The Los Angeles Kings are blowing their cover. In previous seasons, the Kings never seemed terribly interested in blowing the doors off the NHL during the regular season, instead being content to watch teams raise their division championship and President’s Trophy banners while they hoisted a Stanley Cup pennant.
That’s all changed in 2014-15. The Kings are taking the regular season seriously in the early going and are steamrolling their way through the league. If this keeps up, expect to see them at or near the top of thn.com’s Power Rankings for most of the season. (Last week’s rankings are in parentheses.)
1. LOS ANGELES (7): The Kings have not allowed the very real and very serious situation facing defenseman Slava Voynov to become a distraction. And Jonathan Quick is doing in the regular season what he usually does in the playoffs. Think of how good they’d be if Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli got more ice time.
2. MONTREAL (4): The Canadiens embark on a three-game road trip through western Canada with a chance to go 10-1-0 in October. To have any hope of doing that, Carey Price is going to have to be better in Alberta, where the Canadiens open a three-game road trip Monday night. His career record there is 0-6-0 with an .853 save percentage.
3. ANAHEIM (1): The Ducks had a seven-game winning streak snapped with an ugly 4-1 loss to San Jose Sunday night. Corey Perry, who had 17 penalty minutes in that game, leads all NHL goal scorers with nine in eight games. Ryan Getzlaf is tied for the league lead in assists with nine.
4. MINNESOTA (17): The Wild is still looking up at most of the Western Conference, but that’s because they’ve played a league-low six games so far this season. And they’ve been defensive and goaltending marvels, allowing only six goals so far this season and only one in 16 times shorthanded.
5. NASHVILLE (6): The Predators suffered just their first regulation loss of the season when they fell 3-0 to Pittsburgh Saturday night on James Neal Bobblehead Night. The first big test for the Predators comes Wednesday night when they embark on a six-game road trip through all of western Canada before playing in Dallas and St. Louis.
6. N.Y. ISLANDERS (10): After going 4-0-0, then hitting a rough patch, the Islanders got back on the winning track with two victories on the week, the second of which came in a seven-goal explosion over Dallas. After a delay, the Islanders introduced their new owners this week and the new guys must like what they’ve seen so far.
7. PITTSBURGH (2): After giving away a victory in the final minutes of their overtime loss to Detroit last Thursday, the Penguins played a sound defensive game against Nashville Saturday night and were rewarded with their first shutout of the season. Sidney Crosby has been very productive offensively, but has won more faceoffs than he’s lost in just two games this season.
8. EDMONTON (30): Before you get all over us for ranking the Oilers too high, consider that these rankings are weighted heavily toward teams that have had good weeks. And nobody in the league had a better week than the Oilers, who may just have saved Dallas Eakins’ job by posting three straight wins.
9. SAN JOSE (12): We’re not even sure the Sharks belong this high, but they did manage to salvage a horrific week by handing the Ducks their first loss in eight games. Included in the ugliness was a 2-1 loss to Buffalo on home ice in which they failed to sell out the SAP Center for the first time in forever.
10. DETROIT (13): Riding the league’s best penalty killing – just one goal against in 26 opportunities – the Red Wings are scrapping their way through games. If Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk can remain healthy and as productive as they’ve been, watch out.
11. TAMPA BAY (8): It’s tough to get a read on the Lightning, who look like they could win the Stanley Cup one night, then get torched the next. Is anyone else at all concerned that Steven Stamkos has scored goals in only three of nine games this season?
12. CHICAGO (5): The Blackhawks are not exactly tearing up the league offensively and seem particularly limp playing 5-on-5 this season. A 2-1 win Sunday over Ottawa marked Patrick Kane’s 500th career point and the first-ever NHL victory for Scott Darling, who was playing in the Southern Pro League four years ago.
13. WASHINGTON (3): The Capitals dropped two of three games on a road trip through western Canada. And it’s all well and good that Alex Ovechkin is blocking shots and playing defense under Barry Trotz, but they’re not going far if Ovechkin scores goals in only three of every eight games.
14. DALLAS (16): The Stars can’t play Kari Lehtonen every game, but a 7-5 loss to the Islanders Saturday proved they can’t count on backup Anders Lindback, either. Seems having a 1-2 punch of Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza at center has worked out just fine so far.
15. PHILADELPHIA (23): When the Flyers lost their first four games of the season, it harkened back to last year’s disastrous start that almost derailed their season. But the Flyers have improved, picking up points in five of their past six games and posting impressive wins over Pittsburgh and Detroit.
16. NEW JERSEY (19): The play of defenseman Damon Severson, who has stepped right out of junior hockey and has seven points in eight games, has given super scout David Conte a little of his street cred back. The Devils, meanwhile, may never win another shootout game ever after losing their 18th straight skills contest.
17. VANCOUVER (11): My goodness, Radim Vrbata is looking very good playing with the Sedin twins, is he not? Speaking of the Sedins, after coming off a sub-par year, it looks as though both are back to their industrious and productive selves, which is great news for the Canucks.
18. BOSTON (20): The Bruins will be without Zdeno Chara for the next four-to-six weeks and that might not be the worst thing for them. The Bruins were looking very ordinary with Chara in the lineup through the first nine games, then rallied to play their best defensive game of the season in his first game out, a 4-1 win over Toronto Saturday night.
19. CALGARY (14): Bob Hartley’s plucky group continues to hang around the playoff picture and has played some inspired hockey so far. Defenseman Dennis Wideman, who was a healthy scratch in the second game of the season, has goals in each of his past four games and five in his past six.
20. N.Y. RANGERS (15): From their goaltender out, the Rangers have been, well, just average this season. That much is apparent by their 4-4-0 record, but more importantly, they can’t seem to have any level of consistency. Derek Stepan has begun skating on his own, but is still a ways away from returning from a broken tibia.
21. ST. LOUIS (22): The Blues are hoping a 3-2 win over Chicago Saturday will be the cure for what has ailed them early in the season. And that has been scoring 5-on-5. The Blues got three even-strength goals against the Hawks, but Jaden Schwartz (with five) and David Backes (two) are the only two players on the roster who have scored more than once this season.
22. ARIZONA (24): It’s not that goaltender Mike Smith has been terrible this season for the Coyotes, it’s just that he’s not consistently provided them with the lights-out goaltending the team needs to be a playoff contender. Before stopping 23 of 24 shots in a 2-1 shootout win over Florida Saturday, even Smith acknowledged that he had to be better.
23. OTTAWA (9): The Senators lost two close games to two very good teams. That’s the good news. The bad news is they could only put one of 33 shots past Chicago’s third-string goalie. Defenseman Jared Cowen has been a healthy scratch each of the past five games and the Senators are looking to deal him.
24. COLUMBUS (18): Things were looking so promising for the Blue Jackets until they embarked on a compressed three-games-in-four-nights road trip through California. After a promising start against San Jose, the Blue Jackets dropped the next two to Anaheim and Los Angeles by a combined score of 9-3.
25. FLORIDA (25): The Panthers are beginning to show some signs of promise, picking up at least a point in each of their past four games, all of which were on the road. Perhaps that’s not a surprise considering they’re 0-2-0 at home this season with a combined total of fewer than 19,000 fans.
26. TORONTO (21): With a game theirs for the taking against a Zdeno Chara-less Boston Bruins, the Leafs turned in one of their most uninspiring performances in years in a 4-1 loss. That loss gave the Maple Leafs a 1-4-0 record on home ice so far this season.
27. WINNIPEG (28): Most people thought goaltending would be Winnipeg’s greatest concern this season, but the biggest problem has been at the other end of the ice. The Jets are 10th in the league with 31.1 shots per game this season, but only Florida, Carolina, and Buffalo have scored fewer goals.
28. COLORADO (26): This must have even the analytics guys stumped. The Avalanche had been exposed as a vulnerable team by analytics last season and few thought they’d be as good in 2014-15, but two wins in their first nine games?
29. BUFFALO (27): When the Erie Otters played at the First Niagara Center last week, some fans were already sporting Sabres jerseys with Connor McDavid’s name and No. 97 on the back. The Sabres don’t help their cause when they go into San Jose and beat them 2-1 the way they did Saturday afternoon.
30. CAROLINA (29): Ravaged by injuries and plagued by bad goaltending, the Hurricanes are the only team in the league still looking for its first victory. The Eric Staal rumors continue to grow louder and while there doesn’t seem to be any possibility of an imminent trade, it certainly bears watching.