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.

Risers

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

Much like New York, San Jose got off to a slow start following a brutal playoff defeat. I wrote about this slow start earlier in the month, so, naturally, the Sharks have won five in a row.

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.

Fallers

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.

About 1,500 miles south, the Coyotes are experiencing similar problems. While they are not a worse team than the Sabres, they certainly are playing worse right now, having lost nine of 11.

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.

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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
December 22, 2014 by : Posted in Uncategorized No Comments

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