NHL Power Rankings: B/R Experts' Week 4 Poll

Dave Lozo@@davelozoNHL National Lead WriterNovember 10, 2014

NHL Power Rankings: B/R Experts' Week 4 Poll

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    As we approach mid-November, the dust is beginning to settle a bit in the NHL.

    It's becoming clear which teams will be among the best all season (Pittsburgh, Anaheim, Tampa Bay) and which one particular team (Buffalo) will be anchored to the league basement.

    There's still some jockeying in the middle of the standings, and that's where this week's power rankings arrive to save the day and offer some clarity. 

    Voting from our panel of experts—Adrian DaterSteve MacfarlaneAllan MitchellLyle RichardsonCarol Schram and myself—decided the final rankings. All of the rankings here are based both on what's happened so far and what we expect to happen in the future and will not mirror the NHL standings exactly. 

    Did the Ducks hang on to the top spot? Did the Penguins or anyone else do enough to unseat them?

    Let's find out together.

    All statistics via NHL.com or Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com.

30-26: Buffalo Sabres-Carolina Hurricanes

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    Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images

    30. Buffalo Sabres (Last week: 30). The Sabres are like the HBO mini-series Olive Kitteridge. You knew it’d be sad going in. You knew it’d be continually sad once you started watching. But at least with Olive, you got memorable acting performances. With the Sabres, you get games where they allow 52 shots to the Oilers. Instead of Bill Murray’s charm and vulnerability, you’ve got Brian Gionta with zero goals in 15 games. Look away, everybody.

    29. Columbus Blue Jackets (Last week: 26). Eight straight losses, seven in regulation. Since Sergei Bobrovsky was injured Oct. 26, the Jackets have allowed 26 goals in six games. Bobrovsky should be back from a fractured finger soon, but this injury-riddled Blue Jackets season is just about in the toilet.

    28. Colorado Avalanche (Last week: 27). The 2014-15 Avs season should be known as The Comeuppance. They’ve lost four of five and sit at 4-7-5; through 16 games last season, the Avs were 14-2. The Avs are 29th in Fenwick this season at 43.3 percent; last season, they were 27th at 46.6 percent. The luck, as expected, is not there this time for the Avs.

    27. Florida Panthers (Last week: 21). The Panthers have lost three straight, but they’re treading water at 4-4-4 on the season. The problem in Florida is scoring: The Panthers are averaging 1.67 goals per game, and only the Sabres at 1.12 are worse.

    26. Carolina Hurricanes (Last week: 29). Look who’s getting healthy and 4-0-1 in their past five! Then again, look who’s won three of those four games against the Blue Jackets and Coyotes, two teams that barely qualify as NHL teams now. But with Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner healthy and Alex Semin in the lineup, maybe the Hurricanes can rise to mediocrity.

25-21: Arizona Coyotes-New York Rangers

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    Jared Silber/Getty Images

    25. Arizona Coyotes (Last week: 28). They climbed back to NHL .500 with three straight wins but let one slip away Saturday in a 1-0 loss to the Islanders. Frans Nielsen scored with 2:31 left in regulation for the game’s only goal against Mike Smith, who has allowed eight goals in four November starts.

    24. Edmonton Oilers (Last week: 24). The Oilers have been quietly getting things together. Since an 0-4-1 start, they are 6-4-0 and have won two in a row. Usually a perennially dreadful possession team, they are now above 50 percent in Fenwick and Fenwick close.

    23. Dallas Stars (Last week: 16). Maybe it’s time to feel dread about the Stars, who have lost seven straight and frittered away a 3-1 third-period lead in a 5-3 home loss to San Jose on Saturday. The Stars are allowing 3.5 goals per game, which is worse than the Sabres (3.31) this season. Any time “worse than the Sabres” can be used to describe an aspect of your team, things are bad.

    22. New York Rangers (Last week: 22). At 6-6-2, the Rangers’ record is all about perception. Having played most of the season without Derek Stepan and Dan Boyle and the last three without Ryan McDonagh, it seems respectable. But following their 3-1 loss to the Oilers on Sunday, their fourth in five games, the Rangers expressed displeasure with their effort. The Rangers play two of their next three games against the Penguins. Yikes.

    21. New Jersey Devils (Last week: 13). Cory Schneider, who has shared the net with either Roberto Luongo or Martin Brodeur his entire career, has started all 14 games the Devils have played this season. It’s a suspect move from coach Peter DeBoer, as Schneider’s career high for consecutive starts is 11 during the 2013 season in Vancouver. Schneider is 6-5-2 with a .904 save percentage and has been pulled four times this season.

20-16: Ottawa Senators-Winnipeg Jets

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    Andre Ringuette/Getty Images

    20. Ottawa Senators (Last week: 20). While the Avalanche are getting destroyed in the possession battle and losing, the Senators are winning despite the poor underlying numbers. The Senators are 29th in Fenwick close at 43.2 percent, but goaltenders Craig Anderson (.948) and Robin Lehner (.913) are the biggest reason why the team is 7-4-3.

    19. Washington Capitals (Last week: 19). After losing five straight, the Capitals have strung together consecutive wins against the Blackhawks and Hurricanes. The Capitals are at 54.1 percent in Fenwick close, so it seems once the goaltending returns to form, the team should begin rising up the standings.

    18. Toronto Maple Leafs (Last week: 18). The Leafs are 5-1-1 in their past seven games. Of course, it wouldn’t be the Leafs if they weren’t outshot in five of those seven games. But after finishing 29th in Fenwick close last season, the Leafs are hovering around the middle of the pack this season.

    17. Philadelphia Flyers (Last week: 25). This past week, the Flyers were outshot 36-25, 35-30 and 39-27. Of course, they won all three games by a combined 12-5. Because the NHL schedule isn’t ever based on anything logical, the Flyers won’t play again until Friday.

    16. Winnipeg Jets (Last week: 23). Look out your window. Do you see a pig with wings, gliding through the air, perhaps wearing goggles and a fancy scarf? Because Ondrej Pavelec has a .928 save percentage through 13 starts, which is 22 points above his career save percentage. The Jets have won four of five.

15-11: Minnesota Wild-New York Islanders

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Getty Images

    15. Minnesota Wild (Last Week: 4). All it takes is three straight losses to drop the Wild 11 spots in the rankings. Tough crowd. But getting outscored 11-2 in three games has a tendency to turn people against you. It should be noted, however, that the Wild outshot their opponents 100-70 in that stretch. They'll be fine.

    14. San Jose Sharks (Last week: 11). The Sharks have alternated wins and losses over their past six games. In their most recent contest, they fell behind 3-0 in the first period of a 5-3 loss to the Blackhawks. The good news for the Sharks is they’ve played 11 of their 16 games this season on the road.

    13. Calgary Flames (Last week: 15). The Flames have won four of five, and defenseman Mark Giordano is on pace for 92 points. That sentence is completely accurate and no longer what I’d tell a Flames fan who was waking from a three-year coma as a practical joke. At 9-5-2, the Flames may not be going away for a while. That sentence is also genuine.

    12. Detroit Red Wings (Last week: 12). The Red Wings have lost four of five but since this is the NHL, it’s not all bad, as the Wings have points three of those five games. They’ve also lost two of three despite registering six power-play goals, two in each game, over that time.

    11. New York Islanders (Last week: 17). After three straight losses, including a 5-0 loss to the Avs that was more ugly than that one side of Harvey Dent’s face, the Islanders won three straight to finish their road trip 3-2-0. Jaroslav Halak’s save percentage still sits at .905 after a 19-save shutout against the Coyotes on Saturday.

10. Boston Bruins

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    Steve Babineau/Getty Images

    Last Week: 14

    Recent Trend: The Bruins cracked the top 10 on the strength of four straight wins and going 5-1-0 since Zdeno Chara went down with a knee injury. They have been taking advantage of a schedule that’s featured Edmonton, Toronto, Florida and Buffalo.

    Big Picture: They are getting by without Chara, but if they want to be a Cup contender, the Bruins need Chara to avoid surgery. They can get by for now, but things could get rough if Chara's knee doesn't heal on its own.

    By the Numbers: The Bruins have held two of their past four opponents to fewer than 20 shots; that didn't happen once this season with Chara in the lineup.

9. Vancouver Canucks

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Last Week: 10

    Recent Trend: The Canucks bounced back from a lopsided loss in Los Angeles on Saturday to win 2-1 in a shootout in Anaheim the following night. They have won seven of nine and three of four.

    Big Picture: There can't be anyone in Vancouver dissatisfied with a 10-5 start. The Canucks will need to get better at five-on-five if they want to stay in the playoff picture, but so far, so good.

    By the Numbers: Backup goaltender Eddie Lack got his first win of 2014-15 against the Ducks on Sunday, which also marked his first victory in six appearances. 

8. Chicago Blackhawks

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    Bill Smith/Getty Images

    Last Week: 5

    Recent Trend: The Blackhawks have won two of three but have been mostly treading water since a 4-0-1 start. Injuries have been a factor, but they are 4-6-0 in their past 10 games.

    Big Picture: Sitting right in the middle of the Central Division, the Blackhawks are one hot streak away from first place. That may not happen any time soon with the way they are playing and Patrick Sharp out a month with a knee injury.

    By the Numbers: The Blackhawks have been shut out twice this season; they didn't suffer their first shutout in 2013-14 until Feb. 7.

7. Montreal Canadiens

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    Derek Leung/Getty Images

    Last Week: 7

    Recent Trend: The Canadiens had been swooning like a teenager at a Beatles concert (timely reference) with four losses in five games but have won their last two games. 

    Big Picture: They still have their problems. They've been a mediocre possession team and haven't outshot an opponent in their past six games. They're amassing points despite this, which is nice, but they'll need to be better if they want to stay near the top of the East.

    By the Numbers: It's been nine games since the Canadiens scored a power-play goal. They are 0-for-19 over that time, but it hasn't mattered much—the Habs are 5-2-1 in those games.

6. Los Angeles Kings

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Last Week: 4

    Recent Trend: Since blitzing to a 6-1-1 start, the Kings are 2-3-2 with 15 goals in their last seven games. The good news is they scored five of those goals in a 5-1 win against the Canucks on Saturday, so maybe they're about to turn things around.

    Big Picture: The regular season for the Kings is about as meaningless as the soundtrack to a Quentin Tarantino movie. The Kings are a playoff team just playing out the string, which is about 70 games.

    By the Numbers: The most meaningful record for the Kings right now is 8-2-2, which is what they've done with Anze Kopitar in the lineup. In the three games he missed, all losses, the Kings were outscored 11-4.

5. Nashville Predators

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Last Week: 9

    Recent Trend: The Predators went 4-2 on a six-game road swing that ended with a 2-1 win against the red-hot Blues. They've won three of four and sit atop the league's best division. 

    Big Picture: Are they legitimate? Can they keep up this level of play that has them at 9-3-2? In the Central Division, it will be tough, but the Predators look like a completely different team with a healthy Pekka Rinne.

    By the Numbers: Speaking of Rinne, he has to be the front-runner for the Vezina Trophy. He is 9-2-1 with a 1.81/.935 split and has allowed two goals or fewer in nine of 12 starts. Rinne is 5-1-1 in one-goal games.

4. St. Louis Blues

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    Jeff Curry/Getty Images

    Last Week: 6

    Recent Trend: The Blues had their seven-game winning streak snapped Saturday in a 2-1 loss to the Predators. In the game, Nashville had 35 shots on net, which marked only the second time this season the Blues allowed more than 30 shots.

    Big Picture: With the emergence of Vladimir Tarasenko, the Blues are looking more like a Stanley Cup contender. A game-breaker has been missing in recent years, but they finally have that player in Tarasenko.

    By the Numbers: If you want to be concerned about something, look at the Blues offense beyond Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz. The duo has combined for 15 goals; the rest of the Blues, 21 players in all, have 18 goals.

3. Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Scott Audette/Getty Images

    Last Week: 2

    Recent Trend: The Lightning have won six straight and eight of nine. They have scored 30 goals in their past six games.

    Big Picture: The Lightning are positioning themselves to run away with the Atlantic Division. They only hold a slim lead on the Canadiens and Bruins, but with Montreal's uneven play of late and Boston's injuries, the door is open for Tampa.

    By the Numbers: With 30 goals in six games, the Lightning have more goals than the Jets, Panthers and Sabres have scored this season.

2. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Gary Wiepert/Associated Press

    Last Week: 3

    Recent Trend: The Penguins have been steamrolling teams for about two weeks. They've won seven straight by a combined 32-8 margin. They've beaten the lowly Sabres twice in that span but have impressive wins against the Predators, Wild and Kings.

    Big Picture: You know the John Mayer song where he says, "Say what you need to say" over and over? That's every Penguins regular season for the past five years. Show up, 100-plus points, rinse, repeat. And repeat. And repeat. As always, this team will be judged by its postseason performance.

    By the Numbers: The Penguins have scored 23 power-play goals this season. That's two more goals than the Panthers and five more goals than the Sabres have scored in total this season.

1. Anaheim Ducks

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Last Week: 1

    Recent Trend: Somehow, some way, the Ducks remain in the top spot despite losing three straight this week. They were all losses after 60 minutes, but losses nonetheless. They have just two regulation wins in their past nine games.

    Big Picture: Despite the recent funk, the Ducks are tied for the league lead in points with 23 and remain among the top team in the league.

    By the Numbers: The Ducks have scored 12 goals in their past eight games, something that can be explained by the absences of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. 

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