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.
We’re almost two weeks deep into a new NHL season and that means the sample sizes, while still very small, are growing to a point where we can start throwing some confidence behind our words and takes. It’s the perfect time to start dropping “I know it’s early, but [insert any overly confident opinion based on a handful of games].”
And as the proud author of weekly power rankings that are shamelessly shortsighted, I am fully prepared to participate in this carousel of blissful ignorance and silliness. Please indulge me for the Week 2 rankings.
- Florida Panthers (Last week: 1): The Panthers entered the season with a pretty daunting schedule out of the gate, facing the Penguins, Islanders, Lightning, Avalanche and Flyers in their first handful of games. Well, they’ve won ALL of them, have trailed for about 17 total minutes and boast a league-best goal differential of plus-13. Sergei Bobrovsky is finally earning his paychecks, as he’s got a .942 save percentage through his first four starts. The team that just won back-to-back Stanley Cups is now not even the best team in its own state. The Panthers look DANGEROUS.
- Carolina Hurricanes (LW: 2): Yes, they’re 4-0-0 and looking good in the early going, but what’s really important is that they made a trip to Montreal and both Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Sebastian Aho scored against the Canadiens. That’s objectively hilarious.
- Edmonton Oilers (LW: 5): The Oilers have played five games and have won all of them. Connor McDavid also has five multi-point games, and he has more three-point games (3) than two-point games (2). These things are not unrelated. The question is: How good can/will they be if McDavid slows down?
- Minnesota Wild (LW: 7): On one hand, the Wild have had a relatively easy schedule so far and have had to climb back in games. On the other hand, they’ve still won four out of five and have the best expected goals rate in the league at 5v5. And all that comes before Kirill Kaprizov has scored his first goal.
- Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: 4): They may as well be the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at this point but, somehow, they keep pushing forward. The fact that they’ve got points in all five games (3-0-2) despite missing some/all of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jeff Carter, Kris Letang and Bryan Rust already ... well, that’s something. Give Mike Sullivan a lot of credit for once again keeping this team duct taped together.
- St. Louis Blues (LW: Unranked): I said heading into this season that the Blues had a sneaky good lineup with a lot of depth, but there’s been nothing sneaky about it to this point. St. Louis leads the league in goals per game and is undefeated through four games. Do I still have concerns about the defense and goaltending? Sure, but they’re commanding attention right now.
- New York Rangers (LW: No Man’s Land): There were some concerns about early returns from the Rangers and the Vitali Kravtsov situation didn’t help provide feelings of positivity. But after back-to-back losses to start the season, the Rangers have ripped off four straight wins on the road while dealing with absences from two important forwards (Ryan Strome and Kaapo Kakko). I remain skeptical because they’re still chaotic and inconsistent but, hey, wins are wins.
- Washington Capitals (LW: Unranked): Alex Ovechkin has five goals (and five assists!) through his first five games, which is incredible considering there was a moment where we thought he may not play this season after that scary preseason injury. The Caps and Ovi are very much still kicking, though I do worry about the sustainability of this hot start.
- San Jose Sharks (LW: Unranked): Raise your hand if you thought it would take five games for the Sharks to finally lose. Certainly not me. They’re 4-1-0 and playing some decent hockey -- even if the schedule has been somewhat easy so far. Do I think they’re legit? Absolutely not. But maybe ... just maybe ... they’re not quite as bad as we expected, either. We simply have to overreact, right?
- Buffalo Sabres (LW: 10): Chirp at me all you want but I’m including the Sabres in the top 10 as long as I possibly can simply because I find it hilarious. They’ve lost their last two games but here’s the silver lining: Both came against respectable opponents (Bruins and Devils) and Buffalo has still given up two goals or fewer in four of their first five games. I’m sure we’ll be able to make fun of them in due time but, as it stands, the Sabres are playing with some self-respect and that’s a refreshing change of pace for that organization.
32. Chicago Blackhawks (Last week: 31): Do you understand how poorly a team has to be playing to be listed below the 2021-22 Arizona Coyotes (quite possibly the worst team ever assembled) on a power rankings list? That’s how awful things are for Chicago right now. Not only have the Blackhawks lost their first six games but they’ve set a new NHL record for the longest start to a season without holding a lead (360:57 and counting). That Seth Jones deal is aging like milk so far (CHI is being outscored 10-1 with him on the ice at 5v5). They also have the league’s second-worst goal differential. Plenty of things are working against them (COVID absences included) but this team is an utter disaster on all fronts right now and it’s only a matter of time before someone gets thrown under the bus. Understandably, fans are pissed off and the team’s sellout streak record has officially been snapped at 535 games.
31. Arizona Coyotes (LW: 32): They’re still incredibly bad but that’s kind of the point. They’re not exactly trying to win games with this roster. Can’t say the same about the Blackhawks.
- Montreal Canadiens (LW: 30): It took six games but the Canadiens finally got a win by throttling the Red Wings. Good job, I guess. I did find it highly amusing that Habs fans chanted “six point one” at Jesperi Kotkaniemi (a reference to his new salary in Carolina) during his return to Montreal. Yes, nothing says “boom roasted” quite like reminding a guy that he miraculously struck it rich this summer.
29. Seattle Kraken (LW: No Man’s Land): For a team that seemed to really prioritize goal prevention when they assembled the roster this summer, they sure stink at goal prevention. They’ve given up 23 goals in six games.
28. Vegas Golden Knights (LW: Unranked): It’s pretty shocking to find Vegas here, isn’t it? They’re 1-4-0 to start the year and have been outscored 19-10. Granted, they’re dealing with a bunch of key injuries, and I’d imagine things will get better before they get worse but we can’t pretend like the team hasn’t fallen flat on its face out of the gate.
No Man's Land:
Toronto Maple Leafs (Last week: 6): Well, we almost made it a couple of weeks before the Leafs completely embarrassed themselves. What a run! They’ve lost three in a row, including getting absolutely smoked by the WBS Penguins. They’ve gotten almost no production from their biggest and richest stars (Tavares, Marner and Matthews) and that’s got to change. I expect it probably will at some point, but it’s also important to not expect the Leafs to be anything other than the Leafs. For now, this dreadful start is enough to put them in purgatory.
Detroit Red Wings (LW: Unranked): No Man’s Land isn’t exactly an insult for the Red Wings. They’re still very much rebuilding but things are starting to come together a little bit and they’ve been more competitive than I anticipated. They’ve got a 3-2-1 mark to start the year and are getting encouraging performances from some of the guys they’re building around, including young Lucas Raymond, who needed just six games to record his first career hat trick. This team’s got some good energy.