31) Arizona Coyotes – The Coyotes have been exceptionally bad. They’ve been awful at even strength, and some shoddy goal-tending has cratered the rest.
30) Montreal Canadiens – Absolutely nothing is going right for the Canadiens. Carey Price has struggled mightily, yes, but they’ve been nearly just as bad in other areas.. They can still bounce back assuming Price turns things around (a good bet) and their puck luck turns, but the playoffs are becoming dangerously distant.
29) Buffalo Sabres – There are quite a few differences between this season’s Buffalo Sabres and their previous iteration. Unfortunately, their overall results aren’t one of them. Phil Housley’s men have little to hang there hat on right now, as they’ve been bad both at even strength and on special teams. Even improved play from Robin Lehner might not be enough to turn things around.
28) New York Rangers – The Blueshirts were expected to be a superior possession team this season thanks to a revamped blueline, but they’ve remained lacking in that regard. Their counter-attacking style has consistently yielded results, however, so expect their luck to turn eventually.
27) Minnesota Wild – Bruce Boudreau’s Wild still play the same high-risk, high-reward system as last year, but the results just haven’t been there. Their penalty kill has been one of the league’s worst, making their margin for error even slimmer. The talent is there for a rebound, so don’t count them out yet.
26) Edmonton Oilers – All things considered, the Oilers are one of the league’s most dangerous teams – having Connor McDavid will do that. They’ve been incredibly unlucky in getting the puck into the net, taking the spotlight away from how dominant they’ve looked at times. All the talent in the world hasn’t stopped them from getting out to some really poor starts, something which they should be able to do.
25) Anaheim Ducks – The Ducks have been battered by injuries. Randy Carlyle has been forced to trot out lineups crowded with grinders, to predictably poor results. It was announced on Sunday that Cam Fowler will be out four to six weeks after awkwardly falling against the Canadiens Friday night, making matters all the more dire. Ryan Getzlaf and Hampus Lindholm are back, so expect them to rise soon.
24) Florida Panthers – Outside of some solid possession numbers, there’s just not really much to write home about with this Panthers team. Roberto Luongo is showing signs of age as the entire roster goes through some major turnover.
23) Vancouver Canucks – The Canucks haven’t been nearly as bad as anyone expected, but that still doesn’t bring them much higher on this list. Head coach Travis Green has been tough on the likes of the young Brock Boeser, but he does seem to be getting the most out of his lineup.
22) Winnipeg Jets – 2At some point, the Jets will figure it out – or not. Time is running out for Paul Maurice.
21) Calgary Flames – Much like the Jets, the Flames are another team where we’re just waiting on them to take a step forward. No dice, so far.
20) Boston Bruins – The puck just hasn’t bounced the Bruins’ way so far, but their strong possession stats at least give hope that they come around.
19) Colorado Avalanche – After an exciting first couple of games, the Avalanche are starting to look human, but they’ve still smashed expectations of being a bottom-feeding team. Their underlying stats, however, suggest that they’ll be sticking around for most of the year.
18) Carolina Hurricanes – Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Carolina Hurricanes look like a young, exciting team, but the results just aren’t there. That’s where we are right now, but it does feel like the results are coming for Carolina, as Jacob Slavin is turning into an elite defenseman right before our very eyes.
17) San Jose Sharks – The Sharks are playing really sound hockey. If this ranking were about who will be left standing when it’s all said and done, then they’d undoubtedly be higher. But they’re just not getting the bounces right now, and Martin Jones has been disappointing.
16) Washington Capitals – Alex Ovechkin is lighting the league on fire once again, and it’s been a true joy to watch. The rest of his team? Not so much. Outside of Ovechkin’s dominance, the Washington power play hasn’t looked particularly impressive, while their five-on-five game hasn’t been much better either.
15) Detroit Red Wings – The Red Wings were a popular pick to finish well outside of the playoff picture ibefore the season started, and they’ve at least given us some reason to believe in them. We’ll give them credit for defying those lowly expectations.
14) Philadelphia Flyers – The Flyers are fun. On a night to night basis, you’d be hard pressed to match the combination of high-end talent and exciting play that they bring to the table. Sean Couturier has been solid, while Nolan Patrick looks ready for prime time.
13) New York Islanders – After a few disappointing season, the Islanders are right up there as one of the feel-good stories of the early going. John Tavares has looked absolutely dominant, while it looks like he may actually have a supporting cast around him to pick up the slack. Bad news for the rest of the Eastern Conference.
12) Vegas Golden Knights – What more can be said about the Knights that hasn’t been said already? They’ve ignited the imagination of an entire city and league thanks to contributions from all over their lineup. Injuries to both their starting and backup goaltenders are causes for concern, but they get a cushiony 12th ranking for this week.
11) Ottawa Senators – Give the Senators credit: they’ve stayed afloat in the absence of a franchise legend. No easy task. Thomas Chabot has been given some looks, and hasn’t looked out of place doing it – boding well for the future of the franchise.
10) Nashville Predators – The Predators have played a solid brand of hockey in the absence of Ryan Ellis, earning them a lofty tenth overall spot in this week’s ranking. Although their new jerseys may be disappointing to some, there’s been nothing really disappointing in the way they’ve played.
9) Chicago Blackhawks – Brandon Saad is back, and so are the good times in the windy city. The Hawks have thrived through a high-octane style, as well as some excellent goaltending from Corey Crawford. It remains to be seen whether they can really keep this up, but their top-end talent will always give room for optimism.
8) Pittsburgh Penguins – For better or worse, the Penguins get judged on a bit of a different scale than most teams, with April and May being more of priorities. Pittsburgh hasn’t looked bad by any means, but they haven’t wowed enough to remain at the top of this chart.
7) New Jersey Devils – The Devils have been everyone’s second favorite team in the early going, and with good reason. An exciting young core has dazzled in some hotly contested games, and there’s no telling when they’ll eventually take a step back.
6) St. Louis Blues – In a season where no one was quite sure what to make of the Blues, they’ve performed nicely. It’s tough to say whether this strong stretch of play will last, but they have to be commended for their start.
5) Columbus Blue Jackets – Same old story in Columbus. A team dotted with offensive talent is once again putting it all together, looking just as dangerous on the power play as they did last season. Their strong five-on-five game makes them a true threat and contender in the Eastern Conference.
4) Dallas Stars – Everything seems to be clicking for the Stars. The team has performed at a high level, and they’ve impressed both at even strength and on special teams. Alexander Radulov has fit in seamlessly alongside the rest of the group. No reason to doubt them, for now.
3) Los Angeles Kings – Scream it from the mountaintop, Kings fans: “We’re back!” Absurdly good goaltending and finishing ability has certainly inflated L.A’s status in the standings so far, but they’re also playing a legitimately good team game. As good as they’ve looked, they probably won’t keep shooting over ten percent at even strength, so we can reasonably expect them to drop off a bit at some point. The way they’re playing , however, they won’t have very far to drop.
2) Tampa Bay Lightning – Isn’t it nice to have Steven Stamkos back playing NHL hockey, and doing it damn well? Nikita Kucherov has willed himself into the league’s most elite club, while Mikhail Sergachev has lived up the hype. The Lightning might be playing a bit over their heads right now, but the results they’ve posted warrant such a lofty spot.
1) Toronto Maple Leafs – The Leafs sure look like the real deal. Mike Babcock has them playing some of the very best even strength hockey in the league, while their power play has looked potent. This team gives up a lot, but they get even more, making them a joy to watch. They may not be the very best team in the league when it’s all said and done, but they’re playing like it right now.
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