NHL Power Rankings: Capitals, Penguins fighting for top spot

With the Blue Jackets’ streak over, the Capitals and Penguins are quickly closing in on the top spot. 

Entering the second week of 2017, the NHL is starting to get a bit crazy towards the top of the standings. Granted, this is nothing new, since the Metropolitan Division has been extremely dominant for a majority of the 2016-17 season. However, with the Columbus Blue Jackets losing their winning streak and losing three of their last four games, the top is starting to get a bit crowded.

Just how good has the Metropolitan Division been? It has four of the top five teams in raw points entering Wednesday Jan. 11. Also, the same four teams are in the top five in goal differential. This could be a good thing or a bad thing for their Stanley Cup hopes. While whoever emerges will be battle tested, whoever comes out on top in the Metro might have to exert most of, if not all of, their energy to do so.

Because games in hand can skew the standings, these power rankings focus heavily on point percentage. Point percentage tells you how efficient a team is at getting points. Simply calculate how many points they have and multiply games played by two. Divide points by games and you have the point percentage. For example, suppose a team goes 4-0-1 over their last five games. This gives them nine points out of a possible 10 points, or a .900 point percentage.

These rankings will be compiled by looking at each team’s record efficiency, who they have beaten, and how they have looked in games. The team’s record certainly counts, but so do a lot of other things. All stats, unless otherwise noted, are courtesy of Corsica and are at even strength (five on five). They are also score, venue, and zone adjusted when relevant.

Without further ado, here are this week’s NHL Power Rankings.

Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

30

colorado avalanche

(13-25-1)

Last week: 1-1-0 record
Last rank: 30th

It doesn’t matter which metric you prefer to judge teams, the Colorado Avalanche are one of the worst teams in the NHL. They have won merely two of their last 10 games. Colorado has the fewest goals scored per game (2.03) and allows the most goals per game (3.31). They are in desperate need of a rebuild. Luckily for them, it looks like the Avalanche are heading in that direction. They need to look no further than the Toronto Maple Leafs to see how quickly you can turn things around if you know what you’re doing.

29

arizona coyotes

(12-22-6)

Last week: 1-1-1 record
Last rank: 29th

The Arizona Coyotes, by some metrics, are the worst team in the league. They have the lowest xGF percentage (expected goals percentage) with a 42.46 percent mark. With a 45.88 percent CorsiFor percentage, Arizona is also the worst puck possession team. The issue is the Coyotes are already rebuilding, but they appear to be heading backwards instead of forwards. Arizona made some contender moves during the offseason after a somewhat promising 2015-16 season. It turns out they were a bit too early to be making such moves.

28

new jersey devils

(16-18-8)

Last week: 0-2-1 record
Last rank: 25th

While the New Jersey Devils are rebuilding, it’s time to be a little bit concerned. Cory Schneider is not himself. For the past two seasons, he’s been a borderline elite goalie. Some would even say Schneider has been an elite goalie since the start of the 2014-15 season. However, his save percentage entering Wednesday is a mundane .909, a notable drop from his .924 save percentage last season. Taylor Hall and Damon Severson have proven to be bright spots for them.

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

27

detroit red wings

(17-18-6)

Last week: 1-2-1 record
Last rank: 24th

Over their last 10 games, the Red Wings have won just four games while losing six, including four in regulation. They rank towards the bottom of the NHL in both goals scored per game (2.39) and goals allowed per game (2.90). How badly do they need a rebuild? Of their top 10 scorers, only three are younger than 25 years old and four of them are 30 or older. The playoff streak is in jeopardy, but maybe missing the postseason will be good for the Red Wings.

26

new york islanders

(15-15-8)

Last week: 0-0-2
Last rank: 27th

It’s time for the New York Islanders to start selling. This season is a lost cause. With the entire Metropolitan Division sans the Devils and Isles kicking butt, they aren’t making the playoffs. However, at the same time, the Islanders have to do enough to persuade captain John Tavares to stay. Sure, he’s saying all the right things and claims to want to stay with them. But talk is cheap, and as the saying goes, money talks. What the Islanders do for the rest of the season will most likely determine their future.

25

tampa bay lightning

(19-19-4)

Last week: 0-3-0
Last rank: 19th

Without their captain Steven Stamkos, the Lightning have been a terrible team. Since Nov. 15 (when he got injured), Tampa Bay has the fifth fewest points in the NHL. Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman have been excellent for the Lightning, but the rest of the team isn’t pulling their weight. This could be a very interesting offseason for Tampa Bay if things don’t get straightened out.

Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

24

Dallas Stars

(17-17-8)

Last week: 1-2-1 record
Last rank: 20th

No NHL team has been more disappointing this season than the Dallas Stars. Even after losing Alex Goligoski and Jason Demers during the offseason, many projected them to be serious Stanley Cup contenders. However, their goaltending has been terrible. And unlike last season, Dallas doesn’t have the offense to overcome it. Don’t rule them out of the postseason, as they are merely two points away from a playoff spot. However, things aren’t looking good for the Stars.

23

winnipeg jets

(20-20-3)

Last week: 2-1-0 record
Last rank: 26th

The Winnipeg Jets got very unfortunate news recently, as star forward Patrik Laine is out indefinitely with a concussion. The Jets are quite far along in their rebuild. Winnipeg has the hardest part of a rebuild down pat, as they have top level talent. However, the Jets lack depth, which shows when you compare their top two forward lines and top defensive pairing to the rest of the team.

22

vancouver canucks

(20-19-4)

Last week: 2-1-1 record
Last rank: 23rd

Here’s why point percentage is important. Looking at the standings, the Vancouver Canucks have 44 points, which has them tied for a wildcard spot in the Western Conference. However, they’ve played in 43 games, which gives a lot of context to those 44 points. Vancouver is barely a .500 point percentage team, which isn’t good enough to make the playoffs. Bo Horvat has been great for the Canucks and will be getting a well-deserved trip to the 2017 NHL All-Star Game.

Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

21

buffalo sabres

(16-15-9)

Last week: 2-1-1 record
Last rank: 28th

Things are looking up for the Buffalo Sabres. Though their offense still ranks among the worst in the NHL, they have gotten some stellar goaltending from Anders Nilsson and Robin Lehner. Buffalo’s team save percentage of .919 is the sixth highest in the league. That’s certainly worth celebrating. However, the Sabres are still a poor possession team (47.32 percent CorsiFor percentage). If Buffalo can play better in front of their goaltenders, don’t be surprised if they’re a playoff team as soon as next season.

20

florida panthers

(18-16-8)

Last week: 2-2-0 record
Last rank: 22nd

The Florida Panthers might be able to sneak their way into the playoffs. If they do, it says a lot more about how bad the Atlantic Division is than how good the Panthers are. However, it is worth noting they haven’t even had Jonathan Huberdeau play so far this season. They have a talented team, but something’s not quite gelling. Maybe getting Huberdeau and Barkov back healthy changes things. It has been a long and dramatic season for Florida regardless of the outcome of it.

19

nashville predators

(18-16-7)

Last week: 2-2-0 record
Last rank: 18th

Finally, the Nashville Predators are starting to look more like the team people expected them to be. They got a much needed win on Tuesday night over the Vancouver Canucks, doing it in dramatic style. Nashville’s largest concern revolves around goaltender Pekka Rinne. He’s been inconsistent for them. At times, Rinne has been outstanding. But on the other hand, he has also cost his team quite a few games. It’ll be hard for them to make the postseason, but the Predators certainly have the potential to catch fire.

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

18

philadelphia flyers

(21-16-6)

Last week: 1-2-1 record
Last rank: 14th

While the Flyers are hanging onto the second wild card spot in the Metropolitan Division, it likely won’t be for long. They have won just two of their last 10 games. Most recently, the Flyers got outplayed by the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday. Steve Mason hasn’t been good for Philly this season. Wayne Simmonds is having a career season, but the Flyers are in danger of missing the postseason with several teams right behind them heating up.

17

carolina hurricanes

(19-15-7)

Last week: 3-1-0 record
Last rank: 21st

At home this season, the Hurricanes have been extremely deadly. They have a home record of 13-4-1 this season. However, Carolina has struggled on the road, where they have won just six games all season. Their possession numbers (10th best CorsiFor percentage in the NHL) suggests they are a playoff caliber team. If the Hurricanes can get solid goaltending, the postseason is a very realistic destination for Carolina this season.

16

calgary flames

(22-19-2)

Last week: 2-2-0
Last rank: 17th

The Calgary Flames have taken advantage of a pretty weak Pacific Division to climb into the first wild card spot of the Western Conference. Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson have been an impressive goaltending tandem as of late. Elliott in particular is starting to look like the goalie the Flames thought they were getting when they traded for him. Johnny Gaudreau has been a spark for their offense. So has rookie forward Matthew Tkachuk.

Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

15

Los Angeles Kings

(20-17-4)

Last week: 1-2-0 record
Last rank: 15th

Considering the circumstances, the Kings have to be happy about where they are right now. Anze Kopitar isn’t scoring. Jonathan Quick is injured. Marian Gaborik has been virtually invisible. And yet the Kings occupy the second wild card spot in the Western Conference. Their starting goaltender is two years removed from one of the worst seasons a goalie has ever had. Jeff Carter has been huge for them, leading the team in goals and points.

14

toronto maple leafs

(18-13-8)

Last week: 1-1-0 record
Last rank: 13th

After a soft week featuring just two games, the Maple Leafs are preparing for a rough weekend. They square off against the New York Rangers on Friday and the Ottawa Senators on Saturday. This should be a good test for them. The Maple Leafs might not make the playoffs this season, but it’s impressive how much they’ve improved. Even if they don’t make the postseason, head coach Mike Babcock deserves serious Jack Adams consideration.

13

boston bruins

(22-17-5)

Last week: 2-1-1 record
Last rank: 16th

Tuukka Rask is playing like a Vezina Trophy contender. And it seems like their offense is finally waking up. David Backes has been surprisingly good when healthy, but how long will he stay good (and healthy for that matter)? Brad Marchand is emerging as a legitimate NHL star, which is great to see. Love him or hate him, he’s an elite talent. David Pastrnak has cooled off a little bit after a fast start.

Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

12

St. Louis Blues

(21-15-5)

Last week: 1-2-0 record
Last rank: 10th

Once again, the Blues are proving to be one of the enigmas of the NHL. Are they a legitimate Stanley Cup contender or not? Just when you think the Blues are, a losing streak happens. Likewise, just when you think they aren’t, the Blues go on a winning streak. Their goaltending has been a huge reason for this. Jake Allen and Carter Hutton have not been nearly as good as St. Louis thought. Expect to see some urgency from them around the trade deadline, especially with Kevin Shattenkirk hitting the free agent market after this season.

11

Edmonton Oilers

(21-15-7)

Last week: 2-2-0 record
Last rank: 12th

The Edmonton Oilers are a legitimate playoff contender. Captain Connor McDavid has a lot to do with this. He remains their best player by a significant margin. The Oilers rely a bit too much on him, but to be fair, who can blame them? Patrick Maroon has been an amazing addition to their team. However, Cam Talbot is starting to feel the agony and fatigue of starting virtually every game. They desperately need a backup who they can trust or he won’t have anything left in the tank for the playoffs.

10

Ottawa Senators

(21-14-4)

Last week: 1-1-0 record
Last rank: 11th

Guy Boucher has the Ottawa Senators playing much better hockey than last season. However, a large part of the difference between the 2015-16 Senators and the 2016-17 version can be attributed to goaltending. Mike Condon and Craig Anderson have been excellent in net for Ottawa. Last year, they got roughly average goaltending. The Senators aren’t a true Stanley Cup contender, but it looks like they’re a playoff team.

Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

9

Anaheim Ducks

(22-13-8)

Last week: 3-1-0 record
Last rank: 9th

Winners of three of their last four games, the Ducks are starting to make a move up the standings. They have a 14-5-2 record at home this season. However, the Ducks haven’t been too good on the road with an 8-8-6 mark. This has to change if Anaheim wants to win the Stanley Cup. Cam Fowler will be going to the All-Star game and finally gets a chance to shine on a big stage. Ryan Kesler is defying age as one of the best centers in the Western Conference.

8

San Jose Sharks

(25-14-2)

Last week: 2-1-0 record
Last rank: 7th

Look out everyone, the Sharks offense is starting to wake up. They have scored 15 goals over their last three games. Mikkel Boedker has awoken from his slumber, getting a hat trick against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday. If this is more than just a blip on the radar, the Sharks are a serious Stanley Cup contender. San Jose’s defense is already extremely deadly. With an elite offense, the Sharks could make another run at the Stanley Cup.

7

Montreal Canadiens

(25-10-6)

Last week: 1-1-0 record
Last rank: 6th

The Montreal Canadiens’ injuries are starting to catch up to them. They really miss Alex Galchenyuk and David Desharnais. Moreover, Andrew Shaw has missed significant time due to injuries as well. Carey Price hasn’t been himself for roughly a month and their offense simply isn’t doing enough to counter it.

Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

6

Chicago Blackhawks

(27-12-5)

Last week: 4-0-0 record
Last rank: 8th

The Blackhawks have won four straight games and are leading the Central Division by four points, though it’s worth noting they have played five more games than the Minnesota Wild. On Sunday, Chicago gets a chance to do themselves a favor by beating the Wild. Corey Crawford, Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane, and Artemi Panarin have been leading the team. While Jonathan Toews has been a great two-way forward, his production has been a bit subpar. He has just 20 points in 37 games.

5

New York Rangers

(28-13-1)

Last week: 2-0-0 record
Last rank: 5th

Even with Henrik Lundqvist struggling (.912 save percentage entering Wednesday), the Rangers are one of the top teams in the NHL. Don’t look now, but Michael Grabner has more goals at even strength than any other player this season. Ryan McDonagh is tied for sixth place among defensemen in assists with 22. Their offensive balance is shown by how they only have two players in the top 40 in goals scored despite having scored the most goals as a team.

4

Columbus Blue Jackets

(28-8-4)

Last week: 1-3-0 record
Last rank: 1st

The Blue Jackets winning streak is over. It came to an end with a 5-0 loss to the Washington Capitals, one short of the record set by the Pittsburgh Penguins. They haven’t played well since losing the streak, with a last second loss to the Rangers on Saturday, an overtime win over the Flyers on Sunday, and a loss to the Hurricanes on Tuesday. If the Blue Jackets are for real, they must rebound from this slump. It could be a season breaker for them if they don’t.

Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

3

Minnesota Wild

(25-9-5)

Last week: 2-0-1 record
Last rank: 2nd

Even though their winning streak is over, the Wild are still looking like an extremely good team. Devan Dubnyk and Ryan Suter lead a defense that allows just 2.13 goals per game (second fewest in the NHL). Moreover, Eric Staal leads an impressive offense that scores 3.13 goals per game (fourth most in the league). Along with Staal, Charlie Coyle (32 points), Mikael Granlund (31 points), and Mikko Koivu (28 points) give the Wild arguably the best core of centers around.

2

Pittsburgh Penguins

(26-8-5)

Last week: 1-0-0 record
Last rank: 3rd

The Pittsburgh Penguins have a 13-1-2 record since the start of December. Winners of five straight games, they’re coming off a bye week. Pittsburgh will be well rested for Wednesday’s showdown against the Washington Capitals, having played last on Sunday. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are arguably two of the league’s best three centers. Marc-Andre Fleury has been playing very well as of late for the injured Matt Murray.

1

Washington Capitals

(26-9-5)

Last week: 3-0-0 record
Last rank: 4th

Winners of six straight games, the Capitals are coming off a week that saw them beat the hottest team in the NHL (Columbus) and two playoff teams (Ottawa and Montreal). Against the Blue Jackets and Canadiens, Washington won by a combined score of 9-1. Alex Ovechkin is on the verge of making history. Nicklas Backstrom is, as is tradition, quietly racking up points. More importantly, Evgeny Kuznetsov has 18 points in his last 17 games entering Wednesday. Braden Holtby is looking even better than he did last season.

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