NHL Power Rankings: B/R Experts' Week 8 Poll

Jonathan Willis@jonathanwillisNHL National ColumnistDecember 1, 2014

NHL Power Rankings: B/R Experts' Week 8 Poll

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    Parity is the order of the day in the NHL, where the top eight teams in the league are separated by just a single point. With that kind of crowded field—a field that doesn't include either of last year's Stanley Cup finalists or the Chicago Blackhawks, who lead the NHL with a plus-26 goal differential—there is absolutely no chance that we're all going to harmoniously agree on which team should sit at the very top of the list.

    But the debate should be done. Our expert panel returns this week: Adrian DaterDave Lozo, Steve MacfarlaneAllan MitchellLyle RichardsonCarol 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, particularly when there's so little gap between the best teams in the game. 

    Read on to see where every NHL team ranks this week. 

    Most news and statistics are courtesy of NHL.com and are current through the start of action on December 1. Advanced statistics via war-on-ice.com

30-26: Edmonton Oilers-Arizona Coyotes

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    30. Edmonton Oilers (Last week: 30): The Oilers had a mild uptick at the end of last week, falling in overtime to Western Conference powerhouses Nashville and St. Louis on back-to-back nights. Seven of the team's last nine losses have been by a one-goal margin. 

    29. Columbus Blue Jackets (Last week: 29): The Blue Jackets have lost six straight games and are pointless in four consecutive outings. They're currently allowing just under twice as many goals at evens as they manage to score.

    28. Philadelphia Flyers (Last week: 24): Philly has lost four straight and eight of its last nine; the lone win in that span came over the Blue Jackets. The penalty kill is currently operating at an NHL-worst 73.8 percent clip.

    27. Buffalo Sabres (Last week: 28): The Sabres have five wins in their last six games! They won all five despite allowing 30-plus shots in each! That simply isn't going to last. 

    26. Arizona Coyotes (Last week: 25): The Coyotes have dropped three consecutive games and five of their last six, with a shootout win over the slumping San Jose Sharks the lone aberration. The strong play of Devan Dubnyk (5-1-1, 0.922 save percentage) has helped keep the bottom from falling out as Mike Smith struggles. 

25-21: Carolina Hurricanes-Colorado Avalanche

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    25. Carolina Hurricanes (Last week: 26): Carolina has won just one of its last four contests and two of its last nine. Goaltending is a big part of the problem; the team's 0.899 save percentage ranks 26th in the league. 

    24. New Jersey Devils (Last week: 23): The Devils have now lost four consecutive games, six of their last seven and 10 of their last 13. In his last seven appearances, the only wins that starting goalie Cory Schneider has collected have come when he's put on a shutout performance. 

    23. Ottawa Senators (Last week: 19): The Senators have dropped four of their last five games, including back-to-back setbacks at the hands of the Panthers and Lightning to close off last week. This comes despite exceptional goaltending; Ottawa ranks fourth in the NHL with a 0.925 save percentage. 

    22. Dallas Stars (Last week: 21): After finally snapping a seven-game losing streak earlier this month, the Stars have taken to winning two or three and then losing two or three. The team's most recent three-game winning streak gave way to back-to-back losses on Friday and Saturday. 

    21. Colorado Avalanche (Last week: 27): Colorado jumps in the rankings after winning three of four games, a performance that didn't come nearly as soon as it needed to come. The Avs are now only five points out of the final wild-card spot in the West but are battling significant injuries. 

20-16: Florida Panthers-Winnipeg Jets

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    20. Florida Panthers (Last week: 22): Florida climbs two spots in the rankings after closing out the week with consecutive wins; the club is now a respectable 3-1-1 in its last five contests and only three points out of the final wild-card slot in the East.

    19. Washington Capitals (Last week: 17): Washington slides two spots after going 1-1-1 on the week. The Capitals have some problems that haven't been fixed under new head coach Barry Trotz, but the power play is as effective as ever, scoring at a ridiculous 28.8 percent clip.  

    18. San Jose Sharks (Last week: 15): The Sharks are now 1-2-2 in their last five games and, despite a six-goal outburst against the Ducks on Saturday. fall three spots on the strength of consecutive losses at home to Florida, Arizona and Calgary. They're sitting on the playoff bubble, and the next few weeks could be crucial to their season, as well as to the future of their general manager and head coach. 

    17. New York Rangers (Last week: 20): New York climbs three spots after some recent successes; the club has won its last two games and four of its last five, with a one-goal road loss to Tampa Bay the lone aberration. Henrik Lundqvist seems to be rounding into form; he has a 0.927 save percentage in November after a sub-0.900 performance in October.

    16. Winnipeg Jets (Last week: 18): The Jets won two of three games played last week, with an overtime loss to Boston on Friday the only sour note after wins over the Sabres and Blue Jackets. Ondrej Pavelec is defying his doubters, while backup Michael Hutchinson (4-1-2, 0.947 save percentage) is pushing for more action. 

15-11: Toronto Maple Leafs-Minnesota Wild

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    15. Toronto Maple Leafs (Last week: 16): The Leafs went 1-0-1 in a slow week for the team, a pace which kept the club locked into the final wild-card berth in the East, three points up on a trio of teams trying to catch them. Reclaimed KHL forward Leo Komarov has been a surprisingly effective part of the team's offence, posting 16 points in 23 games.  

    14. Boston Bruins (Last week: 10): Boston continues to limp along as it battles injuries, winning one overtime match and losing another last week. The team now has four wins and four losses in its last eight games. Carl Soderberg is the somewhat surprising scoring leader with five goals and 17 points as the team keeps looking for offence.

    13. Calgary Flames (Last week: 12): The Flames took two of their three games last week, topping the Sharks and Coyotes but falling to the Ducks. Mark Giordano continues to hold the league lead in scoring by a defenceman, with 25 points in 25 games, a figure which also leads all Calgary skaters.

    12. Anaheim Ducks (Last Week: 7): Anaheim falls down the standings significantly after surrendering 10 goals in back-to-back losses to Chicago and San Jose. A 3-2 win over Calgary, however, keeps them in front of the Flames. 

    11. Minnesota Wild (Last Week: 13): Minnesota continued its recent trend of swapping wins and losses. The team has a plus-10 goal differential on the season thanks to a wicked performance at five-on-five, but an anemic power play converting on less than one-in-10 of its opportunities continues to hold the club back. 

10. Los Angeles Kings

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    Last Week: 9

    Recent Trend: The Kings are in a bit of a dry spell right at the moment, going 1-1-1 last week and having posted three losses in their last four games. Particularly disappointing was Saturday's contest against a tired Chicago team; the Blackhawks have been the Kings' primary obstacle the last few seasons and may well be again this year. 

    Big Picture: Some will question the Kings' placement in the top 10, given a modest 12-7-5 record (0.500 in wins and losses). Those people forget that the power rankings aren't meant to be a pure reflection of the standings. The Kings haven't won a division title since 1991, but they have two Cups in three years; they've earned the benefit of the doubt during the season. 

    By the Numbers: All good things must come to an end. The red-hot trio of Tyler Toffoli, Jeff Carter and Tanner Pearson combined for 19 goals in October; they managed just six total in the month of November.

9. Montreal Canadiens

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    Last Week: 1

    Recent Trend: It's been a tough little spell for the Habs. In its last two games, Montreal has lost twice to the woefully underpowered Buffalo Sabres, and those losses came on the heels of a 5-0 blowout at the hands of the playoff bubble New York Rangers. 

    Big Picture: Six teams are currently tied for first in the NHL with 34 points, a list that includes Montreal. Five of those teams have double digits in goal differential, with the plus-12 New York Islanders the second worst of the bunch. Montreal is sitting at plus-two on the year. Time will tell, but the Canadiens are a prime candidate for a drop-off over the final three quarters of the year. 

    By the Numbers: Of course, Montreal might be a little more threatening if its power play worked. The club is ticking along at an ugly 13.2 percent efficiency rating and is now going on two years with a dysfunctional man advantage. Whatever Michel Therrien did to make the team perform in 2012-13 (20.7 percent, fifth in the league) hasn't been working for a while now. 

8. Vancouver Canucks

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    Last Week: 11

    Recent Trend: Vancouver has won three of its last four games and is 6-2-1 in its last nine, a run good enough to move the club to within a single point of first in the league.

    Big Picture: Vancouver was a good team for years before last season's debacle under John Tortorella; therefore it shouldn't be a huge surprise to see the club looking like a good team once again. The question now is whether this is just a good team or the kind that can legitimately contend for a championship. 

    By the Numbers: Here's a fun stat, courtesy of the Globe and Mail's James Mirtle: Canucks centre Nick Bonino has 19 even-strength points on the year, which puts him one ahead of Sidney Crosby. Of course, Crosby has the edge in power-play points by a 15-0 margin. 

7. Detroit Red Wings

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    Last Week: 14

    Recent Trend: The Wings have won four straight games and six of their last seven; no team in the NHL currently holds a longer active winning streak.  

    Big Picture: One of these years, the tired old Red Wings are going to fall off the map. But that day is not yet upon us; a franchise that has defined excellence in the NHL for better than a decade continues to put put out a quality product. They may or may not be championship contenders, but then we haven't seen what a healthy Detroit team can do in the postseason for a few years, either. 

    By the Numbers: Detroit has no glaring weaknesses. The penalty kill is excellent, ranked top-five in the NHL. The power play is clicking at better than a 20 percent conversion rate. At even strength, the Wings are outscoring the opposition at a nearly 6-to-5 ratio. 

6. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Last Week: 8

    Recent Trend: The Penguins won three of four games last week and are now 6-2-1 over their last nine contests. 

    Big Picture: By virtue of games played and regulation/overtime wins, Pittsburgh technically sits first in the NHL, though in terms of straight points the club is tied with five other teams for that honour. It's not surprising to see the Penguins in that spot; this is a team that should be contending for a championship each and every year.  

    By the Numbers: Three of the league's top 10 scorers currently play for the Penguins. the names of two (Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin) aren't at all surprising, but the third is Patric Hornqvist, a solid two-way player who had previously been a regular 20- to 30-goal/40- to 50-point man for Nashville but who has now blossomed alongside elite talent.  

5. St. Louis Blues

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    Last Week: 4

    Recent Trend: St. Louis has had some close decisions lately, but for the most part the Blues are still coming out on the right side of them; the team now sits at 4-0-1 over its last five games, with the lone black mark a shootout loss to Ottawa on Tuesday. 

    Big Picture: Another team technically tied for first overall, it's no more surprising to see St. Louis in this slot than it is to see Pittsburgh. The Blues have been a consistently excellent club under head coach Ken Hitchcock; the true test of its mettle will come in the postseason. 

    By the Numbers: It's hard to believe that Vladimir Tarasenko had just one goal in his first seven games; he's scored 13 in his last 17 and emerged as the top offensive threat in St. Louis. He's presently scoring at better than a point-per-game pace and is on track to leave last year's career-high 43-point performance in the dust. 

4. Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Last Week: 2

    Recent Trend: The Lightning have won three consecutive games, dispatching the Wild, Rangers and Senators in a seven-day span. 

    Big Picture: Tampa Bay feels so good about its chances this year that it was willing to trade away veteran rearguard Eric Brewer for futures, a deal that made room for the return of Victor Hedman to the lineup. That the Lightning are in a tie for first overall in the league after a long absence from their No. 1 defenceman suggests that confidence is justified. 

    By the Numbers: Ryan Callahan may be riding some unsustainable personal and on-ice shooting percentages, but he's been a wonderful surprise for the Lightning early, scoring 11 times and recording 21 points through the team's first 21 games. The career 11.0 percent shooter is currently recording a goal on one in five of his shots.  

3. Nashville Predators

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    Last Week: 6

    Recent Trend: Nashville has won four straight and six of its last seven games, though that streak comes with a bit of a caution: The last four wins have all been by a single goal, and three of those four games required overtime or the shootout to finish off. 

    Big Picture: The Predators are probably for real. This is a team that recorded 88 points and missed the playoffs by a hair in 2013-14, despite running backups and an injured Pekka Rinne in net for most of the season. With Rinne back in top form, there's no reason to think Nashville will miss the postseason once again. 

    By the Numbers: Filip Forsberg has 23 points in 23 games, but even more impressively he's currently an eye-popping plus-20 on the season. Naturally, that won't last; the Predators are shooting at a 13 percent clip when he's on the ice, and the goaltender has a 0.972 save percentage. Even so, a team that has always cried out for offensive talent up front seems to have found a star here. 

2. New York Islanders

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    Last Week: 5

    Recent Trend: The Isles have six wins over their last seven games and 11 in their last 13. Given recent history, New York had to be happy with its 6-4-0 star, but it's left that in the dust with its performance lately. 

    Big Picture: The underlying numbers suggest that these Islanders aren't just a passing fad, either. The team has the third-best Fenwick rating in the NHL and the best overall in the Eastern Conference; the Isles are winning based on a dominant puck-possession game. 

    By the Numbers: Goaltender Jaroslav Halak is on a personal nine-game winning streak, having last lost a hockey game on November 1. His 0.950 save percentage through November is a nice reminder that he's more than capable of flashing elite-level play for prolonged stretches of time. 

1. Chicago Blackhawks

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    Last Week: 3

    Recent Trend: Chicago has won three straight and six of its last seven, most recently defeating the Ducks convincingly in Anaheim on Friday before traveling to Los Angeles and beating the Kings by the same 4-1 score.

    Big Picture: Yes, Chicago sits 11th in the NHL, three points out of first. However, the Blackhawks lead the league in goal differential, have been consistently excellent for years and have won four games for every loss they've suffered over the last month.

    By the Numbers: Don't look now, but Kris Versteeg is back, with 17 points in his last 15 games and 18 in 20 total contests on the season. Yes, his on-ice and personal shooting percentages are on the high side, but suddenly nobody's questioning the trade that brought him from Florida and had the Panthers picking up half the bill.