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NHL Power Rankings: Avalanche Still on Top, But New No. 2

The league is just getting back into action following the All-Star Game, so there wasn't a ton of changes around the league. Colorado is still No. 1, but there's a new second-place contender in town.
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The league is just getting back into action following the All-Star Game, so note the lack of significant movement in the rankings although there were some eyebrow-raising results. It’s a quirky schedule with the Sens having a rare five-game week while the Panthers, Rangers, Kings and Sharks play zero games. What was supposed to be the Olympic break has now been filled with rescheduled games that had been previously postponed, which means plenty of catching up to do for Canadian teams.

The All-Star Game has always been seen as an unofficial mid-season break, and last week I’ve already outlined which teams are the probably contenders – should we re-think some of this? The Canes are not getting the results they should with two upset losses while the Caps’ goaltending might actually sink their season despite an excellent start.

In light of the minimal number of games played since last week, teams that have yet to play a game this week will get a little advice on what they should pay attention to ensure a successful second half.

(All fancy stats are 5v5 and courtesy naturalstattrick.com)

1. Colorado Avalanche (32-8-4, +54 goal differential. CF%: 6th, xGF%: 9th. PR: 1)

It may not be so bad if the Avs enter the playoffs with two good goalies in Kuemper and Francouz if neither perform well enough to be the undisputed starter. History tells us platoons don’t win in the playoffs, but the Avs are also so far ahead of everyone else in the West that it’s a weakness they should be able to cover up at least until after the first two rounds.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning (30-10-6, +27. CF%: 11th, xGF%: 6th. Previous Rank: 3)

They inked Maroon to a two-year extension, so it looks like the Cup is going to stay in Tampa Bay until at least 2024. Jokes aside, the Lightning have a rare opportunity to be the best dynasty in the cap era with three straight titles, and it’s totally possible when many thought the departure of their entire checking line spelt the end of their reign. Steven Stamkos is low-key having an MVP-caliber season, scoring at a point-per-game pace, filling in at center and winning faceoffs, and driving play.

3. New York Rangers (30-13-4, +23. CF%: 32nd, xGF%: 29th. PR: 4)

The Rangers need to put Shesterkin in bubble wrap and hire the Secret Service so that nothing every threatens to trip, bump or fall on him. A very talented offense with poor possession numbers only wins this many games with Shesterkin bailing him out; only seven goalies have ever won the Hart, and none since Carey Price in 2015. Shesterkin’s got a very strong case to finish at least in the top-five so far.

4. Florida Panthers (32-10-5, +55. CF%: 1st, xGF%: 3rd. PR: 5)

The Panthers are probably big-game hunting but if the asking price for Chychrun involves Lundell, they should say no. What I do wonder, though, is if the Panthers could use a reliable right-shot center who can win faceoffs, which allows the two Sam’s (Bennett and Reinhart) to play on the wing and perhaps take some pressure off Lundell.

5. Toronto Maple Leafs (30-10-3, +42. CF%: 7th, xGF%: 4th. PR: 6)

Maybe starting Mrazek is a sign of a bigger role, maybe it was really a chance to give Campbell a break in a revenge game for Mrazek. Either way, the Leafs’ situation in net just got a little more interesting after Campbell’s impressive Vezina-worthy run in the first half.

6. Carolina Hurricanes (31-10-3, +47. CF%: 3rd, xGF%: 5th. PR: 2)

It’s not a good look to come out of an extended break and lose two in a row. Both were one-goal games, but the Canes blew the lead twice against the Leafs and fell behind early against the lowly Sens. Rod Brind’Amour has always managed to get his team back on track, and the next 10 games will prove challenging with seven on the road.

7. Pittsburgh Penguins (28-11-8, +32. CF%: 8th, xGF%: 8th. PR: 10)

If there’s a team that could join the elite tier of Eastern teams, it’s the Penguins. They’ve had trouble staying healthy all season, but with Mike Sullivan’s steady hand, they’re No. 5 in P% since Jan. 1. According to @ManGamesLostNHL, the Pens have the third-most points lost in the standings due to injuries.

8. Minnesota Wild (28-11-3, +39. CF%: 15th, xGF%: 12th. PR: 7)

The Wild looked out of sorts against the Jets, and it marked the first time they lost in regulation with Matt Boldy in the lineup. Boldy has provided another layer to the Wild’s offense and they no longer have to rely solely on Kirill Kaprizov’s line, and keep in mind this is potentially their best window – we’ll only know in retrospect – before Suter and Parise’s buyout penalties jump to nearly $13 million.

9. Nashville Predators (28-14-4, +19. CF%: 18th, xGF%: 14th. PR: 8)

Forsberg is playing the best hockey of his career in a contract year, and as long as Duchene and Johansen keep scoring, they might surprise in the playoffs. They’ve got good goaltending and a quality defense; they just have to make sure their top-paid players play like it.

10. Vegas Golden Knights (28-16-3, +25. CF%: 9th, xGF%: 10th. PR: 12)

That Pete DeBoer elected to play Lehner against the Flames rather than the Oilers should tell you how the rest of the league views the Pacific. And good decisions like that is why DeBoer is two wins away from 500 because Brossoit ended up shutting them out.

11. Calgary Flames (23-13-6, +32. CF%: 2nd, xGF%: 2nd. PR: 9)

There is no in-between with Markström, who is either shutting out his opponents or letting them through toll-free. Since Jan. 1, Markström’s -0.48 5v5 GSAA (min. 300 TOI) ranks 20th out of 34 goalies.

12. St. Louis Blues (26-13-5, +32. CF%: 23rd, xGF%: 27th. PR: 11)

My guess is Husso and Binnington will play musical chairs the rest of the way – did you see what I did there? – but it won’t be a huge headache because both are capable goalies (for stretches). It’s also interesting to see them struggle in analytics even though they profile as a good two-way team; during their Cup year, despite a horrific start they finished 10th in the league at 51.50 5v5 CF%.

13. Anaheim Ducks (23-16-9, +4. CF%: 20th, xGF%: 23rd. PR: 13)

The most interesting part about their season is that they’ve gone from being potential power brokers at the trade deadline to being buyers, which puts them in a dilemma because anything they do should be geared toward the long term.

14. Dallas Stars (23-18-2, -2. CF%: 19th, xGF%: 16th. PR: 14)

Oettinger will be their starter sooner or later, but in the meantime, they have to decide what to do with Khudobin, who is filling in for the injured Holtby. They’ve juggled all three without any problems this season, and what they really need is a reliable second scoring line.

15. Boston Bruins (26-15-3, +9. CF%: 5th, xGF%: 1st. PR: 15)

If Bergeron misses significant time, the B’s are in trouble; he’s arguably the best even-strength player in the league, leading all players (min. 500 TOI) in 5v5 CF%. Their lack of depth at center is already a concern, and Marchand’s antics in a loss against the Pens might lead to supplemental discipline.

16. Edmonton Oilers (23-17-3, even. CF%: 9th, xGF%: 15th. PR: 16)

A shutout loss for a team with McDavid and Draisaitl, and having added Kane just a couple weeks ago, is a bad look. The Oilers fell behind the Knights early but despite needing four goals to tie, Barrie played just 14:51. Nurse and Bouchard dished out nine hits and blocked nine shots combined, but also finished minus-5.

17. Vancouver Canucks (21-20-6, -7. CF%: 16th, xGF%: 20th. PR: 20)

Look, I’m not superstitious but in Vancouver, it’s important to point out every 22 and 33 you see. The Canucks scored 3 goals in 3:22 in the second period to tame the Coyotes, and they’ll need more magic if they want to make the playoffs.

18. Washington Capitals (25-14-9, +21. CF%: 12th, xGF%: 11th. PR: 17)

Copley was pulled and Samsonov couldn’t turn the tide as the Caps are now 5-8-2 since Jan. 1 and rank 25th in P%. Ovechkin has five goals in 14 games and Samsonov is 1-4-1 in his last seven appearances with a .882 Sv%.

19. Los Angeles Kings (24-16-7, +6. CF%: 4th, xGF%: 7th. PR: 18)

Their team grades out very well analytically; Iafallo, Danault and Arvidsson rank 10th, 15th and 17th, respectively in 5v5 CF%. Their big problem is that their goaltending comes and goes. If Petersen or Quick can get hot, the Kings will make a big run.

20. Winnipeg Jets (19-17-7, -6. CF%: 14th, xGF%: 18th. PR: 22)

The Jets rightfully took advantage of a discombobulated Wild squad, but there’s still a lot of problems to figure out. At this current rate, the Jets will be hard-pressed to make the postseason; moneypuck.com has the Jets’ playoff chances at just 20.1%.

21. San Jose Sharks (22-20-4, -16. CF%: 28th, xGF%: 19th. PR: 19)

Reimer before Jan. 1: 11-5-1, .928 Sv%, 2.26 GAA. Reimer after Jan. 1: 2-4-2, .887 Sv%, 4.32 GAA. Yeah, they’re not going anywhere and they should be sellers.

22. Ottawa Senators (16-22-4, -22. CF%: 29th, xGF%: 24th. PR: 23)

The Sens are 7-4-2 since Murray was recalled and rank 13th in P% since Jan. 13. Their recent wins against the Oilers and Canes were most impressive, and it shows that they’re a talented group despite a roster full of holes.

23. New York Islanders (16-17-6, -12. CF%: 24th, xGF%: 17th. PR: 21)

They really didn’t take advantage of their seven-game homestand (3-4-0) and, most frustratingly, do not have a reliable offense. According to plusminusline.com, Varlamov’s goal support per 60 minutes (min. 5 GP) is the second-lowest in the league behind Montréal’s Cayden Primeau.

24. Columbus Blue Jackets (21-22-1, -22. CF%: 21st, xGF%: 28th. PR: 26)

Seriously, watch out for Laine, who has scored two goals in three straight games and 12 in 25 games overall. He was good to start the season before his injury, and he’s picked up where he left off.

25. Seattle Kraken (15-27-4, -38. CF%: 17th, xGF%: 21st. PR: 24)

The Kraken’s current .370 P% puts them at a 60-point pace, worse than either the Wild or Blue Jackets in 2000 when they literally had the bottom 1% of the league to pick from. Inaugural seasons truly are historic.

26. Detroit Red Wings (20-21-6, -32. CF%: 30th, xGF%: 22nd. PR: 25)

The Wings will be interesting to watch at the deadline with the playoffs out of reach and a few impending UFA’s that should attract some attention. Yzerman’s made shrewd moves; over the past two seasons, Nedeljkovic’s 16.11 5v5 GSAA ranks seventh in the league. Once Demko and Shesterkin get their votes this season – and they will – all six goalies ahead of Nedeljkovic will have earned recognition for the Vezina.

27. Buffalo Sabres (14-24-7, -40. CF%: 25th, xGF%: 32nd. PR: 27)

It’s shocking, considering the Sabres employ Dell (1-8-1, .893 Sv%) and Subban (0-2-1, .871 Sv%), but they rank 23rd in Sv% entering Tuesday’s games, according to hockey-reference.com. They had three players who scored at least 10 goals last season and may double that total this season. The bad news: Eichel will dress for the Knights sooner than later, and it’ll be a reminder of what they had lost.

28. New Jersey Devils (16-26-5, -34. CF%: 13th, xGF%: 13th. PR: 30)

Only five players did not score a point in Tuesday’s 7-1 win against the Habs. One really bright spot: Dawson Mercer became the eighth rookie to score at least 10 goals this season, and his 15:56 TOI/GP ranks fourth among rookie forwards (min. 20 GP).

29. Philadelphia Flyers (15-22-8, -39. CF%: 22nd, xGF%: 25th. PR: 29)

The Flyers’ season has been downright disastrous; they can’t score and they can’t defend. Giroux will have a say in where he ends up, and he’s definitely earned it. Meanwhile, #SaveCarterHart.

30. Arizona Coyotes (11-31-4, -74. CF%: 31st, xGF%: 30th. PR: 28)

The Oklahoma City Thunder have 17 (!) first-round picks over the next five seasons. I want to see Bill Armstrong give Sam Presti a run for his money after he declared the Coyotes were open for business and willing to take on additional salary to facilitate trades.

31. Chicago Blackhawks (16-23-7, -44. CF%: 26th, xGF%: 26th. PR: 32)

The enduring legacy of the Blackhawks’ championships is now tainted, and the organization is at major crossroads both on and off the ice. So far, there’s still no indication of what changes may come, but it will certainly revolve around Toews and Kane, the last remnants of a previous regime.

32. Montréal Canadiens (8-30-7, -79. CF%: 27th, xGF%: 31st. PR: 31)

The Habs are on pace to be the worst team in the cap era. The Habs have eight wins in 45 games. The second-worst team in the cap era, the 2019-20 Red Wings, at least managed to win 10 games before the calendar flipped. 

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