The Pittsburgh Penguins have been a juggernaut early in the season, and a large reason for that is they’ve been able to be healthy for the first time in years. When Olli Maatta sits out Tuesday night, it will mark the first time a Penguins player has missed a game this season.
Consider this: The Pittsburgh Penguins scored two power play goals in a game recently, and it brought their power play percentage down. The Penguins are the class of the league right now and the only thing keeping them from the top of the standings is the fact they’ve only played 10 games so far.
Going into a five-game road trip that starts Tuesday night in Minnesota, the Penguins have scored 15 unanswered goals and chalked up consecutive shutouts. When defenseman Olli Maatta misses Tuesday night’s game to have a tumor removed from his thyroid, it will be the first game missed by any Penguins player this season.
And that is why the Penguins find themselves at the top of thn.com’s Power Rankings this week. (Last week’s rankings in parentheses.)
1. PITTSBURGH (7): We all knew Sidney Crosby was going to get his points if he were healthy. But when Evgeni Malkin is on his game the way he has been early this season, the Penguins are deadly. Malkin has scored at least a point in each game this season and has 3-3-6 in four games since moving back to center.
2. TAMPA BAY (11): The Lightning has scored at least four goals in four of its past five games. Tyler Johnson has become an assist machine since joining a line with Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov, a unit that has been the Lightning’s best game-in and game-out of late.
3. ANAHEIM (3): A retired and 45-year-old Dwayne Roloson was pressed into service as a backup when the Ducks top two goalies went down with injuries Sunday night, but they managed to pull out the victory with No. 3 man Jason LaBarbera between the posts. Corey Perry is putting together an MVP season, but he’s not getting a lot of help in the scoring department.
4. NASHVILLE (5): The surprising Predators got off to their second-best start in franchise history, but their deep blueline took a hit when Anton Volchenkov was suspended four games. Meanwhile, the Washington Capitals must be thrilled that they traded Filip Forsberg to get Martin Erat.
5. MINNESOTA (4): Without a doubt, one of the most pleasant surprises of the season so far has been the play of Las Vegas native Jason Zucker, who leads the Wild with five goals this season and has established himself as one of the team’s best two-way players.
6. ST. LOUIS (21): The Blues have been besieged by injuries, but with that adversity has come an esprit du corps that has propelled them to four straight wins after a pretty dismal start. One of the reasons for the surge has been the play of Vladimir Tarasenko, who has five goals in his past three games.
7. VANCOUVER (17): After giving up five goals in a loss to Dallas two weeks ago, Ryan Miller has won five straight starts and posted a .941 save percentage. The Canucks were hit with injuries in their 3-1 loss to Nashville Sunday night, with Kevin Bieksa taking a puck in the eye and Tom Sestito leaving the building on crutches.
8. CALGARY (19): Visions of Connor McDavid were dancing in the heads of Flames fans prior to the season, but now they’re dreaming of the playoffs. Signing defenseman T.J. Brodie to a five-year, $23.3 million extension early in the season is looking like a very, very good decision by GM Brad Treliving.
9. SAN JOSE (9): Brent Burns has become a point-a-game player since moving back to defense this season and leads both the Sharks and all NHL defensemen in points. At the other end of the spectrum, Tomas Hertl has just three goals in 13 games so far this season.
10. DETROIT (10): The Red Wings had what would have been an overtime goal Sunday against Buffalo waved off, a goal that would have given them a three-game winning streak. Speaking of goals, the Red Wings need every one they can get. They’re last among playoff teams in the east with just 29 in 11 games.
11. MONTREAL (2): The Canadiens have defied logic by sitting second in the Eastern Conference despite playing so poorly for long stretches during games. In the first period alone, the Canadiens have been outshot 139-100 and have been outscored by a 13-4 margin.
12. NEW JERSEY (16): The Devils won a shootout. This is not a typo. The Devils will definitely have their mettle tested in the next week or so with a home-and-home series against St. Louis, followed by Detroit and Boston on the road and Minnesota at home.
13. BOSTON (18): The Bruins move up in the rankings simply because they extended Claude Julien’s contract for three years and the Dalai Lama donned a Bruins cap during an appearance in Boston on Saturday. So, like, they’ve got that going for them, eh?
14. WINNIPEG (27): The Jets recorded back-to-back shutouts for the first time in team history and have allowed just one regulation goal in their past three games. Ondrej Pavelec, who was the worst No. 1 goalie in the NHL last season, has emerged as one of the best so far this season.
15. FLORIDA (25): Remember everyone, a big part of the Power Rankings comes down to how the team is doing lately and for those who haven’t noticed, the Panthers have picked up at least a point in each of their six past games. Of course, they’ve only scored 12 goals in that time.
16. LOS ANGELES (1): Remember how last week we said the Kings were beginning to take things seriously during the regular season and how that’s bad news for the rest of the league? Never mind. That was before they went out and lost four straight on the road, one of them to Carolina.
17. TORONTO (26): The Maple Leafs began making headway in the Eastern Conference when they started winning games at home. After watching James Reimer stop 45 shots against Chicago Saturday night, the Leafs don’t seem any closer to figuring out who their No. 1 goalie will be.
18. OTTAWA (23): Plus-minus is out of vogue in today’s world of analytics, so well put it this way instead: Erik Karlsson was on the ice for all four goals against in Saturday’s loss to Boston. Karlsson has had some fairly wild swings in his level of play this season and he seems to be taking a step backward in his defensive play.
19. CHICAGO (12): The Blackhawks were shut out by 1-0 scores in consecutive games on home ice this week, the first time that has happened since the 1938-39 season. Of more concern is the fact they’ve scored more than two goals only once in their past seven games and have only 12 regulation-time goals during that stretch.
20. DALLAS (20): Someone has to alert Jamie Benn that the season has begun, if for no other reason than your trusty correspondent has him in two separate hockey pools. Nobody should be surprised the Stars lost to Minnesota Saturday night, since they’re 4-10-1 in back-to-back games over the past two seasons.
21. N.Y. RANGERS (20): The Rangers paid an enormous price in their 1-0 shootout loss to Winnipeg Saturday, losing captain Ryan McDonagh to a shoulder separation and Kevin Klein to a foot contusion. Conor Allen and Dylan McIlrath move up to the Nos. 5 and 6 spots on the depth chart.
22. N.Y ISLANDERS (6): The Islanders are in the middle of a killer western road trip in the midst of playing their worst defensive hockey of the season. They’ve given up 17 goals in their past four games, three of them losses. After taking the NHL scoring lead early, John Tavares has one point in his past four games.
23. COLORADO (28): There might not be a more disappointing team in the league than the Avalanche this season. In a loss to Anaheim Sunday afternoon, the Avs had the game in control, then were lost in the second period. Patrick Roy called out veteran Jarome Iginla for his lackadaisical defensive play on the game-winner.
24. PHILADELPHIA (15): The Flyers continue to muddle their way through the season and one reason for their uninspired play is poor starts. They’ve given up the first goal of the game in nine of 11 games this season, including to the injury-plagued Florida Panthers.
25. ARIZONA (22): The Coyotes 3-6-1 start to the season represented their worst first 10-game segment in eight years. Included in that was a 2-1 loss to Florida and a 3-0 loss to Carolina. So nobody was more surprised than the Coyotes when they exploded for six in a win over Washington Sunday.
26. CAROLINA (30): The Hurricanes finally gave new coach Bill Peters his first NHL win on Saturday and followed that up with an impressive 3-2 triumph over the defending Stanley Cup champions the next day. Alex Semin and his $7 million salary were a healthy scratch in both games.
27. WASHINGTON (13): It didn’t take long for the usually reserved Barry Trotz to blow a gasket after the Capitals blew a 3-1 lead and lost 6-5 to Arizona for their fourth straight defeat. Then again, Trotz probably isn’t accustomed to seeing a team coached by him this bad in its own zone, either.
28. EDMONTON (8): After rocketing up the rankings, the Oilers, true to form, found their comfort zone again with back-to-back losses. If there is a team in the NHL less suited to play in the Western Conference than the Oilers, please feel free to let us know who it is.
29. BUFFALO (29): Two inauspicious streaks came to an end in the Sabres 3-2 shootout win over Detroit Sunday. First, they finally won a game at home for the first time in six tries this season and Chris Stewart scored for the first time in 33 games, a span that represents one week short of 10 months.
30. COLUMBUS (24): How bad is the injury situation for the Blue Jackets? Well, even the guys they’ve brought in to replace the injured players are getting hurt. Columbus has 10 players out of the lineup, although both Boone Jenner and Matt Calvert could return to the lineup this week.