Every week, we’ll discuss and rank the “good” teams (the ones making some legitimate noise) as well as the “bad” teams (the ones that are so bad they’re actually worth talking about) and a few teams stuck in the middle. You know, the teams that aren’t quite good enough to be relevant but aren’t bad enough to be irrelevant either? The dreaded No Man’s Land.
With the calendar change, last week’s Power Rankings were all about New Year’s resolutions — namely things certain teams and players should be focusing on in 2022. Now that we’re more than a week deep in the new year, some resolutions have already been broken, which means we’re back to business as usual.
1. Carolina Hurricanes (Last week: 1): The good times keep on rolling in Carolina. The Hurricanes dropped a big heavyweight tilt against the Panthers in overtime over the weekend, but they still recorded points in nine of their last 10 games and have the league’s best points percentage and goal differential. Beyond that, they’re impressive by the numbers — especially defensively. They lead the league in fewest goals against and shots against per game and have the NHL’s second-best penalty kill as well.
2. Florida Panthers (LW: 2): As just mentioned, the Panthers won a big one on Saturday when they took down the Canes. They start this week tied with the most points in the league standings (51) and are second in points percentage. A concerning (and familiar) trend for Florida is that its goaltending has taken a dip, but the silver lining is that it hasn’t sunk the Panthers. I’ll feel a lot better about their season outlook if Sergei Bobrovsky can get back to being the goaltender he was through the first few months of the season, but so far this team has proven it’s good enough to survive his bad spells.
3. Colorado Avalanche (LW: 4): Gabriel Landeskog was named the league’s first star of the week after tallying seven points (four goals, three assists) in Colorado’s three wins last week, but he then was promptly sent into COVID-19 protocol. Such is life these days, I guess. But the outlook for the Avalanche remains incredibly positive — they’ve won 17 of their last 21 games. No big deal.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 5): As much as I’d love to dump all over the Maple Leafs for collapsing and blowing a 4-1 lead against the Avalanche on Saturday, it can happen to anyone…especially against great teams like Colorado. Toronto’s overall body of work is still really impressive, they just have to make sure that these types of gut-wrenching losses don’t become a trend. Now, where do I collect my medal for passing up the easy “it was 4-1” joke?
5. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: 6): The Lightning are tied for the most points in the standings and they just got Nikita Kucherov back but things have been really up and down for them of late. They broke out of a rough three-game skid around the turn of the calendar year and won two in a row against Columbus and Calgary, but the Bruins then made pretty easy work of them over the weekend. The talent is there but they might have some consistency issues to sort out.
6. St. Louis Blues (LW: 10): I got chirped by some passionate St. Louis fans last week after the Blues narrowly cracked the top 10 despite their hot streak. I didn’t mean to disrespect, but I still have some concerns about this team’s sustainability, especially on the back end. I’ll put those concerns aside for now, as the Blues continue to play well (with wins in seven of their last 10) and have the league’s fifth-best goal differential. The dramatic victory over Dallas this past weekend was something to behold, and maybe there’s just some inexplicable magic behind these guys this season. Here’s one thing I can explain: Jordan Kyrou. He absolutely rocks.
7. New York Rangers (LW: 8): I’ll be honest. … I still haven’t quite figured out the Rangers. I keep waiting for things to fall apart a little bit and see a slide, but it hasn’t really happened yet. But nearly halfway into the season I’m also still not convinced that they’ve got what it takes to swing with the league’s best. They might be a good trade deadline away from changing my mind.
8. Washington Capitals (LW: 3): It’s been a tough stretch for Washington. They’ve lost six of their last 10 (including their last three games) and have surrendered the top spot in the Metro to the Rangers. The bright spot recently has been the story of Zac Fucale, who starts his NHL career only giving up one goal in three appearances (two starts and a relief stint) for a save percentage of .980 and one shutout. Maybe he’s what this team desperately needs right now.
9. Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: Not ranked): Pittsburgh’s impressive win streak finally came to an end at 10 games when the Pens lost in Dallas over the weekend. That doesn’t mean we can’t slide them into the top 10 based on the momentum they’ve built, especially with a pretty demanding schedule. They should get Evgeni Malkin back this week so it’ll be interesting to monitor how he looks and how the team dynamic is altered with him back in the lineup.
10. Nashville Predators (LW: NR): The streaky Preds are once again on a heater, winning four straight (including sweeping a three-game road trip) and going 8-1-1 over their last 10 games. You’ll never believe that Juuse Saros has been a huge part of that success, as he’s gone 4-0-0 with a .959 save percentage (162 saves on 169 shots) during that stretch.
DROPPED OUT: Vegas Golden Knights (LR: 7), Calgary Flames (LR: 9).
32. Arizona Coyotes (Last week: 32): Not only are they still the worst team in the league, but they also continue to hit roadblocks in search of a new, long-term home. This past week it was reported that they currently don’t have votes to approve their new arena plans in Tempe.
31. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 31): They stink and the entire roster has basically been put in COVID protocol. Not great!
30. Seattle Kraken (LW: 29): A tough inaugural season for Seattle has gotten tougher, as Jaden Schwartz will be sidelined for the next 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery on his hand.
29. Ottawa Senators (LW: 30): Ottawa has played just one game since December 18 but they should be back on the ice at some point this week. It’s going to be tough to snap their three-game losing streak with all that rust.
28. Buffalo Sabres (LW: 28): Buffalo has dropped five in a row and has just two wins over their last 10 games. It’s hard not to feel for rookie goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who is doing the best he can and showcasing impressive flashes while withstanding barrages of shots against.
No Man’s Land
Minnesota Wild (LW: Not ranked): The Wild dropped out of the top 10 last week and I expected the absence to be short-lived. That being said, the team is in a pretty weird place right now. They’ve won two games in a row and have seen the much-anticipated debuts of Matt Boldy and Marco Rossi, but the lineup took major hits last week as well. Kirill Kaprizov was placed on IR with an upper body injury, Jonas Brodin is being evaluated for a lower body injury and Nick Bjugstad will miss about six weeks with an upper body injury. For a team that’s already without Jared Spurgeon, Joel Eriksson Ek and Cam Talbot, things aren’t looking too hot right now.