NHL Power Rankings: Maple Leafs Take No. 1 Spot from Canadiens
And now, the backstretch.
A handful of teams in the NHL have officially reached the quarter pole of the compacted 2020-21 regular season, playing their 14th of 56 games on or before Wednesday night. The rest of the league will soon follow suit, with some additional lag time for the clubs stalled by COVID-19 protocols.
Still, the pictures are beginning to take shape. Auston Matthews is scoring goals at a torrid pace; both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have put together double-digit point streaks; and Philipp Grubauer is emerging as the No. 1 man in a crowded Colorado Avalanche net thanks to seven wins in his first nine starts.
The B/R hockey team reconvened at midweek to compile its latest bottom-to-top list of all 31 NHL clubs and where they stand now that nearly 25 percent of the schedule is in the books.
Take a look, and let us know what you think in the comments section.
Nos. 31-26: Senators, Red Wings, Canucks, Kings, Predators, Sharks
31. Ottawa Senators (Last Week: 31st)
This time last week, the Ottawa Senators hadn't won since their first game. That's no longer the case. We wouldn't book playoff tickets just yet, but the Sens were at least competitive in splitting a pair of one-goal games with the Montreal Canadiens before dropping two straight to the Edmonton Oilers.
30. Detroit Red Wings (Last Week: 30th)
The completion of a road swing to the Sunshine State yielded a loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning and a split of a pair with the Florida Panthers. The good news: The Detroit Red Wings allowed only six goals across the three games. The bad news: They only scored six of their own and have just 27 in 14 games.
29. Vancouver Canucks (Last Week: 17th)
It's a big tumble for the Vancouver Canucks, who were outscored 15-5 in dropping three straight to the high-flying Toronto Maple Leafs to extend their own skid to five. It's still early, but sitting three points behind the division's fourth-place team, which has played four fewer games, isn't a good optic.
28. Los Angeles Kings (Last Week: 22nd)
A respectably mediocre start is trending worse for the Los Angeles Kings, who dropped three straight this week to extend a losing streak to five. Of more dire concern is the blocked shot that prompted Drew Doughty to leave Tuesday's game against the San Jose Sharks with an apparent arm injury.
27. Nashville Predators (Last Week: 21st)
Nine goals in four games is about par for the course for the Nashville Predators, who have scored 31 times in 13 games. Winger Filip Forsberg had six goals and 11 points in his first 13, but only one other Predator (Mikael Granlund) has scored as many as three times. In goal, Juuse Saros and his .881 save percentage haven't helped.
26. San Jose Sharks (Last Week: 26th)
The San Jose Sharks were marathoners this week, going to shootouts in all three games and winning twice to climb to a respectable 5-5-1 after 11 games. The Sharks will return home to the SAP Center for the first time this season Saturday, which should provide an emotional boost for a road-weary bunch.
Nos. 25-21: Rangers, Sabres, Ducks, Devils, Blackhawks
25. New York Rangers (Last Week: 29th)
Trending well? Maybe? The New York Rangers showed signs of life with three wins in four games during a stretch that extended into this week before a shutout loss to the New York Islanders on Monday. First overall pick Alexis Lafreniere has struggled to find his way and has no five-on-five goals through 12 games.
24. Buffalo Sabres (Last Week: 23rd)
Idle since Jan. 31 because of COVID-19 issues, the Buffalo Sabres are aiming toward a Feb. 15 return and the beginning of a two-gamer with the New York Islanders. They finally got back to practice Tuesday but were without head coach Ralph Krueger, who's 61 and experiencing symptoms that have him out indefinitely.
23. Anaheim Ducks (Last Week: 27th)
A win and a loss in two shootouts and a one-goal regulation loss were the black-and-white results for the Anaheim Ducks, who remain in the thick of the race for fourth place in the West Division. Big winger Max Comtois has five goals in 14 games, equaling the number he netted over 29 games in 2019-20.
22. New Jersey Devils (Last Week: 20th)
Joining the forthcoming Chicago Blackhawks as pleasant discoveries are the New Jersey Devils, though they have been stilled by COVID-19 issues since Jan. 31 and aren't expected back until Feb. 16. When they return, veteran Travis Zajac will be two games from 1,000 and three goals from 200.
21. Chicago Blackhawks (Last Week: 24th)
In a league full of subpar surprises, the Chicago Blackhawks are leading the feel-good side of the ledger. A split of a two-gamer with the Carolina Hurricanes and two straight victories over the Dallas Stars have the team earning points in 10 of 14 games. Rookie Kevin Lankinen has a .933 save percentage in nine starts.
Nos. 20-16: Wild, Coyotes, Flames, Islanders, Oilers
20. Minnesota Wild (Last Week: 16th)
The Minnesota Wild are in the midst of an extended COVID-19-related sabbatical, having not played since a Feb. 2 loss against the Colorado Avalanche, and they are not scheduled back until Feb. 16 against the Los Angeles Kings. Elsewhere, longtime Wild star Mikko Koivu retired after seven games with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
19. Arizona Coyotes (Last Week: 28th)
Four road games in six days against the St. Louis Blues seemed a daunting proposition for the Arizona Coyotes a week ago, but they won the final three while scoring 11 times and allowing just seven goals. Three more home games with the Blues follow between now and Monday to make seven in a row.
18. Calgary Flames (Last Week: 18th)
The Calgary Flames began the week with a second straight loss to the Winnipeg Jets but rebounded to beat the Edmonton Oilers in the season's first Battle of Alberta and made it two in a row with a defeat of the Jets on Tuesday. First-line minutes and a goal against the Oilers may have quieted Sam Bennett trade talk.
17. New York Islanders (Last Week: 25th)
A five-game losing skid was a drag, but responding to it with consecutive wins over the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers is worthy of glee on Long Island. Left wing Anthony Beauvillier's imminent return from injury may create an issue with second-line mojo.
16. Edmonton Oilers (Last Week: 15th)
Sorry, Edmonton Oilers fans. You can't play the Senators every night. The Oilers completed a four-game sweep in Canada's capital city to get to 8-7 overall, but they are just 4-7 against teams not in Ottawa. Veteran Mike Smith's return from injury should help an overworked Mikko Koskinen in the net.
Nos. 15-11: Penguins, Blue Jackets, Jets, Stars, Panthers
15. Pittsburgh Penguins (Last Week: 14th)
A one-game week came just in time for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have lost four out of five heading into a Thursday trip to Long Island and Sunday's beginning of a two-gamer with the Washington Capitals. On Tuesday, they hired Brian Burke as their new president and Ron Hextall as their new general manager to replace Jim Rutherford, who resigned on Jan. 27 for personal reasons.
14. Columbus Blue Jackets (Last Week: 19th)
The Columbus Blue Jackets won two of their three one-goal games over the past week, but the talk around the team focused on John Tortorella's benching of newly acquired star Patrik Laine during Monday's defeat of the Carolina Hurricanes. Still, he's scored three times on six shots in the four games he's played.
13. Winnipeg Jets (Last Week: 12th)
Blue Jackets cast-off Pierre-Luc Dubois debuted with the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday and was a minus-one while taking 20 shifts and playing a little more than 13 minutes. He's surrounded by high-producing teammates, though, with the Jets sitting ninth in the league through Tuesday with 3.42 goals per game.
12. Dallas Stars (Last Week: 10th)
A 4-0 start has devolved into five defeats in six games for the Dallas Stars, who sat sixth in the Central Division through Tuesday. Rookie Jake Oettinger has been an early story with a 2.19 goals-against average, and Anton Khudobin did not dress Sunday after arriving late to a weekend practice.
11. Florida Panthers (Last Week: 11th)
The Florida Panthers got a six-game homestand underway with series splits against the Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings, though Sunday's loss to Detroit was their first in regulation this season. Six of their seven wins have been by one goal, and Sergei Bobrovsky has surrendered 10 in his four wins.
Nos. 10-6: Capitals, Blues, Flames, Avalanche, Flyers
10. Washington Capitals (Last Week: 3rd)
A 0-for-February run continued for the Washington Capitals with losses to the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers in which they allowed 11 goals. Tuesday's game with the Flyers was postponed because of COVID-19 concerns, and the Capitals are scheduled to be back in action Sunday in Pittsburgh.
9. St. Louis Blues (Last Week: 8th)
The St. Louis Blues' four-game win streak has been nearly erased by three straight losses. They were on the short end of an 11-goal barrage by the Arizona Coyotes. Of particular concern is an anemic power play that's fourth-worst in the league and a struggling penalty kill that's 29th of 31 teams.
8. Carolina Hurricanes (Last Week: 6th)
The Carolina Hurricanes are having a mini-crisis in the nets after allowing 14 goals while losing two of three games. Thumb surgery for Petr Mrazek—who leads the league in goals-against average (0.99) and save percentage (.955)—means James Reimer (.883 save percentage) is the No. 1 man for the time being.
7. Colorado Avalanche (Last Week: 4th)
The Colorado Avalanche spent a week in COVID-19 limbo. They haven't played since Feb. 2, but they are tentatively slotted for a Sunday return in Las Vegas against the Golden Knights. A bright note: MVP finalist Nathan MacKinnon is expected back at practice after missing only one game.
6. Philadelphia Flyers (Last Week: 13th)
A pair of rugged one-goal games yielded a single point for the Philadelphia Flyers against the Boston Bruins before a 7-4 defeat of the Washington Capitals on Sunday. Veteran center Scott Laughton had his first career hat trick in the win, while Sean Couturier netted two goals in his first game since mid-January.
Nos. 5-1: Canadiens, Golden Knights, Bruins, Lightning, Maple Leafs
5. Montreal Canadiens (Last Week: 1st)
A stumble against the hapless Ottawa Senators was a rough way to start the week for the Montreal Canadiens, though they bounced back with a 2-1 win before a Wednesday loss to the high-flying Toronto Maple Leafs. Heading into that game, the Canadiens had a North-best plus-17 goal differential.
4. Vegas Golden Knights (Last Week: 9th)
Speaking of win streaks, the Vegas Golden Knights ran theirs to three with a sweep of the Los Angeles Kings and a Tuesday defeat of the Anaheim Ducks. With that said, another COVID-19 issue is possible after Tomas Nosek was pulled during Tuesday's game because of a positive COVID-19 test and the team scrubbed a practice session Wednesday.
3. Boston Bruins (Last Week: 2nd)
Wednesday's 3-2 defeat of the New York Rangers pushed the Boston Bruins' win streak to four. Boston’s goaltending continues to shine, with Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak allowing 2.17 goals per game, good for second in the league behind Tampa Bay.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning (Last Week: 7th)
The Stanley Cup champs answered a rare drop from the top five with three straight victories. They scored 13 goals and allowed only three in defeats of the Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators (twice). Their 9-1-1 start matches the best in franchise history from 2017-18.
1. Toronto Maple Leafs (Last Week: 5th)
It would be hard to imagine a more optimism-stoking start for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who extended their win streak to four with a 4-2 defeat of the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday. Auston Matthews leads the league with 11 goals, although his eight-game scoring streak ended Wednesday, and Mitch Marner is third in points.