clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The power rankings are back and better than ever

New, comments

Ranking hockey clubs by total powerfullness

Edmonton Oilers v New York Islanders Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

It has been a month, so it’s time for the second edition of my weekly feature, The Only NHL Power Rankings That Matter. Before you get started, feel free to catch up on the preseason edition, upon which this sequel builds.

Ok, welcome back. Now that you’re caught up, and now that yours, mine, and our Philadelphia Flyers’ season is a week old, it seems appropriate to update the rankings. The criteria, as explained in the previous post you just read, has been entirely made up by the author (me, Bill Matz, the Director of Fun & Games for BSH Radio, a podcast to which you should, without a doubt, listen and subscribe immediately) as I go along. I’ll explain some more than others, but for you non-Flyers fans, before you comment, yes, I absolutely hate your favorite team. I will not make any attempt to hide that now, or in the future.

Now that we’ve concluded the introductions, let us let the listing commence!

Oh no, wait. Before we get going here, I don’t want to read any comments about sample size. I know. That’s the thing. It’s the beginning of the season. But the numbers still exist. If that type of thing annoys you, just leave now.

Or, just listen to the latest episode of BSH Radio:

1) Carolina Hurricanes {preseason: 11; +10}

(4-0-0)

“I thought I’d have them higher, honestly.” - Me, a month ago, ranking the Canes eleventh.

The only teams that made bigger jumps (Anaheim, Edmonton, Buffalo) from their preseason rank are teams seriously out-performing expectations thus far. The Hurricanes were supposed to be good, but I just didn’t believe in their goaltending.

Yes, they’ve given up three goals in three of their first four games, but the only team with a better goal differential is Vegas, a team with half the games played so far.

Carolina has defeated two top-10 teams (remember, my rankings are the only ones that matter) in Washington and Tampa Bay, both in overtime. Although Petr Mrazek allowed 3 goals on 13 shots to Tampa, the bigger story is allowing 13 shots in a 61-plus minute game against Tampa freakin’ Bay.

The goaltending has delivered in three of four games so far, and holding up against the skill-level of teams they’ve beaten in one-goal games is encouraging. And the scoring has been there- averaging four goals-per-game seems fairly sustainable (17 of their 18 active skaters have already recorded a point [depth!], and 12 skaters have picked up at least a pair).

Given that Sebastian Aho (30 goals, 83 points in 2018-19) has only recorded one goal thus far, and I fully expect Justin Williams back at some point, I think the team that entered Wednesday with a plus-41 shot-attempt differential at 5v5, and finished with an Eastern Conference-best plus-715 last season (thanks, Corsica), this team should have the puck enough to nullify anything but a worst case scenario between the pipes.

2) Vegas Golden Knights {preseason: 7; +5}

(2-1-0)

“This is the one team in my top ten that I think I’m underrating.” - A trend is developing early where I knew I was wrong in my preseason rankings but just went with it anyway. Is it possible to be both wrong and right at the same time? Am I over-correcting? I guess you’ll have to read every week to find out.

Carolina got the nod at number one because of the games-played advantage and, hey! they’re undefeated. But Vegas has been really good.

They’re top-ten in the league in corsi-for percentage and corsi plus/minus at 5v5. Vegas held San Jose to two goals on 57 shots through a season-opening home-and-home, and have potted three-plus goals in each game so far.

Mark Stone is the man, Marc-Andre Fleury has been very good in two of three games, and Nate Schmidt, who lead Vegas is average TOI last year, has only played 3:11 (nice) total this year. He’s week-to-week with a knee injury, but this team looks deep enough upfront to make up for what they’re missing on the blue line.

3) St. Louis Blues {preseason: 1; -2}

(2-0-1)

The Champs got the ceremonial top spot in the preseason, because how can you knock the team that lifted the Cup? But they haven’t done much to earn a demotion.

Jordan Binnington has stopped 90 of 97 shots through three games against Washington, Dallas, and Toronto- three teams with some decent top-end scoring talent, I’d say.

St. Louis is only averaging 2.67 goals-per-game, but Vladimir Tarasenko has yet to find the back of the net and after last season’s 16-19-4 start prior to Binnington’s debut, they’ll get the benefit of the doubt until further notice.

4) Tampa Bay Lightning {preseason: 2; -2}

(1-1-1)

The Bolts have accounted for less than 40% of the shot attempts at 5v5 in their three games so far, but they’re still outscoring teams 5-3 at full strength and 11-10 in all situations despite their picket fence record.

Tampa’s 3.67 goals-per-game isn’t down much from last season’s 3.89, but Andrei Vasilevskiy, 2018-19’s Vezina Trophy Award recipient, has posted a save-percentage 13 points below his previous three seasons’ average.

It’s early. Something tells me they’ll figure it out.

5) Boston Bruins {preseason: 5; 0}

(3-0-0)

The B’s have only scored seven goals through three games (same amounts as the Islanders and Blue Jackets), but their 1.33 goals-against-per-game is the lowest total in the conference by a full goal (Buffalo Sabres- 2.33).

Brad Marchand is the only Boston skater with more than one goal (he’s got three), while Patrice Bergeron is still waiting to light the lamp.

Boston is deep, playoff-tested, and their goaltending is great again. Tuukka Rask has allowed four goals on 63 shots, and Jaroslav Halak picked up where he left off last regular season, picking up a 35-save shutout in his lone start.

It’s really hard to keep them below Tampa in the early-going, and they may not stay lower much longer.

6) Washington Capitals {preseason: 8; +3}

(2-0-2)

The Caps have at least a point in all four games, losing in OT to the number-one ranked Canes and a desperate Dallas team looking to avoid an 0-4-0 start.

The offense hasn’t been particularly Caps-ish (2.50 goals-per-game; Alex Ovechkin one goal through four games), but much like the Lightning, you’ve gotta believe they’ll start putting up numbers.

The process seems to be good, entering Wednesday with the East’s best corsi-for percentage at 5v5. Obviously, small sample size, but the O is going to come around.

Concerning for Washington, however, might be Brayden Holtby. He has allowed 9 goals on 76 shots (.882 save-percentage) through three starts. Twenty-two year old Ilya Samsonov, on the other hand, did have a 25-save, 1 goal against performance in his NHL debut, beating the Isles on October 4th.

7) Colorado Avalanche {preseason: 9; +2}

(2-0-0)

You all know I love this team and will actively look for reasons to tell people to watch their games. Well, they’re undefeated and averaging 4.50 goals-per-game.

Philipp Grubauer is hanging around his career save-percentage through a couple of starts, Mikko Rantanen, who wasn’t in camp until he inked a 6-year, $55.5 million deal on September 28th, is leading the way with three goals, while Joonas Donskoi, who signed a four-year UFA contract on July 1 worth under $4 million a season, has a pair of goals already after netting 14 in each of his previous two seasons.

The offense shouldn’t dry up any time soon for the Avs, with Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Nazem Kadri having combined for just one goal. The flood gates are going to open for Colorado’s top talent.

8) Edmonton Oilers {preseason: 26; +18}

(3-0-0)

Connor McDavid (2 goals, 6 assists), and Leon Draisaitl (1 goal, 6 assists), make up two of the four players leading the league in assists, as well as two of the league’s top three point-producers.

These stats aren’t all that surprising. McDavid is the best player in the world and Draisaitl is on pace to become the 5th all-time leading point-scorer born in Germany by, like, next week. And the duo, who combined for 221 points last season, play together for more than 20% of Edmonton’s even strength ice time. They produce.

What is ridiculously surprising, though, is the NHL’s leading goal scorer: James Neal.

That’s right, Ol’ Elbow Macaroni himself, James F’N Neal.

Neal went scoreless in the opener, a 3-2 victory against the Oilers, but has potted six goals in his last two games to take the early lead in the Rocket Richard Trophy race. Neal put the biscuit in the basket twice on the power play in a 6-5 win over LA on Saturday. Both goals were assisted by McDavid and Oscar Klefbom, and then went nuts against the Isles, scoring a natural hat trick and then adding a fourth in a 6-5 win.

Four of the six goals have both come on the power play and been assisted by McDavid, but it looks like the third round pick Edmonton owes Calgary if Neal scores 21-plus goals and Milan Lucic scores 10 fewer than him, is certainly in jeopardy.

This team is definitely top-heavy, but if you’re going to be dependent on a couple of guys, they might as well be the best.

Any team with Mike Smith in net has issues at the goaltender position, but in two of three games so far the Oilers have held their opponent under 30 shots on net. That has to be the formula for this team to be successful on a nightly basis.

9) Toronto Maple Leafs {preseason: 4; -5}

(2-1-1)

The Leaves (yup) have ten players who’ve put up at least three points through four games. Scoring isn’t the issue.

Toronto has allowed at least three goals in three of their first four, and only once has one of their netminders finished a game with a save-percentage over .900. If Frederick Andersen doesn’t start turning in more consistent performances, this team is going to need to win 5-4 every night. Toronto is more equipped than most to play that way, but it’s still a tough ask for an offense on a nightly basis.

10) Nashville Predators {preseason: 10; 0}

(2-1-0)

The Preds have potted five goals in two of their first three, Matt Duchene is tied for the league lead in assists (6), Pekka Rinne has stopped 55 of 59 shots he has faced, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, and Roman Josi are all putting up a point-per-game and Nashville looks like Nashville.

I think this team will end up rising as the year goes, based on talent, but nothing will matter for them until the postseason. That is, ultimately, how Peter Laviolette’s team will be judged. But the hot start offensively should keep Lavy off the hot-seat.

11) Philadelphia Flyers {preseason: 15; +4}

(1-0-0)

STANLEY CUP, BABY!

Philly rolled into Prague, dominated the puck possession game against the Blackhawks and took home a 4-3 victory in the season opener.

Travis Konecny is on pace for 164 goals, and that should definitely hold. He’s about to make a mockery of Wayne’s 92-goal 1981-82.

Oh, and the Wells Fargo Center has a rage room.

12) NY Rangers {preseason: 22; +10}

(2-0-0)

13) Anaheim Ducks {preseason: 28; +15}

(3-0-0)

Another huge freakin’ surprise.

John Gibson has held each of his first three opponents to a single goal, making 31-plus stops in each contest.

No Ducks’ skater has recorded more than one goal, and I have trouble believing they’ll hang around in the top half of these rankings, but if it’s just one of those other-worldly years for an already very good goalie, they could end up being this year’s Islanders.

14) Buffalo Sabres {preseason: 24; +10}

(2-0-1)

Yet another big jump.

Rasmus Dahlin is leading the way with five points, Sam Reinhart and Jeff Skinner each have a pair of goals, and the Sabres have been controlling play at 5v5, posting a better corsi-for percentage than legitimately good teams like Carolina, Vegas, and Boston.

And, of course, Jack Eichel looks like Bill S. Preston, Esq.

15) Calgary Flames {preseason: 6; -9}

(1-1-1)

Johnny Gaudreau (South Jersey, represent!), has six points, and at least one point in each game so far. It doesn’t really look like anybody is seriously underperforming, but they haven’t stacked W’s yet, coming off a year that saw the Flames put up 107 points, best in the West and second to only Tampa’s historic 128-point season.

But last season’s playoff failure- losing to the second wild card in four straight after taking game one of the first round series against the Colorado Avalanche, is putting doubt in my mind about the mental toughness and bounce back ability of a team depending on David Rittich and Cam Talbot in the crease.

16) San Jose Sharks {preseason: 3; -13}

(0-4-0)

This has been bad.

The Sharks have had relatively positive possession numbers, but they’ve scored five goals in four games and Martin Jones has given up 12 goals in three starts.

I loved watching this team in 2018-19, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that this is the breaking point for this core, and the thing just isn’t going to work.

I’m going to blame goaltending for now, and I’m still holding out hope Jones gets back to the .915 save-percentage guy he was for his first three seasons in San Jose, rather than the .894 dude he has been since last season.

Joe Thornton and the returning Patrick Marleau are both 40. Brent Burns is 34. Logan Couture is 30, and Erik Karlsson is 29 with a long injury history. The time is now for the Sharks, and they should already be on the phones looking for help in net.

17) Detroit Red Wings {preseason: 25; +8}

(2-1-0)

Not a terrible start for a team expected to be among the league’s worst.

They have some nice young pieces, but they gave Valtteri Filppula a two-year deal with a no-trade clause, so I don’t see them hanging above 20 for very long.

18) Winnipeg Jets {preseason: 17; -1}

(2-2-0)

Remember when they had a stacked blue line? Me neither.

While Trouba was traded to the Rangers, Byfuglien is contemplating his future, and Myers signed with Vancouver, there are a bunch of guys playing in front of Connor Hellebuyck I’ve never heard of.

The offense is still there, though. Kevin Cheveldayoff finally locked up Kyle Connor and signed Patrik Laine to a two-year bridge deal, bringing them back to a group of already deep forwards. The Jets have scored four goals in three of their first four, and it looks like that’s what they’re built to do.

If Winnipeg stabilizes its back end, they could get back in the “contender” conversation. If they don’t, Paul Maurice might be out of a job before the holidays.

19) Montreal Canadiens {preseason: 18; -1}

(1-0-1)

I don’t know. I just don’t believe in this team.

But I will reiterate: Jordan Weal, Nick Cousins, Christian Folin, and Shea Weber are all on the active roster. Dale Weise and Phil Varone are in the minors. Steve Mason’s buyout is on their cap.

This is a thing.

20) NY Islanders {preseason: 21; -1}

(1-2-0)

There’s just no way this team is anywhere close to as good as it was last year.

Maybe they could challenge for a wild card, but they’re not Metro division contenders, as they finished last year.

21) Chicago Blackhawks {preseason: 19; -2}

(0-1-0)

How the hell do I actually rank a team with one game? Seriously?

The Flyers looked to be playing at a different level in the Global Series, dominating possession, hounding their defensemen on the forecheck and generally outplaying them in every facet of the game.

I think Chicago is better than they played, and better than last year, but damn... Keith and Seabrook are looking their age.

22) Pittsburgh Penguins {preseason: 13; -9}

(1-2-0)

Of course they’ve played all three of their games at home. The Flyers will play their third game at the Wells Fargo Center on October 21st.

23) Florida Panthers {preseason: 16; -7}

(1-2-0)

Sergei Bobrovsky: 10 years, $7 million, .859 save-percentage, 4.78 GAA.

24) Columbus Blue Jackets {preseason: 29; -5}

(1-2-0)

The good news is the BJs have surrendered the same number of goals as the Florida Panthers (14) through three games, and they’ve got about $8 million less invested in the goaltending position.

25) New Jersey Devils {preseason: 14; -11}

(0-1-1)

Oof. My belief in Mackenzie Blackwood is thus far unfounded.

26) Dallas Stars {preseason: 12; -14}

(1-3-0)

Dallas avoided an 0-4-0 start with a 4-3 OT win in Washington. Get it together down there, Jimbo!

27) LA Kings {preseason: 30; +3}

(1-1-0)

Jonathan Quick and Jack Campbell each have one start and neither have been good, but Quick... yeesh. Six goals against on 31 shots. But LA is scoring- five goals in the opener against Edmonton and four more in an OT win in Calgary.

Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, and Ilya Kovalchuk each have four points and four more Kings are at a point-per-game (TWO!)

28) Vancouver Canucks {preseason: 23; -5}

(0-2-0)

I don’t get this team.

29) Minnesota Wild {preseason: 27; -2}

(0-2-0)

They have played a couple of tough division opponents (Colorado and Nashville) and haven’t held up to the challenge, dropping both games, while being outscored 9-4 in the process.

30) Arizona Coyotes {preseason: 20; -10}

(0-2-0)

They’ve scored once in two games. I don’t think that’s gonna get it done.

Kessel got an assist on that goal, though, so that’s something.

31) Ottawa Senators {preseason: 31; 0}

(0-2-0)

Brady Tkachuk has scored two of Ottawa’s four goals, and I like that dude, so good for him. Statistically they haven’t been any worse than the worst, but it’s going to take a lot to move the team with the worst jerseys, worst name, and worst owner in the sport out of last place.

Ok, those are the updated NHL Power Rankings. Now, I hate even talking about hotdogs, because it’s so played out, but I had some pretty disappointing and uninspired suggestions in the comments last time, so I’m going with hotdog toppings for the first “rating other stuff” list.

HOTDOG TOPPINGS POWER RANKINGS

1) spicy brown mustard

That’s it. That’s the list.

If you have ideas for what else, other than hockey teams, I should rank next week, leave them in the comments. Do your best to entertain me, please and thank you.