NHL Power Rankings: B/R Experts' Week 10 Poll

Jonathan Willis@jonathanwillisNHL National ColumnistDecember 12, 2016

NHL Power Rankings: B/R Experts' Week 10 Poll

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    If the results from the first third of the 2016-17 NHL season are any indication, there are going to be a lot of sad fans in the Metropolitan Division this year.

    The Met is treating the rest of the league like a chew toy. Five of the NHL's top seven teams come from that division alone; three of those teams will be eliminated no later than the second round of the playoffs.

    The poor New Jersey Devils, in sixth place in the division, have things even worse. If the Devils played in the Pacific, they would still be entertaining hopes of claiming the divisional title. Instead, they're seven points out in the race for the final postseason berth in the East.

    Our panel, as always, gathered to break down what's happening in the Met and across the rest of the league. Adrian Dater, Allan Mitchell, Lyle Richardson, Carol Schram and yours truly all registered our votes for a composite view of the NHL.

    Read on to see where your favourite team falls.

30-26: Colorado Avalanche-Dallas Stars

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    30. Colorado Avalanche (last week: 30)

    It is true that the Colorado Avalanche won two of four games this week, something which would seem to be an optimistic sign after a six-game losing streak. However, it’s extremely hard to give a team credit for even starting to turn a corner when it gets outscored 10-1 on Saturday and outshot 52-29 on Sunday—even if it manages to win the latter. It’s worth nothing that Semyon Varlamov stopped 51 of the 52 shots he faced in the win; he entered the game with a .897 save percentage, and perhaps this is a start of a return toward respectable numbers.

    29. Arizona Coyotes (last week: 29)

    Saturday was a good day for the Arizona Coyotes. Not only did they beat the Nashville Predators by a 4-1 score, but both the team’s big summer free-agent addition (Alex Goligoski) and its top pick at the 2014 draft (Brendan Perlini) scored their first goals of the season. The win brought an end to a six-game losing streak that stretched back into November.

    28. Vancouver Canucks (last week: 23)

    The Vancouver Canucks must have hoped to build on an encouraging run that saw the Canucks go 7-4-1 over a 12-game span. Instead, the team lost three of four games as it headed out on the road, dropping its away record this season to a dismal 4-10-1. The Sedin twins have scored equally well at home and away, but other players have seen massive drop-offs. Brandon Sutter, for instance, has 11 points in 14 home games but just three assists in 14 road contests.  

    27. Buffalo Sabres (last week: 27)

    It wasn’t an awful week for the Buffalo Sabres, who went 1-1-1 despite playing an excellent Washington Capitals team twice and facing the rested Edmonton Oilers the day after the first of those Capitals games. Buffalo is getting better as injured players return to the lineup, but the team also has just five wins in 10 games since snapping a six-game losing streak in mid-November. If they are to climb out of the basement in the East, the Sabres must go on a bit of a run.

    26. Dallas Stars (last week: 18)

    The Dallas Stars have now lost three of four games since our last edition of these rankings and six of their last eight games overall. There were points in November when the injury-ravaged Stars looked like they might be turning a corner, but these kinds of performances make that hope faint indeed. Both Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi continue to fight with the .900 save percentage plateau, and it remains an open question as to why the team’s management refuses to upgrade the goaltending position.

25-21: Winnipeg Jets-Detroit Red Wings

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    Duane Burleson/Associated Press

    25. Winnipeg Jets (last week: 21)

    Four straight losses, and the Winnipeg Jets sit six games under .500. This weekend's games were particularly painful, as they saw Winnipeg fall to potential wild-card opponents Edmonton and the Calgary Flames. The Jets are still technically only one point out of the final playoff position in the West, but because they have played a league-leading 32 games, their position is quite a bit worse. Once those games played are taken into account, the Jets have the fifth-worst record in the NHL. 

    24. New York Islanders (last week: 25)

    The New York Islanders have won five of their last seven games, but our panel isn’t buying into the team yet; no panelist had the team higher than 22nd on their ranking. That’s possibly because three of those five wins came in games in which the Isles surrendered 34-plus shots, or perhaps it merely reflects lack of faith in a management team that would give Cal Clutterbuck a ridiculous five-year contract extension. Either way, New York needs to keep winning if it’s to either climb these rankings or bridge the current chasm separating the team from the playoffs.  

    23. Toronto Maple Leafs (last week: 24)

    The Toronto Maple Leafs did their best to put together a multi-game win streak, but despite hitting 52 shots against Colorado on Sunday, they fell to 1-2-0 on the week. A few of the team’s young guns have gone cold of late. Mitch Marner’s goalless streak hit 10 games over the weekend; he scored six times in the seven games before the slump started. William Nylander, meanwhile, has just six points in his last 17 contests after recording 11 in his first nine games.

    22. Carolina Hurricanes (last week: 28)

    The Carolina Hurricanes have had a brutal slate of games in December, with five of six on the road, two pairs of back-to-backs and all of those contests against good-to-great opponents. They went 1-1-1 in a swing through California and can look forward to an easier time of things over the next few weeks. Five of their next six games are at home, and four of them are against clubs outside the playoffs.

    21. Detroit Red Wings (last week: 26)

    The Detroit Red Wings rebounded a little this week, beating the Isles and Jets in their own buildings and putting together a total record of 2-1-1. Nevertheless, after starting the year 6-2-0 Detroit has lost two out of every three games it has played since, so a lot more improvement is needed. Both of this week’s wins required extra time, meaning the team has just two regulation victories in its last 22 games.

20-16: Florida Panthers-Boston Bruins

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    Alan Diaz/Associated Press

    20. Florida Panthers (last week: 19)

    The Florida Panthers keep collecting points, but at some point, they need to start winning games. This week’s 1-1-2 record will keep them from sliding too far down the standings but won’t help them make up the ground they’ve already lost. The good news for Florida is that Aleksander Barkov is producing again; after a 21-game goalless drought, he has four markers in six games and is on a four-game point streak.

    19. Nashville Predators (last week: 17)

    Nashville has had some soft matchups on its schedule lately, and the Predators haven’t done enough with them, getting smoked by both Arizona and Dallas this week (though even the Preds managed to beat Colorado). December has been unkind to Pekka Rinne, who has gone 1-2-1 with a .843 save percentage. The slump has been enough to knock his save percentage down from .934 at the end of November to just .920.

    18. New Jersey Devils (last week: 16)

    After the obligatory win against hapless Vancouver on Tuesday, the Devils were tested by three good opponents and a bunch of travel in a span of four days. They failed the test, getting outscored by a combined 14-3 margin in games against the Montreal Canadiens, St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers. Sunday’s 5-0 loss in New York brought an end to Taylor Hall’s four-game scoring streak (three goals, eight points).

    17. Tampa Bay Lightning (last week: 14)

    It’s officially time to worry about the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bolts have lost seven of their last eight games. The team has also surrendered 30-plus shots in seven of those eight outings and at least four goals in six of them. Starting goaltender Ben Bishop’s save percentage is down 20 points from what it was last season, and over the last 10 contests, the team has only two forwards averaging more than a point every other game.

    16. Boston Bruins (last week: 10)

    The Boston Bruins' opponents have collected seven of a possible eight points this week, as the Bruins stumbled to a 1-3-0 record despite games against Colorado, Toronto and Florida. Not only were a bunch of these winnable games, but Boston also had the advantage of David Pastrnak, who scored five goals in four nights and has 18 markers on the season. His previous career high in goals was 15—one-third of the way through 2016-17, that mark has been obliterated.

15-11: Edmonton Oilers-Ottawa Senators

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    15. Edmonton Oilers (last week: 7)

    Edmonton's four-game losing streak could have been worse; the Oilers still managed to collect three points during it. Nevertheless, the team had to be thrilled with Sunday's victory over Winnipeg, which snapped the slump and propelled the club into a tie for first in the Pacific Division. It's still an open question as to how good this team is; after a hot run (7-1-0) to start the year, the Oilers are just 8-10-5, seven games below .500. 

    14. Los Angeles Kings (last week: 15)

    Buckle up, Los Angeles Kings fans. The team’s next nine games are all on the road. Los Angeles continued making headway in the standings this week, but the team’s home record (10-4-1) is miles better than its work away from Staples Center (4-7-1). The Kings have a bunch of games in hand on their top rivals in the Pacific Division, but unless they can convert those away games to wins, it won’t matter.

    13. Minnesota Wild (last week: 22)

    After a precipitous drop down these rankings, the Minnesota Wild are on their way back up thanks to four consecutive wins. The team picks up points even when it loses, though, going 6-1-3 over its last 10 games and consequently re-establishing itself as a team to watch in the Central. Sunday’s triumph over St. Louis moved Minnesota to within two points of the Blues for second in the division, and in terms of points-per-game average, the team is closing in on the Chicago Blackhawks.

    12. Anaheim Ducks (last week: 12)

    A 5-1 win over the Ottawa Senators on Sunday completed a perfect 3-0-0 home-stand for the Anaheim Ducks. Now the trick will be to maintain the winning streak, as the Ducks head out on a six-game road trip. Like their local rivals the Kings, the Ducks have had some problems winning on the road this year. At home, Anaheim is five games over .500; on the road, the club is four games south of that threshold.

    11. Ottawa Senators (last week: 8)

    The Senators tested themselves this week with a four-game road swing against some of the best teams in hockey: the Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles and Anaheim. The results (1-3-0) were discouraging enough for our panel to bump the Sens out of the top 10. Erik Karlsson looked pretty good, though, putting up a season-high four points against the Pens and adding three more two nights later versus the Sharks.

10. Calgary Flames

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    Record: 16-13-2, 34 points

    Last week: 20

      

    Big Picture

    After an awful start to the season, the Calgary Flames are back on track. Calgary has won six straight games and is 11-3-1 overall over its last 15 contests, a streak that stands in sharp contrast to the 5-10-1 run the club endured to start the year. The Pacific Division is perhaps the weakest in hockey, and the Flames have succeeded in putting themselves in the thick of the race for its title.

        

    By the Numbers

    The Flames’ experience this season has been a testament to the desirability of employing a competent backup. Originally, the plan was to run Brian Elliott in the starting job, but the Flames made the wise decision to invest in Chad Johnson as a fallback option. Johnson, coming off a .920 save percentage run with Buffalo last season, has been the catalyst for Calgary’s turnaround, going 13-4-1 with a .932 save percentage.

9. San Jose Sharks

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Record: 16-11-1, 33 points

    Last week: 6

         

    Big Picture

    There isn’t much margin for error for the San Jose Sharks, who are off to a good but not overpowering start to the season. A loss to Anaheim allowed the Ducks to leapfrog the Sharks, and with San Jose in a tight five-way race at the top of the Pacific, most of those divisional games are four-point affairs.

        

    By the Numbers

    It’s safe to say that most sixth-round draft picks have less offensive ability than Kevin Labanc. The 171st selection in 2014, Labanc put together 107- and 127-point seasons in the OHL after being drafted. Now in his first year as a pro, he earned a call-up to the NHL in November after scoring 13 points in his first eight regular-season AHL games. He scored twice this week, one of which was a game-winner, and he has five points in his last eight NHL games.

8. St. Louis Blues

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    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    Record: 16-9-4, 36 points

    Last week: 5

         

    Big Picture

    The Blues split wins and losses in four games this week, but on Sunday, they fell in the most important of that quartet of games, losing 3-1 to the Wild. With that setback, St. Louis is four points back of Chicago for first in the Central Division and just two points up on Minnesota for second—with the Wild owning two games in hand. The good news is that over the first third of the season, the Central has only had three decent teams, so the Blues are still in good shape overall.

        

    By the Numbers

    The lone goal St. Louis scored Sunday was a Vladimir Tarasenko marker. It was Tarasenko’s fifth point in three games and his ninth in six games in December. Defenceman Brad Hunt collected an assist, and the AHL dynamo (29 points in 23 games this year) has two points in two contests with the Blues. 

7. Washington Capitals

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Record: 17-7-3, 37 points

    Last week: 11

        

    Big Picture

    Incredibly, the Capitals have won four in a row and are seven games over .500 yet sit fifth in the Met. Some of that has to do with playing fewer games than most of their direct rivals, but most of it is just a reflection of the ridiculous talent in hockey’s most loaded division. Washington’s having a great year yet could plausibly end up in a wild-card slot.

       

    By the Numbers

    Philipp Grubauer was in net for Washington’s win over Buffalo on Friday. It was a rare start for Grubauer, who suffers from playing behind reigning Vezina winner Braden Holtby. That’s no reflection on his own play, though; he has a 4-1-1 record and .940 save percentage this year, as well as a career number of .924. He’s one of the better backups in hockey, and one would imagine that the Vegas Golden Knights are keeping an eye on him ahead of the expansion draft.

6. Chicago Blackhawks

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    Paul Beaty/Associated Press

    Record: 18-8-4, 40 points

    Last week: 9

         

    Big Picture

    The Blackhawks collected five of a possible six points this week, falling in overtime to the Rangers but quickly crushing also-rans Dallas and Arizona in their other games. The club is a true .500 (8-5-3) since the end of its seven-game winning streak, and thanks to Sunday’s results, it holds a four-point lead on St. Louis for supremacy in the Central Division.

        

    By the Numbers

    Scott Darling has done his best to alleviate any concerns over goaltending in the absence of Corey Crawford. In his five games as replacement starter, he has an underwhelming 2-2-1 record but a much more impressive .952 save percentage.

5. Philadelphia Flyers

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Record: 18-10-3, 39 points

    Last week: 13

        

    Big Picture

    The Philadelphia Flyers are the hottest team in hockey. Sunday’s overtime win over Detroit was the team’s ninth consecutive victory, though it was also the fourth time in that run that Philadelphia needed overtime to secure two points. Remarkably, this run has only propelled them to third in their division—readers will notice that the absurdity that is the Metropolitan is a bit of a running theme at the top end of these rankings.

         

    By the Numbers

    Jakub Voracek’s four-game point streak came to an end on Sunday, but the winger still managed to collect nine points this week. One of those points was his 11th goal of the season, meaning he's matched his total from all of last season. He’s also back to scoring at a better than point-per-game pace after falling to just 55 points in 2015-16.

4. New York Rangers

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Record: 20-9-1, 41 points

    Last week: 1

        

    Big Picture

    On Sunday, the Rangers became the first NHL team to win 20 games when they convincingly beat the Devils 5-0. They’ve had a fairly soft schedule in December with some weird losses—namely against Buffalo and the Islanders—but have won three straight and are in the thick of the Presidents' Trophy race.

       

    By the Numbers

    Sunday’s win marked a second consecutive shutout for Antti Raanta. New York’s nominal backup got three starts in a span of four nights as Henrik Lundqvist sat on the bench and watched. Raanta is 8-1-0 on the year, and his .943 save percentage this season is better than Lundqvist’s .912.

3. Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Record: 17-5-4, 38 points

    Last week: 4

         

    Big picture

    What does one say about the shocking Columbus Blue Jackets? They just keep winning games and laid waste to a bunch of second-tier teams this week, outscoring Arizona, Detroit and the Islanders by a combined 14-4 margin. Playing in the toughest division in hockey, the Met, Columbus has managed to put itself on the same footing as the Penguins and Capitals. Through the first third of the season, the Jackets look like a legitimate contender.

         

    By the numbers

    There are a lot of great individual stories in the Blue Jackets’ success this year, but Cam Atkinson stands out. After scoring a career-high 53 points last season, he has 27 points in just 26 games and may be emerging as a legitimate star at the age of 27. His shooting percentage (13.0) is a touch above his career average, but the real change is on the playmaking side of the game. Atkinson’s previous career-best mark in assists came last season, when he picked up one every three games. He’s recording assists at double that rate this season.

2. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Record: 18-7-3, 39 points

    Last week: 2

         

    Big Picture

    The Penguins are a perfect 5-0 in December, although the team’s offence seems to be cooling; they only scored four goals in Saturday’s win over Tampa Bay, their lowest output in a month when they have averaged 5.6 goals per game. Pittsburgh looks like the contender everybody expected, though the quality of the Metropolitan Division means the club will need to keep playing great just to start the postseason with home-ice advantage.

        

    By the Numbers

    Pittsburgh has dressed 21 skaters over the last 10 games, and 20 of the 21 have at least one point over that span, with defenceman Olli Maatta being the lone exception. Eleven of the 21 have at least five points over those 10 games.

1. Montreal Canadiens

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    Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    Record: 19-6-3, 41 points

    Last week: 2

        

    Big Picture

    The Canadiens are back at the top of our power rankings this week after winning three of their last four games. The exclamation point for our panel came on Saturday, when Montreal humiliated the Avalanche, 10-1. In that game, they scored nearly as many goals as Colorado had shots. The Habs are once again comfortably ensconced in first place in the Atlantic Division.

        

    By the Numbers

    Star winger Max Pacioretty has had a tough season, and this week we found out that injury is a big part of the reason why, with Sportsnet’s Eric Engels reporting that he spent almost all of November playing with a broken foot. With the injury behind him, Pacioretty is making up for lost time, with seven goals and nine points in his last four games, including a four-goal outing against the Avs.

        

    Statistics used here courtesy of Hockey-Reference.comPuck On Net and the NHL

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