The difference between the top two teams this week is about the width of a credit card.
The Kamloops Blazers' four-game losing skid and Portland Winterhawks' 12-game streak have combined to produce a Dynamic Dozen dead heat, with the WHL rivals sharing top spot. Each team has a .600 RPI, but Portland has been blowing out teams by greater margins lately.
For anyone wondering, the Blazers' RPI is .6004 and Portland's is .5996. There is no practical difference, but Ted Williams' frozen head might disagree. The logjam will not last too long, since the teams have a rematch on Friday in Kamloops.
This might be the first time the Double-D has had a 4-4-4 split between the leagues. The surging Edmonton Oilers nearly gave the WHL a fifth team.
t-1. Kamloops Blazers, WHL (.600 RPI, 1.2 SRS, —) — Kamloops probably has not played that poorly. Their puck luck was bound to even out; Guy Charron's quote that "when we do have the opportunities, they're not going in" was all but prophesied by his number-crunching, no-relation-whatsoever namesake about four weeks ago. There is no denying Kamloops' skill, but between being deprived of Jordan DePape and Dylan Willick and their special teams being below the magic combined 100 per cent this month, it appears they have to disentangle themselves from several gumption traps.
t-1. Portland Winterhawks, WHL (.600 RPI, 2.3 SRS, +2) — The 'Hawks have scored 49 goals in seven games this month, which is almost unfair for a team with three NHL first-rounders on defence (counting Seth Jones) and an overage goalie in Mac Carruth. They are making it very hard to find nits to pick in their game from three time zones away. Their 50-goal man from last season, St. Louis Blues prospect Ty Rattie, did not score during last weekend's 21-in-3 goal-scoring binge. The organization itself might have some clouds on the horizon, but reports of recruiting sanctions happen on a level about the players.
3. Kelowna Rockets, WHL (.582 RPI, 1.4 SRS, -1) — The Rockets' drop is more due to being leap-frogged by Portland awesomeness, since they had a good week by beating Edmonton and thumping Red Deer.
Coach Ryan Huska could bank his 200th WHL win as soon as Saturday in second game of a series in Tri-City. The Rockets are set to welcome overage forward J.T. Barnett back from injury.
4. Kitchener Rangers, OHL (.580 RPI, 0.7 SRS, +3) — Here is a nugget for anyone pumping Matt Puempel for Team Canada: he is tied for third in the OHL in goals with 16 in 20 games even though the Rangers have their league's highest strength of schedule. The counter-argument is that Puempel does not shoot on likely Team USA starter John Gibson in actual games, only in practice. Overall, Kitchener has 10 wins in 12 games.
5. Baie-Comeau Drakkar, QMJHL (.577 RP1, 1.5 SRS, +4) — Is it too early to call their Nov. 21 visit to Halifax a possible President's Cup preview? Probably, since that is 5½ months away, but the Drakkar are on a 12-game point streak and coach Éric Veilleux showed last season with Shawinigan that his teams are not likely to peak too soon and regress. Like that championship Cataractes team, Veilleux isn't overrun with offensive stars aside from his imports Petr Straka and Valentin Zykov, but they have a winning combination. A homestand against Shawinigan and injury-riddled Rimouski offers a good opportunity to run the streak to 15.
6. Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL (.570 RPI. 1.7 SRS, -2) — What is keeping the MacKinnonites from being ranked as highly as they are in the CHL Top 10 poll? Halifax's strength of schedule is 53rd among 60 CHL teams. That is out of their control, but they do mirror the strong Saint John teams with their ability to come in waves and not just count on the Nathan MacKinnon-Jonathan Drouin-Stefan Fournier line to pay the freight offensively. Five other Mooseheads, including overage defenceman Konrad Abeltshauser, are producing a point per game or better.
7. Spokane Chiefs, WHL (.556 RPI, 0.9 SRS, -2) — A promising homestand went splud (to use a word coined in my imaginationby the SNL Celebrity Jeopardy version of French Stewart) with that 9-1 home loss to the Winterhawks. No doubt it was a shock to the system to lose big in a measuring-stick game, but given Spokane's tenacity and balance, they should apply themselves better to how to deal with Portland's offensive weaponry. The upshot for Don Nachbaur's team, which has been dealing with injuries, is they have a single-game week and don't have to leave their home state for a couple weeks.
8. Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, QMJHL (.553 RPI, 1.2 SRS, +4) — Like Veilleux, J.F. Houle also has to worry about a soft stretch in the sked, since the Armada's next five includes home-and-homes with Sherbrooke and Gatineau. two of the league's three most abject outfits. By the way, will leading scorer Christopher Clapperton get any love at the next level inhis second year of draft eligibility?
Fun fact: all four of the QMJHL teams ranked this week are among the league's top five teams in penalty killing.
t-9. Owen Sound Attack, OHL (.546 RPI, 1.2 SRS, -1) — Coach Greg Ireland's team is embarking on a six-game stretch vs. teams that are either among the top two dozen teams in the CHL by our ranking. Only one of those teams is playing less than .700 hockey. It could be rough for a team heavily dependent on this mythical three-headed beast known as the CamelCat. Cameron Brace, Gemel Smith and Daniel Catenacci have combined for 81 points entering Wednesday's play.
t-9. Sarnia Sting, OHL (.546 RPI, 0.7 SRS, +9) — Only six points separate the O's West Division, which acts as a rising tide for Alex Galchenyuk and the Sting, who lead the pack but only have the league's seventh-best record. Galchenyuk's leadership and production (he's fourth in OHL scoring) could buoy hopes that he could give Team USA the offensive catalyst it's lacked in the past two world juniors, even though his efforts in stars-and-stripes have not been distinguished. Another reason for Sarnia's success is having the OHL's best special teams.
t-11. Mississauga Steelheads, OHL (.549 RPI, -0.4 SRS, -1) — Is Boyd ... James Boyd ... the frontrunner for coach of the year? The Steelheads are tied for first in their conference without benefit of employing an NHL-drafted forward, with overage Riley Brace and 19-year-old Dylan Smoskowitz leading the scoring. That qualifies them as a lunch-bucket team, no? Meantime, 17-year-old Spencer Martin has a 2.23 average and .930 save percentage. So if you sit up at night wondering who could be Canada's goalie in the 2015 world junior, you have an answer. Also, Melatonin works wonders.
t-11. Quebec Remparts, QMJHL (.544 RPI, 1.1 SRS, -1) — Could you get two more polar opposites tied? The OHL's Steelheads win with systems and a 20-man effort, along with having Toronto Maple Leafs first-rounder Stuart Percy gracing their blue line. The Remparts, to hear coach-GM Patrick Roy tell it, have been pulling 'soft A's' by getting by thanks to their scoring punch and having a capable 18-year-old 'tender in François Brassard. They have been running without blueline pillar Martin Lefebvre, which has created opportunity for Kitchener cast-off Stephen Midensky.
Hey, imagine if the Rangers and Remparts each end up in the Memorial Cup?
The not as dynamic but still very distinguished dozen — 13. Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL (.544, +9); 14. Plymouth Whalers, OHL (.535, -); 15. Tri-City Americans, WHL (.531, +1); 16. Seattle Thunderbirds, WHL (.530, -10); 17. London Knights, OHL (.528, +7); 18. Barrie Colts, OHL (.526, -5);, OHL (.532, —), .533; 19. Victoria Royals, WHL (.525, -8); 20. Windsor Spitfires, OHL (.525, -1); 21. Guelph Storm , OHL (.514, -5); 22. Victoriaville Tigres, QMJHL (.519, -7); 23. P.E.I. Rocket, QMJHL (.515, +5); 24. Calgary Hitmen, WHL (.515, -9).
Hot team — Brampton Battalion, up 14 spots to 33rd.
Cold team — The Ottawa 67's dropped 21 spots to 52nd thanks to a four-game losing streak.
Nowhere to go but up — Peterborough Petes (OHL), .409. The Kootenay Ice (.413) escaped from the basement by beating Calgary this week.
An explanation on rankings — Buzzing The Net uses Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) with a recency factor. RPI combines a team's record with the strength of its opponents to produce an overall rating. Our method also gives more weight to recently played games. Shootout wins and losses are classified as ties, for philosophical and practical reasons. Simple Ranking System (SRS), an equation which uses goal differential and strength of schedule, is used as a complement. All three CHL leagues are considered equivalent in quality.
(All rankings through play on Tuesday, Nov. 13.)
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.
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