NHL Power Rankings: Unbeaten Sabres in the Top 10?!?

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistOctober 21, 2021

NHL Power Rankings: Unbeaten Sabres in the Top 10?!?

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    Upheaval much?

    Tumult was the name of the game for Week 2 of B/R's NHL power rankings, as no fewer than 10 teams experienced double-digit positional moves from the initial poll that was published on October 12.

    The biggest movers among them were the Buffalo Sabres, who rose 26 spots from a recently perpetual home in the basement all the way to No. 6 among the 32 teams. The Sabres, even with now-ex-captain Jack Eichel on the shelf, have started the season with three straight wins while outscoring foes 12-4.

    Also making significant positive moves were the San Jose Sharks (up 19), New Jersey Devils (up 14) and Detroit Red Wings (up 12). The New York Islanders, meanwhile, led the plunges with a 19-spot drop.

    Emerging atop it all were the Florida Panthers, who were a unanimous pick of the voting panel through Tuesday night's games. The Panthers scored 14 goals in winning three straight against the Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins, and allowed six goals.

    Click through to see how the remaining spots were filled, and feel free to drop a note or two in the comments section to let our puck heads know where they got it right, and perhaps otherwise.

Nos. 32-26: Canadiens, Blackhawks, Coyotes, Flames, Kraken, Predators, Kings

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    32. Montreal Canadiens (Last Week: 19th)

    It's been 26 years since the Canadiens started 0-4, and this one is coming after a run to the Stanley Cup Final. Being outscored 15-3 doesn't bode well for job security, so look out Dominique Ducharme.


    31. Chicago Blackhawks (Last Week: 17th)

    The Blackhawks didn't make the postseason, but adding Marc-Andre Fleury and Seth Jones, among others, had stoked optimism. Instead, it's an 0-3-1 start with Fleury's goals-against average an unseemly 5.63.


    30. Arizona Coyotes (Last Week: 30th)

    The Coyotes' start is not quite so shocking. A minus-10 goal differential is particularly ugly, though, when 15 of the goals against (of 17 overall) come in just two games—yielding 7-4 and 8-2 losses.


    29. Calgary Flames (Last Week: 22nd)

    The Flames opened with a spirited 5-2 loss in the Battle of Alberta with the Edmonton Oilers. So spirited that Rasmus Andersson was fined $5,000 for roughing Edmonton's Kailer Yamamoto.


    28. Seattle Kraken (Last Week: 28th)

    Welcome to the big time, boys. Seattle split its first two games but has scored just four times in losing three straight to fall to 1-3-1. Yanni Gourde debuted for the Kraken on Tuesday and had an assist.


    27. Nashville Predators (Last Week: 23rd)

    It's been all one-goal games for the Predators, who were the Kraken's first victim and then lost to the Carolina Hurricanes before beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 on Tuesday.


    26. Los Angeles Kings (Last Week: 21st)

    The Kings, meanwhile, opened with a 6-2 blowout of the Vegas Golden Knights but have since dropped a pair of one-goal games. Anze Kopitar has scored five of L.A.'s nine goals and has eight points.

Nos. 25-21: Jets, Ducks, Canucks, Islanders, Senators

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    25. Winnipeg Jets (Last Week: 10th)

    The Jets have given up 14 goals in three losses (one in OT) to begin the season, and the news isn't any better on captain Blake Wheeler thanks to a positive COVID-19 test that'll mean extended isolation.


    24. Anaheim Ducks (Last Week: 27th)

    Going 2-2 to start isn't all bad for the Ducks, who got two goals from Sam Steel in a 6-5 loss to the Oilers after he'd been scratched three times. A spot opened when 2021 first-rounder Mason McTavish (lower body) went on IR.


    23. Vancouver Canucks (Last Week: 20th)

    Nine goals (plus a shootout) in four games isn't going to get it done for the Canucks, a fact coach Travis Green recognizes. "Some of our players can play better, for starters," he said. "That would go a long way.”


    22. New York Islanders (Last Week: 3rd)

    It was a scary moment when an announcement came that Anders Lee was scratched for Tuesday's 4-1 win at Chicago, but relief arrived when the reason given was illness (not COVID-19) and not an injury.


    21. Ottawa Senators (Last Week: 26th)

    The Senators have won two of three to start the season, including at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and they finally signed Brady Tkachuk to a deal that will keep him around for seven years (and $57.5 million). 

Nos. 20-16: Blue Jackets, Stars, Rangers, Avalanche, Golden Knights

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    20. Columbus Blue Jackets (Last Week: 29th)

    The Blue Jackets were denied a 3-0 start, but wins over Arizona and Seattle did yield a combined 10 goals, and forwards Oliver Bjorkstrand, Max Domi and Patrik Laine have produced 12 points in three games.


    19. Dallas Stars (Last Week: 15th)

    Playing close has been a mantra for the Stars, who have won in OT and a shootout and dropped a one-goal game, too. Braden Holtby has a .947 save percentage in his initial three appearances for Dallas.


    18. New York Rangers (Last Week: 14th)

    The Rangers have lost two and won two to begin the season, but drama is swirling off the ice after 21-year-old winger Vitali Kravtsov was suspended after failing to accept an assignment to Hartford of the AHL.


    17. Colorado Avalanche (Last Week: 2nd)

    A loss in Washington to open a three-game trip wasn't ideal for the Avs, who split their first two and have allowed 13 goals in three games. The game did, however, mark the season debut for Nathan MacKinnon.


    16. Vegas Golden Knights (Last Week: 8th)

    The Golden Knights had only played twice through Tuesday, including a 6-2 loss to Los Angeles in which Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone were hurt. The two scored 24 percent of the team's goals in 2020-21.

Nos. 15-11: Flyers, Lightning, Red Wings, Sharks, Penguins

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    15. Philadelphia Flyers (Last Week: 18th)

    The Flyers opened with a pair of wins through Tuesday night, and Carter Hart had shown signs of a return to his 2019-20 form, stopping 58 of the first 63 shots he faced—good for a .921 save percentage.


    14. Tampa Bay Lightning (Last Week: 1st)

    It's been a brief feast and then a prolonged famine for the Lightning offense, which scored seven goals against Detroit but five against Pittsburgh, Washington and Florida combined while allowing 11.


    13. Detroit Red Wings (Last Week: 25th)

    There's no shame in losing in OT to the two-time champs, particularly when it's followed by 3-1 and 4-1 wins over Vancouver and Columbus, respectively. "Winning is way more fun than losing. That's a fact," coach Jeff Blashill said


    12. San Jose Sharks (Last Week: 31st)

    Rookie forward Jonathan Dahlen scored his first two NHL goals in 63 minutes, 36 seconds, the fastest of any player in Sharks history. Now 23, he was a second-round pick of Ottawa in the 2016 draft.


    11. Pittsburgh Penguins (Last Week: 16th)

    A home-ice sellout streak stretching back to 2007 was snapped at 633 games when the Penguins faced the Stars on Tuesday night. The game drew 16,440, nearly 2,000 below PPG Paints Arena's 18,187 capacity.

Nos. 10-6: Devils, Maple Leafs, Bruins, Capitals, Sabres

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    10. New Jersey Devils (Last Week: 24th)

    Small sample size. But it doesn't faze folks in the Garden State, who have seen the Devils win two after finishing 29th in 2020-21. Optimism could be tempered, though, after Jack Hughes left Tuesday's game and is day-to-day.


    9. Toronto Maple Leafs (Last Week: 5th)

    The Jack Campbell experiment is a success. The 2010 Dallas draft pick seized the No. 1 goalie job with a 17-3-2 mark last season and he's 2-0-1 this year with a .953 save percentage and a 1.18 goals-against average.


    8. Boston Bruins (Last Week: 7th)

    Thanks to odd scheduling, the Bruins had played just once through Tuesday night, but they will have added three more games by this time next week. Expect Linus Ullmark's debut with the team on Friday against Buffalo.


    7. Washington Capitals (Last Week: 12th)

    Two big wins and an OT loss meant five points for the Capitals, who have had a strong start from center Evgeny Kuznetsov to the tune of two goals and four assists across the three games.


    6. Buffalo Sabres (Last Week: 32nd)

    Wait, what?! OK, their foes were a combined 1-8-2 through Tuesday, but the Sabres have still won three straight to start a season for the first time in 13 years. And their goal-differential (plus-eight) is tied for the lead the NHL.

Nos. 5-1: Blues, Hurricanes, Oilers, Wild, Panthers

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    5. St. Louis Blues (Last Week: 13th)

    Exodus of high-end players? Consecutive playoff flameouts since a Stanley Cup win? They are no problem for the Blues, who had won twice through Tuesday and got six points from Jordan Kyrou, a 2016 pick.


    4. Carolina Hurricanes (Last Week: 4th)

    Two straight wins opened the season and precede the Canes' date with Montreal, where forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi returns after leaving the Canadiens via a Carolina offer sheet in the summer. 


    3. Edmonton Oilers (Last Week: 11th)

    The Oilers have been firing on all cylinders while scoring 13 times (plus a shootout) in three wins. A huge "gulp!" comes in the form of an injury to goaltender Mike Smith, though, after he was placed on IR Wednesday. 


    2. Minnesota Wild (Last Week: 9th)

    Looking to gain street cred in one-goal games? Look no further than the Wild, who have won three to start the season. But stay to see the superman punch thrown in a scrap by Marcus Foligno against Winnipeg.


    1. Florida Panthers (Last Week: 6th)

    A narrow defeat of Pittsburgh is nice, but following it with a combined 9-2 thrashing of the Eastern Conference's two most recent playoff finalists is even better for the Panthers. Reigning Selke Trophy winner Aleksander Barkov has two goals and three assists after signing an $80 million contract extension.


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