NHL Power Rankings: Where Every Team Stands After the First Weekend
The 2021 NHL season is off and running. Or maybe the better term is off and skating.
The season opened up with regional rivalries being renewed, thanks to the temporarily realigned divisions. It made for an exciting opening slate of games, even if the games looked nothing like they usually do without fans.
Some doubted that the season would even be able to begin on time but so far, the league has only been dealing with one coronavirus outbreak. A total of 27 players started the season on the COVID-19 protocol list and the Dallas Stars accounted for 17 of those cases.
Most teams were able to get in two games, with a few even playing three. After the first five days of play, here is where every team stands.
Nos. 31-26: Blackhawks, Kings, Red Wings, Ducks, Sharks, Senators
31. Chicago Blackhawks (0-3-0, 0 points)
The Blackhawks have a goaltending problem. That much was made clear in back-to-back losses. Corey Crawford signed with the New Jersey Devils in the offseason before deciding to retire earlier in January, and the rebuilding Blackhawks have turned to young netminders Malcolm Subban and Collin Delia.
Chicago was walloped 5-1 by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the season-opener with Subban in goal. The Lightning then hung five on Delia two nights later. The defense in front of the goalies leaves a lot to be desired as well, but it looks like this season may have more growing pains than anticipated.
30. Los Angeles Kings (0-0-2, 2 points)
The Kings collapsed twice in the third period against the upstart Minnesota Wild and lost both games in overtime at home. The expectations for the Kings are not high this season. Seeing that the championship window had closed, general manager Rob Blake has broken up the aging core of the 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup teams and remade the farm system over the past few years. Better days are ahead, but this year will be rough.
29. Detroit Red Wings (1-1-0, 2 points)
This year's schedule features mini series between opponents to cut down on travel. This provides an opportunity for teams to quickly figure out their mistakes and how to fix them, which is what happened when the rebuilding Red Wings took the second game of a two-game series against the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2 on Saturday.
The 2020 Masterton winner, Bobby Ryan, scored his first goal as a Red Wing, and Dylan Larkin scored his first two goals as the Detroit captain.
28. Anaheim Ducks (0-1-1, 1 point)
The Ducks are in a strange spot. They have some productive, established veterans, and they have good developing players. They also have one of the best goalies in the league in John Gibson, but they didn't give him much to work with in a series with the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Ducks were undone by a player they originally drafted in the second game of the series, when Golden Knights forward William Karlsson scored a six-on-five goal at 18:38 to tie the second game of the series. Just seven seconds into overtime Max Pacioretty scored off a botched faceoff.
27. San Jose Sharks (1-1-0, 2 points)
With Santa Clara County's ban on contact sports still in effect, the San Jose Sharks have been in Arizona since December. They stayed there for a series with the Arizona Coyotes. Rookie John Leonard was impressive in a 4-3 shootout win over the Coyotes in the season-opener, but his line with Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane couldn't repeat the performance in a 5-3 loss in the second game.
It's a learning process for everyone with a brand-new coaching staff under Bob Boughner, but having a line like that will make his job easier.
26. Ottawa Senators (1-1-0, 2 points)
Tim Stutzle dazzled in his NHL debut, showing some incredible hand-eye coordination with his first NHL goal, batting a pass out of midair past Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell. The Sens lost 3-2 and split the series, but No. 3 overall draft pick out of Germany provided some excitement for a fanbase in desperate need of it this season. He also revealed his new NHL nickname: Jimmy.
Nos. 25-21: Sabres, Blue Jackets, Devils, Coyotes, Panthers
25. Buffalo Sabres (0-2-0, 0 points)
The Sabres are hoping to take a big step this season, but it's an uphill climb in the ultra-deep East Division. It's tough to know what to make of Buffalo just yet. Jeff Skinner did everything but score in the Sabres' two losses. New addition Taylor Hall scored just seconds into the first power play of the season, but then the power play went 0-of-7. It's a well-built team with a charismatic coach, but it might take time to figure out how to make it all work.
24. Columbus Blue Jackets (0-2-0, 0 points)
The Blue Jackets should be better than this, and probably will be. But multiple defensive breakdowns led to a pair of bad losses in Nashville against the Predators, so here they are at No. 24. Coach John Tortorella said he came away from the second loss in Nashville encouraged by what he saw, despite the fact that the Blue Jackets allowed three goals in five minutes late in the third period in a 5-2 loss.
23. New Jersey Devils (1-0-1, 3 points)
The plucky underdogs of the East Division are looking thin without top-line center Nico Hischier and winger Jesper Bratt, and they also started the season down a goalie when Crawford retired. But their young stars took center stage in a series against the 2019-20 Presidents' Trophy-winning Boston Bruins, helping New Jersey secure three out of a possible four points.
Goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood shone in both games, Jack Hughes showed improvements in his second season and rookie defenseman Ty Smith scored in his NHL debut. However, it was Belarusian forward Yegor Sharangovich who endeared himself to the Devils faithful with his postgame interview after scoring the shootout winner.
"They [were] just happy and hugging me," he told MSG Network's Erika Wachter. "I just [saw] nothing around me. All guys just happy."
Very happy, indeed.
22. Arizona Coyotes (1-0-1, 3 points)
Jakob Chychrun had a rocket of a goal and added two assists, and Phil Kessel looked more like the Phil Kessel of old with three goals in two games.
However, it wasn't all positive for the Coyotes. Arizona's best defenseman and captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson got a stick to the neck from Kane on Saturday and was knocked out of the game. Sunday morning, coach Rick Tocchet announced that Ekman-Larsson will miss the next few weeks with a lower-body injury. It couldn't come at a worse time, as Arizona is set to begin a four-game stretch against Vegas.
21. Florida Panthers (1-0-0, 2 points)
The Panthers saw their first series of the season rescheduled, as the coronavirus swept through the Dallas Stars' locker room. There was some controversy surrounding the decision of whether to play veteran defenseman Keith Yandle. Even Iona basketball coach Rick Pitino jumped into the fray with his own opinion on his longtime friend.
Ultimately, the Panthers opened the season Sunday night against the Blackhawks, and Yandle not only kept his ironman streak alive but scored his 100th goal in the win as well.
Nos. 20-16: Wild, Rangers, Jets, Canadiens, Blues
20. Minnesota Wild (2-0-0, 4 points)
Remember the name Kirill Kaprizov because the Russian rookie is on his way to Calder Trophy contention. The 23-year-old left wing made his long-awaited debut against the Kings, and he did not disappoint. He became the first player in franchise history to record three points in his first game, setting up two key goals and scoring one himself in Minnesota's 4-3 overtime comeback win Thursday.
The youngest player to ever reach 100 goals in the KHL, Kaprizov showed a polished two-way game. It's tough to know how good the Wild are after two wins over a bad team in the Kings, and their next two against Anaheim may not be the best benchmark, either, but it will be interesting to watch Kaprizov as he navigates these first few weeks of NHL play.
19. New York Rangers (1-1-0, 2 points)
The Rangers are relying heavily on a group of young, emerging players, and they shone Saturday in a 5-0 win over the New York Islanders. But the play of the veterans was concerning in a season-opening loss.
Offseason acquisition Jack Johnson doesn't look great. Johnson's partner in his first game, Tony DeAngelo, was benched Saturday after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty taken in the opener. The Rangers showed some resiliency by bouncing back after a bad loss, and they will need to show more of it moving forward in a difficult division.
18. Winnipeg Jets (1-0-0, 2 points)
The Jets' weekend was upended when they canceled practice because of possible COVID-19 exposure. Defenseman Tucker Poolman and newly claimed goalie Anton Forsberg were placed on the protocol list. Patrik Laine was injured when they were finally able to practice again Sunday. They defeated the Flames 4-3 in their only game of the season thus far.
17. Montreal Canadiens (1-0-1, 3 points)
Carey Price is a perennial contender for the Vezina Trophy. And he looks like a favorite to win his second Vezina after putting up a .913 save percentage in two games. Nick Suzuki also made Dominik Kahun of the Oilers look silly in what is arguably the move of the week.
16. St. Louis Blues (1-1-0, 2 points)
The 2019 Stanley Cup champs opened the season by beating the favorites to win the Cup this season, the Colorado Avalanche. And then, they were blown out 8-0 by the Avs. Captain Ryan O'Reilly said the team "embarrassed" itself.
He ripped the team following the loss, and coach Craig Berube shuffled the lines at practice over the weekend. They'll face some of the West Division lightweights this week with games against the Sharks and Kings.
Nos. 15-11: Canucks, Penguins, Flames, Islanders, Hurricanes
15. Vancouver Canucks (1-2-0, 2 points)
The Canucks got off to a slow start, but they will get a boost this week when J.T. Miller, the team's leading scorer in 2019-20, returns from COVID-19-related quarantine. Miller was not positive, but British Columbia health authorities required him and teammate Jordie Benn to isolate after Benn returned positive and negative tests.
14. Pittsburgh Penguins (1-2-0, 2 points)
Through three games, the Penguins have done a good job limiting their opponents' shots, but they have given up 14 goals, leading to questions about goaltender Tristan Jarry. Casey DeSmith took the net Sunday against the Caps after Jarry gave up nine goals on the first 31 shots he faced this season. Coach Mike Sullivan had a talk with Evgeni Malkin after the 0-2-0 start. Whatever he said, it seemed to work. The Penguins salvaged their opening weekend with a shootout win over the Washington Capitals on Sunday.
13. Calgary Flames (1-0-1, 3 points)
For years, the Flames have struggled with goaltending issues. They finally got their goalie in the offseason in Jacob Markstrom, and they rode him to a win over the Canucks. Markstrom shut out his former team with the help of his former Vancouver teammates Christopher Tanev and Josh Leivo. They'll face the Canucks again Monday before getting their first look at the Toronto Maple Leafs.
12. New York Islanders (1-1-0, 2 points)
The Islanders beat the Rangers handily in the season-opener, looking every bit like a structured, disciplined, Barry Trotz team. The Rangers are built on speed, and the Islanders successfully slowed them down. Goalie Ilya Sorokin made his much-anticipated debut Saturday after Semyon Varlamov was injured in warmups, and it didn't go according to plan.
The injury to Varlamov was from an ill-advised warmup shot by Cal Clutterbuck, and Trotz was not shy in expressing his displeasure with the way the whole situation panned out following the game in a press conference on Zoom. They'll host the Bruins for two games to start this week.
11. Carolina Hurricanes (1-1-0, 2 points)
With Captain Jordan Staal on the COVID-19 list, the Hurricanes split a series with the Red Wings. This team has the talent to contend and should benefit from a weak Central Division this season, but not if they don't win games against bottom-tier teams like Detroit.
The Canes are already one of the best shot-volume teams in the league with the highest corsi-for percentage (63.58 percent, according to NaturalStatTrick.com), and their ability to get sustained pressure and fire away has been their calling card the past few seasons. If they can limit their opposition's shots, they should be able to get on a roll.
Nos. 10-6: Predators, Oilers, Bruins, Flyers, Stars
10. Nashville Predators (2-0-0, 4 points)
The Preds turned in two solid wins against a strong Columbus team. They exploded for four goals in the third period in a 5-2 win Saturday night. The team's depth was on display with 11 skaters recording points over the opening games. After a turbulent 2019-20 season, the Predators should benefit from the stability of having coach John Hynes behind the bench in his first full season with the team.
9. Edmonton Oilers (1-2-0, 2 points)
The Oilers had a bumpy first week. They fell flat in the season-opener against Vancouver, but then Connor McDavid netted a hat trick in the second game and they looked like North Division contenders once again. But then Montreal came to town for Hockey Night in Canada, and McDavid and linemates Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins all but disappeared. It's a short season, so consistency will be key, but it's still early, and the Oilers have one of the best players on the planet working to their benefit.
8. Boston Bruins (1-0-1, 3 points)
The Bruins struggled to get anything going in their own zone in two games against the Devils over the weekend. To give credit where it's due, the Devils might be better than many anticipated, and Boston ran into a hot goalie in Mackenzie Blackwood. Winger Ondrej Kase was lost early on in the 2-1 overtime loss in New Jersey, which didn't help, but what did help was the play of the Bruins' leaders. The short-handed goal from Patrice Bergeron on Sunday (and its setup by Brad Marchand) was a thing of beauty.
7. Washington Capitals (2-0-1, 5 points)
A troubling trend has developed with the Caps already: Three times this season they have allowed a goal within the first minute of a period. Typically, that means teams aren't engaged right away. A team trying to keep its championship window open long enough for another Stanley Cup should probably stay engaged. However, Washington did log two good wins over the Sabres. There will be no easy games in the East Division, but between new head coach Peter Laviolette and Alex Ovechkin, the Caps should be just fine.
6. Philadelphia Flyers (2-0-0, 4 points)
It's difficult to root against the Flyers right now. Oskar Lindblom returned after being diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, in 2019 and celebrated by scoring goals in his first two games back to help the Flyers defeat the Penguins twice.
Nolan Patrick, the second overall draft pick in 2017, missed most of last season with a migraine disorder, had a goal and an assist over the weekend.
The Flyers will be missing Sean Couturier for at least two weeks after the center suffered a costochondral separation in Friday's game, which is a big blow, but the Flyers have the depth to withstand it. Plus, it's a chance for top prospect Morgan Frost to show what he can do in the NHL.
Nos. 5-1: Maple Leafs, Capitals, Lightning, Avalanche, Golden Knights
5. Dallas Stars (0-0-0, 0 points)
It's tough to rank a team that hasn't played a game, but the Western Conference champions are still projected to be one of the best teams in the Central Division. The Stars were hit hard by the coronavirus, forcing their first four games to be rescheduled and their facilities to close for several days. Dallas begins its season Friday against the Predators.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs (2-1-0, 4 points)
Goalie Frederik Andersen will be a free agent after this season, and the start to his contract year has not been great. He gave up nine goals in two games and has an .839 save percentage. But the defense in front of him hasn't exactly been good, either. They gave up a lot in front of the net to the Senators.
But this is a deep team with some of the best talent in the game; their 57.43 percent corsi-for is the second-highest in the league, according to NaturalStatTrick.com. They also have 41-year-old Joe Thornton playing like he's 31. Splitting a series with the Senators this early in the season isn't a huge cause for concern.
3. Colorado Avalanche (1-1-0, 2 points)
As if the 8-0 drubbing of the Blues wasn't enough, the Avalanche are about to get even stronger. Erik Johnson, who tested positive for COVID-19, will be rejoining the team this week, as will 2019 first-round draft pick Bowen Byram.
Johnson had minimal symptoms and was cleared by the club's medical team. Byram is coming off a silver medal with Team Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championship and had to quarantine after entering the United States. Johnson, a veteran defenseman, will be used at some point. Byram can play six games before the club decides whether it wants to burn the first year of his entry-level contract.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning (2-0-0, 2 points)
The Stanley Cup champs played like the champs in two sound wins over the Blackhawks. Backup goalie Curtis McElhinney landed on the COVID-19 protocol list Saturday, which doesn't necessarily mean that he tested positive, but it does mean they will be without him for the time being. The team has an early bye week because of rescheduled games and opted not to practice over the weekend.
This is not the same team that won the Cup. The salary cap did Tampa Bay no favors, but they looked every bit as dominant in two games over the weekend. Rookie defenseman Cal Foote, the son of former NHL defenseman Adam Foote and the brother of Devils prospect Nolan Foote, impressed in his first game, which is good for a team that needs players on entry-level contracts in order to remain under the cap.
1. Vegas Golden Knights (2-0-0, 4 points)
The Golden Knights did what they needed to do and beat the Ducks twice. They did it in convincing fashion the first time, beating Anaheim 5-2, and then they managed to beat a very good goalie in Gibson. They don't have many weaknesses.
Pacioretty scored his winning goal Saturday seven seconds into overtime, and that came without any practice. With so little time to get ready for a condensed season, the Golden Knights nixed three-on-three play in training camp. It's a style of play that lends itself to creativity to begin with, and the Knights are capable of all sorts of creative plays.