NHL Power Rankings: Two weeks into this season, we’re seeing incredible parity throughout the league. Few teams have put together consistently solid performances on a nightly basis. The good news is that means shakeups throughout the power rankings, and boy, do I have some movers and shakers this week.
Once again, the rating will be complete through Monday’s slate of games (or rather, game, for this week). As a reminder, power rankings won’t necessarily reflect standings but will balance recent play with the overall body of work.
NHL Power Rankings Jan. 26: 31-21
31. Ottawa Senators (1-4-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 24
Ottawa lost in embarrassing fashion Monday night, unable to stop an offensive outburst from the Vancouver Canucks in a 7-1 loss. Defenseman Nikita Zaitsev leads the team with five points. The Senators may not move from this spot the rest of the season.
30. New York Rangers (1-3-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 19
New year, same problems for the Rangers. Artemi Panarin leads the scoring, but high draft picks (Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafrenière) aren’t contributing offensively. The goaltending is better than last year (allowing 2.80 goals per game vs. 3.14 last season) but still needs improvement. Tony DeAngelo’s off-ice behavior gets weirder and weirder, and he’s without a point on the year.
29. Detroit Red Wings (2-4-0), Last Week’s Ranking: 29
Detroit impressed with surprising wins against the Hurricanes and Blue Jackets but came up short against the Blackhawks last week. Averaging two goals per game isn’t going to cut it in today’s NHL. The Red Wings are getting minimal production from their forward, outside of Bobby Ryan, Dylan Larkin, and Tyler Bertuzzi. Filip Hronek is an excellent young player and is easily Detroit’s best defenseman.
28. Chicago Blackhawks (2-3-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 31
The Blackhawks picked up a pair of wins last week over their old Central Division rivals, the Detroit Red Wings, including a Pius Suter hat trick Sunday. Unfortunately for Chicago, that’s about the only good news. In addition to playing without Kirby Dach, Jonathan Toews, Alex Nylander, and Brent Seabrook, the Hawks also added Alex Debrincat and Adam Boqvist to the COVID-19 reserve list Monday.
27. Arizona Coyotes (2-3-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 21
The Coyotes have played four of their six games against the Vegas Golden Knights and played them four times in a row. That familiarity will like grow the desert rivalry, as Vegas won three of the four games, one being a shutout. Conor Garland is picking up where he left off last year, leading the team with two goals and four assists. Arizona will need him to be a contributor long-term.
26. Buffalo Sabres (2-3-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 16
Like Arizona with Vegas, four of Buffalo’s six games have come against the Washington Capitals. It’s a weird schedule to start the year, but the Sabres picked up three of eight points against the Caps. Jack Eichel is yet to find the back of the net, but he’s tallied seven assists this year. Taylor Hall scored in the season opener but hasn’t scored a goal since. Buffalo finally has depth scoring, but the stars aren’t lighting the lamp.
25. Anaheim Ducks (2-2-2), Last Week’s Ranking: 23
Where would the Ducks be without John Gibson? The Anaheim netminder has the second-most saves in the league, playing two games fewer than the leader Mikko Koskinen of Edmonton. Gibson has a .938 save percentage, a 2.01 GAA, and a shutout to start the year. He leads the league in high-danger shots faced (23) and ranks third in goals saved above average (5.15). In a win over the Minnesota Wild, Gibson had 3.2 goals saved above expected. If the Ducks can climb into the playoff picture, Gibson should be a Vezina frontrunner. To do that, they’ll need to improve on their 1.83 goals per game pace.
24. Vancouver Canucks (3-5-0), Last Week’s Ranking: 25
A matchup with the Ottawa Senators Monday night is just what the Canucks needed to get back on track. Pouring it on with a 7-1 victory, capped off by a Brandon Sutter hat trick, Vancouver was able to dramatically improve on their league-worst 4.71 goals against per game. They’ve got a long way to go to get back to their playoff form of last season, but they’re moving in the right direction.
23. San Jose Sharks (3-3-0), Last Week’s Ranking: 27
San Jose gave St. Louis fits in their series, taking a one-goal loss in the first game then winning 2-1 in the shootout. Tomáš Hertl is on a tear with three goals and four assists to lead all scorers. The goaltending still needs some work, as both Devan Dubnyk and Martin Jones have sub-.900 save percentages and GAA’s higher than 3.00.
22. Columbus Blue Jackets (2-2-2), Last Week’s Ranking: 28
The Blue Jackets moved center Pierre-Luc Dubois to Winnipeg after one of the laziest shifts you’ll ever see.
Here's an iso of Pierre-Luc Dubois' final shift for the Blue Jackets tonight. The center saw 3:55 of ice time for the night and did not take a shift after the first period.#CBJ
— 1st Ohio Battery (@1stOhioBattery) January 22, 2021
The relationship between team and player was downright toxic, and they acquired Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic in return. The two will quarantine before suiting up for Columbus, but both players will be welcome additions to the lineup.
21. Los Angeles Kings (2-2-2), Last Week’s Ranking: 25
After dropping a pair of overtime losses against Minnesota to begin the year, the Kings split their series with both the Avalanche and the Blues. It was an encouraging sign for the rebuilding squad, especially with rookie Gabriel Vilardi scoring three goals so far to tie the team lead. Anze Kopitar (one goal, nine assists) is tied with Connor McDavid and Mitch Marner for the league lead in points.
NHL Power Rankings Jan. 26: 20-11
20. Edmonton Oilers (3-4-0), Last Week’s Ranking: 22
Edmonton is still struggling to put everything together this year, but as long as they have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the Oilers are always a threat to win. They’ve won two of their last three, including a win over the Maple Leafs. Mikko Koskinen has started every game in net while Mike Smith is on long-term injured reserve. Koskinen will likely continue to go until Smith returns or until Edmonton can work a trade for another netminder.
19. Nashville Predators (2-3-0), Last Week’s Ranking: 9
After a pair of wins over the Blue Jackets to start the year, Nashville has dropped three straight, including a 7-0 shellacking from the Dallas Stars. They’ve allowed seven power play goals in their past two games and have been outscored 14-4 in their last three. Filip Forsberg and Luke Kunin are the only skaters with multiple goals this year.
18. Pittsburgh Penguins (4-2-0), Last Week’s Ranking: 20
The Penguins are riding a four-game winning streak, beating the Capitals and Rangers. However, two of those wins came via shootout, and one was an overtime win. They’re allowing the third-most goals against per game (3.83), but the offense has kept up (3.17 goals per game, tied for 10th). Until they address their goaltending issues, it’s tough to rank Pittsburgh in the top half of the rankings.
17. St. Louis Blues (3-2-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 8
On paper, the Blues are a much better team than they’ve shown so far this season. While I anticipate they’ll finish the year in the Top 10 of my power rankings, and perhaps the Top 5, they’ve yet to put together a quality win since beating the Avalanche in the opener. A 6-3 loss to the Kings was their latest mess, and dropping games to L.A. and San Jose will make it tough to keep pace with Colorado and Vegas in a fierce West Division.
16. Calgary Flames (2-1-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 10
Calgary’s lone game last week was a 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Jacob Markström has started all four games and will see much of the workload this season. Matthew Tkachuk leads the team in goals (three) as part of Calgary’s sixth-ranked power play unit (35.0%). The Flames get to battle the top two teams in the division (Toronto and Montreal) this week.
15. Minnesota Wild (4-2-0), Last Week’s Ranking: 15
Minnesota is another team that has been tough to peg this season. They’ve battled back from two-goal third period deficits repeatedly, but they need to stop putting themselves in that position. Goaltender Cam Talbot is day-to-day with a lower-body injury, Alex Stalock is still out injured, meaning Kaapo Kähkönen and Andrew Hammond will be in net for the next few games. Kirill Kaprizov (one goal, five assists) is tied for the points lead across all NHL rookies.
14. Winnipeg Jets (4-2-0), Last Week’s Ranking: 12
The Jets shocked the league with a trade for disgruntled Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois, and moved winger Patrik Laine and center Jack Roslovic to make it happen. While both Laine and Roslovic wanted out of Winnipeg, it was still a surprising move. If Dubois continues to develop the way he’s projected to, having him and Scheifele down the middle will make the Jets forward lineup formidable. I’m still concerned about their defensive core, which has allowed three or more goals in all but one game this season.
13. Florida Panthers (2-0-0), Last Week’s Ranking: 13
Florida’s schedule was once again changed through no fault of their own, as the Hurricanes were hit with cases of COVID-19 throughout the team. Their pair of wins over the Chicago Blackhawks are still the only wins on the schedule, but with four games against the Blue Jackets and Red Wings this week, they can, to a degree, ease back into things.
12. New York Islanders (3-2-0), Last Week’s Ranking: 14
Semyon Varlamov has been excellent to start the year, giving up just one goal through his first three games and posting a .988 save percentage. He’s had to be a brick wall in net, as the Islanders have struggled to generate offense early. Both of their losses have come via shutout. Anthony Beauvillier has one assist so far, and that came in the opener. On the bright side, young defenseman Noah Dobson has three assists so far and is taking on a bigger role with the team.
11. Philadelphia Flyers (3-2-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 7
Alarm bells are starting to sound with Carter Hart. He’s allowed four or more goals in each of his past three starts, including six allowed against the Bruins on Saturday. Losing center Sean Couturier to a rib injury leaves a hole in the middle of the forward group. Travis Konecny (five goals, two assists) and Kevin Hayes (three goals, five assists) have taken on the scoring responsibilities. The sky isn’t falling, but it will be if Hart continues to struggle.
NHL Power Rankings Jan. 26: 10-1
10. New Jersey Devils (3-1-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 17
This Devils team is going to be fun to watch for a long time. With a nucleus of young forwards, there’s something special about this group. Jack Hughes (three goals, four assists) is looking like the player he was expected to be when the Devils took him first overall in 2019. Mackenzie Blackwood (1.90 GAA, .948 save percentage) looks like one of the next big star goaltenders. Defenseman Ty Smith (one goal, five assists) could be a Calder finalist at the end of the year. At the risk of overreacting to a great start, the Devils look like a team ready to make the playoffs for the second time in the past nine seasons.
9. Colorado Avalanche (3-3-0), Last Week’s Ranking: 5
The Avalanche have one of the most talented rosters in the league, but they’ve also got one of the youngest defensive groups. Trading Ian Cole to the Minnesota Wild opened up a roster spot for Bowen Byram, meaning half of Colorado’s defensemen are age 22 or younger. While there will be some hiccups along the way, they’ll need to limit bad losses, like their trip-ups against L.A. and Anaheim last week.
8. Carolina Hurricanes (2-1-0), Last Week’s Ranking: 6
The Hurricanes had a few of their games postponed last week as a COVID precaution, so there’s not as much to write about them this week. However, the league announced makeup dates for the games, and assuming there aren’t more rescheduled games, Carolina will play their remaining 53 games in the next 100 days. That’s a grueling schedule, but the Hurricanes can rise to the challenge.
7. Boston Bruins (3-1-1), Last Week’s Ranking: 18
Boston’s massive jump this week comes on the heels of a pair of wins over the Philadelphia Flyers. Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron each scored a pair of goals in a 6-1 display of dominance over Philly. Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak once again look like the best goaltending tandem in the league. They still need more depth production, as Marchand and Bergeron have scored half the Bruins goals, but Boston looks back on track.
6. Dallas Stars (2-0-0), Last Week’s Ranking: 31
Dallas’ spot last week was at the bottom of the list because they hadn’t played any games yet, so it seemed unfair to have them ranked over teams who played to begin the year. Now healthy to play after 17 players had tested positive for COVID-19, the Stars burst onto the scene this week, scoring seven power play goals and one shorthanded goal in their first two games. Only one team in history, the 1995-96 Penguins, scored more (10) special teams points in two contests to start a season. Joe Pavelski (three goals, four assists) has been the driving factor with six power play points. They’ll look to stay hot this week against a slumping Red Wings squad.
5. Washington Capital (3-0-3), Last Week’s Ranking: 2
Washington’s biggest loss of the week came off the ice, as Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Ilya Samsonov, and Dmitry Orlov are all out for the time being under COVID-19 protocol. The shootout loss to Buffalo is a stinger, but the longer those four are out, the worse things will get for the Caps. Thankfully for them, Vítek Vaněček has been steady in net and kept Washington on top of the East Division.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs (5-2-0), Last Week’s Ranking: 3
Toronto moves down a spot this week, not because of their own performance (which has been good), but because a new team has emerged in the Top 3. Auston Matthews returned from injury to score the eventual game-winning goal Sunday against the Calgary Flames. With two games against Edmonton and three games against Vancouver coming up, the Leafs have a chance to separate themselves as leaders of the North Division in the coming weeks.
3. Montreal Canadiens (4-0-2), Last Week’s Ranking: 11
Montreal is red-hot to begin the season, playing much better hockey than many expected. They are one of four teams yet to suffer a regulation loss, and two of those four have only played two games. Tyler Toffoli has been a revelation for the Canadiens, being named the NHL’s First Star of the Week after scoring five goals and three assists. Amazingly, they’re producing at a high level while Phillip Danault is still looking for his first goal of the year. When he gets going, the rest of the Division should be on high alert.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning (3-1-0), Last Week’s Ranking: 1
Tampa slides out of the top spot this week after being unable to dispatch the thorn in their side the past few seasons, the Columbus Blue Jackets. It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite rivalries to watch in hockey. Tampa Bay is scoring the fourth-most goals per game, and the Lightning are still the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. Andrei Vasilevskiy will once again be in the Vezina mix as the season rolls on, and Anthony Cirelli looks like a star, even on a team loaded with talent.
1. Vegas Golden Knights (5-1-0), Last Week’s Ranking: 4
Four of Vegas’ six games this season have come against the Arizona Coyotes. While that skews the perception a bit, the Golden Knights are allowing the third-fewest goals against per game (and one of the two ahead of them is Dallas, who has only played two games). They’ll get a tough test this week as they face the Blues, with defenseman Alex Pietrangelo facing his former team. Even if you’re not a fan of either team, I highly recommend tuning in to that series.
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