NHL Power Rankings 2021: The NHL season is finally underway, and the 56-game sprint to the playoffs has already provided some exhilarating hockey.
To track the teams’ progression throughout the season, I’ll be posting a weekly power rankings segment for each team. Power rankings will not necessarily reflect the standings and will encompass both recent play and the overall body of work. Given the small sample size early in the season, records will carry a bit more weight for now.
Rankings and records reflect all Monday night games.
NHL Power Rankings 2021: 31-21
31. Dallas Stars (0-0-0)
Dallas’ ranking at the bottom of the table is not a punishment for having 17 of their players test positive for COVID-19 the night before the season began. However, it seems unfair to rank them anywhere else in the power rankings without seeing the team on the ice. They’ve already had four games postponed. Their season is set to begin Friday against the Nashville Predators, so there is a good chance they will jump in the power rankings once their season begins. For now, they’ll take the bottom spot.
30. Chicago Blackhawks (0-3-0)
The only three-loss team in the league, the Blackhawks’ season is off to an ugly start. They drew a tough opening matchup with the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning, losing two games, then dropped another against the Florida Panthers. They’ve allowed five goals in every game so far, and without captain Jonathan Toews and rising star center Kirby Dach, Chicago could end up at the bottom of the table for an extended time.
29. Detroit Red Wings (1-2-0)
Detroit pulled out a surprising 4-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday thanks to a pair of goals from Dylan Larkin. However, a shutout in the opener and a 3-2 loss to the Blue Jackets on Monday seems a bit more indicative of where the Red Wings can expect to be for most of the season. Their defense has improved since bringing in Jon Merrill and Troy Stetcher, but it will still be a season of growing pains for Red Wings fans.
28. Columbus Blue Jackets (1-2-0)
Entering Monday, the Blue Jackets had scored the fewest goals in the league. While they were playing a good defensive team in the Nashville Predators, some more signs of offensive firepower are needed and fast. The Pierre-Luc Dubois saga is worth following, especially if Columbus decides to move on from the talented young center. Whether they trade Dubois or convince him to stay, the sooner that tension is resolved, the better for the Blue Jackets.
27. San Jose Sharks (1-2-0)
San Jose let a two-goal third period lead slip away in their opener against Arizona before winning in the shootout. However, they’ve dropped both games since. Tomas Hertl is on a two-point-per-game pace to lead the team. If there’s a bright spot, it’s that the power play is operating at a 37.5% clip, fifth-best in the league.
26. Vancouver Canucks (1-3-0)
After beating Edmonton in the opener, Vancouver has dropped three straight, getting outscored 13-4 in that stretch. Braden Holtby has split his decisions while Thatcher Demko has dropped both starts. Quinn Hughes is the team’s leading scorer with three assists.
25. Los Angeles Kings (0-0-2)
The Kings dropped both of their opening games against the Minnesota Wild after holding two-goal leads entering the third period. While their offense showed some promise early, the defense still needs a ton of work. Drew Doughty looked lost at times on the ice. Jonathan Quick has a .887 percent save percentage to start the year. That must improve for the Kings to hold onto leads and get their first in the win column.
24. Ottawa Senators (1-1-0)
The Senators made a statement with a 5-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the season opener, and they looked respectable in their 3-2 loss to the Leafs on Saturday. Tim Stützle, the third overall pick in the 2020 Draft, looks like the real deal and could be in the Calder conversation at the end of the year. Matt Murray, who the Senators traded for on draft day, has started both games and should see a heavy workload this season.
23. Anaheim Ducks (1-1-1)
John Gibson was spectacular in net Monday night, shutting out the Wild for the first win of the season. While the offense will need to do better than three goals in four games, starting against the Golden Knights was a tall order, and they played Vegas tough. Max Comtois has three of the four goals. The rest of the offense, especially Sam Steel and Rickard Rakell, need to step up.
22. Edmonton Oilers (1-3-0)
In Monday’s loss to the Canadiens, Edmonton went 0-for-7 on the power play and gave up a power play goal. It’s completely inexcusable for a team with Edmonton’s offensive firepower, especially when their defense and goaltending have struggled. The Oilers have allowed 15 goals in four games. Something needs to change; right now, the Oilers are the most disappointing team in the league, relative to their preseason expectations.
21. Arizona Coyotes (1-1-1)
Arizona had Vegas on the ropes Monday night but let off the gas in the third period and let the Golden Knights crawl back into the game to win it. After a win and shootout loss against the Sharks, Arizona is still trying to figure things out, and with Taylor Hall gone for Buffalo, someone needs to step up and be the go-to scorer on this team. Is Phil Kessel that guy? With three goals in three games to start the year, he might be.
NHL Power Rankings 2021: 20-11
20. Pittsburgh Penguins (1-2-0)
After a surprising playoff defeat at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens, the Penguins lost 6-3 and 5-2 to their in-state rival the Philadelphia Flyers last week before picking up a 4-3 shootout win over the Washington Capitals on Sunday. Through three games, Pittsburgh has allowed a league-worst 14 goals and has a (-5) goal differential. Evgeni Malkin is in the longest point drought to begin a season of his career. Getting the first one is the hardest, but the Penguins are in trouble until he finds his game.
19. New York Rangers (1-1-0)
New York was shut out by the Islanders 4-0 in their season opener, but they cruised to a 5-0 victory Saturday. Artemi Panarin responded to the loss with a pair of goals, and Alexander Georgiev made 23 saves in the shutout win. Alexis Lafrenière has not yet found the scoresheet, which is something to keep an eye on. Lafrenière saw three more minutes of ice time in the second game, so it’s only a matter of time before he puts one on the board.
18. Boston Bruins (1-1-1)
Boston is in a surprising spot on this list, but they’ve earned it so far. They needed a shootout to beat the New Jersey Devils in Game 1, lost in overtime in Game 2, and lost in a shutout to the Islanders on Monday. They haven’t scored an even-strength goal all season. Leading scorer David Pastrnak is still sidelined with an injury and will be out until at least March. The new-look defense looks lost without Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara, both of whom left via free agency. Boston still has an excellent chance of recovering and making the playoffs, but the longer they struggle before Pastrnak’s return, the harder that mission will be.
17. New Jersey Devils (1-0-1)
The Devils were one of the biggest surprises of opening weekend, losing to the Boston Bruins in a shootout, then returning to beat the Bruins in overtime. Last year’s first overall pick Jack Hughes leads the team with three assists. However, only four other forwards have found the point sheet. The Devils need more support for Hughes. Here’s hoping it comes in a hurry.
16. Buffalo Sabres (1-2-0)
Buffalo took two tough losses against a good Washington Capitals squad to start the year but turned things around with a big 6-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday. The offensive outburst from Curtis Lazar and Sam Reinhart (two goals each) is the depth scoring the Sabres need. Jack Eichel had two assists, and Taylor Hall had three. I’ve got Buffalo pegged to get the monkey off their back and end the nine-year playoff drought this year. Monday’s game shows they have what it takes, but can they keep it together?
MORE: Calder Trophy Prediction
15. Minnesota Wild (2-1-0)
Minnesota battled back from multiple two-goal third period deficits for overtime wins but was shut out Monday against the Anaheim Ducks. Kirill Kaprizov looks like a star in the making with a goal and three assists. Their power play is a league-worst 0-for-16. The wingers are talented, but the Wild are desperately in need of a center. First round pick Marco Rossi is injured, but he is expected to join the team when he’s healthy to play. His return would be a good start.
14. New York Islanders (2-1-0)
The Islanders followed up their impressive 4-0 shutout of the Rangers in the opener with a surprising 5-0 shutout loss of their own Saturday. On Monday, they shut out a shorthanded Boston Bruins squad as Semyon Varlamov returned to the net. Varlamov made 27 saves in the Monday shutout and is yet to allow a goal in 2021. Which Islanders team will show up? That’s the major question.
13. Florida Panthers (1-0-0)
Florida’s opening series with the Dallas Stars was canceled when 17 Stars players tested positive for COVID-19 the night before the start of the season. With their first two games postponed, Florida came out of the gates firing against the Chicago Blackhawks, cruising to a 5-2 victory. The Panthers traded for Patrik Hörnqvist this offseason, and it didn’t take long for him to make an impact. Hörnqvist had a goal and an assist, and he figures to play on the opposite wing of Jonathan Huberdeau this season, which would benefit both players.
12. Winnipeg Jets (1-1-0)
Having fewer games on the schedule than most, Winnipeg won their opener against Calgary Thursday, then didn’t play again until Monday against the Maple Leafs. The 3-1 loss could’ve been worse, as Connor Hellebuyck made 35 saves. Patrik Laine is back from injury and leads the team with two goals and an assist. When the offense is clicking, the Jets are a dangerous team. However, their defensive core will get them into trouble.
11. Montreal Canadiens (2-0-1)
Montreal let a third period lead slip away and become an overtime loss in the opener, but they’ve followed up nicely with back-to-back wins over the Edmonton Oilers. Their penalty kill is at 85.7% on the season, putting them in the top half of the league. Defenseman Jeff Petry leads the team in points with two goals and three assists.
NHL Power Rankings 2021: 10-1
10. Calgary Flames (2-0-1)
Calgary upgraded in net this offseason bringing in former Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom. Markstrom has started all three games, and the points in the standings have followed. Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm each have three power play points. After an overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets, Calgary responded with a pair of wins over the Canucks.
9. Nashville Predators (2-1-0)
Nashville’s lone loss came Monday against the Carolina Hurricanes. They defeated the Blue Jackets 3-1 and 5-2 in the doubleheader to begin the year. Filip Forsberg is on a goal-per-game pace, and if Nashville’s offense can improve on last year’s performance, the rest of the league should take notice. Their defense is excellent, Juuse Saros looks increasingly comfortable as the starter in net, and they are regularly a good penalty-killing team (though last year was an exception, where they were the league’s third-worst unit).
8. St. Louis Blues (2-1-0)
St. Louis rolled in the opener for a 4-1 win over the Avalanche, but they got steamrolled in Game 2, losing 8-0 to Colorado. They won a wild 5-4 game against the Sharks Monday. They definitely miss Alex Pietrangelo in the defense group, but a two-goal night from Justin Faulk is a nice bit of offense from the blue line. They’ll figure the chemistry out and be ok.
7. Philadelphia Flyers (2-1-0)
Philadelphia took off out of the gates with a pair of wins over the Pittsburgh Penguins but got tripped up Monday against the Buffalo Sabres to the tune of a 6-1 loss. Carter Hart was shelled in the second period and removed for Brian Elliott. While hopes are still high for the young netminder, it was a disappointing effort. Three of the four goals against came on saves we’re used to seeing him make.
6. Carolina Hurricanes (2-1-0)
Carolina shook off their surprising defeat to the Detroit Red Wings with a 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators. They looked unfocused against Detroit but certainly brought it back with a three-goal third period to beat the Preds. Carolina was my pick to win the Cup this year. While the Detroit loss was a bit unnerving, their response to a loss was encouraging.
5. Colorado Avalanche (1-1-0)
The Avalanche cleaned up their sloppy opener with an 8-0 drubbing of the St. Louis Blues in their second game. Still the betting favorite to win the Stanley Cup at (+650), the Avalanche are much closer to the team from Game 2 than Game 1. Expectations are high for Colorado, but they have the talent and coaching to meet and exceed those lofty goals.
4. Vegas Golden Knights (3-0-0)
The Golden Knights survived a sloppy first two periods against the Arizona Coyotes Monday but responded with a three-goal third period to steal a game they probably shouldn’t have won. Finding ways to win when you’re not playing well is a sign of a good team, but to be a great team, Vegas will have to avoid getting into that situation altogether. They’re off to a strong start, holding the lead in the West Division.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs (3-1-0)
The Maple Leafs should be the favorites in the North Division this year. That said, the loss to Ottawa was stunning, to say the least, but Toronto has responded with two wins since then. They refocused against Winnipeg Monday and are getting great production from their star players. The ageless wonder Joe Thornton is on the scoreboard as well with a goal and an assist. Toronto will be a fun team to watch this season.
2. Washington Capitals (2-0-1)
The Caps started the season with the shocking news that newly signed goaltender Henrik Lundqvist would miss the entire season after undergoing open-heart surgery. That put extra pressure on young goaltenders Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vaněček to step up in net, which they’ve done so far. Alexander Ovechkin needs one more goal to tie Mike Gartner for seventh place on the all-time leaderboard.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning (2-0-0)
No Kucherov? No problem. The Lighting continued their winning ways, as the defending champs scored five goals in each of their first two wins over the Chicago Blackhawks. Of teams with at least two games played, they’ve allowed the fewest goals (three) and have the league’s best goal different (+7).