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 28
Why They’re Here: The Sabres are one of only two teams in the NHL to lose all three games they played in week nine. Not one of those contests was a close affair; Buffalo fell 4-2 to Toronto, 4-1 to St. Louis and 4-1 to Philadelphia.
The Sabres are now five points back of 29th in the NHL.
By The Numbers: For all of its problems, one place that Buffalo has been successful is in the shootout, where it is a perfect 3-0.
29. New York Islanders
Last Week: 21
Why They’re Here: This is a nasty tumble for the Islanders, the only team other than Buffalo to drop nine games without a single win this week. It's a continuation of a lamentable trend; New York has just a lone regulation win in its last 10 contests and has had a November to forget.
By The Numbers: The Islanders have been leaning heavily on John Tavares, and it's no wonder. He's played an average of 20:44 per night, making him one of less than 30 forwards in the league to play more than 20 minutes per game.
28. Florida Panthers
Last Week: 27
Why They’re Here: Florida played three games last week and split them right down the middle, with one win, one loss and one shootout loss. The Panthers managed their win, a shootout victory, over a pretty good opponent (the Vancouver Canucks) before dropping games to Edmonton and Calgary.
By The Numbers: One surprising item in the Panthers' favour is the team's apparent ability to take fewer penalties than the opposition. Florida has drawn 16 more penalties than it has been assessed—the second-best mark in the NHL after San Jose.
27. Calgary Flames
Last Week: 30
Why They’re Here: Thin margins were the order of the week for Calgary, though the Flames still managed to extract five of six points from the three contests they played. Both wins came in the shootout, one over a relatively weak Panthers squad and the other over Winnipeg by virtue of a 43-save performance by Reto Berra.
Even the team's loss came in overtime, to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
By The Numbers: Defenceman Kris Russell, who was waived by the St. Louis Blues and then traded to Calgary three days later for a late draft pick, has been something of a revelation for the Flames. He has 12 points in 23 games, exceeding his scoring from the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season and matching his total from the 2011-12 campaign.
26. Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 24
Why They’re Here: It was a rough week for the Blue Jackets, who fall two spots. The team's lone win in its Western Conference road swing came in overtime over the Flames. It was followed by a 6-2 loss to Vancouver but preceded by an embarrassing 7-0 loss at the hands of the Oilers.
By The Numbers: Jack Johnson's minus-11 rating this season pushes him over the minus-100 mark on his career. It's a remarkable total. Since his first games in 2006-07, there is not another active skater that low (Bruno Gervais, who spent a long run with the New York Islanders, is next at minus-80). More remarkable still is that the bulk of Johnson's terrible plus/minus (minus-90) came with a pretty good Kings team.
25. Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 25
Why They’re Here: Ottawa continues to slump, dropping three of four games this week. The schedule wasn't especially easy, with three of the four contests being played on the road, but the Senators weren't facing a murderers' row of opponents. Ottawa dropped games to Philadelphia, Minnesota and Carolina, winning only against Detroit.
By The Numbers: One of the Senators' big disadvantages this season has been poor discipline. The team has had 80 power-play opportunities but given the opposition the man advantage 107 times; that's the biggest negative gap in the league—more than one extra power play to the opposition per game.
24. Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 29
Why They’re Here: The Oilers climb five spots after going a perfect 2-0 in week nine. Edmonton played at home, and though the opponents (Columbus and Florida) were not especially intimidating, the Oilers' total score of 11-1 in those two games is impressive all the same. A season-high three-game winning streak gives as much reason for optimism as there has been in Edmonton all year.
By The Numbers: The Oilers are, at least according to the NHL's real-time statistics, the most physical team in the league. With 397 road hits, Edmonton sits 40 up on the next closest team and has more than twice as many as conference rivals like Chicago and Minnesota. Maybe it's due to a commitment to hitting, or maybe it's because Edmonton rarely has the puck and thus has more opportunities to hit its opponents.
23. Winnipeg Jets
Last Week: 18
Why They’re Here: The Jets picked up two points last week but lost all three games they played. They got stomped by the Blackhawks but outshot both the Flames and Wild in shootout losses. Two points are a poor return for three games at home, though.
By The Numbers: Last week, we noted that Winnipeg was a perfect 6-0 in the shootout, a contest which is basically as predictable as a coin flip. Week nine goes to show that, as the Jets dropped both they played in.
22. Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 16
Why They’re Here: Carolina dropped three of four games last week, but the total trend was upward. The Hurricanes lost Monday by three goals, lost by one goal in regulation Thursday, lost by a goal in overtime Saturday and then won by three Sunday.
Even so, a 1-2-1 record is a luxury a team on the playoff bubble can't really afford.
By The Numbers: The somewhat surprising second-leading scorer for the Hurricanes this season is 27-year-old defenceman Andrej Sekera, who has 11 points in 24 games. His previous career high is 29 points, set in 2010-11.
21. Washington Capitals
Last Week: 12
Why They’re Here: Washington climbed eight spots last week by virtue of winning all three games it played. This week, the Capitals fall nine by the simple expedient of losing all three. The team was whooped by the Penguins, fell in a closer game to Montreal and somehow only came away with a shootout loss in a contest where it outshot the Leafs 50-28.
By The Numbers: The Caps' even-strength scoring lead is a three-way tie, but not between all the players one would expect. Alexander Ovechkin has 13 even-strength points, and so does Mikhail Grabovski, but the third player is journeyman forward Jason Chimera.
20. Dallas Stars
Last Week: 10
Why They’re Here: The Stars tumble 10 spots in the power rankings this week after losing both contests they played. Dallas fell 6-1 to St. Louis, but its game against the Rangers was considerably better, with the team falling by a single goal in a contest where Henrik Lunqvist's 41 saves made him first star.
By The Numbers: Sergei Gonchar is struggling rather badly for Dallas. He has just four assists in 22 contests after putting up 27 points in 45 contests last year. His minus-nine rating is the worst number on the Stars blue line, and Dallas is getting outshot rather badly with Gonchar on the ice despite him playing very favourable minutes.
19. Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 14
Why They’re Here: The Red Wings brought a seven-game losing streak to an end but continue to slide due to mediocre play. Detroit had a pretty easy schedule last week but was only able to go 2-2 while playing three of four at home against mediocre opponents.
By The Numbers: The Red Wings are tied with the Devils for the NHL's worst shootout record, having gone 0-4 in contests decided in it. They have been outscored 5-1 in the shootout.
18. Nashville Predators
Last Week: 26
Why They’re Here: The Predators won two of their three week nine contests and climb these rankings as a result. Nashville beat the Red Wings in Detroit and the Maple Leafs in Toronto before losing at home in a game where it only managed 17 shots against the visiting New York Rangers.
By The Numbers: One point of concern for the Predators is that their record in one-goal games (6-0-2, .750 winning percentage) is far better than their record in games decided by more than one goal (5-10-0, .333 winning percentage).
Winning one-goal games could indicate a team with "killer instinct," but it might also mean that Nashville has been getting the breaks in close games.
17. Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 17
Why They’re Here: Week nine was a mixed bag for Vancouver, with some positive mixed in, but not enough to prevent a small drop in the rankings.
The Canucks fell in the shootout to Florida at home, rallied to beat Columbus 6-2, then lost a close fight to the Blackhawks Saturday. Five games into a six-game homestand, Vancouver has claimed only a single win.
By The Numbers: Vancouver, as it often has in recent years, has been getting a fair amount of scoring from its blue line. Six defencemen, including waiver-wire find Ryan Stanton, have between seven and 11 points in the first quarter of the season.
16. New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 20
Why They’re Here: The Devils faced a pretty awful test last week and came through rather well. The team took a three-game, four-day road trip through the Pacific, playing Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose, three teams with a combined home record today of 24-4-5.
New Jersey won two games in overtime and lost a one-goal contest to the Sharks.
By The Numbers: No team in the NHL has a worse shootout record than New Jersey (zero wins, four losses). The Devils also have the worst goal differential in the shootout, with no goals for and five against.
15. New York Rangers
Last Week: 23
Why They’re Here: The Rangers had a pretty decent week, dominating two of three games and winning two of three games. The two don't exactly correspond; New York lost a game it should have won over Boston thanks to a great performance from Tuukka Rask, but it beat Dallas in no small part thanks to great work from Henrik Lundqvist.
By The Numbers: Rick Nash's return from a concussion wasn't especially prominent on the scoresheet. The star fired 10 shots in three games and recorded a single point, a power-play goal against Dallas.
14. Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 22
Why They’re Here: The resurgent Flyers made full use of three home games against relatively weak opponents, going a perfect 3-0 on the week and outscoring the Senators, Sabres and Islanders by a 14-5 margin.
A team that looked cooked early on has forced its way back into the playoff race.
By The Numbers: The Flyers have picked up 13 of a possible 14 points in their last seven games, starting with a win over Edmonton November 9. Claude Giroux scored his first goal of the season then and has posted an impressive stat line since that point: three goals, five assists and a plus-seven rating.
13. Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 8
Why They’re Here: A tough four-game Pacific Division road trip went pretty much as badly as it could have for Tampa Bay; the Lightning went 0-3-1 and were outscored 17-6. Three of those losses came this week, and as a result, Tampa Bay falls five spots.
By The Numbers: Anders Lindback was in net for the second of this week's three losses, allowing five goals on 36 shots against. That performance dropped his save percentage on the season down to .872, a fitting number for a goalie with a 1-5-0 record.
12. Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 5
Why They’re Here: Phoenix drops seven spots in this week's power rankings after picking up a single point for an overtime loss in one of the two games it played in the last seven days. The opponents—Colorado and Anaheim—were strong, but even so, a winless week pushes the Coyotes down.
By The Numbers: If the early indications are anything to go by, the Coyotes' scoring race is going to be tight this year. Shane Doan and Martin Hanzal are tied with 19 points, but four other players have 17 or more.
11. Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 13
Why They’re Here: Toronto won two of three games last week, which was enough to push them up two spots and just outside the top 10. The Leafs beat the Islanders 5-2 in their first game of the week, then lost 4-2 to Nashville. The third game was a shootout win but one that required James Reimer to turn aside 49 of 50 shots.
By The Numbers: Toronto leads the NHL in fighting majors with 19, but remarkably, no single player has more than four. Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren are tied for the team lead with that score, but players like Joffrey Lupul (fights against Brayden Schenn and Charlie Coyle) and Phil Kessel (a fight against Alex Burrows) have also gotten into the action.
10. Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 15
Why They’re Here: Pittsburgh climbs five spots on the strength of three wins in four games and would have climbed higher if not for a loss Saturday to the Montreal Canadiens. The strong week has the Penguins within a single win of first in the East and gives them a four-point lead on Washington for the lead in the Metropolitan.
By The Numbers: The Penguins' record in one-goal games (5-5-0, .500 winning percentage) is significantly worse than their record in games decided by more than one goal (10-4-0, .714 winning percentage), which may suggest that their point totals are slightly inferior to their true performance level.
9. Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 19
Why They’re Here: A perfect week pushes Montreal up 10 spots in the rankings. The Habs didn't have the easiest week imaginable either, facing off against the Wild, Penguins and Capitals, but they found a way to win each contest and looked especially impressive in a 6-2 win over Minnesota that at one point featured a 6-0 lead.
By The Numbers: As with Pittsburgh, the Canadiens' record in one-goal games is interesting, band for the same reason. Montreal is just 4-6-2 in contests decided by a single goal (a 0.333 winning percentage), but 9-3-0 in games decided by a wider margin. That may indicate that the team hasn't been getting the bounces in close contests.
8. Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 6
Why They’re Here: The Kings slip a bit this week after winning only one of three games they played (with the caveat here being that they forced overtime and picked up a point in both losses). Even so, November has been a spectacularly successful month; Los Angeles is 6-0-3 in its last nine contests.
By The Numbers: The Kings sit first in the NHL in faceoff percentage, at 55.6 percent, and it stands to reason. Every player on the team with 100 or more draws has won at least 55 percent of them; Jeff Carter is at 62.1 percent.
7. Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 7
Why They’re Here: The Ducks were another team that started the week poorly but improved as it went on. A two-goal loss to Pittsburgh was followed by an overtime loss to New Jersey, then an overtime win over Tampa Bay and finally a two-goal win over Phoenix. The 2-1-1 record overall is enough for Anaheim to hang on to seventh on this list.
By The Numbers: Anaheim is one of only three teams in the NHL to have a record of .500 or better (4-3-1) when trailing after the first period.
6. Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 2
Why They’re Here: Minnesota won two tight games and lost a lopsided game to Montreal, which would be enough to keep them level or better in most places on this list. The Wild, however, slide by virtue of some extremely strong performances by the teams directly in front of it.
By The Numbers: Dany Heatley has been in a rather steep decline the last five seasons, and it's become even more pronounced this year. The two-time 50-goal scorer has seven points in 24 games, and his minus-five rating is tied for the worst mark on the team.
5. Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 3
Why They’re Here: Chicago kicked off a seven-game road trip on a sour note, falling 5-1 to the Colorado Avalanche. But they were able to salvage the rest of the week. The Blackhawks followed that loss up with wins over Winnipeg and Vancouver and, adjusting for games played, currently boast the fourth-best record in the NHL.
By The Numbers: The Blackhawks are among the least penalized teams in the NHL. They are tied for dead last in major penalties, and only the San Jose Sharks have taken fewer minors.
4. Boston Bruins
Last Week: 11
Why They’re Here: The Bruins climb five spots after winning three of four games and losing the other to a very worthy rival (the St. Louis Blues) and managing to force overtime in the process. Boston now leads the Eastern Conference in both points and goal differential and is the only club from the weak side of the NHL that would have enough points to qualify for a playoff spot in the West.
By The Numbers: The big bad Bruins are no such thing, at least according to the NHL's official real-time statistics. With 199 road hits, Boston is one of only two teams in the East with less than 200; likely, it comes of having the puck all the time.
3. San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 4
Why They’re Here: San Jose started a five-game homestand the right way, winning both contests it played this week. The opposition (Tampa Bay and New Jersey) could have been more impressive, but there isn't much to critique in a perfect week.
By The Numbers: The Sharks' strong play extends to team discipline, something that gives them a considerable advantage over every other NHL team. The Sharks have had 97 power-play opportunities to only 62 times shorthanded; that's a 35-penalty differential, by far the largest in the NHL and more than twice as big as the next closest team.
2. Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 9
Why They’re Here: Colorado fell sharply last week after losing three consecutive games, but this week, it showed itself capable of bouncing back. The opposition it faced was worthy—Chicago, Los Angeles and Phoenix—but the Avs were up to the challenge, winning all three contests.
By The Numbers: The Colorado Avalanche have the NHL's best record when outshot, going 9-1-0. Why are they outshot so frequently? Some of it is score effects (teams with an early lead tend to get outshot the rest of the way), but the Avs also tend to be outshot (just barely) with the score close.
1. St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 1
Why They’re Here: The last three versions of this list all saw changes in the top spot; this week, the Blues managed to put an end to that trend, defending first place. They did it by virtue of a 3-0-0 run, handily beating the Sabres and Stars and holding off the East's best team (the Bruins) in Boston.
By The Numbers: With a plus-13 rating, Alexander Steen leads the way for a St. Louis team that has seen every line outscore the opposition. Twenty of the team's 22 skaters (the exceptions are Derek Roy and Magnus Paajarvi) have an even rating or better.