Welcome back to the Power Rankings. We’re happy to have you.
Our original plan for a theme this week? An NHL-specific version of Spotify Unwrapped. We bailed on that upon the realization that a) it’d probably take days and b) we didn’t actually have any ideas beyond the concept. Whoops!
That’s fine, though — turns out we didn’t need something flashy. The team at the top is more than enough of a hook.
The tiebreaker this week? Good ol’ point totals.
1. Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 3
Dom rank: 1
Sean rank: 1
Dom: How do you feel about this one?
Sean: I said something similar after they made their last jump: If there was any way to get out of this, I’d find it. They just went 3-0-0 while outscoring their opponents 14-4, though. What was I supposed to do? I enjoyed having them lower than you for this long, but it was also, at the time, actually aligned with my real opinion. Now … what? Grasp for straws on their expected goal share from the past week, when it was really only their luck flipping back to not-terrible? Couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Dom: There’s no way, this team is inevitable in the way they can drive up hope. Just when you think it’s all apathy until they actually do a damn thing in the playoffs, they suck you back in with wins in 15 of 17 games. This team feels different. But I’m also a sucker so I could be wrong. Again.
Sean: Who is this “you”?
Dom: It me.
2. Florida Panthers
Last Week: 1
Dom rank: 2
Sean rank: 2
Sean: Pretty ho-hum week for the Panthers. They’re good, and we’ve talked about them at length. It’s worth focusing on a couple of their centers. Joe Thornton, more than likely, is about to stop his climb up the NHL’s all-time points list. Unless he can scrape together 67 more to pass Raymond Bourque, he’s going to be No. 12. Not bad. Also, Eetu Luostarinen scored his seventh goal of the season on Tuesday and is fifth among Panthers’ forwards in expected goals share. Not a bad return in the Vincent Trocheck deal.
Dom: I remember at the start of the year my model thought Luostarinen was terrible because he looked dreadful offensively over the past two years. Nice to see him figuring things out and nice to see my model still doesn’t have the “plays for Panthers equals better than expected” thing figured out. Add it to the list featuring Sam Bennett, Brandon Montour, Alex Wennberg, Carter Verhaeghe and Anthony Duclair, I guess.
Also, let’s maybe not make a habit of going down 4-1 first, yeah? Two straight comeback wins down 4-1 is cool and all, but it’s even cooler to… not do that in the first place!
Sean: Then they were down three again, and came back again. I actually think that’s very cool.
3. Washington Capitals
Last Week: 4
Dom rank: 3
Sean rank: 4
Sean: Really funny sub-headline on NHL.com after the Caps’ Wednesday loss to the (?) Blackhawks: Ovechkin doesn’t score. Now, I know his next one will be 750, and his next one on the power play will set the record. That’s big stuff. People care. But the fact that a hockey player not scoring says something pretty special, regardless of the context, about that hockey player.
This is heresy, but … imagine what Ovechkin would have done had he played with this version of Evgeny Kuznetsov for his whole career. Or just for a season when he was, like, 24. Anyway, he had four goals this week.
Dom: I don’t know, 24-year-old Ovechkin played with a pretty good center back then. Nicklas Backstrom, ever heard of him? Had 68 assists and 101 points that year? Seems okay.
4. Calgary Flames
Last Week: 5
Dom rank: 5
Sean rank: 3
Dom: Yesterday I released my first edition of awards watch and it’s a fun one if you’re a Calgary fan because there’s a Flame in the running for almost every award. Johnny Gaudreau is in the Hart conversation. Rasmus Andersson won’t be a Norris contender by any means, but he’s been excellent so far. Jacob Markstrom is definitely one of the Vezina front-runners. And with the way the top line has been playing at five-on-five, Elias Lindholm might sneak his way onto some Selke Trophy ballots. And that doesn’t even cover that Darryl Sutter has to be the top candidate to win coach of the year. Everything is going well for the Flames and they just rattled off another win against the Kings. This team is built to go deep.
Sean: The Penguins broadcast team hasn’t gotten to see Markstrom all that much in his career. Earlier this week, Bob Errey — a few times — basically said, “Wow, this guy is big and good.” It’s true. Very big, very good. Johnny Gaudreau? Very small, very good. I really enjoy watching this team play.
5. Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 10
Dom rank: 4
Sean rank: 5
Sean: We talk about Kirill Kaprizov a lot here. That’s fine! He’s fun! But, uh, Ryan Hartman has 13 goals. He had 10 shots against the Devils on Wednesday night. A lot of those are off Kaprizov feeds, but the dude is still at 84 shots on the year already. I’m not sure he’s going to keep up the 46-goal pace, but that’s solid output.
Dom: I remember opening night for the Blackhawks in 2017 and they routed the Penguins 10-1. Hartman had a five-point night and I was sure he was going to be a star for them. It’s taken a while, but he’s finally putting it all together. He and Joel Eriksson Ek make up a decent one-two punch down the middle.
6. Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 7
Dom rank: 6
Sean rank: 7
Dom: Victor Hedman, mad as all hell that he took the penalty that led to St. Louis’s tying goal Thursday night, did that thing only the best of the best in this league can do: took over. He answered back, scoring the go-ahead goal and then added insurance soon after to make it 4-2. Last year was an off year by his standards, but he’s back on his bullshit again. Against the Blues he had two goals, one assist, a 75 percent expected goals rate and was plus two on the night. Not bad. He might be adding another Norris Trophy to his collection if he keeps this up.
Sean: How about that first one he put past poor Ville Husso? I believe I heard on the Blues broadcast that it was 98.7 mph. Husso, they said, has a good glove hand. All he did was wave goodbye to the puck once it was in the net. Honestly, aren’t you kind of glad Hedman is himself again? We both were expecting the bounceback. It’s a good reminder that guys play hurt, and it affects their output.
Dom: Definitely. He’s a treat to watch and the league is better when the best players are at their best.
7. Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 9
Dom rank: 8
Sean rank: 6
Dom: The Oilers are 16-5-0 and owners of the best points percentage in hockey. Naturally, we have them… seventh. Remember, these aren’t the Power Standings. While this team is an absolute wagon on the power play and has been getting great results on the penalty kill, those five-on-five numbers are very paper-tigery. The team is not only at 49 percent for expected goals, but actual goals too. When fully healthy they should be fine, with special teams capable of carrying them to a strong record — but it’s hard to get as excited about them as the other teams. That record is going to come down unless they get their even-strength game in shape.
Sean: Are you suuuure these aren’t the power standings? I noticed that the team with the most wins is in the top spot. But yeah, I think Edmonton’s 5-2 win against the Penguins was them in a nutshell. They largely got sewered at even strength — less than 35 percent of the expected goals — but Connor McDavid set up a couple rush goals by Zach Hyman and added one of his own. Easy peasy. They’re fun, if nothing else.
Dom: Frankly, it should’ve been three goals for Hyman. The fans already threw the hats on the ice, there shouldn’t be any take-backs after that.
Sean: At Mellon Arena a million years ago, my friend tried to throw his hat and came up a solid 50 feet short of the ice. Didn’t get it back either. Tragic.
8. Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 2
Dom rank: 7
Sean rank: 8
Sean: Here’s a funny tweet!