NHL Power Rankings: Bleacher Report Experts' Week 8 Poll

Jonathan Willis@jonathanwillisNHL National ColumnistNovember 23, 2015

NHL Power Rankings: Bleacher Report Experts' Week 8 Poll

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    Matt Strasen/Associated Press

    We have a new No. 1 team in our weekly power rankings.

    There's actually quite a bit of movement this week. Several teams made big jumps; a few others had steep declines. Five different teams within three points of 30th overall have impressive records in their last 10 games. At the top of the standings, Dallas, New York and Montreal are in fierce competition for first. In between, there's all kids of jockeying for position. 

    Once again, we turn to our expert panel to break down the league's 30 clubs. This week, Adrian DaterAllan MitchellLyle RichardsonCarol Schram and yours truly voted to determine the order of the list that follows. As always, we're attempting to look beyond the NHL standings here and provide some unique insight. Also as always, we're going to have mixed results.

    Read on for our takes, and let us know what we got right and what we got wrong. 

    News and statistics are courtesy of NHL.comwar-on-ice.com and Hockey-Reference.com.

30-26: Colorado Avalanche-Carolina Hurricanes

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    30. Colorado Avalanche (Last week: 23)

    Colorado dropped all three games it played last week, allowing a total of 16 goals as it completed a long Eastern Conference road swing. The losses mean the Avs are now tied with Edmonton for last place overall in the NHL standings. Disturbingly, Reto Berrawho only recently claimed the No. 1 goaltending job—played in all three games and allowed four goals in each, posting a .782 save percentage on the week. 

    29. Philadelphia Flyers (Last week: 27)

    The Flyers' slump continues. Philadelphia lost all three games it played on the week, prolonging an ugly run of ineffective play; the club is now 2-7-4 over its last 13 games.

    The good news was that Steve Mason was brilliant in games against the Sharks and Kings, turning aside 58 of 61 shots face, posting a .950-or-better save percentage in both contests and helping Philly get two points by forcing overtime in both cases. Of course, he then allowed four goals on 31 shots in a 4-0 loss to Ottawa, but perhaps we're starting to see his season turn around.

    28. Edmonton Oilers (Last week: 30)

    The Oilers picked up three of a possible four points last week, falling in overtime to the Blackhawks in a game in which they outshot Chicago by a sizable margin and then stomping the Devils by a 5-1 margin. Leon Draisaitl has been brilliant for the Oilers, helping to offset the loss of Connor McDavid. The 20-year-old German has 17 points in just 10 games this season. 

    27. Columbus Blue Jackets (Last week: 28)

    For the third week in a row, Columbus managed to post at least a .500 record. The Jackets beat Central Division monsters St. Louis and Nashville by convincing margins (3-1 and 4-0, respectively) but were shut out by the Senators and allowed five goals against the red-hot Sharks.

    The defence corps is missing several key pieces at the moment; the last two periods of the game against Nashville saw Columbus make do with just four defencemen, as Cody Goloubef and Fedor Tyutin were both forced to leave. 

    26. Carolina Hurricanes (Last week: 24)

    The Hurricanes ended a five-game losing streak with a 4-3 win over Los Angeles on Sunday. In one way, "five-game losing streak" sounds worse than it is; after all, Carolina picked up points in three of those five losses. However, a 1-1-3 record could not have been what the club wanted out of its latest homestand.

25-21: Calgary Flames-Anaheim Ducks

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    25. Calgary Flames (Last week: 29)

    The Flames won both of their games last week and enjoyed a significant advantage on the shot clock in both victories, though the wins over New Jersey and Chicago were decided by just a single goal. Johnny Gaudreau had points in both contests and three points overall, bringing an end to a four-game pointless run.

    24. Florida Panthers (Last week: 21)

    The Panthers don't win often these days, and when they do, it tends to be by the skin of their teeth. Of course, they aren't getting blown out, either.

    This week saw a 1-0 win over Tampa Bay on Monday, followed by a 3-1 loss to Anaheim (featuring an empty-netter) on Thursday and a thrilling comeback followed by an overtime disappointment against the Rangers on Saturday. Jagr fired five shots and scored the goal that forced overtime in that last game, somewhat alleviating the concerns we expressed earlier this week. 

    23. Toronto Maple Leafs (Last week: 25)

    Thanks in large part to James Reimer, the Leafs have started to win some hockey games. Reimer allowed just a single goal in all three games he played this past week, turning aside 34, 33 and 35 shots, respectively. That wasn't enough to win in Boston, but it did allow the Leafs to claim victory over the Avalanche and Hurricanes. 

    22. Buffalo Sabres (Last week: 17)

    The Sabres have been surprising a few people with their strong play this year, but they hit a bump in the road last week, losing a pair of games to a very good Dallas team and dropping a shootout decision against the Blues. They'll be on a four-game losing streak when they host St. Louis on Monday. The good news is that Evander Kane is back; he hasn't picked up a point yet, but in two games since returning to the lineup, he has fired nine shots. 

    21. Anaheim Ducks (Last week: 26)

    The league's most erratic team continued to perplex this week. Anaheim's terrible October (1-7-2) put it in a terrible hole, but four straight wins to kick off November helped the Ducks climb the Western Conference standings. The team then lost three straight before alternating wins and losses this week, beating up on weak teams from Miami and Raleigh but falling to the Predators and Lightning.

20-16: Arizona Coyotes-Boston Bruins

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    20. Arizona Coyotes (Last week: 13)

    Arizona completed a disappointing four-game road trip in Winnipeg on Saturday. The Coyotes dropped a 3-2 decision to the Jets, meaning that they now head home having lost three of four.

    Shane Doan's game against the Jets was pretty eventful, as he scored a goal in the city where he started his NHL career back in 1995-96. He also slammed into Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who was forced to leave the contest with an injury, and provided more fodder for those who think he's one of the league's most sneaky-dirty skaters. 

    19. New Jersey Devils (Last week: 10)

    New Jersey managed to keep the week from being a total waste with a 3-2 win over Vancouver on Sunday, but that win only came after losses to bottom-feeding Calgary and Edmonton. The Devils are now in a three-way tie for a wild card slot in the East with a bunch of teams nipping at their heels.

    On the bright side, Kyle Palmieri had points in the last two games and now has 16 in 20 games. He's off to a career-best start. 

    18. Vancouver Canucks (Last week: 20)

    Our panel bumped Vancouver up two spots, which I have to admit has me a bit puzzled. The Canucks have just a single win in their last six games, their underlying numbers are nothing special, Ryan Miller seems overworked and, offensively, the club is basically riding one hot line for dear life. Vancouver is still in a playoff spot, but just barely. 

    17. Winnipeg Jets (Last week: 18)

    The Jets have had a difficult month, entering last week with a 1-5-1 record in November. They made some headway, though, dropping a decision to St. Louis but then beating Vancouver and Arizona. The bad news is that in the latter win, the team lost goaltender Ondrej Pavelec (as detailed in the Arizona paragraph) who is now out with a knee sprain, according to NHL.com

    16. Boston Bruins (Last week: 16)

    The Bruins are on a pretty decent run, having won two of three games in consecutive weeks. Even the losses have been pretty close; one-goal affairs that could easily have gone the other way. Loui Eriksson scored a hat trick in Boston's 4-2 victory over the Wild on Thursday and now has six points in his last four contests.    

15-11: New York Islanders-Ottawa Senators

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    Kathy Kmonicek/Associated Press

    15. New York Islanders (Last week: 9)

    Consecutive losses to Montreal ruined another week for the Isles, who have slipped down into the final wild-card slot in the East. One win and two losses isn't a new trend for New York, a team that has a .333 win percentage over its last 12 games.

    The news that Travis Hamonic, who has been a reliable performer and fills a crucial role, wants a trade closer to home came out at a bad time. 

    14. Pittsburgh Penguins (Last week: 12)

    The Pens won two of three last week, beating the Wild and Avs at home before dropping a game to the Sharks, who seem unstoppable at the moment. Critically, they also put up nine goals in those three games; offence has been a real problem for the team, so this was an encouraging step.

    13. Tampa Bay Lightning (Last week: 15)

    Tampa Bay's season did not get off to a good start, but this most recent week is a step in the right direction. Roberto Luongo had a 39-save shutout to ruin an otherwise solid effort against the Panthers, but the Lightning beat a top Rangers team and then thrashed Anaheim 5-0. The win over New York ended a nine-game winning streak by the Rangers.

    12. Detroit Red Wings (Last week: 19)

    After a disappointing Week 7 in which the Wings won just one of four games, Detroit needed to come back strong. It did just that in Week 8, going 3-0-1 and winning both parts of a tough back-to-back against Los Angeles and St. Louis. Pavel Datsyuk picked up his first points of the season after missing most of the early going with injury; he picked up an assist in an overtime loss to Washington and then scored in the win over the Blues. 

    11. Ottawa Senators (Last week: 14)

    The Sens picked up five of a possible six points, falling in overtime to the Red Wings before shutting out Columbus and Philadelphia in succession. Craig Anderson was in net for all three games, stopping 61 consecutive shots over those last two games. 

10. Chicago Blackhawks

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    Paul Beaty/Associated Press

    Record: 11-8-2, 24 points

    Last week: 11

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    It's tempting to give the Blackhawks the benefit of the doubt—we're all aware of how impressive this team has been the last few years—but they are in a pretty tough fight in the Central, and right now they're stuck in the final wild-card slot in the West. They picked up five of a possible eight points this week, with the only regulation loss coming against Vancouver in the second half of a back-to-back. 

    By the numbers

    One thing worth keeping an eye on with Chicago is the team's shooting percentage. Goaltending has been pretty good, and the club's shot metrics look decent, too, even with Duncan Keith having missed a bunch of time. The team's on-ice shooting percentage is down in the dumps, though, at just 6.4 percent at five-on-five. That should turn around. 

9. San Jose Sharks

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Record: 13-8-0, 26 points

    Last week: 22

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    San Jose now sits at the top of the Pacific Division thanks to a six-game winning streak. All of those wins came on the road and they came in a span of just nine days, including two back-to-backs. This could be the turning point in the Sharks' season. The Pacific isn't that strong, particularly given Anaheim's performance, and there's no reason San Jose can't stand out. 

    By the numbers

    Brent Burns scored three goals this week, and he's fired 27 shots in his past five games. He's a shooting, goal-scoring machine. For the sake of comparison, he and teammate Joel Ward have the same basic stats line (eight goals, 17 points), with the difference being that Burns has fired 94 shots to Ward's 35. Justin Faulk ranks second among NHL defencemen in shots at 71, 23 less than Burns.

8. Los Angeles Kings

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Record: 12-8-0, 24 points

    Last week: 7

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    The Kings kicked off a five-game road swing last week. They started it off with a shootout win over the lowly Flyers before losing in Detroit and Carolina. The slip allowed the Sharks to climb into first in the Pacific Division, and the Kings are now only up two and three points, respectively, on Vancouver and Arizona. 

    By the numbers

    Marian Gaborik needs to find his game. He has all of four points in 20 games, his 4.7 shooting percentage is right around one-third of what he's managed over the course of his career and in the last 11 games, he has points in only one. 

7. Nashville Predators

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Record: 11-5-3, 25 points

    Last week: 6

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    Nashville managed a one-goal win over the inconsistent Ducks on Tuesday, but other than that, it was a pretty tough week. Facing back-to-back contests against expansion siblings Columbus and Minnesota, the Predators scored no goals in either game and allowed four in each of them. The loss to the Wild was particularly galling, as it resulted in the two teams being tied in the Central Division standings, with Minnesota owning the tiebreaker. That drops the Preds into a wild-card spot. 

    By the numbers

    Nashville's defence is scoring but nobody else is. Roman Josi has seven points in the Predators' last 10 games to lead the team, Shea Weber has six and three other defenders have five points. Up front, though, James Neal has six points to lead the forwards, and Filip Forsberg (five assists) and Mike Ribeiro (one goal, four assists) each have five points.

    Offensive punch up front remains a moving target. 

6. St. Louis Blues

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    Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

    Record: 13-6-2, 28 points

    Last week: 8

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    The Blues are in a bit of a funk. They've been alternating wins and losses for two weeks now, and that's not enough to keep them above the pack in the competitive Central Division. The Wild, Predators and Blackhawks are all within four points, and all four of these teams have managed between 10-12 points over their last 10 games. A little run would be helpful.  

    By the numbers

    Vladimir Tarasenko's longest scoring drought this season came late in October, when he went a virtual eternity—three whole games—without a point. Other than that, he hasn't gone more than one game without a point. He has five goals and eight points over his last five contests. He's tied for sixth in NHL scoring. 

5. Minnesota Wild

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    Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

    Record: 11-5-3, 25 points

    Last week: 5

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    Saturday was a big win for the Wild. After three consecutive losses, they kicked off a four-game homestand, and that first game was against division rival Nashville. They won by a 4-0 margin, and in so doing returned to .500 on the month. They also managed to hang on to the third spot in the Central, keeping the Preds in a wild-card slot. 

    By the numbers

    Darcy Kuemper played his last game against Winnipeg on October 25, spelling Devan Dubnyk in the second half of a back-to-back. His first start was on October 16, which was another example of him spelling Dubnyk in the second half of a back-to-back. He allowed four goals on 18 shots and Dubnyk played the last two periods.

    Dubnyk has played every period since, including both halves of a back-to-back at the end of October. Dubnyk's consecutive games-played streak now stands at 11, during which time he is 6-3-2 with a .912 save percentage.

4. Washington Capitals

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    Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

    Record: 13-5-1, 27 points

    Last week: 4

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    The Caps have the fourth-best goal differential in the league and a very respectable record, but their position inside the Met is not yet secure. A very good Penguins team that has yet to really click sits just three points back, and the Islanders are only one point behind them. Winning two of three this week was helpful in keeping the wolves at bay, though one more goal against Dallas wouldn't have gone amiss. 

    By the numbers

    It's been 11 games since sophomore forward Andre Burakovsky last scored a goal; in the interim, he has just a single assist. Pretty much all of the Caps' usual suspects are scoring at a quality pace, but a little bit of offensive depth wouldn't hurt. The 2013 first-round draft pick has the ability to provide that but hasn't of late. 

3. Montreal Canadiens

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    Paul Bereswill/Associated Press

    Record: 16-4-2, 34 points

    Last week: 3

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    It was a pretty strong week for Montreal, which won three of four. Importantly, Carey Price returned after an extended absence and won two starts against the New York Islanders. The Canadiens now sit first in the Atlantic, seven points up on Ottawa, and with Price back, they're in good position to run away with the division. 

    By the numbers

    Montreal's score-adjusted Corsi right now sits at 53.3 percent. We have numbers going back to 2005-06, and with the exception of the lockout-shortened 202-13 campaign, that's the best number the Habs have posted in that span. 

    That makes the Canadiens terrifying. They've been dangerous as a mediocre Corsi team the last few years because their goaltending is so good. They're something more than dangerous now. 

2. New York Rangers

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    Joel Auerbach/Associated Press

    Record: 15-3-2, 32 points

    Last week: 1

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    The Rangers are in good position in the standings and have built up an impressive lead in the Metropolitan Division, but lately, they've been winning squeakers. They needed overtime to beat a Panthers team that managed 43 shots, were outshot by and lost to Tampa Bay and beat the Leafs by a single goal. New York is a good team, but right now, it seems like the Rangers are in a slight lull. 

    By the numbers

    That win over Florida was powered in large part by Rick Nash's hat trick. Nash had managed just two goals in 17 preceding games, despite firing 47 shots (4.3 shooting percentage). He added 10 shots to his season count against the Panthers and converted on three of them, bringing his total for the year to a respectable 8.8 percent. He's still some distance from his usual conversion rate of 12.5 percent. 

1. Dallas Stars

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Record: 17-4-0, 34 points

    Last week: 2

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    Dallas is starting to put some space between itself and the rest of the Central Division.

    The Stars are now six points up on second-place St. Louis, nine points clear of the all-Central battle for a wild-card spot and 12 points up on the Jets, the team currently sitting right outside the postseason. Given how vicious the fight for a spot is going to be in the league's toughest division, now is absolutely the time to rack up every available point. Winning eight of their last nine games won't hurt the Stars any as they do exactly that.

    By the numbers

    Goal differential tells the story of an utterly dominant team. Dallas has a plus-24 rating on the team level right now; no other club in the West is even in double digits yet. The Stars have scored 74 goals; only one other Western Conference team (Vancouver) has more than 60. They have allowed 50 goals, and out West, only the Kings and Predators have done better. 

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