This is the mushy middle months of the season, where injuries seem to pile up, and the pretenders get separated from the real contenders.
This time next week, every single team will have hit the halfway mark. While the teams at the top have stayed static – the Bruins claim the top spot for the third week in a row with three straight wins over the past week – the middle class is where we’ve seen a lot of movement.
The Blues, who are without key veterans Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko, were nearly perfect, knocking off the Devils, Wild and Flames, all of whom are likely headed to the playoffs. The Isles, who finished November with the fifth-best points percentage in the East, have lost all three of their games and scored only four times.
Here are this week’s THN power rankings.
(All fancy stats are 5v5 and courtesy naturalstattrick.com. CF% stands for Courses For Percentage and xGF% represents Expected Goals For Percentage.)
1. Boston Bruins (32-4-4, +68. CF% league rank: 6, xGF% league rank: 3)
Since the third week of the season, the Bruins have not dropped out of the top three spots in the Power Rankings. They’re so good it’s almost boring. Next!
2. Dallas Stars (11-25-6, +35. CF%: 14, xGF%: 15)
Since Christmas, Jake Oettinger ranks first in wins (five), fifth in save percentage (.943, min. three GP) and fourth in GAA (1.65). They’re now three points clear of second place in the Central and own the West’s best goal differential at plus-35.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs (25-9-7, +33. CF%: 13, xGF%: 5)
Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov’s play caused a little worry last week, but following a 5-1 shellacking by the Kraken, they’ve outscored their opponents 10-3. Does any of this matter, though, when the Leafs fail to advance in the playoffs? As it stands, they will face Tampa in the first round and then Boston in the second. Yikes.
4. New Jersey Devils (26-12-3, +32. CF%: 3, xGF%: 2)
Hopefully, the worst is behind them. They’ve won four of their past six, including two comeback wins against Metro rivals. I wonder what John Constantine sold to Beezlebub and Azrael (proxies for Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier, I’m sure) to make the Devils so exciting because they truly haven’t been very interesting to watch for 30 years.
5. Carolina Hurricanes (25-9-7, +17. CF%: 1, xGF%: 1)
Bad news: Pyotr Kochetkov has allowed four goals in each of his past three starts. Good news: Max Pacioretty has scored three goals in three games, and the pucks are really bouncing his way.
6. Winnipeg Jets (26-14-1, +27. CF%: 19, xGF%: 20)
With Nik Ehlers, Blake Wheeler, Cole Perfetti and Nate Schmidt back in the lineup, there are literally no holes in this lineup. Even Jake ‘Hangman’ Seresin couldn’t badmouth this team.
7. Vegas Golden Knights (27-13-2, +20. CF%: 20, xGF%: 8)
It was a quiet week for the Knights with only two games, but it is a little concerning they’ve lost to the Kings twice since Christmas. Since going 12-4-0 in the first two months, Logan Thompson is 6-6-1/.904/2.94.
8. New York Rangers (23-12-7, +22. CF%: 12, xGF%: 18)
They’ve been one of the hottest teams since Dec. 1, going 12-3-3 with the fourth-best points percentage in the league. When the Rangers were dominating possession, they weren’t winning games. Perhaps there’s some logic to allowing Igor Shesterkin to see more action, who is 9-2-3/.920/2.38 during that span.
9. Tampa Bay Lightning (25-13-1, +24. CF%: 7, xGF%: 4)
Losses to the Wild and Jets push the Lightning out of the top five, and to be fair, having the Lightning ranked so high did seem a little weird, considering they haven’t really been a top-five team at any point this season.
10. Seattle Kraken (24-12-4, +22. CF%: 11, xGF%: 17)
The key to the Kraken’s success is their offense, while their goal tending just ebbs and flows as it pleases. When they get both, however, it’s been like magic in the water with six straight wins.
11. Washington Capitals (23-14-6, +22. CF%: 15, xGF%: 14)
The Caps make a modest climb up two spots, but remember that both wins were against the lowly Jackets. However, this team is definitely trending up with two good goals and the return of Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson. The Caps lost a bit of their edge after their Cup win, but the narrative has shifted a little from Alex Ovechkin’s chase for the goals record to a possible Last Dance like the rival Pens.
12. Buffalo Sabers (20-17-2, +17. CF%: 9, xGF%: 21)
Excuse the pun, but the Sabers are cutting it close. Their past three wins have all come via overtime, and their most recent loss was a failed comeback against the Kraken. They just score in bunches, especially when they wear their black goat head throwbacks, or not at all.
13. Minnesota Wild (22-14-4, +13. CF%: 16, xGF%: 16)
Tough week for the Wild with a rough performance from Marc-Andre Fleury and losing three straight, even if two of them were in extra time. They’re cap-strapped but still have many holes on their roster, and it’ll be interesting to see what Bill Guerin does. He’s not afraid to make the big moves.
14. Los Angeles Kings (24-14-6, -1. CF%: 10, xGF%: 11)
We’re running out of superlatives for Pheonix Copley, who is writing one of the best stories in the league this season. Without him, the Kings are 13-12-6.
15. Pittsburgh Penguins (21-13-6, +12. CF%: 17, xGF%: 10)
Kudos to snapping a six-game losing streak, but they won against the Coyotes and Canucks. Had they lost those, they might be in panic mode. The wins bought them a little time, but they need to figure out what to do if Tristan Jarry doesn’t return soon because a Casey DeSmith-Dustin Tokarski battery is about as useful as the AAAA ones.
16. St. Louis Blues (21-18-3, -15. CF%: 28, xGF%: 24)
Another week like this and the Blues are back in the playoff conversation. There’s something to be said about letting the kids have the right of way, and while it’s unfortunate, injuries to key veterans have given the reins to Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou. I know how, so good.
17. Calgary Flames (19-14-9, +2. CF%: 2, xGF%: 6)
There’s really no rhyme or reason to this team, and they’ve failed to put together more than three consecutive wins at any point this season. They’ve lost two straight, both in overtime, but what’s most inexcusable was that one of the teams they lost to was the friggin’ Hawks.
18. Florida Panthers (19-19-4, -7. CF%: 4, xGF%: 7)
There’s no telling what the Panthers may do game in and game out, and it doesn’t even matter if Spencer Knight or Sergei Bobrovsky is starting. With the Canes (twice) and the Jets, Paul Maurice outstayed his welcome from him. How long before the Panthers realize they made a mistake?
19. Colorado Avalanche (20-16-3, +1. CF%: 5, xGF%: 13)
They finally snapped their five-game losing streak in overtime against the Oilers, but note the Avs have not won in regulation since Dec. 17 against the Preds.
20. Edmonton Oilers (21-18-3, +4. CF%: 18, xGF%: 19)
Their last hope might just be a sooner-than-expected return by Evander Kane. The Oilers have lost four of their past five, including two to divisional foes. Stuart Skinner being absent for a few games (his wife’s having a baby) brings a lot more anxiety than it really should. It’s like when you sit down thinking you’re in for a weepy drama in The Whale only to realize Darren Aronofsky directs it and suddenly prepared to see the worst of humanity. Well, I guess they do play in Edmonton…
21. New York Islanders (22-17-3, +14. CF%: 23, xGF%: 23)
They’re 1-3-1 to start 2023 with all three regulation losses coming on the road. This is shades of last season when they started with a 13-game road trip and lost three of their first four.
22. Nashville Predators (19-14-6, -4. CF%: 22, xGF%: 22)
Just when you think they’re stale, they rattle off four straight wins against some tough opponents. Of course, it’s only because Juuse Saros has been playing out of his mind, including a historic 64-save win against a team they had zero chance of winning otherwise.
23. Ottawa Senators (18-19-3, -7.CF%: 8, xGF%: 12)
The Sens had a light week with two games, but they were ugly losses. First, an 8-4 loss to the Kraken following a three-day break and then got shut out by the Preds the following game. Four of their next five games are on the road, where they haven’t been very good, either.
24. Detroit Red Wings (17-15-7, -13. CF%: 27, xGF%: 25)
It might’ve been a fourth straight loss if it weren’t for an off-night from Connor Hellebuyck. It wasn’t too long ago the Wings were in playoff contention, but that seems like a reach now. Of note, Jonatan Berggren was elevated to the second line, and he’s fun to watch.
25. Philadelphia Flyers (16-18-7, -19. CF%: 25, xGF%: 26)
Of course, the secret to their success is a third-string goalie who made his Flyers debut five years after getting drafted and had only 23 games of AHL experience in North America under his belt! The answer was so obvious! Sarcasm aside, we must remember one thing: His name is Samuel Ersson.
26. Vancouver Canucks (17-20-3, -20. CF%: 26, xGF%: 27)
It was an ugly stretch for the Canucks where their goal tending was simultaneously the best and worst parts of their games. Trust me, their games wouldn’t be nearly as close if not for some saves made by their goalies. It’s starting to become hard to watch the Canucks die such a slow, excruciating death.
27. Anaheim Ducks (12-25-4, -73. CF%: 30, xGF%: 32)
They won twice this past week, including a shutout win against the Stars. That actually might be the high water mark of the season.
28. San Jose Sharks (13-21-8, -27. CF%: 21, xGF%: 9)
If the Sharks didn’t have Erik Karlsson, the only noteworthy thing about their season might be their new home, road and reverse retro uniforms.
29. Chicago Blackhawks (10-25-4, -58. CF%: 32, xGF%: 31)
Alex Stalock deserves a positive mention because he’s somehow over .500 with a .923 save percentage and 2.54 GAA. Even Benoit Blanc would be stumped.
30. Columbus Blue Jackets (12-26-2, -55. CF%: 29, xGF%: 28)
They can’t score, which is hilarious because they’ve got Johnny Gaudreau, Patrik Laine and a lot of young talent. Since Dec. 1, the Jackets have won just three games in regulation.
31. Montreal Canadiens (16-22-3, -47. CF%: 24, xGF%: 29)
The Coyotes may be last, but the Habs have had losses only a mother could love.
32. Arizona Coyotes (13-22-5, -39.CF%: 31, xGF%: 30)
Tuesday’s loss against the Sharks was their sixth straight, and it was also the second time they’ve lost six straight this season.