Skip to main content

THN Power Rankings: Panthers Back on Top

As the mid-season mark approaches, the cream is rising to the top. The Panthers are the new No. 1, and Jason Chen is here to break down the entire league and where they stand.
USATSI_17489389

As the mid-season mark approaches, the cream is rising to the top. This includes the Pens and Blues, who are suddenly surging up the standings after spending much of the season in a big middle class. 

But it also works the other way around, as the Oilers plummet back down to Earth after a historically good power play cooled off and could no longer hide their deficiencies on defense and in net.

Due to postponed games, a few teams will either play very few games or not at all in the coming weeks, which means there will be teams that will struggle to maintain their momentum.

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

1. Florida Panthers (24-7-5, +34 goal differential. CF%: 1st, xGF%: 2nd. Previous Rank: 2)

The Panthers re-take top spot after an overtime triumph over the Canes in enemy territory, even if the Canes did start their No. 3 goalie. They’re now on pace for 120 points, which would shatter the previous franchise record of 103 points, and also mark only the second time in history they’ve reached a triple-digit point total.

2. Carolina Hurricanes (24-7-2, +42. CF%: 2nd, xGF%: 6th. PR: 1)

The Canes’ five-game winning streak was snapped by the Panthers and so it seems fitting that they lose to the top spot to their closest competitor. 

3. Toronto Maple Leafs (23-8-3, +30. CF%: 8th, xGF%: 4th. PR: 3)

The Leafs’ schedule needs to be reworked next season so we don’t have to wait until the new year to see them face Florida or Carolina, whom they’ve faced just once combined this season. The Leafs are a top-tier team, the question is just how well they stack up against the rest of the elite Eastern teams.

4. Tampa Bay Lightning (24-9-5, +18. CF%: 11th, xGF%: 5th. PR: 5)

They’re just flat-out dominant with Nikita Kucherov back in the lineup, who scored a hat trick against the Sabres. Even when they’re bad, they’re not bad for very long.

5. Pittsburgh Penguins (21-9-5, +26. CF%: 6th, xGF%: 3rd. PR: 7)

Evgeni Malkin scored three points in a triumphant return and the Pens have won 11 of their past 12. They’re serious contenders when everyone is healthy, and Jason Zucker remains the only regular who is still injured.

6. Nashville Predators (24-11-2, +18. CF%: 16th, xGF%: 12th. PR: 9)

They nearly blew a 2-0 lead against the Avs but clawed back twice to win in overtime, which was most impressive considering they also did it without top scorer Filip Forsberg. Juuse Saros might be the best goalie in the Western Conference right now.

7. Colorado Avalanche (22-8-3, +34. CF%: 7th, xGF%: 8th. PR: 6)

You live by the sword and you die by the sword. For the Avs, that sword is offense, where their defensemen take a lot of chances and are encouraged to be aggressive. And when the goaltending isn’t very good, it leads to high-stakes, high-scoring games that could work against you. The Avs drop a little bit with an overtime loss to Nashville and note that of their past five wins, four of them were by only one goal.

8. St. Louis Blues (21-10-5, +28. CF%: 21st, xGF%: 22nd. PR: 10)

The Blues have not lost consecutive games since Dec. 4 and have own games in a variety of ways with a variety of goalies. With Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou developing into reliable top-six scorers, the Blues have plenty of depth, and whey they get good goaltending, they’re really tough to beat.

9. Vegas Golden Knights (23-14-2, +21. CF%: 9th, xGF%: 11th. PR: 11)

The Knights battled hard but a shootout loss to the Leafs was their fourth in five games. They’ll get a long break until Monday when they host the Pens, but the big news has been the return of Jack Eichel.

10. New York Rangers (23-10-4, +13. CF%: 32nd, xGF%: 29th. PR: 4)

It’s always a rocky road without Igor Shesterkin, and even the return of Artemi Panarin couldn’t stop the bleeding who finished minus-3 against the Kings on Monday. The Rangers’ success this season have always been viewed with some suspicion because their possession numbers are awful – is the ‘r’ word coming? The Rangers ranked fourth in points percentage through the first two months of the season but since Dec. 1 ranked only 14th.

11. Boston Bruins (19-11-2, +15. CF%: 4th, xGF%: 1st. PR: 13)

They finally signed Tuukka Rask, not that you really need goaltending when you’re averaging almost five goals per game in January. Their most recent wins against Tampa and Washington were most impressive, and Rask may make his debut as soon as Wednesday or Thursday with the Bruins playing back-to-back.

12. Minnesota Wild (21-10-2, +20. CF%: 17th, xGF%: 15th. PR: 14)

Kaapo Kahkonen has held the fort wonderfully with two straight wins to snap their five-game losing streak. The worry is now Kirill Kaprizov, who has been their MVP since his first game and did not finish his last game due to injury.

13. Washington Capitals (20-8-9, +21. CF%: 10th, xGF%: 10th. PR: 8)

It’s a big fall for the Caps with four straight losses, though two of them were at the hands of third-string Zach Fucale, who filled in admirably but is not an NHL-caliber goalie. You’ll get bad stretches with young goalies, and the Caps just need to ride this out and hope this losing streak doesn’t really snowball.

14. Anaheim Ducks (19-13-7, +7. CF%: 19th, xGF%: 21st. PR: 12)

It’s been another tough stretch with six losses in their past eight games, and now they can’t score and their goaltending can’t bail them out. Troy Terry is the only Duck who has scored more than one goal since the calendar flipped.

15. Los Angeles Kings (18-13-5, +6. CF%: 5th, xGF%: 9th. PR: 18)

If it’s not Jonathan Quick, it’s Cal Petersen. The Kings’ excellent goaltending lately still has them in playoff contention and they have not needed to call upon any of their young prospects to fill roles they’re not ready for.

16. Calgary Flames (17-10-6, +21. CF%: 3rd, xGF%: 7th. PR: 15)

It was a tough stretch, but allowing 16 goals over three games just isn’t acceptable for a team looking to contend. Jacob Markstrom is 3-3-1 with a .900 Sv% and 3.14 GAA since Dec. 1, and the big move the Flames are potentially discussing is bringing back their aging former captain who was handed over for free to the Kraken?

17. Winnipeg Jets (16-12-5, even. CF%: 12th, xGF%: 17th. PR: 16)

The 7-1 loss in Colorado was ugly, and due to three postponed games at home, the Jets will now play 10 of their next 12 games on the road, where they’re just 6-6-4.

18. Dallas Stars (17-13-2, -2. CF%: 18th, xGF%: 18th. PR: 21)

The Stars have the third-highest points percentage at home (.794), trailing only the Panthers and Avs, yet have the third-lowest on the road (.300), ahead of only the Habs and Coyotes. The only working theory I have is the Stars poison the water bottles on the opposing bench.

19. Edmonton Oilers (18-14-2, +2. CF%: 13th, xGF%: 13th. PR: 17)

The Oilers have lost five straight and allowed 21 goals during that span. They employ the league’s top two scorers, but allow as many goals as they score. It’s a good thing Evander Kane plays goalie, no?

20. Vancouver Canucks (16-16-3, -9. CF%: 15th, xGF%: 19th. PR: 19)

Blame it on COVID; the Canucks’ impressive run under Bruce Boudreau was disrupted after another pause, and they’ve now lost two of their past four games.

21. San Jose Sharks (20-16-1, -9. CF%: 26th, xGF%: 16th. PR: 24)

Adin Hill has taken over again and won three straight games by identical 3-2 scores. The Sharks stubbornly remain in the playoff race despite being the only team in the top eight with a negative goal differential.

22. Detroit Red Wings (16-16-5, -24. CF%: 30th, xGF%: 24th. PR: 20)

Steve Yzerman joked Nicklas Lidström could still play on the team if he wanted even after he was hired as VP, which overshadows the disappointment of three straight losses as the Wings fall to .500.

23. New York Islanders (10-12-6, -16. CF%: 29th, xGF%: 20th. PR: 22)

Semyon Varlamov from October to November: 0-4-0, .881 Sv%, 3.46 GAA. Semyon Varlamov since December: 2-1-1, .940 Sv%, 1.98 GAA.

When both halves of your Jennings-caliber tandem are playing well, you usually end up winning more games.

24. Chicago Blackhawks (13-18-5, -34. CF%: 27th, xGF%: 27th. PR: 25)

Good news: Dylan Strome has three points in four games. Bad news: Dylan Strome is your number one center.

25. New Jersey Devils (14-17-5, -21. CF%: 14th, xGF%: 14th. PR: 27)

They split their home-and-home series against the Jackets but they’re definitely trending in opposite directions. The Devils are kind of back where they were last season – endlessly entertaining, but also not winning.

26. Columbus Blue Jackets (16-17-1, -14. CF%: 22nd, xGF%: 25th. PR: 26)

The Jackets are one loss away from .500 after an impressive start despite a 20 percent increase in goals scored per game from last season, no thanks to bad goaltending. Since Dec. 1, Elvis Merzlikins has a .879 Sv% and Joonas Korpisalo has a .882 Sv%.

27. Philadelphia Flyers (13-15-7, -29. CF%: 25th, xGF%: 30th. PR: 23)

The City of Brotherly Love saw their fifth straight loss, Joel Farabee blasted his stick into the Outworld and Bobby Clarke threw Ron Hextall under the bus. I can’t wait for next week.

28. Seattle Kraken (10-20-4, -31. CF%: 20th, xGF%: 23rd. PR: 29)

Losing by just one goal against the Avs feels like a win. That’s how bad their inaugural season has been.

29. Buffalo Sabres (10-19-6, -33. CF%: 24th, xGF%: 31st. PR: 28

The Sabres have lost five straight, but have played 35 games to the Sens’ 29 and the Habs’ 34, which means their nightmare season will be over sooner than their divisional foes. I guess, that’s the sliver lining.

30. Arizona Coyotes (7-23-3, -56. CF%: 28th, xGF%: 32nd. PR: 30)

A win against Chicago prevents them from dropping any lower, but the real question is if no hockey is better than Coyotes hockey. The two teams ranked behind the Coyotes this week did not play any games.

31. Ottawa Senators (9-18-2, -28. CF%: 31st, xGF%: 28th. PR: 31)

When the Sens return to action in Calgary on Thursday, it’ll be just their second game since Dec. 19, a span of 25 days.

32. Montréal Canadiens (7-23-4, -50. CF%: 23rd, xGF%: 26th. PR: 32)

Fortunately for the Habs, you can’t go lower than 32.

TOP HEADLINES

Minnesota Wild
Play

Minnesota Wild Battle for Playoffs with a Cap-Strapped Future

The Minnesota Wild will have to deal with tight salary cap space this off-season. Are they good enough right now to capitalize on their competitive window?

Marie Hui, Vancouver Canucks
Play

Growing the Game: Hockey Canada, Lunar New Year and PHF All-Stars

Ian Kennedy looks at Hockey Canada's continued search for a new CEO, the Vancouver Canucks celebrating the Lunar Year and the PHF All-Star Weekend preview.

Andrei Kuzmenko
Play

Canucks Sign Andrei Kuzmenko to Two-Year Extension

The Vancouver Canucks announced they signed forward Andrei Kuzmenko to a two-year contract extension.