NHL Power Rankings (October 4th to October 25)
by Jason Schwartz - 10/26/2006
This is the first NHL power rankings of the season; I will be quick to point out that I use no special statistical method to rank the teams. I do not, however, just look at a team's record and rank them according to that criterion. I watch a lot of NHL games, catch all the highlights/recaps and I take a glance at the toughness of their schedule while looking at a few stats. There will be power rankings for the NHL every two weeks posted on Doc's Sports.
The First couple of weeks in the NHL season are always interesting for me as I get to see how fast teams are deemed busts, sleepers, cup contenders, etc. I have to say though, besides the disastrous play of the Phoenix Coyotes, I am not too surprised with how the NHL standings are looking so far. In this first power rankings I give an analysis of how teams have lived up to expectations so far, and what to possibly expect of them as the season goes on.
1. Buffalo Sabres (9-0-0) - No-brainer here. This team has everything, a solid set of scoring lines, good special teams and two reliable goaltenders. After starting the season with nine straight wins, Buffalo is one win away from tying the NHL record for consecutive wins to start a season (record is 10, set in 1993-94). They have outscored their opponents so far by 23 goals, if you can believe it (outscoring their opponents at a rate of 2.4 per game).
2. Dallas Stars (8-1-0) - The Stars definitely slipped under the radar going into this season, as they were overshadowed by Anaheim and San Jose in their division. They probably have the most solid defensive unit in the league. On top of good defense, goaltender Marty Turco has been exceptional. The Stars are a team that likes to keep it low scoring, so look for them on the under side of the goal total.
3. Minnesota Wild (7-1-0) - Offseason moves have really paid dividends. The Wild have come out on top in five of six games that were decided by one goal. Their offense is clicking, and goaltender Manny Fernandez has been even better than expected so far. The Wild are for real this season -- look for them to be near the top of the Western Conference all year. Note that star winger Marian Gaborik is expected to be out of the lineup for two weeks.
4. San Jose Sharks (7-2-1) - Both goalies playing well enough to win. Sharks lost a rough one to the Edmonton Oilers on the road in which they blew a three-goal lead. Third-period play may be a problem for the Sharks in the long run, as that is when their offense has run out of gas. Sharks got a tough four-game road trip coming up, and it will be interesting to see how they fare.
5. Anaheim Ducks (6-0-2) - The early favorite to win the Stanley Cup, and they had a relatively easy schedule to start the season. Goaltending has had to steal them a couple of games. Ducks should struggle in the shootout this season, as they do not seem to know who to throw out there yet.
6. Edmonton Oilers (6-2-0) - Even without Chris Pronger the Oilers have had no problem on defense. The Oilers should be a tough team to beat at home at the loud Rexall Place. They have played their best when it counts, as they have outscored their opponents 11-4 in the third period.
7. Atlanta Thrashers (7-1-1) - Who would have ever believed the Thrashers would be one of the top five defensive teams in the league so far? Atlanta has come to play every night, and Marian Hossa has been leading them offensively. After playing 6-of-9 at home, the Thrashers have a tough four-game road trip ahead that could see them lose some ground in the southeast Division.
8. Montreal Canadiens (4-2-2) - Montreal is definitely slipping under the radar this season. Their new coaching staff has really improved their special teams, and they have two good goalies. The Canadiens are definitely capable of beating the best in the league this season.
9. Vancouver Canucks (5-4-1) - Had one of the toughest schedules to start the year and have been involved in a lot of close games (you can thank goaltender Roberto Luongo for that). The Canucks have shown great amount of resilience, and have already had three come from behind wins in the third period. Definitely a solid team to bet on when they are dogged on the road.
10. Nashville Predators (4-3-1) - Did not respond well to all the hype surrounding their team entering the season. Defense was horrendous early on, even though their offense was keeping them in games. The Predators seem to be back on the right track now after losing their first three games to open the season. Look for them to get on a hot streak soon.
11. Ottawa Senators (4-4-0) - Offense went dry for a little while but the Senators got back to playing simple hockey (instead of trying to be all fancy). Ottawa's offense has now started to roll again after an 8-1 blowout win against New Jersey and a 6-2 thrashing of their Provincial rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Ottawa should be back in the top 10 in the next power rankings. Do not be afraid to play them at -1.5 on the puckline, they know how to rack up the score.
12. Toronto Maple Leafs (4-3-3) - Offense was questioned at the beginning of the year, but has looked good early on. Have been in quite a bit of close games and their ineffectiveness in the shootout could cost them this season. Consider them as a deficit in the shootout when betting on them.
13. New York Rangers (4-4-0) - Offense has definitely improved during the offseason, and they can rely on someone other than Jaromir Jagr to provide offense. Once skilled goalie Henrik Lundqvist gets going, watch out for the Rangers to go on a tear. They will definitely be at the top of the Atlantic Division soon.
14. Detroit Red Wings (3-4-1) - Lots of mental mistakes costing them games this season. More importantly, star forwards Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have to start getting it going on offense, as this may be the Wings' weakest team offensively in probably 15 years. Detroit has had a pretty tough road schedule, and until they start putting the puck in the net again they are a good pick to usually go under the expected goal total.
15. Carolina Hurricanes (3-4-2) - Don't believe in this Stanley Cup hangover garbage. The Hurricanes had an awful start to the season, but are turning it around even with two of their top players on the injured reserve. Hopefully they can get back to being the dominant third period team they were last season. They have four huge divisional games coming up against Tampa Bay and Atlanta.
16. Pittsburgh Penguins (5-3-0) - Highly touted rookie Evgeni Malkin recovered from his injury earlier than expected, and as a result has helped moved the Penguins into first place in the Atlantic Division. The young guns are really shining for the Penguins right now as they will try to ride their offense and the goaltending of Marc-Andre Fleury to a playoff spot. The Penguins are definitely a good team to take as an underdog with the great goaltending they are getting lately.
17. New Jersey Devils (4-4-1) - Currently on a three-game losing streak that included an embarrassing 8-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators. The Devils should get those three games back during their upcoming home stand, but they should be in for a tough time trying to win the Atlantic Division this season.
18. Colorado Avalanche (4-3-2) - Have done well so far considering the tough schedule they played. Colorado's rising young forwards are pitching in on offense to fill the void Alex Tanguay left. Starting goaltender Jose Theodore is getting outplayed by his backup Peter Budaj, and as a result the Avalanche will probably be alternating goalies more often.
19. Calgary Flames (3-4-1) - Looks like Mikka Kiprusoff will be expected to be repeat last season's performance, as the Flames are having trouble putting the puck in the net. Flames also look like they will be relying a lot on their home games to get wins, just like last season.
20. Tampa Bay Lightning (4-4-0) - Getting some scoring from a couple of surprising sources, but again their offense still needs to produce more goals if they want to make the playoffs. Their power play has been nothing short of brutal. Lightning have a key home-and-home series with the Carolina Hurricanes coming up, and Tampa would be lucky to salvage a split.
21. Florida Panthers (4-5-1) - This team is like Jekyll and Hyde at home and on the road. Have averaged nearly five goals a game at home so far, but have only scored six goals in five games on the road so far. Looks like the offense will have to carry them if they want to make the playoffs.
22. Chicago Blackhawks (4-4-0) - Things looked good for the Blackhawks early on. Their offense was one of the tops in the league, and Martin Havlat was leading the league in scoring. Chicago was one of the best underdog plays early on, but now their team has taken a turn for the worse. Martin Havlat will be gone for 2-3 weeks with a knee injury, and top centerman Michal Handzus is gone for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. Expect Chicago to take a nosedive in the standings.
23. Washington Capitals (2-2-3) - With the help of rookie forward Alexander Semin the Capitals' offense is proving to be much more improved since last season. The defensive aspect of their game will continue to kill them, though. They should be a popular over pick when betting on goal totals.
24. New York Islanders (3-3-2) - Mike Dunham kept them in a lot of games while playing in relief of goaltender Rick DiPietro while he was injured. The Islanders will not be a .500 team over the course of the season so do not be fazed by their early record.
25. Los Angeles Kings (3-5-2) - Before a 6-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, the Kings were actually looking decent. Goaltender Mathieu Garon has been outstanding, but I would not count on him playing that well all season, which means they may be in line for a cold streak soon.
26. St. Louis Blues (3-3-2) - Ended a 12-game road winless streak (dating back to March of last season) with a win over the Blackhawks on Saturday. The games the Blues have won were against weak teams so far this season, so do not be too surprised with their .500 record. Their defense is suffering injuries just like last season, and it should end up being a thorn in their side all season.
27. Philadelphia Flyers (1-6-1) - This slow-footed defensive unit was once again exploited by the Buffalo Sabres, this time in a pathetic 9-1 loss on national television. Long-time general manager Bob Clarke has resigned and coach Ken Hitchcock was fired after the Flyers' horrible start to the season. Hopefully Peter Forsberg can elevate his game and lead his team out of the cellar.
28. Columbus Blue Jackets (2-4-1) - The Blue Jackets have dropped four straight games after an impressive start to the season. The additions they have made during the offseason have been disappointing so far, to say the least, and their defense should be an issue all season.
29. Boston Bruins (2-4-1) - Started out the season on a five-game road trip, now they will be at home for the next couple of weeks. The homestand should give them a good opportunity to try and gain some ground on the teams that have jumped ahead of them. All aspects of their game need to improve for them to start winning again, and I would never count on them pull out a win in the shootout.
30. Phoenix Coyotes (2-8-0) - A very frustrating period for the Coyotes right now as team personnel was expecting them to contend for the playoffs this season. Injuries to top center Steve Reinprecht and young defenseman Keith Ballard have just made matters worse. The Coyotes have not just been losing though, they have been losing badly. They are playing with little intensity, and Wayne Gretzky has to find a way to light a fire under them.
On a side note, if you ever need a good reference for finding out whom the starting goalies may be before game time, check out www.hockeyinformer.com . They have been accurate over 90 percent of the time so far this season.