NHL Power Rankings: Hurricanes and Panthers Continue Battle for No. 1 Spot
Yes, there's a gap. But no, it's not a big one.
The Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers entered Tuesday's games as a pair of first-place teams with precisely the same number of points and just a single digit between them in terms of goal differential.
So it's neither surprising that they occupy spots No. 1 and 2 in B/R's weekly NHL power rankings for the second straight time, nor that this week's balloting was as close as last week's.
The teams were listed first or second by each of the members of B/R hockey writing team, with the Edmonton Oilers, Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs rounding out the top five.
Edmonton was voted third on three of five ballots, while the Maple Leafs crashed the party for the first time this season and jumped from seventh to fifth after they were placed from fourth to eighth by all voters. Washington, meanwhile, was among the top five last week and maintained its position in fourth.
The Winnipeg Jets fell out of the quintet, dropping from fifth to 11th.
Read on 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.
Editor's note: Votes were recorded before Tuesday night's games.
Nos. 32-26: Coyotes, Senators, Canadiens, Kraken, Canucks, Blackhawks, Sabres
32. Arizona Coyotes (Last Week: 32nd)
Happy days are here again for the Coyotes, who've won three of four and climbed within four points of exiting the Central Division basement. A overtime defeat of the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday was the first NHL victory for Czech-born rookie goaltender Karel Vejmelka in his 13th career game.
31. Ottawa Senators (Last Week: 30th)
An eight-day gap between games ended for the Senators when eight players were removed from COVID-19 protocol. Still, a competitive 7-5 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in Denver didn't please coach D.J. Smith. "It's an unacceptable loss," he said. "We talked about not having excuses."
30. Montreal Canadiens (Last Week: 31st)
It's back to the NHL for 20-year-old winger Cole Caufield, who returned following a stint in the AHL but has still managed just one point in 12 games for Montreal. "When I got the call back I was excited," he told the Montreal Gazette. "Felt like the first time again."
29. Seattle Kraken (Last Week: 29th)
Seattle equaled a season-high five goals in beating the Washington Capitals and ending a tough six-game skid for general manager Ron Francis. "We've had some games from the start of the season where I've felt we found a way to lose rather than gain a point or two," he told the Seattle Times.
28. Vancouver Canucks (Last Week: 27th)
A run of five losses (four regulation, one OT) ended with a victory over visiting Winnipeg, but the Canucks were then blanked by the Chicago Blackhawks. "I'm tired, tired of making excuses," captain Bo Horvat said. "Again, we've got to find a way to score."
27. Chicago Blackhawks (Last Week: 28th)
The rally from a disastrous start continued for the Blackhawks, who won two of three to start a western trip heading into a Tuesday game in Calgary. "These guys are just feeling good about themselves," said interim coach Derek King. "They're getting their confidence back."
26. Buffalo Sabres (Last Week: 24th)
The recent plummet continued for the Sabres, who were outscored 17-8 in three losses after a 2-1 win in Pittsburgh on Nov. 16. Buffalo's rate of 3.39 goals allowed per game is fifth-worst in the NHL and its 61 total goals against through Monday's games were tied for fifth-worst as well.
Nos. 25-21: Stars, Islanders, Red Wings, Sharks, Kings
25. Dallas Stars (Last Week: 22nd)
As problems go, it's not the worst. Still, the Stars will have to navigate a goalie logjam that includes Braden Holtby, Anton Khudobin, Ben Bishop and Jake Oettinger. The latter stopped 35 shots in beating St. Louis on Saturday and had a .955 save percentage in three games before a Tuesday visit by Edmonton.
24. New York Islanders (Last Week: 26th)
It's been injuries and COVID-19 for the Isles, and a lack of scoring. In fact, a six-game skid has yielded just six goals. "It's been asked of me several times privately, all the years that you've been in the business have you ever experienced this? It's without thought, no," GM Lou Lamoriello told the New York Post.
23. Detroit Red Wings (Last Week: 23rd)
The skidding Red Wings are allowing the fourth-most shots on goal per game and the sixth-most goals per game, though offseason pickup Alex Nedeljkovic (2.83 goals-against average, .914 save percentage) has been particularly solid of late, giving up two or fewer goals in three of his last four starts.
22. San Jose Sharks (Last Week: 21st)
A stretch of four losses in five games was ended with an OT defeat of the front-running Hurricanes on Monday. Goalie James Reimer, who left Carolina as a free agent in the offseason, stopped 22 of 23 shots in the win and has the league's fifth-best goals-against average through his first 10 games.
21. Los Angeles Kings (Last Week: 17th)
Four straight losses have yielded only seven goals and taken much of the shine off the seven-game win streak that preceded them for the Kings. "We're getting the chances and some days they go in and some days they don't," defenseman Matt Roy said. "So hopefully they start coming our way."
Nos. 20-16: Penguins, Devils, Flyers, Predators, Blues
20. Pittsburgh Penguins (Last Week: 25th)
An up-and-down season trended up for the Penguins, who won in Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg after a home loss to Buffalo and outscored the Canadiens, Maple Leafs and Jets 11-1. "It just took a couple of games," winger Jason Zucker said. "But it's been nice to have [chemistry] for this trip."
19. New Jersey Devils (Last Week: 16th)
A Florida trip yielded a loss in Miami and a win in Tampa, but chatter at home was about the unveiling of the franchise's inaugural third jersey. "Someone at the Devils found the first draft of the 2019 Blackhawks Winter Classic jerseys in a drawer and said "f--k it, good enough," hockey writer Jeff Veillette tweeted.
18. Philadelphia Flyers (Last Week: 13th)
Home losses to Tampa Bay and Boston weren't the ideal way to start a stretch in which the Flyers will contend with both the Panthers and the Hurricanes. Not helping matters are recurring lower-body injuries to defenseman Ryan Ellis and forward Kevin Hayes, who've played six games between them.
17. Nashville Predators (Last Week: 20th)
It's been six wins and an OT point in a successful 10-game stretch for the Predators, who were fully in the Central Division mix through Monday's games—two points out of first place and two points up on fifth. "We have a clear identity, and our players know what that identity is," coach John Hynes said.
16. St. Louis Blues (Last Week: 15th)
A 2-1 week provided a tonic for a four-game skid for the Blues, particularly a 5-2 defeat of Vegas in which they scored the final five goals. Three players produced two-point nights and goalie Jordan Binnington stopped 32 shots for St. Louis, which was a point behind Minnesota in the Central through Monday night.
Nos. 15-11: Bruins, Ducks, Blue Jackets, Golden Knights, Jets
15. Boston Bruins (Last Week: 11th)
A 4-0 loss to Calgary was a particularly surprising way to end a three-game win streak in which the Bruins had scored 15 goals. In the aftermath, chatter has surrounded whether coach Bruce Cassidy might move David Pastrnak to the second line to play with Charlie Coyle and Taylor Hall.
14. Anaheim Ducks (Last Week: 6th)
Two straight one-goal losses have followed an eight-game win streak for the Ducks, who also saw forward Troy Terry's season-starting streak of 16 games with a point end. "It was obviously going to end at some point," he said. "So, yeah, the biggest thing for me now is prove that it wasn't just a streaky thing."
13. Columbus Blue Jackets (Last Week: 14th)
The Blue Jackets scored seven times at Buffalo to close a road trip on which they went 2-1 and scored 13 regulation goals, and for the season they're fifth in the league with 3.44 per game. "It's not like it's just been a five-, 10-game flurry," forward Max Domi said. "We've been doing it pretty consistently here."
12. Vegas Golden Knights (Last Week: 18th)
Home wins over Detroit and Columbus preceded a trip to St. Louis and a three-goal loss for the Golden Knights, who gave up five straight after scoring the first two. Team captain Mark Stone is still scoreless on the season in seven games after scoring 21 times in games in 2020-21.
11. Winnipeg Jets (Last Week: 5th)
A loss to the visiting Penguins was the second in regulation on home ice for the Jets, who'd won seven times and had a shootout defeat in Winnipeg. The Pittsburgh loss was their third straight overall. "The last three or four games now, we haven't generated too much," forward Kyle Connor said.
Nos. 10-6: Avalanche, Flames, Rangers, Wild, Lightning
10. Colorado Avalanche (Last Week: 19th)
It's been a prodigious five-game stretch for the Avs, who've won all five and scored 31 goals. Colorado is averaging a league-best four goals per game. "Just finding the right spots right now," defenseman Cale Makar said. "This isn't going to go on forever, so might as well take it all in while it's happening."
9. Calgary Flames (Last Week: 12th)
Stingy goaltending was the theme for the Flames, who allowed just two goals in road wins at Buffalo, Long Island and Boston before returning home Tuesday. Calgary has a league-best seven shutouts in 11 wins. "I've been more impressed with them than anybody," Sabres coach Don Granato told The Athletic.
8. New York Rangers (Last Week: 7th)
Returning east has been a cure-all for the Rangers, who flopped on a trip to the Pacific Northwest earlier this month but have won five of six overall—including four of four at home—since. On the downside, forward Sammy Blais is officially done for the season after tearing an ACL against New Jersey.
7. Minnesota Wild (Last Week: 10th)
Just two wins in six games have come since Minnesota started November with four consecutive victories. The Wild will press on without team captain Jared Spurgeon, who is out with a lower-body injury suffered Saturday that caused him to miss Sunday's game, too. Calen Addison was recalled to replace him.
6. Tampa Bay Lightning (Last Week: 9th)
The champs are looking a bit more familiar, thanks to a run that's yielded standings points in eight of nine games heading into Tuesday. Still, recent playoff stars Brayden Point (upper body) and Nikita Kucherov (lower body) remain week-to-week cases, according to coach Jon Cooper.
Nos. 5-1: Maple Leafs, Capitals, Oilers, Panthers, Hurricanes
5. Toronto Maple Leafs (Last Week: 8th)
The Maple Leafs were among the league's best teams (8-2-0) over 10 games heading into a visit to Los Angeles. Still, the offense is eighth-lowest in goal output (2.55) for the season. "We've been talking about it a lot," coach Sheldon Keefe said. "We've got to find ways to generate a lot more."
4. Washington Capitals (Last Week: 4th)
Four games out west meant two wins and two losses for the Caps, who got shutouts from Ilya Samsonov in both victories. The 24-year-old Russian has three shutouts in six starts this season, good for a tie for second in the league behind the five posted by Calgary's Jacob Markstrom.
3. Edmonton Oilers (Last Week: 3rd)
The Oilers lost three of five on a road trip but won two straight at home to prep for another three-game swing that began Tuesday in Dallas. Defenseman Philip Broberg, just 20, debuted to rave reviews against Chicago. "He looked poised back there," teammate Duncan Keith said. "He's a big strong guy."
2. Florida Panthers (Last Week: 2nd)
The Panthers remained among the league's elite for another week with three home wins that pushed their record at FLA Live Arena to 10-0, the best in franchise history. "We're trying to make [it an] imposing place," interim coach Andrew Brunette said. "We just don't want to be good at home. We want to be great."
1. Carolina Hurricanes (Last Week: 1st)
Forward Seth Jarvis is officially an NHL'er after playing his 10th game of the season Monday and activating an entry-level deal that pays him $832,500. He's scored four times and is skating with Sebastian Aho and winger Teuvo Teravainen. "He's a good kid, he can really skate and he's a smart player," Aho said. "I just try to find him, and obviously, he can score."