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THN Power Rankings: Avalanche Take No. 1 Spot

Since the calendar flipped, no team has been better than the Colorado Avalanche. They're the new No. 1 in this week's power rankings list, as Jason Chen takes a look at all 32 teams across the NHL.
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Since the calendar flipped, no team has been better than the Colorado Avalanche, who are 12-0-1 since Jan. 1 with a plus-23 goal differential. Nearly every facet of their game has been excellent, and their league-leading three shorthanded goals during that span has also covered up a rather mediocre penalty kill.

Oddsmakers refused to move the Avs from the top spot even when they were at their lowest, holding fast in their conviction that the Avs were still the favorites long term. This is the first time the Avs have moved into the top spot in the Power Rankings, and expect them to keep rolling with Chicago, Buffalo and Arizona coming up. 

A key matchup awaits on Feb. 10 against the Lightning in what could be a preview of the Finals; it should be very close since they’ve split their two previous meetings, both of which required extra time to determine a winner.

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

1. Colorado Avalanche (29-8-3, +49 goal differential. CF%: 6th, xGF%: 9th. PR: 4)

It’s hard to deny the top spot to the rolling Avs and their seven-game winning streak – including three shutout wins – even though only one of their opponents (Minnesota) is a virtual lock to make the playoffs. This is the first time the Avs have ranked No. 1 and despite their rocky start remained the Cup favorites among oddsmakers the entire season.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning (28-10-5, +26. CF%: 12th, xGF%: 8th. Previous Rank: 1)

An uncharacteristic 5-1 loss to the Ducks was the only blemish, but it’s enough to knock them out of the top spot. It’s been a very competitive year, especially at the top of the East, and note that only two teams have managed to retain the No. 1 in consecutive weeks: the Hurricanes, for the entire month of November, and the Lightning, for the last two weeks of December.

3. Carolina Hurricanes (28-9-2, +46. CF%: 2nd, xGF%: 6th. PR: 3)

We could leave the Canes in the top five for the rest of the season and never have to worry about it because they’re never bad for very long. That’s a sign of a well-coached and resilient team, and six of the Canes’ eight losses have been one-goal games. They’ve only had one really bad loss this season, and that was a 6-0 thumping on Jan. 13 against Columbus, which they followed up with three straight wins and outscored their opponents 17-5.

4. Florida Panthers (29-9-5, +50. CF%: 1st, xGF%: 2nd. PR: 2)

The Panthers are good, but sometimes they just don’t look like they have it. A 5-3 loss to the bottom-dwelling Kraken and 5-1 loss to the then-struggling Flames were black marks on a very uneven road trip. They’ll need to be good on the road because they’ve already played nearly 60 percent of their home games already, and they’re only one of two teams in the top 10 of the standings with fewer than 10 wins on the road.

5. Pittsburgh Penguins (27-10-5, +34. CF%: 8th, xGF%: 5th. PR: 6)

It’ll be another month before the Pens face the Leafs (Feb. 17) and the Rangers (Feb. 26), two very significant litmus-test games. Otherwise, the Pens, who have won six straight, should steamroll their way through until then, facing Arizona, Seattle, Detroit, L.A., Ottawa, New Jersey and Philadelphia.

6. New York Rangers (28-11-4, +22. CF%: 32nd, xGF%: 32nd. PR: 7)

The Rangers are 20-4-2 with Igor Shesterkin in net and 8-7-2 with everyone else. To say the Rangers live and die with Shesterkin is not an understatement and he’s singlehandedly propped up a team with the league’s poorest possession numbers. The Rangers rank last in both CF% and xGF% for the first time this season.

7. Toronto Maple Leafs (25-10-3, +29. CF%: 7th, xGF%: 3rd. PR: 5)

They narrowly beat the Blues on Jan. 15 and blew a 3-1 lead against the Rangers by allowing five unanswered goals. It was enough for Sheldon Keefe to rework his lines and the Leafs have to shake off any issues with consistency if they want to move into the top five in the East.

8. St. Louis Blues (25-12-5, +31. CF%: 24th, xGF%: 27th. PR: 8)

Start Ville Husso and the Blues rise in the rankings, start Jordan Binnington and they fall. The Blues play just two more games before taking a long break from Jan. 30 to Feb. 9, and it’ll be interesting to see if Craig Berube gives both of the starts to Husso, who has not lost in regulation since returning from injury.

9. Minnesota Wild (25-10-3, +34. CF%: 15th, xGF%: 12th. PR: 10)

The Wild and Rangers defy all critics because their scoring is so frighteningly efficient. Kirill Kaprizov’s line has combined for 13 points this past week, Kevin Fiala has found his scoring touch and the goaltending has been very good without Cam Talbot. Just about everything’s going right for them.

10. Nashville Predators (27-14-3, +18. CF%: 17th, xGF%: 13th. PR: 13)

Their four-game losing streak was a small blip and the Preds move back up with three straight wins. The level of difficulty wasn’t particularly high, but since Jan. 1, Juuse Saros is tied with Sergei Bobrovsky and Tristan Jarry for the league lead with eight wins. He’s not getting enough credit for Vezina-caliber season.

11. Vegas Golden Knights (25-15-3, +20. CF%: 9th, xGF%: 11th. PR: 9)

It’s been a tough season for the Knights but Max Pacioretty’s imminent return should give them a big boost. Goaltending was a worry going into the second half, but Robin Lehner has won his past two starts, including his first shutout of the season and Laurent Brossoit showed well in overtime against the Canes.

12. Boston Bruins (24-13-2, +15. CF%: 4th, xGF%: 1st. PR: 11)

Their past two losses featured Tuukka Rask in net, and his play continues to be uneven as he tries to find his rhythm. The Bruins are playing well and seem to have found a way to balance their top-six with David Pastrnak moving to a line with Erik Haula and Taylor Hall, who have combined to score five points in four games.

13. Washington Capitals (23-11-9, +21. CF%: 10th, xGF%: 10th. PR: 12)

Even though the Caps’ record is still quite good, they now sit in a wild-card position, which is unenviable because either division winner in the East will be a tough matchup in the first round of the playoffs. Since Jan. 1, the Caps’ .400 P% ranks 24th in the league and their power play has operated at just 10.7 percent, third-worst in the league.

14. Calgary Flames (19-12-6, +26. CF%: 3rd, xGF%: 4th. PR: 14)

The Flames went 0-3-0 and outscored 16-6 through the Carolina-Tampa-Florida gauntlet, but they’ve turned it around with a revenge win against the Panthers on home ice and then a 7-1 drubbing of the Blues, who are moving close to contender status. Matthew Tkachuk has his critics, but he continues to drag this team with him and score seven points in two games this past week. Note the Flames have moved into the top five in both CF% and xGF% since last week.

15. New York Islanders (15-14-6, -10. CF%: 25th, xGF%: 20th. PR: 19)

The win against the Flyers shouldn’t have been that close, but it’s at least pushed the Isles to one game above .500 and they’re 7-2-1 in their past 10 games, third-best in the league. They have a huge hill to climb but things are finally perking up.

16. Anaheim Ducks (21-16-7, +4. CF%: 20th, xGF%: 22nd. PR: 20)

What a weird team, losing four straight by a combined 16-4 score and then winning two straight against Boston and Tampa by a combined 10-4 score even though they were the underdogs. They’re clinging onto second place in the Pacific, but the Kings are close and the Flames have seven games in hand.

17. Dallas Stars (22-16-2, -1. CF%: 19th, xGF%: 16th. PR: 24)

No team’s ranking has fluctuated more than the Stars, and that’s in part due to their wild home-road splits. The truth is, they’re probably somewhere in the middle of that, and their four straight road wins is a sign that maybe things are normalizing. They’ve ranked as low as 29th and as high as seventh on the Power Rankings and remain one of the league’s most volatile and polarizing teams.

18. Los Angeles Kings (21-16-6, +3. CF%: 5th, xGF%: 7th. PR: 16)

The Kings held the Avs to only four goals, beat the Devils and narrowly lost to the Rangers on a back-to-back, so it was rather pedestrian week without any real surprises. Only eight teams in the West have winning records on home and on the road, and the Kings are one of them.

19. Edmonton Oilers (20-16-2, -3. CF%: 11th, xGF%: 15th. PR: 22)

A win against the Flames snapped them out of their slumber and now have two straight wins after losing seven straight. However, the wins were close games with an 8-5 combined score and goaltending still needs to be addressed.

20. Winnipeg Jets (17-15-7, -5. CF%: 14th, xGF%: 18th. PR: 17)

We’re still waiting for the turnaround for the Jets, who have now lost five straight, and six of their next eight games will be against divisional foes. The Jets have made the playoffs in four straight seasons but they’re in danger of missing the cut-off this season.

21. San Jose Sharks (21-19-2, -16. CF%: 23rd, xGF%: 17th. PR: 15)

Their goaltending was a strength early on but has now turned against them. James Reimer and Adin Hill are a combined 1-3-1 with a .890 Sv% over the past two weeks. Though he hasn’t lived up to the hype at all, losing Erik Karlsson until March will create a huge void on an already-thin defense.

22. Vancouver Canucks (18-19-5, -14. CF%: 16th, xGF%: 19th. PR: 18)

Spencer Martin (0-0-2, .952 Sv%, 1.86 GAA) made a valiant effort but deserved a better fate, and getting two points against the Panthers and Oilers was a commendable effort with the Canucks missing multiple key players. They’ve lost six of their past eight and desperately need Thatcher Demko back.

23. Detroit Red Wings (18-18-6, -26. CF%: 29th, xGF%: 23rd. PR: 21)

It was a light week with just two games for the Wings, but they couldn’t put away the Stars at home and lost in Nashville and have won just three games since Jan. 1.

24. Ottawa Senators (13-20-3, -22. CF%: 30th, xGF%: 24th. PR: 28)

There’s a lot of talent on this team; they just need to harness it more often. Matt Murray is a turnaround story in the works, having been demoted to the AHL rather unceremoniously earlier in the season but has now gone 3-1-1 since getting called back up.

25. Columbus Blue Jackets (18-20-1, -18. CF%: 21st, xGF%: 25th. PR: 26)

If it’s not a lack of reliable goaltending it’s a lack of reliable scoring. The Jackets’ frustration continues after a hot start, winning just three games since Jan. 1 and Elvis Merzlikins’ .904 Sv% since Nov. 1 ranks 33rd in the league among goalies (min. 10 GP).

26. Seattle Kraken (13-25-4, -40. CF%: 18th, xGF%: 21st. PR: 29)

Philipp Grubauer wins three straight games and begins to veer back on track, but then loses on home ice and allows four goals or more for the eighth time in 30 starts, reminding us that he continues to be atrocious this season.

27. Chicago Blackhawks (15-20-7, -38. CF%: 26th, xGF%: 28th. PR: 23)

The Hawks lost four straight after winning four straight and their horrendous, winless October continues to haunt them. They’re 14-11-5 under Derek King and will have many key decisions to make in the coming months, putting the franchise in flux.

28. Buffalo Sabres (13-22-7, -36. CF%: 28th, xGF%: 31st. PR: 27)

The Sabres have fought valiantly, but if not for Michael Houser’s heroics, would’ve only won just once after the holiday break. The outlook in net looks bleak for the rest of the season, and if the Sabres start losing a bunch of games again, no one would be surprised.

29. Arizona Coyotes (10-27-4, -66. CF%: 31st, xGF%: 29th. PR: 31)

This is only the third time the Coyotes have not ranked in the bottom-three spots, and they have a win against the Devils on Jan. 19 to thank for that. They’re so bad they’re even bad at tanking.

30. New Jersey Devils (15-21-5, -27. CF%: 13th, xGF%: 14th. PR: 25)

There’s a constant theme among the teams at the bottom of the Power Rankings, and it’s the lack of quality goaltending. Mackenzie Blackwood has a heel injury and Jon Gillies and Akira Schmid will be their tandem for now.

31. Montréal Canadiens (8-26-7, -64. CF%: 27th, xGF%: 30th. PR: 32)

Hopefully, the injury to Samuel Montembeault is not serious because they would mean Cayden Primeau and Michael McNiven would be their tandem going forward. The Habs are one of two teams in the league who do not have a single goalie with more than five wins.

32. Philadelphia Flyers (13-22-8, -42. CF%: 22nd, xGF%: 26th. PR: 30)

How kind of the Flyers to lift the Habs from the bottom spot, which they held for three straight weeks. The Flyers are the fourth team to have the honor of being ranked last this season, joining the Habs, Coyotes and Sens. They’ve now lost a franchise record 13 straight games, and for the second straight season, the Flyers might be lining up to have the most exciting summer ahead… 

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