NHL power rankings: Rangers, Sharks on the rise
Here are this week’s power rankings, determined by a blend of recent success and long-term potential.
For an explanation of some of the advanced stats used below, check out this primer.
The end of last year’s Stanley Cup Final was especially difficult for Henrik Lundqvist. After surrendering the Cup-winning goal — in double overtime, no less — the Swedish netminder was understandably heartbroken, and claimed he had never been so tired.
It’s impossible to know how much that ending affected him this fall, but one thing was clear: he was not his usual self when the 2014-15 season commenced.
Lundqvist, a three-time All-Star, gave up six goals in two of his first three starts this season, and ended October with a paltry 0.891 save percentage. Yes, every NHL goalie experiences his share of ups and downs, but Lundqvist, who had previously been named the Rangers‘ MVP for seven straight years, had not been this bad for a long time.
And as his performance fell, so did his team. Less than five months after a tremendous playoff run, New York sunk to 10th in the East by mid November.
Lundqvist improved, though, which is hardly surprising. He’s simply too good to stick in the middle of the pack.
Since Nov. 23, he’s stopped 91.6 percent of shots on goal and won seven of nine. That’s more like the King Henrik we know.
The Rangers are not an elite team by any stretch, and given everything we’ve seen from them thus far, there’s little reason to believe last spring’s run can be replicated in 2015. But New York is still a quality hockey club, and its been showing us why over the last couple weeks.
After earning their sixth consecutive win on Sunday, the Rangers moved into seventh in the East. Suddenly, they’re within striking distance of the top spot in the Metropolitan Division.
Along with Lundqvist, Rick Nash has been propelling the Rangers up the standings, and has become a legitimate Hart Trophy candidate. With 20 goals and 13 assists in 31 games, the former Blue Jacket is once again performing at an elite level.
Quite a difference from last season, when he finished with just 39 points in 65 games.
GIF: Rick Nash goal http://t.co/7p0C6z5DpN
— Steph (@myregularface) December 17, 2014
San Jose’s latest triumph may have been its best yet: down 2-1 to the Blues with 20.6 seconds left in regulation, defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic beat Jake Allen to send the game to overtime. Brent Burns then scored with less than a minute left in the extra frame to seal a victory.
Among those who have stepped up of late is Logan Couture. With 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in his last 10 games, the 25-year-old center is now tied for the team lead in points with Joe Thornton.
Meanwhile, the Flames, who have dropped eight straight, continue their free-fall down the standings. A 16-8-2 start brought them to fifth in the Western Conference. They are currently ninth (17-15-3), and only a few points ahead of 12th.
Undoubtedly, their recent success was all smoke and mirrors.
Calgary has a lot of issues — none bigger than its anemic offense. Since beating the Avalanche 4-3 on Dec. 6, the Flames have scored three times in a game just once. They’ve converted on just 5.1 percent of even strength shots during this difficult stretch, a far cry from their rate early on.
Now 25th in the NHL in goals per game (2.25), Arizona’s lack of scoring continues to be a major concern. Mikkel Boedker leads the ‘Yotes in goals with nine, and only four skaters have more than six. The talent simply isn’t there.
This is nothing new, though. Arizona has been above average offensively once since 2002-03.
Still, the Coyotes have had solid years thanks to strong blue line and stellar goaltending. But they have received neither this season.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Zbynek Michaelek have done fairly well as a top defensive pairing, but otherwise, there isn’t much to be excited about.
And of course, Mike Smith is no longer a dominant one-man show. With a 0.889 save percentage in 22 games, the former Vezina candidate appears to be a shell of his former self.
Remarkably, he’s stopped more than 90 percent of shots on goal just twice in his last nine appearances.
|Team||Record||Last Week’s Ranking|
|1||Chicago Blackhawks”]”>Chicago Blackhawks||23-9-2||1||Second City Hockey|
|2||Anaheim Ducks”]”>Anaheim Ducks||22-8-5||2||Anaheim Calling|
|3||St. Louis Blues||21-9-3||3||St. Louis Game Time|
|4||Pittsburgh Penguins”]”>Pittsburgh Penguins||22-6-4||5||Pensburgh|
|5||Nashville Predators”]”>Nashville Predators||21-8-2||6||On The Forecheck|
|6||Tampa Bay Lightning”]”>Tampa Bay Lightning||20-11-4||4||Raw Charge|
|7||New York Islanders”]”>New York Islanders||23-10-0||7||Lighthouse Hockey|
|8||San Jose Sharks||19-11-4||10||Fear The Fin|
|9||Detroit Red Wings”]”>Detroit Red Wings||17-8-9||7||Winging It In Motown|
|10||Los Angeles Kings”]”>Los Angeles Kings||17-11-6||9||Jewels From The Crown|
|11||Montreal Canadiens”]”>Montreal Canadiens||21-11-2||11||Eyes On The Prize|
|12||Vancouver Canucks”]”>Vancouver Canucks||19-11-2||12||Nucks Misconduct|
|13||New York Rangers||17-10-4||16||Blueshirt Banter|
|14||Winnipeg Jets”]”>Winnipeg Jets||17-10-7||15||Arctic Ice Hockey|
|15||Toronto Maple Leafs”]”>Toronto Maple Leafs||19-12-3||14||Pension Plan Puppets|
|16||Minnesota Wild”]”>Minnesota Wild||16-12-3||13||Hockey Wilderness|
|17||Washington Capitals”]”>Washington Capitals||16-10-6||18||Japers’ Rink|
|18||Boston Bruins”]”>Boston Bruins||17-14-3||17||Stanley Cup Of Chowder|
|19||Florida Panthers”]”>Florida Panthers||14-9-8||19||Litter Box Cats|
|20||Dallas Stars”]”>Dallas Stars||14-13-5||22||Defending Big D|
|21||Columbus Blue Jackets”]”>Columbus Blue Jackets||14-15-3||21||The Cannon|
|22||Calgary Flames||17-15-3||20||Matchsticks & Gasoline|
|23||Ottawa Senators”]”>Ottawa Senators||14-13-6||23||Silver Seven|
|24||Philadelphia Flyers”]”>Philadelphia Flyers||13-14-5||24||Broad Street Hockey|
|25||Colorado Avalanche||12-13-8||25||Mile High Hockey|
|26||New Jersey Devils”]”>New Jersey Devils||12-17-6||26||In Lou We Trust|
|27||Buffalo Sabres||13-18-3||28||Die By The Blade|
|28||Arizona Coyotes||11-17-4||27||Five For Howling|
|29||Carolina Hurricanes”]”>Carolina Hurricanes||9-20-4||29||Canes Country|
|30||Edmonton Oilers”]”>Edmonton Oilers||7-20-7||30||The Copper & Blue|