NHL Power Rankings: B/R Experts' Week 7 Poll
The magical NHL power rankings are once again back in your lives, providing answers to your questions about which teams hold the most power seven weeks into the season.
Without giving too much away, there's quite the surprise at the top two spots—not so much because of the teams but because of the conference those teams represent.
That may have been giving away too much.
But who are those top two teams from the East, the NHL's clearly inferior conference? Which Western Conference team that sits outside the top two is more deserving of the top spot, if you feel the same way about conference power?
And more importantly, did the Buffalo Sabres do enough to finally get out of the power rankings basement?
Who are the humans deciding the order of this list? It's our panel of experts: Adrian Dater, Jonathan Willis, Allan Mitchell, Lyle Richardson, Carol Schram and myself. All of the rankings here are based both on what's happened so far, what we expect to happen in the future and will not mirror the NHL standings exactly.
Read on to see where every NHL team ranks this week.
30-26: Edmonton Oilers-Carolina Hurricanes
30. Edmonton Oilers (Last week: 28): It’s getting tough to watch. Since beating the Rangers on Nov. 9, the Oilers have lost six straight. The most disheartening statistic for a team that is filled with them: The Oilers are 0-10-1 vs. Western Conference teams. Welcome to the Connor McDavid sweepstakes, Edmonton.
29. Columbus Blue Jackets (Last week: 26): Sergei Bobrovsky’s return from a broken finger hasn’t helped. He won his first start back on Nov. 15 but has lost his previous three starts. With the Jackets leading the Bruins, Bobrovsky allowed a Dennis Seidenberg goal from somewhere in Illinois. The Jackets would lose that game in a shootout.
28. Buffalo Sabres (Last week: 30): And now for a completely positive recap of the Sabres’ week. They won three straight against San Jose, Toronto and Washington, three clubs currently in playoff spots. It marks their first three-game winning streak since February. The Sabres are 10 points out of a playoff spot.
27. Colorado Avalanche (Last week: 23): The quest to attain mediocrity continued Saturday, as the Avs used a third-period rally to beat the Hurricanes 4-3 at home. At 7-9-5, the Avs have a long way to go to get back to being a playoff team. They showed they can overcome being a poor possession club last season, so maybe they can do it again.
26. Carolina Hurricanes (Last week: 29): After winning four straight and five of six, the Hurricanes have lost of five of six. Goaltender Cam Ward has lost four of those games but has a .925 save percentage in November. Yet our panel of experts as a whole decided this trend was enough to move them up three spots.
25-21: Arizona Coyotes-Dallas Stars
25. Arizona Coyotes (Last week: 27): The Coyotes have been below .500 since the fifth game of the season but are slowly climbing toward respectability. An examination of their goaltending may help foster a turnaround: Devan Dubnyk (.926 save percentage) has earned 11 points in six starts, while Mike Smith (.893) has nine points in 16 starts.
24. Philadelphia Flyers (Last week: 24): A four-game skid was ended Saturday with a 4-2 win against the Blue Jackets. The Flyers have two wins this season (Pittsburgh, Los Angeles) against teams that have more wins than losses as of Sunday.
23. New Jersey Devils (Last week: 21): And on the 45th day, he rested. Cory Schneider finally watched a Devils game from the bench Saturday, as backup Scott Clemmensen ended Schneider’s stretch of 20 straight starts to begin the season. Clemmensen lost 5-4 to the Flames in a shootout, allowing two goals in the final minute. The Devils have lost three of four.
22. Florida Panthers (Last week: 25): The Panthers have flopped a straight draw to start the season as they are staring at a 7-5-6 mark. Eleven losses in 18 games is bad in any other league but not the NHL. If they can find a way to score a few more goals to aid Roberto Luongo (2.36/.926), the Panthers could be a playoff contender.
21. Dallas Stars (Last week: 22): It feels like a lot of obituaries have been written about the Stars already, but they’ve won two straight and sit at 8-9-4. Sure, that leaky defense needs to be fixed, but as long as Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Kari Lehtonen are healthy, the Stars will be in the mix for a playoff spot.
20. New York Rangers-Toronto Maple Leafs
20. New York Rangers (Last week: 16): The Rangers went 2-1-0 last week, beating the Flyers and Canadiens by way of shutouts after getting drubbed 5-1 at home by the Lightning. Perhaps those two wins are a sign they are turning a corner, but then again, the Flyers are one of the worst teams in the league while the Habs were playing their eighth game in 13 days.
19. Ottawa Senators (Last week: 20): The Senators have alternated losses and wins over their past five games, losing 3-2 to the Blues on Sunday. Robin Lehner (.916) and Craig Anderson (.935) have kept the Sens afloat this season, but you have to wonder how long that goaltending can last.
18. Winnipeg Jets (Last week: 17): The Jets have lost four of five and couldn’t take advantage of a weary Blues team coming to their building on Sunday afternoon. For once, the problem isn’t Ondrej Pavelec—he is 7-7-2 but possesses a very respectable 2.25/.919 split. The problem has been scoring, as the 29th-ranked Jets are scoring a measly 1.96 goals per game.
17. Washington Capitals (Last week: 19): The Capitals have six regulation wins in 20 games. They lost 2-1 at home to the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday. Sure, the Capitals have much better possession numbers under coach Barry Trotz, but they haven’t been able to string wins together consistently.
16. Toronto Maple Leafs (Last week: 18): Comically bad losses and a lack of salute to the fans have provided a distraction from the fact the Leafs are 8-4-1 in their past 13 games. They are also on pace for 94 points, which is good enough to reach the playoffs most years. Their shot differentials aren’t great, but they are better than last year. Believe it or not, the Leafs are better than they were last season.
15-11: San Jose Sharks-Vancouver Canucks
15. San Jose Sharks (Last week: 15): The Sharks are 2-4-2 in their past eight games. They appear to be reeling, but they’ve got nice possession numbers (52.1 percent Fenwick close) and are probably better than their 10-9-4 mark. Joe Thornton certainly isn’t the problem: He has seven goals and 20 points in 23 games this season.
14. Detroit Red Wings (Last week: 13): The Red Wings finished the week 3-1 and got a win from Petr Mrazek, who was recalled to replace the injured Jonas Gustavsson. Tomas Tatar has four goals in his past three games and seven goals in 10 games this month.
13. Minnesota Wild (Last Week: 12): The Wild had their four-game winning streak snapped in Tampa on Saturday. At 11-8-0, this feels like a somewhat disappointing start for a team that was expecting big things this season.
12. Calgary Flames (Last week: 14): One person’s gutsy team is another person’s lucky team. The Flames have been dominated at five-on-five this season (45.6 percent Fenwick) yet have outscored opponents 46-40. The only question about the Flames is will they be the playoff team that defies the numbers (Colorado) or the one that collapses (Toronto) at some point.
11. Vancouver Canucks (Last Week: 11): The Canucks had a 2-0-1 week and took advantage of a weary Blackhawks team and Corey Crawford playing consecutive nights in a 4-1 win Sunday. With a goal differential of plus-four, the Canucks are squeezing everything they can out of this roster.
10. Boston Bruins
Last Week: 10
Recent Trend: The Bruins had their three-game winning streak snapped Saturday by the Montreal Canadiens, marking the third time this season the Bruins lost to their rivals in the second half of a back-to-back set. They are 3-3 in their past six games but 7-3 in their past 10.
Big Picture: They have weathered the storm since losing Zdeno Chara and, at 13-9-0, they are still within spitting distance of the Atlantic Division lead. If Chara returns from his knee injury at 100 percent, the Bruins will still have a chance to make a deep playoff run.
By the Numbers: Not only are the Bruins 0-3 vs. the Canadiens on no rest, but they are 0-4 overall in that situation. That means if the Bruins are playing on at least one day of rest, they are 13-5-0.
9. Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 7
Recent Trend: The Kings had won three in a row before losing a wild 5-4 game in Dallas on Saturday. They are 5-2-2 in their past nine games.
Big Picture: It's interesting to note that the Kings are fourth in the Pacific Division, but it doesn't matter if they finish first or eighth in the conference. The defending Stanley Cup champions will have a target on their backs when the playoffs roll around.
By the Numbers: In their past four games, the Kings' power play has been crackling hot, scoring seven goals in seven chances. Before that, they had scored six power-play goals all season.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 2
Recent Trend: Losing back-to-back games to the Islanders would be considering embarrassing in almost any other season of the past decade, but that's the not the case in 2014-15. The Penguins are still 3-1-1 in their past five games with those defeats.
Big Picture: The regular season is usually a countdown to a division title for the Penguins, but maybe it won't be as easy this year. The Islanders don't appear as though they are going anywhere, so maybe the season's first 82 games will hold some rare drama for the Penguins.
By the Numbers: Since losing Pascal Dupuis to blood clots for what will likely be the season, the Penguins are 0-1-1. It likely won't hurt them that much; last season, after Dupuis tore his ACL on Dec. 23, the Penguins went 24-13-6.
7. Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 5
Recent Trend: The Ducks had been skidding, dropping six of seven, but have now strung together consecutive wins for the first since Oct. 31 and Nov. 2. But since points are handed out like candy on Halloween in the NHL, the Ducks going 3-1-4 in their past eight games is actually a positive.
Big Picture: Existing in Pacific Division means the Ducks will have to stave off quality teams to earn a top-two seed for the playoffs, but they are doing nice job of amassing points in the early going even when they are struggling.
By the Numbers: While the Ducks are second in the conference standings, they are just seventh in goal differential. They are averaging 2.62 goals per game and allowing 2.38 goals per game.
6. Nashville Predators
Last Week: 6
Recent Trend: The Predators have won three of four and six of eight and don't appear to be going anywhere. Things nearly went sideways Saturday, when the Panthers scored twice in the final minutes with their net empty to force overtime before the Predators emerged with a shootout win.
Big Picture: While they sit atop the Central Division now, it will be hard to stave off both St. Louis and Chicago. The Predators' hot start has them looking like a surefire playoff team, but home-ice advantage in the first round will be difficult to attain.
By the Numbers: The last time the Predators scored nine goals in a game was March 2006. Paul Kariya had two goals and Mike Sillinger had four assists in a 9-4 win against the Flames.
5. New York Islanders
Last Week: 9
Recent Trend: The Islanders have ripped off eight wins in nine games, including two against Pittsburgh and one each against Tampa Bay, Los Angeles and Anaheim.
Big Picture: It's easy to think this is a fluke because, after all, these are the Islanders. But they are the real deal and look to be among the elite in the East. With two wins against Pittsburgh, the Islanders have shown they could contend for a division title.
By the Numbers: Jaroslav Halak will be just as sad to see November end as he was happy to get out of October. During the season's first month, Halak had an .889 save percentage in six starts; in seven November starts, Halak has a .944 save percentage and two shutouts.
4. St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 1
Recent Trend: After losing to Montreal and Boston to open the week, the Blues bounced back with road wins in Ottawa and Winnipeg over the weekend. They are 5-2 in their past seven and 9-3 in November.
Big Picture: If Chicago and Los Angeles are the teams sitting on the Western throne until someone knocks them off, the Blues could be the team that does the unseating. They currently own the league's top defense, as they allow two goals per game.
By the Numbers: As is almost always the case, the Blues could use some scoring help. They rank 17th in total offense and are 21st in five-on-five goals with 34, which ties them with Edmonton and Arizona. Yes, Vladimir Tarasenko has emerged as a true elite goal scorer, but as whole, the Blues aren't scoring all that often.
3. Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 8
Recent Trend: They had a three-game winning streak snapped in Vancouver on Sunday night but are 5-1-1 in their past seven games. They still have three games remaining on a six-game road trip.
Big Picture: It's business as usual for the Blackhawks, who are four points behind the Blues for the division lead. After a sluggish start, the Blackhawks look to be hitting their stride.
By the Numbers: Corey Crawford has made 10 consecutive starts, a product of Antti Raanta (illness) missing a scheduled start in Edmonton on Saturday. With back-to-back games on the schedule this week, Crawford should get a breather soon.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 3
Recent Trend: The absence of Victor Hedman could be taking its toll. In their past seven games, the Lightning are 3-3-1 and have allowed 11 goals in their past three games. Yet here they are, up one spot from last week.
Big Picture: That they've been able to not only survive, but excel with Hedman out since late October with a broken hand speaks well for what the team will do once he returns. The Lightning will contend for the top spot in the Atlantic and the East.
By the Numbers: Goaltender Ben Bishop has masked a lot of Tampa's defensive problems in November with a 2.21/.923 split in nine games. Bishop has faced at least 30 shots in five of those starts.
1. Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 4
Recent Trend: A 4-0 home loss to Pittsburgh on Tuesday and a 5-0 road loss to the Rangers on Sunday are the Canadiens' only blemishes in their past 10 games. It seems that body of work was enough to convince our panel to push them to the top this week.
Big Picture: The Canadiens' underlying numbers aren't great, but they are finding ways to win. They are 7-0-1 in one-goal games. Those facts seem to be a potential long-term problem, but having one of the game's best goaltenders in Carey Price could help to hide any problems all season.
By the Numbers: The Habs are an impressive 16-6-1 this season, which translates to the most points in the league and the second-best points percentage. Yet somehow they have only led after the first period twice this season. That's tied for the fewest in the league with the Sabres. Both the Canadiens and Sabres, however, are 2-0 when taking a lead to the first intermission.