2013-14 NHL Power Rankings: Week 2

Jonathan Willis@jonathanwillisNHL National ColumnistOctober 7, 2013

2013-14 NHL Power Rankings: Week 2

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    The first edition of this year's power rankings certainly elicited a response from our readers.

    Loudest were supporters of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who felt their team was significantly underrated. Three wins later, they likely feel no different - and indeed, Toronto's record has them climbing our list.

    The Maple Leafs aren't the only team on the move. In the early going, fluctuation is going to be the order of the day as teams show exactly what they're made of. To see which clubs are rising–and which ones are falling–read on.

    Unless otherwise noted, statistics are from NHL.com.

30. Buffalo Sabres

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    Last week: 28

    Why they're here: They're 0–3 on the season and while they've played some very good teams (Detroit, Ottawa, Pittsburgh) they've also been soundly thumped for the majority of those games.

    Perhaps the best way to illustrate the problem is to look at their save percentages. Ryan Miller stopped 77 of the 80 shots he faced in his two starts; he now has a 0.963 save percentage to go along with a 0–2 record. Jhonas Enroth wasn't quite as good versus Pittsburgh, but even so he stopped 31 of the 34 shots he faced and was good enough to deserve better than the regulation loss.

    When a team's getting 0.947 save percentage goaltending and not winning games, it says a lot about their play in other areas.

    By the numbers: According to ExtraSkater.com, only one player–Johan Larsson–has been on the ice for more Corsi events (Corsi is a plus/minus that tracks shots, missed shots and blocked shots) for than against at even–strength.

29. Calgary Flames

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    Last week: 30

    Why they're here: It's too early to dramatically shift expectations for the Flames, a team in the middle of a rebuild, but the early results are at least a little encouraging. Calgary took an early lead against a decent Capitals team and hung on for the regulation tie before falling in the shootout; then they went on the road and beat Columbus, and Vancouver needed overtime to top them in their third game. 

    By the numbers: The team's most significant question remains goaltending. Joey MacDonald and Karri Ramo have each played now, and both currently sit below the 0.900 save percentage mark. If these were established starters, that would not be a concern; because of their careers to date it is.

28. Florida Panthers

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    Last week: 29

    Why they're here: Florida looked pretty good in beating Dallas on opening night...but then they played St. Louis and fell 7–0. In other words, there isn't much here to suggest they're a better team than last season.

    However, with the Sabres struggling terribly out the gate, the Panthers rise a single spot by default. 

    By the numbers: Again, the Panthers are going to go almost exactly as far as Tim Thomas can carry them, and given that Thomas is coming off a season without hockey it's anyone's guess as to exactly how far that is. The season's opening week didn't help either–Thomas was the first star against Dallas and then was pulled versus the Blues; he now has a 0.873 save percentage through two contests.

27. Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Last week: 27

    Why they're here: The Lightning split their first two games of the season. They fell 3-1 to Boston in a game where they played pretty well. Then they got crushed by Chicago everywhere but on the scoreboard–a team that was out–shot 12–0 in the first period and 39–16 on the game managed to sneak away with a 3–2 shootout victory.

    With conflicting signals against two extremely good teams, there's no movement on this board. It should be easier to get a handle on where the Lightning are at after they play two of the NHL's lesser lights (Buffalo and Florida) next week.

    By the numbers: Here's a strange statistic: the Lightning have been out–shot the worst with Martin St. Louis on the ice. Through two games, the opposition has out–shot Tampa Bay 20–9 when their captain is off the bench.

26. Nashville Predators

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    Last week: 26

    Why they're here: The Predators hold steady despite an unimpressive start to the season where they surrendered three goals in the first 10 minutes against St. Louis and followed that up with a one-sided loss to Colorado.

    Head coach Barry Trotz has a long track record of getting the most out of his teams, but even he's going to struggle to put wins together given the raw nature of his defense corps and Nashville's underwhelming offense. 

    By the numbers: Carter Hutton was and is a question mark as the Predator's backup goaltender, but in his lone appearance–coming in relief of Pekka Rinne after Nashville's starter allowed three goals on six shots versus St. Louis–he fared well, stopping 21 of the 22 shots he faced.

25. Winnipeg Jets

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    Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

    Last week: 25

    Why they're here: The Jets have two wins–over Edmonton and Los Angeles– as well as a loss to the Ducks in their first three games, which isn't a bad way to start the year. The record is especially good once one considers that Winnipeg surrendered 34+ shots in each of those three games and are scoring goals despite their own uneven record of shot generation.

    By the numbers: Favored whipping boy Dustin Byfuglien is tied for the team lead with four points on the season so far. He also leads the Jets in ice-time (24:15 per game) and has a plus-2 rating.

24. Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Last week: 22

    Why they're here: The Blue Jackets have had a tepid start to their season. First, they lost at home to a Calgary team that is expected to spend most of the year in the NHL's cellar. Then, they were outplayed through 40 minutes by the New York Islanders before coming back in the third period and then winning in the shootout.

    If Sergei Bobrovsky can replicate his performance from last season, the Blue Jackets will surpass this ranking; he's had one great and one lousy game so far and has a cumulative 0.900 save percentage.

    By the numbers: 2012 second overall draft pick Ryan Murray made the team out of camp, but he hasn't been used a lot by the coaching staff, averaging just 15:10 per game through the first two contests, easily sixth among the Blue Jacket's regular defensemen. 

23. Philadelphia Flyers

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    Last week: 23

    Why they're here: Three games in, the Flyers are still looking for their first win of the season. While Philadelphia has typically iced a competitive team, this group missed the playoffs last season and enters 2013-14 with an extremely questionable goaltending situation and a number of other areas of concern. It's early enough that they could turn things around in a hurry, but so far the answers have been all wrong.

    By the numbers: Luke Schenn's second period wrist shot against Carolina was the Flyers' first, and so far only, even-strength goal of the season.

22. Edmonton Oilers

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    Last week: 18.

    Why they're here: First, the good news. Top center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who was expected to be out with injury until November 1, will return Monday to a team that desperately needs the help. That allows the Oilers to move Taylor Hall (who struggled badly at center) back to left wing.

    The bad news is they have dropped their first two games of the year. Goaltending let them down in a strong outing against Winnipeg, but they were rag–dolled by the Vancouver Canucks on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday.

    By the numbers: Ales Hemsky was the subject of trade rumors for virtually the entirety of the last two seasons, but he currently leads the Oilers with three points and has earned rave reviews from head coach Dallas Eakins.

21. Carolina Hurricanes

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    Last week: 23

    Why they're here: With a win against Philadelphia and an overtime loss to Detroit, Carolina's had an okay if not overwhelming start to 2013-14. They did a nice job of dominating puck possession against the Flyers after being outclassed in that area by Detroit in their opener. Both Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin have looked good in the early going, which given what happened when Ward went down last season can only be good news.

    By the numbers: Veteran winger Radek Dvorak had to wait until October 2 to land an NHL contract but so far the decision to sign him has paid off for Carolina. Dvorak already has two goals on the year, including the game-winner against the Flyers.

20. Colorado Avalanche

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    Last week: 21

    Why they're here: The Avalanche have caught eyes in the early going, both for their play on the ice and also for head coach Patrick Roy's fiery temper. On the ice, the Avs were strong in their opener against Anaheim, winning by a lopsided 6–1 score; they followed that up with a well–earned victory over Nashville.

    With so little separating the 15 teams in the middle of these rankings, a good run early could propel Colorado up this list in no time.

    By the numbers: A story–line to keep an eye on in the early going is the play of defenseman Andre Benoit. The 29–year–old journeyman had just 41 NHL games under his belt (along with hundreds in the next-best leagues in the world) but he currently leads Colorado in ice–time, averaging 22:45 per game.

19. Phoenix Coyotes

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    Last week: 19

    Why they're here: No move from last week's ranking for the Coyotes, who split their first week games, beating the Rangers 4-1 in their home opener and then losing by that same score on the road to the Sharks.

    Radim Vrbata, one of a handful of players who can be counted on to produce offensively on a defense-first team, had a hat trick against the Rangers and currently leads the club with three points.

    By the numbers: It's not strictly related to the team's performance, but Phoenix tied their all-time high for viewership for a season opener, scoring a 1.3 rating, which equates to just over 23,000 households.

18. Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Last week: 24

    Why they're here: The team is a perfect 3–0 on the season and sit first in the NHL. Jonathan Bernier has a 0.64 GAA and a 0.979 save percentage. Both the power play and the penalty kill are humming. So what gives?

    This goes back to last season, when the Leafs rode high shooting and save percentages to a playoff berth, despite being consistently out–shot by the opposition. They've done the same through three games; eventually their inability to dominate possession is going to cost them.

    So why bump them up at all? Because most of the teams in the middle of these rankings are not separated by much, and putting points in the bank now could make all the difference in a tight playoff race.

    By the numbers: Mason Raymond, who couldn't get a contract this summer and had to attend Toronto's camp on a professional tryout, currently leads the team with four points through three contests.

17. Dallas Stars

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    Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

    Last week: 17

    Why they're here: Another team that hasn't moved since last week, and as with most of those clubs it's because Dallas' record in the season's first week featured mixed results. A loss to Florida, and more particularly a loss where the Panthers dominated the shot clock, was embarrassing; that embarrassment was punctuated by the Panthers' lopsided 7-0 loss to St. Louis a few nights later. The Stars did manage to squeak out a 2-1 win over the Capitals in their second game of the season.

    By the numbers: Ray Whitney, who turned 41 last May, still has a significant role with the team. His ice-time is down a bit (he's averaging 14:35 per game) but he currently leads the team with seven shots.

16. New York Islanders

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    Last week: 16

    Why they're here: The Islanders are getting plenty of experience in the shootout, and maybe that's a good thing given that Matt Moulson's the only player on the roster who has been able to score in those situations. Moulson scored the winner in New Jersey in the Islanders' first game, and he scored again in a losing cause against Columbus a night later.

    With a close win and a close loss in the record books, there seems little reason to re-evaluate the Islanders' rank on this list.

    By the numbers: Somebody was going to get an opportunity on the blue line with the departure of Mark Streit, and right now that somebody looks like Matt Donovan. Donovan's averaging just over 17 minutes per game for the Isles, and he's something of a trailblazer too–the first Oklahoma product to make an opening night NHL roster. As Donovan told Michael Baldwin of The Oklahoman“I still get it to this day. When someone asks where I'm from, I tell them Oklahoma. They say, ‘What? I didn't even know they played hockey in Oklahoma.' It's been that way my whole life. I've tried to prove people wrong that a kid from Oklahoma could make it to the NHL."

15. Minnesota Wild

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    Last week: 15

    Why they're here: The Wild have two points on the season, but they're still looking for their first win. Still, they did look pretty good against the Kings, out-shooting one of the NHL's best teams by a 29-18 margin before falling in the shootout. They missed the shootout by five seconds in their second game against the Ducks; Mathieu Perreault put the puck past Niklas Backstrom in the overtime's dying moments.

    By the numbers: The Wild's young players are contributing to the scoring in the early going. Defenseman Jonas Brodin, who was robbed of the Calder Trophy last year, has a goal and an assist while 2010 ninth overall pick Mikael Granlund has a pair of helpers. 

14. New Jersey Devils

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    Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

    Last week: 14

    Why they're here: The Devils held an advantage on the shot clock over their first two games but ultimately lost them both, falling 3-1 to Pittsburgh in their opener and then dropping a shootout decision against the Islanders at home a night later.

    It's been two games, two games where the Devils had sub-0.900 save percentage goaltending, so there isn't much reason to move off the season-opening rankings here.

    By the numbers: All three of the Devils' goals so far on the season have come from newcomers. Michael Ryder has one of the markers, while the other two came off the stick of Damien Brunner, who initially had to settle for a professional tryout offer from the club.

13. Anaheim Ducks

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    Last week: 13

    Why they're here: After getting lit up in their season's first game by the Colorado Avalanche, the Ducks have reeled off a pair of one-goal wins, taking overtime against the Wild and dropping the Jets in regulation. The game against Winnipeg–which probably will be Teemu Selanne's final game in the city–was particularly impressive, with Anaheim out-shooting the home side by a 2-1 margin. Overall, there's little reason to adjust the team's position on this list given what they've done so far.

    By the numbers: The Ducks' current scoring leader isn't Ryan Getzlaf or Corey Perry or even Teemu Selanne–it's little-known Mathieu Perreault, who previously played under Ducks' head coach Bruce Boudreau in Washington. Perreault currently sits tied with newcomer Jakob Silfverberg with three points in three games. 

12. New York Rangers

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    Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

    Last week: 11

    Why they're here: There weren't many highlights for a Rangers team that was outplayed in its opener by the Phoenix Coyotes. Henrik Lundqvist allowed four goals on 32 shots, New York managed to fire just 24 the other direction and their lone goal came on the power play. 

    But hey, it's one game. Of more concern is the Ranger's schedule. The loss to Phoenix was the first of eight consecutive road games to open the season, and New York will be hard pressed not to start the season in a bit of a hole as a result.

    By the numbers: Brad Richards, who was the subject of buyout talk over the summer, led the Rangers with four shots in their opener. Meanwhile, Rick Nash dropped the gloves with Martin Hanzal - his first fight since the 2010-11 preseason.

11. Washington Capitals

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    Last week: 12

    Why they're here: The Capitals won just one of their first three games, requiring a late surge and the shootout to top Calgary. They book-ended that win with a pair of close losses, starting with a 6-4 defeat at the hands of the defending champion Blackhawks (5-4, plus an empty-netter) and finishing with a 2-1 loss to Dallas.

    The big question with Washington though always seems to be whether Alexander Ovechkin is on, and so far so good–the Capitals captain leads the NHL with 24 shots through three contests.

    By the numbers: Ovechkin isn't the only player turning heads in Washington. Mikhail Grabovski, a controversial buyout by the Leafs over the summer, currently sits right behind Ovechkin for second in NHL scoring with five points.

10. Montreal Canadiens

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    Last week: 10

    Why they're here: Another case of a team splitting it's first two games and there consequently being very little reason to move them up or down. Montreal lost their opening night matchup to Toronto by a close 4-3 score before putting home a decisive 4-1 win over Philadelphia, a team that is now 0-3 on the season. Of note beyond the wins and losses: the Canadiens' young players have excelled early in the season.

    By the numbers: Of the 19 points recorded by Canadiens' skaters, 13 of them have come from players under the age of 25.

9. Vancouver Canucks

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    Last week: 9

    Why they're here: Like so many other teams on this list, the Canucks haven't really done anything that warrants much change in how they're viewed. They lost a lopsided game to San Jose, crushed the Oilers in their second contest of the season, and then managed to squeak out a win on the road in Calgary after playing the night before. It's a reasonable record, but not one that's going to move opinion.

    Of note: Alexandre Burrows is out for two weeks with a "lower body" injury. 

    By the numbers: Pending free agents Henrik and Daniel Sedin are off to a strong start to the year; the duo has combined for nine points through the season's first three contests.

8. Ottawa Senators

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    Last week: 7

    Why they're here: A small bump down for the Senators, but one that has more to do with other teams on this list than Ottawa. The Sens split their first two games, winning an epic goaltending battle against the Sabres (a combined 81 shots for both teams, and just one goal from Erik Karlsson) and then losing an equally shot-happy game against Toronto that ended 5-4 in the shootout.

    By the numbers: Kyle Turris currently leads the Senators with four points in two games; he led the team in scoring last year but at a relatively modest 50-point pace. It might be a small sample mirage, but it might also be the start of the long-awaited breakthrough season for the young center.

7. Detroit Red Wings

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    Last week: 6

    Why they're here: No matter how old their stars get–or, for that matter, who retires–the Red Wings never seem to change. They dominate puck possession, and they're always in the conversation as one of the league's top-10 teams.

    So far, there's been nothing to suggest 2013-14 will be an exception to recent history. Detroit has a win, an overtime win and a loss through three games and as usual has managed a healthy edge on the shot clock. Just like they always do.

    By the numbers: Alexander Ovechkin's hot start has captured eyes, but Henrik Zetterberg deserves some attention to–he currently sits second to the Capitals star in shots, with 18 through three games.

6. San Jose Sharks

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    Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

    Last week: 8

    Why they're here: So it's only been two games, and the Sharks have some recent history of starting hot and then cooling rapidly (they kicked off the 2012-13 season by going 7-0 in January before posting one regulation win in a dozen February games), but they've looked awfully impressive. San Jose handled the Canucks as easily as they had in their four-game playoff sweep last year, then blew out the Coyotes by a 51-23 margin on the shot clock in their second consecutive 4-1 win.

    By the numbers: One example of the Sharks' dominance in the early going comes in the person of Patrick Marleau. In 5-on-5 situations only, Marleau has been on the ice for 34 shots for as opposed to just six shots against.

5. St. Louis Blues

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    Last week: 5

    Why they're here: The Blues showed the sort of quality that puts them in the top-five here during the NHL season's first week. They out-scored their opposition by a combined score of 11-2 in a pair of games that were never in doubt; the second contest was a 7-0 drubbing of the Florida Panthers in which every Blues skater other than David Backes was on the ice for at least one goal for.

    By the numbers: Chris Stewart is a bit of a statistical oddity in the early going. While he has two points (and 12 penalty minutes) he's both the only skater on the team with a negative plus/minus rating and the only one yet to record a shot.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

    Last week: 4

    Why they're here: The small drop in Pittsburgh's rank has nothing to do with their very strong performance so far this season. Indeed, with a perfect 2-0 record and a 7-1 goal differential, there isn't a lot to find fault with.

    This simply reflects the uncertainty in net arising from Tomas Vokoun's injury. The Pens should be fine with their new tandem of Marc-Andre Fleury and Jeff Zatkoff, but Vokoun gave them one of the very best backups in the league and a player capable of filling in if Fleury struggled at any point; Zatkoff simply doesn't have a comparable track record.

    By the numbers: Fleury's done an admirable job of calming fears in the early going–with a 0.50 goals against average and 0.979 save percentage, he's been excellent.

3. Los Angeles Kings

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    Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

    Last week: 3

    Why they're here: The Kings have looked uncharacteristically weak in the early going, needing the shootout to beat the Wild in a game where Minnesota dominated the possession statistics, and then losing to a Winnipeg team that shouldn't be close to them talent-wise.

    But two middling games aren't enough to downgrade one of the NHL's best teams over the last two years.

    By the numbers: Justin Williams has long been an extremely under-appreciated NHL'er, but even by his standards his on-ice numbers to start the year are superb. Of the 60 5-on-5 shot attempts to take place with him on the ice so far this season, fully 80 percent (48) have been in the Kings' favor.

2. Boston Bruins

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    Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    Last week: 2

    Why they're here: The defending Eastern Conference champions got their season started off right, winning their first two games thanks in large part to a combination of superb goaltending and strong special teams. With two shorthanded goals, two power play goals, and a 3-2 edge in even-strength goals, they're dangerous in all situations.

    By the numbers: Boston is one of eight teams in the league with a perfect penalty killing record after the season's first week and one of two (Vancouver is the other) with both a 100 percent kill rate and multiple shorthanded goals.

1. Chicago Blackhawks

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    Last week: 1

    Why they're here: The Blackhawks don't have a perfect record–they won their first game but dropped the second in the shootout–but they've still started their season off with a flourish. Their loss to Tampa Bay might have been even more impressive than their win over Washington, featuring as it did a first period where the 'Hawks held a 12-0 edge in shots (they would expand that total to 25-6 by the end of the second and 39-16 by the end of the game).

    By the numbers: The (extremely early) returns on Corey Crawford's contract have not been good–with a 0.875 save percentage Chicago has been winning despite him rather than because of him. Doubtless he'll bounce back, but he'll need to be excellent to justify the lucrative contract extension he signed this past summer.