NHL Power Rankings: Bleacher Report Experts' Week 7 Poll

Adrian Dater@@adaterNHL National ColumnistNovember 16, 2015

NHL Power Rankings: Bleacher Report Experts' Week 7 Poll

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    Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

    Week seven of the NHL season is in the books, and we have genuine uncertainty as to which team is the best to this point. 

    Montreal? Dallas? St. Louis? The Rangers? Nashville? Washington? Minnesota? 

    You can make a decent case for all of them deserving of the No. 1 Bleacher Report designation, but you'll have to click through to find out which team actually gets the honor. We will say this: We have a new No. 1 team.

    In this age of NHL parity, it is not a shock that we haven't had a significant separation with a top team from everyone else.

    Our panelists judging this week's 1-30 are the usual suspects: Myself, Jonathan Willis, Allan Mitchell, Steve MacFarlane, Carol Schram and Luke Richardson. I wrote all the copy, as the Pulitzer Committee already is well aware.

    Please get your index finger ready to do some clicking, for a breakdown as to why each of the 30 teams are where they are.

    News and statistics for this piece come from newspaper websites, NHL.com and Puckalytics.com.

30-26: Edmonton Oilers-Anaheim Ducks

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    Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

    30. Edmonton Oilers (Last week: 27)

    The dropoff has started. When Connor McDavid went down with a broken collarbone, the hope was the young Oilers would rally, that guys such as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall would step things up in his absence. It hasn't quite worked out that way, as the Oilers entered Saturday's game in Los Angeles 3-7-0 in their previous 10 contests.

    At some point, the other young top draftees of the Oilers have to get it done themselves, and quit expecting to be rescued by someone else. 

    29. Calgary Flames (Last week: 26)

    It's been getting a little bit better in Calgary, after that brutal start. Trouble is, the Flames are still well under .500 and that is a doomsday scenario at any time of the season in the brutally tough Western Conference.

    The goaltending remains a major worry with this team, and young defenseman Dougie Hamilton continues to struggle in his adjustment to a new conference. Hamilton entered Sunday's game at Chicago with five points in 18 games and a minus-8. Not quite the all-star numbers many had him pegged for after the Flames got him from Boston.

    The Flames were pretty well dominated Sunday night by Chicago, continuing a season of mostly misery.

    28. Columbus Blue Jackets (Last week: 29)

    After a nice start under new coach John Tortorella (4-2-0 in the first six games), Torts couldn't help it. He blasted his team after a 5-3 loss at home to Vancouver last week, telling reporters, "We've got to stop it with these moral victories."

    We knew it would be a short time before Torts stopped being polite and started getting real. The worry with the Jackets is they will slip back to their old ways after an energized couple of weeks under Tortorella. That will only produce more press conferences like the one linked to above. 

    27: Philadelphia Flyers (Last week: 24)

    This team's defense is not good. It's too slow, both in the way of actual footspeed and how it moves the puck out of its own zone. 

    Of course, the offense has been nothing to brag about either. Philadelphia entered Saturday with 30 goals for, 48 against. Included last week was a 4-0 home loss to reeling Colorado, which prompted a team meeting afterward. It's the hunch here that won't be the last team meeting of the year.

    26. Anaheim Ducks (Last week: 19)

    After winning four in a row and getting everyone all excited again, the Ducks came home and gained only two of a possible six points at home last week against Arizona, Edmonton and the Islanders. The loss to New York, 4-1 at home, was a definite step back again.

    While the panic of the first three weeks has subsided, the Ducks are still in must-win mode, probably from here on out, if they want to make the playoffs.

25-21: Toronto Maple Leafs-Florida Panthers

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    25. Toronto Maple Leafs (Last week: 28)

    The Leafs got a nice win at Nashville Thursday night, with James Reimer looking like a legitimate NHL goalie again. The Leafs just can't score much to support anyone in net, though. Their 34 goals entering Saturday's game with Vancouver ranked near the bottom of the league. They scored four in a win over Vancouver, which was nice. 

    They got three more Sunday at Madison Square Garden. The bad news: Jonathan Bernier allowed four.

     24. Carolina Hurricanes (Last week: 22)

    After an unexpectedly decent showing on a long road trip a couple weeks ago, the Hurricanes came home and failed to capitalize on the momentum. They are playing better hockey than the first, awful few games, but this team is destined for Lottery-Land.

    One bright note: Entering Saturday's contest against the Flyers, the Hurricanes had posted 30 or more shots on net in the previous five straight. They have a pretty nice top two lines, but that's about it.

    23. Colorado Avalanche (Last week: 30)

    General manager Joe Sakic told Bleacher Report last week there was only one untouchable player on his roster at this point: 20-year-old Nathan MacKinnon. Anyone else, including Matt Duchene and Semyon Varlmov, could be available at the right offer, Sakic intimated. 

    That set off a flurry of media stories that a major shakeup could be at hand in Denver. But the Avs settled things down with impressive, successive road victories in Philadelphia, Boston and Montreal to start a seven-game trip. More victories will make Sakic less willing to pick up the phone looking for help, but Colorado still entered Saturday's game in Montreal at 6-9-1 and nobody in management was happy about that mark.

    Bottom line: this team needs to keep winning to stop the trade rumors.

    22. San Jose Sharks (Last week: 20)

    Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman caused quite a stir last week when he reported the Sharks could be entertaining offers for longtime veteran forward Patrick Marleau. Then, CSNBayArea.com's Kevin Kurz roiled the waters further by reporting Marleau would waive his no-trade clause to go to one of three teams: the Rangers, Anaheim or Los Angeles.

    But what are the odds the Sharks would trade Marleau to either of their division rivals down south? It figures to get very interesting if the Sharks continue to tread water around .500, especially after starting out 4-0-0.

    Meanwhile, Marleau scored the overtime winner Saturday in Buffalo to get his team a big two points.

    21. Florida Panthers (Last week: 25)

    After an encouraging start, the Panthers have settled back into their normal mode: mediocrity.

    Having Aleksander Barkov out to injury has definitely not helped the offense, which is struggling to produce most nights. Even the ageless Jaromir Jagr has slowed down after a torrid start. It just always seems to be the same old story with this franchise: no consistency, no true excitement. Just...mediocrity.

    Barkov should return to the lineup on Monday, however, as the Miami Herald reported (via NHL.com).

20-16: Vancouver Canucks-Boston Bruins

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    Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

    20. Vancouver Canucks (Last week: 17)

    Entering Saturday, only one other team in the Western Conference (Dallas, with 63) had scored more goals than Vancouver's 50. 

    That's partially a tribute to the enduring excellence of the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel, who led the team in scoring with a combined 28 points through the first 17 games. Otherwise, the Canucks have fallen mostly into win-one, lose-one mode. 

    More from veteran top-six forward Radim Vrbata would help. He had only three goals his first 17 games.

    19. Detroit Red Wings (Last week: 16)

    Something seems off right now with the Winged Wheel. 

    They lost at home Friday to a struggling San Jose team, then looked flat most of the game the next night in a loss at Boston. Pavel Datsyuk returned from his latest injury, but has yet to get in any kind of a rhythm. Scoring goals has been a problem for most everyone of late, with Tomas Tatar (four goals his first 16 games) continuing to struggle.

    18. Winnipeg Jets (Last week: 10)

    The Jets, after a strong start, have fallen back to the middle of the Western pack. Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec has been a little leaky, compiling just a 4-6-1 record his first 11 starts.

    After a lot of hype that he had rediscovered his former Calder Trophy form, defenseman Tyler Myers' numbers are looking bad again. He had just one goal, five points and a minus-7 his first 17 games. The Jets got smoked Saturday night by Nashville for their fourth loss in a row. 

    17. Buffalo Sabres (Last week: 23)

    They're getting there. 

    Buffalo entered Saturday's game against San Jose with an 8-8-0 mark, which is quite a nice one for a team that finished 30th last season. Ryan O'Reilly has been everything as advertised, playing a strong two-way game and among the league leaders in faceoff percentage, at better than 58 percent.

    Rookie Jack Eichel is picking things back up again too after a bit of a lull following a fast start. There is a lot too look forward to with this team suddenly. 

    16. Boston Bruins (Last week: 18)

    After their 0-3-0 start, the fact that the Bruins have battled back to respectability remains a strong accomplishment for Claude Julien's squad. But the last couple of weeks have seen Boston regress some again.

    Included was a 3-2 loss to Colorado at home Thursday after taking a 2-0 lead, a result Julien called "unacceptable." Tuukka Rask hasn't been great of late either. His saves percentage continues to hover around the Mendoza line of .900.

    Boston rebounded with a nice win at home against Detroit Saturday, however.

15-11: Tampa Bay Lightning-Chicago Blackhawks

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    James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

    15. Tampa Bay Lightning (Last week: 15)

    It's still not time to get truly concerned over the defending Eastern Conference champs. But we're getting closer.

    It seems clear by now, at least, that a hangover of sorts victimized this group. They just haven't looked very sharp on too many nights. Valtteri Filppula and Ondrej Palat, so important to coach Jon Cooper's offensive depth last year, had just three goals between them entering Saturday's game with Florida.

    Goalie Ben Bishop has continued to look strong, but he needs more support. That will be tougher now, with Palat expected to miss 3-5 weeks, according to Tampa Bay Times beat writer Joe Smith, with a lower-body injury.

    14. Ottawa Senators (Last week: 13)

    The Sens keep managing to scrape points together, including their gain of one Saturday against the red-hot Rangers. But they haven't looked all that impressive either way.

    There just isn't a lot of offense on Ottawa's bottom two lines. If Bobby Ryan or Mark Stone or Kyle Turris has an off night, these guys just don't win much. Defenseman Erik Karlsson continues to shine, however averaging a point a game through his first 17 contests. He is one of the NHL's most unique talents.

    13. Arizona Coyotes (Last week: 21)

    Just when you want to start counting these guys out again, they flip the script and get back in the hunt. Arizona is definitely one of the surprise teams of the first quarter of the year, one most had pegged to compete for the No. 1 lottery pick, which most Arizonans hope would be Auston Matthews. But the way Dave Tippett has his boys competing, Matthews seems destined for another uniform next year.

    Rookie Max Domi continues to be a strong early contender for the Calder, with 15 points in his first 16 games.

    12. Pittsburgh Penguins (Last week: 9)

    After a nice shootout win over Montreal Wednesday, the Pens lost at home to Columbus Friday and on the road at New Jersey Saturday. It's time to officially start worrying about Sidney Crosby's play too, by the way. Two goals in his first 17 games? Did anyone see that coming? On a team that saw the off-season addition of Phil Kessel?

    Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford told Yahoo Sports recently that there's "certainly no concern" over Crosby's play. Yup, there is.

    11. Chicago Blackhawks (Last week: 12)

    Coach Joel Quenneville might have wanted to wait a little longer to insert Conn Smythe winner Duncan Keith back to his blue line after an early-season knee injury. But the Blackhawks clearly missed Keith and so Coach Q put him back in the lineup Saturday against St. Louis and was rewarded with a 4-2 win and his team easily beat Calgary Sunday night too.

    Before the game in St. Louis, Quenneville told the Chicago Sun-Times' Mark Lazerus his concern level about the team's play was "high."

    "It’s early in the year, but at the same time, you look at our division, everybody picks up points on a nightly basis, and [when] you lose ground like you do last night, it’s tough to recapture. We know how tough it’s going to be down the road. It’s not going to get any easier," Quenneville told the Sun-Times.

10. New Jersey Devils

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Record: 10-6-1, 21 points)

    Last week: 14

    Big picture

    Let's give the Devils their due. They're playing very good hockey at the moment, the latest example being a solid 4-0 shutout over Pittsburgh Saturday night at home. 

    The Devils are getting great goaltending from Cory Schneider, who has allowed two or fewer goals in each of his last seven starts. The Devils started the season 0-3-1, but have gone 10-3-0 since. Can they sustain this? We still need a bigger sample size before getting too excited, but the Devils qualify as one of the league's biggest surprises so far.

    By the numbers

    One of the reasons why some don't think the Devils can sustain this kind of recent record is a relatively poor number in the analytics stat of Corsi for percentage. New Jersey ranks 22nd in the category, at 48.2. Good goaltending makes up for a lot of poor advanced stats, however, and New Jersey has one of the league's better ones in Schneider.

9. New York Islanders

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    Kathy Kmonicek/Associated Press

    Record: 9-6-3, 21 points

    Last week: 11

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    The Isles went to California last week and took four of six points from the league's three teams there, including a strong 4-1 win at Anaheim to close out the trip. Goalie Tomas Greiss looked strong in that one, and the new second line of Frans Nielsen, Anders Lee and Josh Bailey looked good, with Nielsen scoring twice.

    The Isles return to Brooklyn for a Monday night tilt with the Phoenix Coyotes. It is also John Tavares Bobblehead Night, so get your tickets now.

    By the numbers

    Goaltending has really been what's kept the Islanders in the top eight of the East. Entering Monday's game, the tandem of Greiss and Jaroslav Halak had a combined .931 saves percentage, with only 29 goals against. 

    Coach Jack Capuano has really needed that, because right now the Islanders only have 42 goals for in their 18 games.

8. St. Louis Blues

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Record: 11-5-1, 23 points

    Last week: 4

    Big picture: A very disappointing latter part of the week for Ken Hitchcock's club, as they lost back-to-back proving ground games against the Rangers and Chicago. The Blues' usually stingy defense and goaltending allowed 10 goals in the two losses.

    Injuries to Paul Stastny and Jaden Schwartz have taken something of a toll on the Blues' offense, which places a premium on keeping the puck out of their own net. 

    By the numbers

    There is nothing wrong with Vladimir Tarasenko's offensive game, however. The star Russian forward scored twice against Chicago in a 4-2 loss, and now has 10 goals on the season. It was the 14th multi-goal game of his young career.

7. Los Angeles Kings

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Record: 11-6-0, 22 points

    Last week: 6

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    The Kings took four of six points last week, though neither win (over the Islanders and Edmonton) was all that impressive. The Kings are getting by with just enough offense and goaltending most nights, and they'll probably need better as they embark now on a five-game eastern road trip.

    After a slow start, Milan Lucic has picked up his play. He now has 10 points (five goals) in 17 games. 

    By the numbers

    Anze Kopitar, too, has played better of late. He finally notched his first two assists last week, to put him at seven points through 17 games. One gets the feeling that he's about to break out of it, and coach Darryl Sutter absolutely needs more offense from him if the Kings are to comfortably insert themselves into the upper tier of the Western standings.

6. Nashville Predators

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    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

    Record: 10-3-3, 23 points

    Last week: 7

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    The Preds are 2-1-1 in their last four games, but those two wins have been explosive on the score sheet. Nashville crushed Winnipeg 7-0 Saturday night, and beat Ottawa 7-5 Tuesday in a good, old-fashioned firewagon game.

    Pekka Rinne posted the shutout against the Jets. He is now 8-1-0 all-time against the Jets/Atlanta Thrashers, with a 1.84 goals-against and .934 saves percentage.

    By the numbers

    Despite the big-scoring games of late, Filip Forsberg's goal production, or lack thereof, continues to be something of a story in Nashville. 

    Forsberg had just two markers through his first 16 games, after scoring 26 goals last season. The good news, though: he is getting some helpers. He has nine assists overall.

5. Minnesota Wild

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    Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

    Record: 10-3-3, 23 points

    Last week: 8

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    Things continue to go very nicely for coach Mike Yeo's club. Yeo has proven himself to be a very good coach in this league, overcoming adversity several times to get his teams back on track when he might have been close to being fired. His players seem to trust him and play hard for him.

    Heck, even Thomas Vanek seems to have bought in to Yeo's disciplined style. Vanek has a very nice seven goals and 13 points after his first 16 games. That the Wild have remained near the top of the Western standings is all the more impressive considering it has been without standout winger Zach Parise to a knee injury. Yeo said the the other day that Parise will likely miss another couple of weeks.

    By the numbers

    The Wild continue to be a nightmare to play at the Xcel Energy Center. Minnesota is 7-1-0 at home so far. Last season, they were 22-13-6 at home. They just always seem much more relaxed and confident at home, helped along no doubt by their rabid, knowledgeable fan base.

4. Washington Capitals

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    Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    Record: 11-4-1, 23 points

    Last week: 5

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    It was a mixed-bag kind of week for the Caps, who took three of a possible six points. It was a disappointment to only get one point at home against struggling Calgary Friday night. Those are the kinds of games you have to take care of at home to secure a nice, home-ice advantage series for the first round of the playoffs.

    Still, things are positive overall here. They get a few days off until their next game, Wednesday at home against Detroit. No doubt they'll want to avenge a 1-0 loss to the Wings last week in Detroit.

    By the numbers

    A little more out of depth center Brooks Laich would help the cause. A one-time regular 20-goal scorer, Laich had just one goal in his first 16 games, with one assist. Laich's offensive numbers have been on the decline some in recent years, and offense isn't what the Caps are expecting out of him first and foremost. 

    But one goal every 16 games isn't going to cut it either. Otherwise, it puts too much pressure on the top two lines to score every night.

3. Montreal Canadiens

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    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    Record: 13-3-2

    Last week: 1

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    Get well soon, Carey Price.

    While backup Mike Condon has played very well in the injured Price's absence, Montreal got a stinker of a performance Saturday night from Dustin Tokarski in its first regulation home loss of the season, 6-1 to Colorado.

    The Habs are saying Price should only miss one more week with a lower-body injury, and Price is skating again at practice. The Canadiens are a good team most any night no matter who is in net, but they just don't have the same swagger and confidence without their defending Hart and Vezina winner.

    By the numbers

    The Habs' 63 goals still leads the Eastern Conference, and is second overall to Dallas' 65. Montreal has 10 players in double figures in points, most of any team in the league.

2. Dallas Stars

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    Record: 14-4-0

    Last week: 2

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    The expiration date on being able to call this team's start a "fluke" seems to have passed.

    These guys play a fast, exciting brand of hockey. They did that last year too, but the trouble was so did their opposition more nights than not. The defense and goaltending clearly is better than last year. No, the Stars still won't win a Jennings Trophy perhaps, but they are not the porous team defensively of the recent past.

    Linemates Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn continue to be 1-2 in league scoring, with a combined 51 points between them.

    By the numbers

    Dallas, which won a Stanley Cup in 1999, is off to its best start, in terms of wins and points, in the 48-year history of the franchise (going back to their days as the Minnesota North Stars). A big reason, along with Seguin and Benn? 

    How about defenseman John Klingberg, who leads all NHL defensemen in points, with 20 (four goals).

1. New York Rangers

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    Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

    Record: 14-2-2 

    Last week: 3

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    All hail the King.

    Goalie Henrik Lundqvist, maybe on the downside in his twilight years? LOLOLOL.

    Try these numbers on for size: Entering Sunday's game with Toronto, Lundqvist had won six straight starts, with a 1.69 goals-against and .947 saves percentage. He had gained at least one point for his team in nine straight starts (7-0-2), which established a career high. How about this one too: According to NHL.com's stat gatherers, Lundqvist had a 0.45 GAA and .986 saves percentage when the Rangers had been tied or had a one-goal lead in third periods this season (74 shots, 73 saves in 130:27).

    By the numbers

    A lot of teams lined up to try and lure Kevin Hayes to their side when he briefly became an unrestricted free agent following a standout career with Boston College, one that saw him play on the same line as Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau.

    Chicago drafted Hayes 24th overall in the 2010 NHL draft, but when he failed to come to contract terms with the Blackhawks, he became unrestricted in 2014 and he wound up signing with the Rangers, rebuffing strong offers from Chicago and Colorado, among others.

    Hayes had a fine rookie season with the Rangers, posting 45 points in 79 games, and he entered Sunday's contest with Toronto at 12 points through his first 17 games.

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