NHL Power Rankings: Sabres and Avalanche Climb as Bruins Stay No. 1

NHL Power Rankings: Sabres and Avalanche Climb as Bruins Stay No. 1

The Boston Bruins may never leave first place in the NHL power rankings for the rest of the season. The action is below, with the Avs and Sabres improving.

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Aside from the mighty Bruins, two other teams went a perfect 4-0-0 over the past week in the NHL: the Avalanche and Sabres.

For the Avs, what a difference a healthy lineup makes. It’s no coincidence the return of Nathan MacKinnon has helped them turn a corner, and even though they’re missing Cale Makar (expected to be back soon), they’ve quickly re-established themselves as a contender. With MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen anchoring different lines, it’s given them a two-pronged attack that’s difficult to stop.

For the Sabres, their winning streak now brings them within three points of a wild-card spot with three games in hand against the Capitals, who have suddenly lost five of their past seven after an excellent December. The Sabres and Avs make the most significant jumps in this week’s NHL power rankings, while the Knights and Wild see the biggest falls.

Here’s this week’s THN Power Rankings.

(All fancy stats are 5v5 and courtesy naturalstattrick.com. CF% stands for Corsi For Percentage and xGF% represents Expected Goals For Percentage.)

1. Boston Bruins (38-5-4, +83. CF%: 9, xGF%: 3)

There’s the Bruins, and then everyone else.

2. Carolina Hurricanes (29-9-8, +27. CF%: 1, xGF%: 1)

It was a light week for the Canes, and losing Max Pacioretty to another Achilles injury was devastating. On the plus side, they’ve won four of their past five and now have some cap space, thanks to LTIR.

3. New Jersey Devils (31-12-4, +41. CF%: 3, xGF%: 2)

Jack Hughes is truly blossoming before our eyes. He’s on pace for over 50 goals, which would be a franchise record. Another fun stat: the Devils are second in the league with 12 wins when trailing first, second only to the Bruins’ 14 wins.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs (29-11-8, +36. CF%: 13, xGF%: 5)

Ilya Samsonov has taken over the starting job, with the Leafs winning three of their past four games. We’re still rooting for Bobby McMann to score his first goal.

5. Dallas Stars (28-13-8, +42. CF%: 15, xGF%: 15)

Seriously impressive goaltending with three 4-0 wins, though a perplexing 5-3 loss to the Sharks was sandwiched in between. Wednesday’s matchup against the Canes should shed light on how good the West’s best will fare against the East’s beasts.

6. Winnipeg Jets (31-17-1, +32. CF%: 18, xGF%: 20)

It was a mixed bag for the Jets going 2-3-0 in their five-game road trip. They scored just three goals in total in those three losses and relinquished the top spot in the Central to the Stars. It’s also really disappointing the Jets don’t face the Stars for the remainder of the season.

7. New York Rangers (26-14-7, +26. CF%: 8, xGF%: 17)

A loss to the Bruins but an emphatic win over the Panthers tracks. The Rangers had a light week, and they now have a chance to close the gap between them and the Canes and Devils with a four-game homestand starting on Friday, all against Pacific Division teams. Adam Fox has been arguably the most consistent defenseman in the league this season, but no one’s talking about him for the Norris, and it’s a shame.

8. Tampa Bay Lightning (30-15-1, +30. CF%: 14, xGF%: 7)

They faded at the end of their five-game road trip through the Western Conference, but they still have not lost more than two games in a row this season. They’ve been so good, they were winning games despite feeding Steven Stamkos every chance they could get to get him to 500 goals.

9. Edmonton Oilers (27-18-3, +22. CF%: 16, xGF%: 13)

They’ve rattled off six straight wins through a really soft part of their schedule, and – surprise – their offense is really good when Evander Kane is in the lineup. That’s not going to be a foregone conclusion the rest of the way, however, since Kane’s expected to miss games due to his ongoing bankruptcy trials in San Jose.

10. Seattle Kraken (27-14-5, +22. CF%: 11, xGF%: 19)

No other team has higher peaks and lower lows than the Kraken, but the only difference is that at no point did they ever look this good last season. They’ve lost three of their past four and have not won in regulation in over a week. Their team shooting percentage has spiked to historic highs again, and stats nerds know that’s usually not a sign of sustainable play.

11. Colorado Avalanche (26-17-3, +18. CF%: 5, xGF%: 16)

As a testament to their offense, only four players didn’t register a single point over the past week. Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon combined for 10 points, and after losing seven of eight games, they’ve now won six in a row, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if they won the Central.

12. Vegas Golden Knights (29-17-3, +16. CF%: 20, xGF%: 11)

It’s been bad enough Bruce Cassidy has done his thing again where he calls out his team publicly. They’ve lost six of their past eight, quickly losing grip on their division lead no thanks to a lacklustre offense and suddenly inconsistent defense and goaltending. It might get a little ugly if Mark Stone misses more time.

13. Buffalo Sabres (25-19-3, +20. CF%: 6, xGF%: 21)

They’ve won four straight, and they weren’t easy opponents, either. (OK, maybe the Ducks were). Their unsung hero so far has been Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, whose prospects of being the franchise goalie are as exciting as it is fun to say his name. I’m not backing down from my prediction that this team will backdoor their way into a playoff spot. Problem: one of Pittsburgh or Washington has to fall.

14. Los Angeles Kings (27-17-6, -7. CF%: 7, xGF%: 6)

Pheonix Copley was a nice story, but they do need help in the crease in a bad way. They’ve been very loyal to Jonathan Quick, but at some point, they must come to terms with the fact that he’s just not very good anymore. His last win was on Dec. 1 (!) against the Coyotes.

15. Pittsburgh Penguins (24-15-8, +11. CF%: 19, xGF%: 9)

Tristan Jarry was a late scratch against the Panthers, and they need him healthy in a big way. Casey DeSmith loses games for them, and if not for Kris Letang’s heroic performance following the death of his father, it would’ve been their fifth loss in seven games after allowing two goals in the first 10 minutes.

16. Minnesota Wild (25-17-4, +11. CF%: 17, xGF%: 18)

They’ve been more competitive than anyone had imagined, and Bill Guerin might be The Most Interesting Man in the World™ among GMs because he’s never afraid to go for it. Their goaltending has faltered lately, allowing 14 goals in their past three games and losing six of their past nine.

17. Calgary Flames (23-16-9, +6. CF%: 2, xGF%: 4)

You’d figure from the discourse surrounding the Flames this season that they’re headed toward the lottery. They’re most definitely not, and they’re not a good team either, but it’s actually amazing how they’re seven games over .500 even though their longest winning streak this season was *checks schedule* *double-checks schedule* three games.

18. Washington Capitals (25-19-6, +16. CF%: 12, xGF%: 14)

After singing their praises in December, the Caps are 4-6-1 in January, and the return of Tom Wilson and Nicklas Backstrom hasn’t had the desired effect. They have not been able to win consecutive games since Christmas.

19. Florida Panthers (23-21-6, -5. CF%: 4, xGF%: 8)

What an absolute mess in net, though Spencer Knight is expected to start Friday against the Kings. It’s actually kind of amazing how poorly the big blockbuster trade has not worked out for the Panthers or Flames. Neither of whom can put together any sustainable winning streaks. Usually, a trade makes one or both teams better.

20. Nashville Predators (23-18-6, -6. CF%: 22, xGF%: 22)

They’ve been pretty impressive lately, thanks to Juuse Saros. (What else is new). They’ve won four of their past five, with only six goals allowed in those wins. They’re still in the wild-card race, but like Don’t Look Up in the Best Picture race last year, you’re wondering what the hell they’re doing there.

21. Philadelphia Flyers (20-21-8, -23. CF%: 25, xGF%: 26)

What an impressive run by the Flyers, who are 7-4-1 since Jan. 1, the 11th-best points percentage in the league. Travis Konecny and Kevin Hayes have scored 14 points apiece, with strong support from Scott Laughton and Morgan Frost, who have 10 points each. It’s hard to make Chuck Fletcher look good, and yet, John Tortorella has done it.

22. St. Louis Blues (23-22-3, -20. CF%: 28, xGF%: 24)

It’s been bad enough – four losses in six games, injuries to key veterans – that there’s talk of the Blues being big sellers at the deadline. This has been a transition year to a new core led by Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas, but the biggest headache (headcase?) remains in net.

23. Vancouver Canucks (19-25-3, -26. CF%: 24, xGF%: 25)

The Rick Tocchet bump was real – actually it might be the skate jersey effect – and the Canucks looked excellent even though it was against the Hawks. Is there… could there… be some hope on the horizon? Nah, this is the Canucks we’re talking about. Tocchet has an uphill battle as the new stepdad for a fanbase that loved Bruce Boudreau.

24. New York Islanders (23-21-5, +2. CF%: 23, xGF%: 23)

They’ve lost nine (!) of their past 10 games in a huge freefall. The Isles’ Power Rankings chart looks like a rollercoaster, starting from 19th in the pre-season rankings and reaching as high as sixth in November before crashing down. Actually, it’s more like in Roller Coaster Tycoon when you don’t complete the loop.

25. Detroit Red Wings (20-18-8, -14. CF%: 27, xGF%: 27)

Wins against Vegas and San Jose were good signs, but overall they’ve won just three times in regulation since the calendar flipped and really missed a chance to grab some key points in a very tough Atlantic Division with losses to Arizona and Columbus. Key question: do we still believe in the Yzerplan?

26. Chicago Blackhawks (14-28-4, -58. CF%: 32, xGF%: 31)

It was an impressive run with six wins in seven games, but Petr Mrazek is back in net, which means we should all throw up our arms in disgust. Any team that plays Jack Johnson 18 minutes every night has huge problems.

27. Montreal Canadiens (20-25-3, -48. CF%: 26, xGF%: 29)

Maybe P.K. Subban should consider building an extra hospital just for the Habs’ wounded. It’s so ironic they’re playing seven defensemen when half their defense was made up of rookies at the beginning of the season. If Martin St-Louis played, he might still be better than half the roster.

28. Ottawa Senators (20-23-3, -19. CF%: 10, xGF%: 12)

Funny that Pierre Dorion has been shouldering the weight of the franchise for years, yet his shoulders remain intact. Their goaltending has fallen apart a little lately, losing six of their past eight. You have to think D.J. Smith’s seat is getting pretty darn hot.

29. Anaheim Ducks (14-29-5, -83. CF%: 31, xGF%: 32)

OK, at least they can beat the Jackets, Coyotes and Sharks. The Ducks play them three more times combined (Jackets once, Coyotes twice) the rest of the season, which is great for increasing their chances of getting Connor Bedard. That is what they’re doing, right, because I can’t tell what sport they’re trying to play most nights.

30. Columbus Blue Jackets (14-30-3, -62. CF%: 29, xGF%: 28)

The Jackets have just 10 wins in regulation so far this season. The franchise record low is 19 wins in an 82-game season, set in 2003-04. The good news is it’s still nowhere near the worst in the cap era. I hear Columbus is a nice place to live, though.

31. Arizona Coyotes (15-28-5, -50. CF%: 30, xGF%: 30)

Their play is about as bland as their new alternate jerseys. The Coyotes are 2-12-0 since Dec. 31 but amazingly – genuinely, not just being sarcastic here – they still have a winning record at home (9-8-2).

32. San Jose Sharks (14-25-10, -40. CF%: 21, xGF%: 10)

“Hey guys, if you wanna leave and play for a better team, it’s in your best interest to play really well.” Erik Karlsson and Timo Meier understood the assignment, everyone else just gave blank stares. 

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