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THN Power Rankings: Where Teams Stand Heading Into Christmas Break

With the NHL pausing all activity until after the Christmas break, it’s a good time to take stock of teams as they head into the new year. Jason Chen has a breakdown of all 32 clubs.
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With the NHL pausing all activity until after the Christmas break, it’s a good time to take stock of teams as they head into the new year. There isn’t much movement in the power rankings this week because so few games have been played, and even then, it’s been difficult to gauge certain teams because they’ve either played with multiple minor-league players or less than the usual 18 skaters.

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

1. Tampa Bay Lightning (20-6-4, +18 goal differential. CF%: 17th, xGF%: 7th. Last Week: 1)

The Lightning retain the top spot after winning both of their games, including a 4-3 win on the road in Vegas in what could be a preview of the Finals. Taylor Raddysh and Mathieu Joseph have provided quality depth over the past two weeks.

2, Toronto Maple Leafs (20-8-2, +22. CF%: 7th, xGF%: 3rd. Last Week: 2)

No games were played :(

3. Carolina Hurricanes (21-7-1, +33. CF%: 2nd, xGF%: 5th. Last Week: 8)

A slight dip in late November has been followed up with only two losses so far in December, and both of them were with Antti Raanta in net. The competition wasn’t hard (Detroit and L.A.), but finding their scoring touch with 10 goals in total was a positive sign.

4. Vegas Golden Knights (20-12-0, +16. CF%: 11th, xGF%: 11th. Last Week: 4)

They barely made it out of the tri-state with two shootout wins, and then lost to Tampa at home. The result might’ve been the same with Robin Lehner in net, whose .905 Sv% ranks 16th out of 17 goalies with at least 10 wins.

5. New York Rangers (19-7-4, +9. CF%: 31st, xGF%: 27th. Last Week: 6)

The good news is Igor Shesterkin is back, which gives the Rangers a big boost even though he hasn’t played a minute since returning from injury. Shesterkin can extend his winning streak to six games and the Rangers keep defying the analytics, tied-third in points percentage.

6. Colorado Avalanche (17-8-2, +24. CF%: 6th, xGF%: 9th. Last Week: 3)

They played one game, and it was a 5-2 loss to Nashville in Pavel Francouz’s season debut, and his first appearance since August 2020. We’ll give the benefit of some doubt to the Avs, but it also shows how much they rely on their offense to win games.

7. Florida Panthers (18-7-4, +17. CF%: 1st, xGF%: 2nd. Last Week: 7)

I’ll refrain from a lot of judgement after losing 4-1 to the Kings following an 8-2 loss to the Sens since the Panthers were missing several key players. Key question: Can Sergei Bobrovsky lead this team to the promised land?

8. Pittsburgh Penguins (17-8-5, +15. CF%: 5th, xGF%: 4th. Last Week: 9)

The Pens have really taken advantage of a soft schedule and Tristan Jarry has a .932 Sv% through 24 starts. It looks like they made the right decision in goal once again, accounting for five of the Pens’ seven straight wins.

9. Washington Capitals (18-6-7, +27. CF%: 10th, xGF%: 8th. Last Week: 10)

It wasn’t a good stretch but they were missing three of their top-six in Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson. They lost two of their three games but both were by one-goal margins.

10. Minnesota Wild (19-9-2, +20. CF%: 16th, xGF%: 12th. Last Week: 5)

I’m not sure what’s worse – losing to Buffalo or allowing seven goals against the Stars. Either way, the Wild have lost four in a row after winning eight in a row. Will the real Wild please stand up?

11. Nashville Predators (19-10-1, +10. CF%: 14th, xGF%: 10th. Last Week: 12)

Not only did Juuse Saros play both back-to-back games, he also won both. He’s been the best goalie in the league over the past two weeks and seems poised to take over Pekka Rinne’s mantle.

12. Anaheim Ducks (17-9-6, +14. CF%: 18th, xGF%: 18th. Last Week: 11)

Does Anthony Stolarz push for more starts the rest of the way after John Gibson lost 6-5 in overtime to Arizona? The only thing that has stayed consistent with the Ducks this season has been Troy Terry’s scoring and Trevor Zegras making a highlight-reel dangle at least once per game.

13. St. Louis Blues (17-9-5, +21. CF%: 24th, xGF%: 24th. Last Week: 13)

There’s a part of me that wants Charlie Lindgren to remain unbeaten so he will always have one more win than games started. He’s at least forced his way into more starts after Jordan Binnington lost his first start since returning from injury.

14. Edmonton Oilers (18-11-0, +11. CF%: 13th, xGF%: 14th. Last Week: 17)

The Oilers snapped their six-game losing streak to get a little positive momentum going into the holiday break, where hopefully they get a healthy Mike Smith as a present. I’m not sure how much more of the Mikko Koskinen-Stuart Skinner tandem Dave Tippett can handle before his head explodes.

15. Boston Bruins (14-10-2, +2. CF%: 4th, xGF%: 1st. Last Week: 14)

The Bruins are barely watchable without the Perfection Line, they can’t win more than three games in a row and Tuukka Rask is being talked about like he’s their final solution. The stats say this team should be pretty good, but they’re simply just above average.

16. Calgary Flames (15-7-6, +25. CF%: 3rd, xGF%: 6th. Last Week: 16)

No games were played :(

17. Vancouver Canucks (14-15-2, -9. CF%: 15th, xGF%: 20th. Last Week: 18)

Six in a row! Bruce, there it is!

18. Dallas Stars (15-12-2, -3. CF%: 19th, xGF%: 19th. Last Week: 15)

Of course, the Stars went 2-for-2 in their home games over the past week. They’re two completely different teams at home and on the road, which basically means they’re going to have a lot of trouble breakout of the mid-teen’s purgatory of the power rankings all season.

19. Los Angeles Kings (14-11-5, +1. CF%: 9th, xGF%: 15th. Last Week: 19)

That was an impressive four-game road trip against four of the best teams in the East, going 2-1-1 before the pause.

20. Winnipeg Jets (14-11-5, +3. CF%: 8th, xGF%: 13th. Last Week: 21)

Time will tell if Paul Maurice stepping aside was the right move. The Jets are 1-1-0 under Dave Lowry with big tests against Minnesota, Calgary, Vegas and Colorado coming up.

21. Detroit Red Wings (15-13-3, -16. CF%: 29th, xGF%: 21st. Last Week: 20)

Dylan Larkin’s first career hat trick propelled them to just their second win in five games, but on the bright side, Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider are tied-second for scoring in December.

22. Columbus Blue Jackets (14-13-1, -4. CF%: 22nd, xGF%: 25th. Last Week: 22)

Elvis Merzlikins has lost four of his past five starts, taking away one of the Jackets’ biggest advantages earlier in the season. They have won only one game in regulation in December.

23. Philadelphia Flyers (12-12-5, -18. CF%: 25th, xGF%: 31st. Last Week: 26)

Seen as just a caretaker for the club, the Flyers are 4-2-1 under Mike Yeo and they’ve really found their scoring touch as well. If he keeps this up, he might be the bench boss beyond this current season.

24. Seattle Kraken (10-17-3, -24. CF%: 20th, xGF%: 23rd. Last Week: 23)

Serious question: is the Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger tandem the most disappointing of all time relative to expectations? The Kraken’s .876 save percentage is the worst in the league, and by a significant margin, too; no other team is below .888.

25. San Jose Sharks (15-14-1, -7. CF%: 27th, xGF%: 16th. Last Week: 24)

To be fair, James Reimer was at fault for only one of their past five losses. Scoring has become a problem for the Sharks, who have scored three or more goals just twice in December.

26. Chicago Blackhawks (11-15-4, -25. CF%: 26th, xGF%: 30th. Last Week: 27)

It’s been a tough schedule, so getting three points out of the Caps and Preds, and then the Stars no the road, is a decent result. It’s definitely not enough to turn their season around, however.

27. New York Islanders (8-12-6, -20. CF%: 30th, xGF%: 22nd. Last Week: 28)

At least they’re winning games? If this is the start of the Isles’ turnaround, then they’ve got a pretty easy path coming up with games against Buffalo (twice), Detroit and Seattle coming up.

28. Buffalo Sabres (10-15-5, -22. CF%: 23rd, xGF%: 26th. Last Week: 30)

It was an impressive back-to-back effort to earn three points, defeating Minnesota in a shootout and then losing in overtime to Pittsburgh, both on the road. It took three months to get here, but Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Malcolm Subban actually looks like legit tandem.

29. Ottawa Senators (9-17-2, -22. CF%: 32nd, xGF%: 29th. Last Week: 25)

Good news: Anton Forsberg is playing well. Bad news: Your starter is Anton Forsberg.

30. Arizona Coyotes (6-21-2, -53. CF%: 28th, xGF%: 32nd. Last Week: 31)

An overtime win against the Ducks and John Gibson was a nice break from an otherwise ordinary tank job by the Coyotes.

31. Montréal Canadiens (7-21-3, -42. CF%: 21st, xGF%: 28th. Last Week: 32)

Jake Allen’s league-high 15 losses this season is now only one shy of matching his total wins with the Habs.

32. New Jersey Devils (10-15-5, -23. CF%: 12th, xGF%: 17th. Last Week: 29)

That’s now six losses in a row shared by three different goalies. The Devils have not beaten anyone other than Philadelphia since Nov. 20. 

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